Feedback on Creativity

Educational research clearly shows that effective, quality feedback has one of the most significant effects related to student achievement. (Hattie, 2017)

Quality feedback, most educators agree, should focus on the product, not the student. Many also say that feedback should be clear about what is correct or incorrect about the student work… and in the cases of creative work such as writing, where there isn’t a clear right or wrong, it can let the student know what they are doing better than they did before.

So how does quality feedback relate to arts education, where creativity reigns supreme, and especially in the inquiry- or choice-based setting? How does the research relate to learning environments such as PYP classrooms and TAB studios, where students themselves, not their work, are the true educational ‘products’? Is there an place where quality feedback supports student creativity and agency? Perhaps some answers can be found in the very real global contexts that underpin both the PYP and TAB.

Let’s think about quality feedback is like in the authentic setting; in real arts worlds. Artists engage an audience, sharing their artwork in many ways, such as:

  • traditional gallery exhibits
  • social media, websites, online portfolios
  • collaboration in communities with other artists
  • blogging and vlogging about art processes
  • offering workshops and marketing products

It seems that artists invite feedback now more than ever, that art is becoming more democratic through our expanding global networks. How can we encourage similar sharing-and-feedback collaborations in the school setting?

Art teachers can observe, monitor, and engage students in many ways during inquiry-based artmaking processes, including:

  • provoking (What if…? I wonder…)
  • encouraging (I see how you’ve grown…You can…!)
  • providing & organizing (In our studio, we…)
  • suggesting (Have you thought about…?)
  • mentoring & modeling (As an artist, I…)
  • facilitating (Here’s one way this could work…)
  • reflecting (I notice…)

As we increase the emphasis on learner agency, we are facilitating student artists’ goals: What do they want to know and be able to do? Considering the learner as artist should, by and large, move us away from feedback that states what is incorrect or correct, what has been done right or wrong. As art teachers, we will need to tap into our artistic thoughts and intuitions, our artistic experiences and feelings. We won’t do this in order to require conformity, instead we’ll leverage our understandings of what it means to be an artist, in order to guide our students with empathy as they engage in artistic behaviors. We won’t need to tell them the way forward, rather we’ll teach them how to find it for themselves.

Ultimately, our feedback should serve to set the stage for student-driven conversations and monologues: exceptionally valuable forms of feedback, that allow learners to confidently advance their artistic journeys.

Here are a few ways we might facilitate art sharing that encourages reflection and enables quality collaborative feedback in the inquiry studio setting:

  • Designate flexible student-curated display space.
  • Collaboratively document artistic processes
  • Purposefully observe and interact with artists during studio time
  • Post (and encourage student posting of) online comments within learning portfolio platforms such as Seesaw
  • Set up and encourage informal presentations in the studio
  • Increase interactions with local and global artists and networks

(How does John Hattie’s research relate to creativity in schools? How might his ideas differ from thoughts on how feedback works in a learner-centered, inquiry-driven environment? Here’s one perspective. )

What other ways might we provide and encourage feedback that matters for creativity? What are the connections between presenting or exhibiting artwork and quality feedback?


Drawing for Oceans Literacy

“For in the end, we will only conserve what we love. We will only love what we understand. We will only understand what we are taught.”

-Baba Dioum

At International School Suva, we have just launched our school-wide Ocean Science distinctive program. This program promises to push transdisciplinary learning to new levels, while fostering a love for the ocean and environment that will engage our life-long learners to take action as global citizens.

In the art studio, we can contextualize many of our artistic behaviors using these symbols: head, hands, and heart. Here are examples of questions we might ask.

  • Head: Where do our ideas come from? What do we know and understand? What questions are we asking? What choices are we making? What connections are we making?
  • Hands: How can we apply that technique? What materials would work best? What ways will we invent or innovate with new or available materials?
  • Heart: How do we express ourselves? How do different audiences interpret or appreciate artworks? How do we show care for ourselves, others, our art, and the world around us?

These contexts are intricately connected and overlapped. Artists access all of these contexts constantly.

For student artists, these contexts can serve as access points for idea generation, for inquiry, and for transdisciplinary learning. In a diverse learning community, they provide equity by setting the stage for choices based on childrens’ current understandings.

Before starting to draw, we engaged head-hands-heart by:

  • Sensory engagement. Children used observed by listening, smelling, touching, and focused looking.
  • Play. Children explored ocean artifacts telling real and imagined stories and inventing games that would assist them in drawing.
  • Kinesthetic response. Children imitated movements to communicate understandings of underwater organisms.

“We are playing a game first

so we can copy the game in our drawing.”

-Five-year-old student @ International School Suva

While Early Childhood classes stayed in the studio to draw this week, the rest of the primary classes ventured down to the aquarium, nestled in the heart of ISS where all have the opportunity to check in daily with our reef-in-residence.

Some students made blind contour drawings, while others made detailed observational drawings. Some of the upper primary students opted for more polished compositions.

Learning through Ocean Science inquiries offers so many possibilities here in Fiji. In our PYP/TAB Art Studio, students’ passion for Oceans inspires action and activism through meaningful art and visual expression.

Ocean Literacy means understanding the ocean’s influence on you and your influence on the ocean.

Dear Young Artist

Dear Young Artist, I saw what you made today. How it came from that secret place in your heart you usually keep hidden. You were unsure, and that’s okay. You created with honesty and integrity.

Dear Young Artist, I saw how you worked today. How you dug deep and found the courage to try something new. No one needed to show you how, you just knew. I wonder; where will your explorations take you next?

Collage Cards activity cards courtesy of Cynthia Gaub (lesson modified).

Dear Young Artist, I saw your struggle today. You learn differently than others, and that’s a good thing here. You will find your own path, and I’ll be here to cheer you on. Today I’ll guide you, and reassure you. Tomorrow, will you show me the way?

Dear Young Artist, you are finding answers to questions you haven’t asked in words. I can see those answers blooming into ideas that are uniquely you. Your artistry makes my heart soar. It also shows me that the best thing I can do today as your teacher is to step aside and let you lead.

Dear Young Artist, you won’t be the next Picasso. You won’t be the next Kahlo, Nevelson, Basquiat, Banksy, or Swoon, either.

You’re on a journey, like every other artist who has every lived. 

Young Artist, be the next you. Be the next you, because you already are.

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