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PSMLA Fall Conference

Molly Wiles and I attended and presented at the Pennsylvania State Modern Language Association Fall Conference on Friday, October 12, 2018. The presentation that we gave was called “Using Rotations to Compare Cultural Practices in the World Language Classroom.” We presented on our department’s cultural rotation last year at Christmas and again at Easter in which we had our students rotate to other language teachers and learn some of their cultural practices. We included a mini-lesson on culture and then samples of food in each classroom. Molly and I presented the mini-lessons and then answered questions from the 40 or so people who attended our session. Our presentation was received well.

After our presentation, we attended other sessions. In one session, a teacher showed us several ways to incorporate kinesthetic strategies to help students who struggle with vocabulary acquisition. In another session, high school teachers were given the opportunity to talk to college professors and find out what professors wish that high school students could do with language when they come to college. At another session, we were given strategies for getting our students to converse for extended time in the target language.

For me, the best part of the conference was hearing the Keynote Speaker. We listened to Dr. Luis Von Ahn, Carnegie Mellon professor and cofounder of Duolingo. I loved his talk and his dedication to using his technology and wealth to use language instruction to diminish social inequality.

While at the LIU in New Oxford, Susan Glover and I learned about the importance of close reading. We learned about the difference between implicit and explicit, and in addition, that inferences made in a text-dependent analysis, are not the same as the analytic thinking included. Inferences are part of the big picture and the analysis is the generalizations made to support the big picture (the answer to the question). A lot of great resources and notes are included below. See the word document attached. in addition, we were given time to develop a well laid out TDA instructional lesson that all of 5th grade can use.

Download (DOCX, 20KB)

This two day workshop really broke down critical pieces necessary for students to successfully respond to a text dependent analysis question.  Day one focused on reading elements, how to construct a TDA prompt using the three sentence format, and how to determine text complexity.  Participants took that knowledge to develop and evaluate their own written response.  Day two focused on the scoring process of TDA’s and how to best plan instruction based on student samples.  This workshop was enlightening as to how we can segment information in smaller and more meaningful chunks.  If anyone is interested in the information we received, please feel free to reach out.

On August 22, 2018 I had the opportunity to attend a WIDA Conference titled Interpreting ACCESS for ELLs 2.0 Score Reports for Instruction.  I wanted to attend this workshop to give me a clearer focus on how to take the results of my English Learners’ 2018 ACCESS test to help me drive instruction for the 2018-19 school year.  The goal for all English Language Learners(ELLs)  is to exit the English as a Second Language (ESL) program.  To do this the EL must attain a certain level of English Language Proficiency set forth by the state of Pennsylvania.  At the present time our state has changed to wording from Exit ELLs to Reclassification of former ELs.  In order for a student to be reclassified from a “Current English Learner”  to a “Former English Learner” the student has to reach a certain English Proficiency level on the ACCESS Test AND score a certain amount of points on a Language Inventory.  Language inventories are scored by the English Language Development (ELD teacher) and a content teacher.  The Inventories are rubrics that look at the students Oral Language and Written Language.   Hopefully I haven’t lost you yet with all the acronyms for English Language Learners.  Specifically I am looking for ways in which I can raise the level of English Language proficiency of my learners in the area of Speaking and Writing.  In order to do that I need to understand how the test measures these areas to provide specific information on how to increase the students’ academic English language proficiency.

“Student development of social, instructional, and academic language, a complex and long term process, is the foundation for their success in school. “( 9th Guiding Principal of WIDA) The WIDA Consortium is made up of 39 U.S. states and territories dedicated to the research, design and implementation of a high-quality, culturally and linguistically appropriate system to support English language Learners in K-12 contexts. This comprehensive system, based on research and educator feedback, is built on standards, assessments and professional learning.  Pennsylvania is one of the 39 states in the consortium.  Understanding how language is acquired is the foundation for all teachers no matter the grade level or content area.  The WIDA Performance Definitions in Listening and Reading and Speaking and Writing help teachers understand where the student is in understanding and acquiring the English Language.  The ACCESS Test results report where, what level,  the student is at in acquiring the English language.  This knowledge should be used in helping all teachers (classroom, content, and ELD teachers) understand what language the students can produce in the domains of Listening, Speaking, Reading, and Writing English.  This knowledge should be used when instructing and assessing English Language Learners. Once the teachers understand what stage the student is in acquiring the language they can use the Can Do Descriptors as a guide to help the student produce the language so the  teacher can assess how much of the content they are teaching the student understands.  It is important to note the content objective of the lesson doesn’t change but how the student produces (the type of language the student uses to show) the knowledge of the content does.

This Professional Development showed me how to use the WIDA Performance Definitions, WIDA’s Can Do Descriptors, and the Pennsylvania English Development Standards to increase my student’s performance on the ACCESS Test and how to increase academic language across the content areas.

On August 6-7, 2018, I was given the opportunity to have a few days of math-filled fun by attending the PCTM (Pennsylvania Council of Teachers of Mathematics) Summer Conference at the Hilton in Harrisburg, PA.

To kick off the conference, I got to experience an IGNITE session, which was a series of presenters showcasing in a five-minute presentations on a variety of math topics that sparked an interest in different topics, leaving me wanting to experience more mathematical fun learning and networking in a many sessions.

I. Building Number Sense and Fluency in the Elementary Classroom

Presenter – Daniel Kaufman

In this session, I got to see a variety of ways that students can help develop number sense and fluency.  During the session, we dove into a number talk.  In partners, I got to share what I noticed about a problem and then in turn received what my partner saw and learned.  This quick activity was held in a rapid fire style in which one could see multiple partners and see different ways to solve a problem.  The session was very informative and resources were provided to support the message the students need number sense to support their mathematical understanding.  One link, www.scmath.org, provided many links to quick ways to reinforce number sense which building fluency.


Speaker Jim Rubillo, “Yo Teach, You Gotta Problem with That?

Mr. Rubillo, former NCTM Director, answered the posed question with a, YES for every math lesson.  In his presentation, he asked how we can make problem solving and reasoning central to mathematics instruction.  He shared that our primary goal is to help all students become confident problem solvers not just symbol manipulators.  Mr. Rubillo continued his presentation with a variety of different mathematical thinking tasks can could be taken and used in my classroom.

III. Three Billboards to Promote Productive Mathematical Engagement

Presenter – Jane Wilburne

In session three, the question, “How can teachers select and plan to use mathematical tasks so each and every student will be productively engaged?” was posed.  Sample billboards were displayed and we discussed the importance of successful mathematical experiences.  During the session the presenter shared the importance of having established group norms to promote student involvement and shared a resource to use in having talking points during math discourse.

IV. Integrating PDE Tools for Student Achievement

Presenters – Brian Stamford, Carrie Soliday, Dan Richards

In this mini session, PDE tools were shared to provide a 10,000 ft. view of instructional effectiveness.  The data tools that Pennsylvania uses were reviewed to give us a way to support and meet the student.  In this presentation, the presented highlighted Future Ready PA Index, PVAAS, CDTs, SAS, EE – Educator Effectiveness, and CP – Comprehensive Planning as tools to look at in helping to plan for instruction.

V. Speed Geeking with CDTs

Presenters – Brian Stamford, Carrie Soliday, Dan Richards, along with teachers from Chambersburg, Fort LeBoeuf, and Conneaut School Districts

This past year, I was selected to participate in the CDT Pilot for math.  Throughout the 17-18 year, I meet with the pilot group and discussed what we found.  In this round table, three school districts shared what they were doing and have found.  It was shared that the correlation between CDT and PSSA was really close.

Some take aways from this session were very helpful with the continuation of CDTs being used in my classroom for the 2018-19 year.

  • Students can take a subsection of the test rather than completing the entire assessment.
  • New changes are coming in January 2019.
  • Have students graph their results and write a reflection for the test session.
  • Conference immediately as they finish. Conference does not have be lengthy but should be held right away.
  • Have students keep a log of unknown vocabulary that they come across as they complete the assessment to use as a guide for future instruction.
  • Incorporate an assessment wall to share student growth so students can see the growth.
  • Create a “Legends Wall” that students could see previous high scores that students could try to beat.
  • Celebrate students’ achievement in growth.

 VI. Using Number Talks to Develop Number Sense

Presenter – Mark McLauren

Number Talks are short classroom conversations about how problems are solved mentally.  This session explored sample tasks and modeling of a number talk.  The teacher was the recorder of the information while the students discussed the method used to solve the problem.  The importance of this is to focus on the conceptual knowledge first before the procedural.  In planning, number talks should be short and done often.  So in looking, I’d like to try them as a math warm-up to begin the daily lesson.

VII. Find the Words in a Problem Based Curriculum

Presenter – Tina Cardone and Max Ray-Riek

In a problem-based math setting, students need to be given opportunities to use mathematical language, construct viable arguments, and critique other’s reasoning.  The strategies of Notice and Wonder and 3 Reads were introduced to solve the problems.  In Notice and Wonder, it gives students the chance to make sense of the problem.  Then gives voice for those who need processing time, and values all perspectives.

In 3 Reads, students read the problem once to think about what is going on.  Then read again to analyze the language use to present the mathematical structure.  Finally, read once more to brainstorm the possible mathematical solution methods.  In both strategies, it was crucial to have the students talk and build a math conversation.  This conversation would help with clarifying vocabulary that might hinder the possible solving of the task.

VIII. Connecting Modeling Eliciting Activities (MEAs) and SMPs to Enhance Problem Solving

Presenter – Reuben Asempapa

Modeling is not only one the Standards of Mathematical Practices but also a skill all students should be engaged in and learn.  Mathematics Modeling involves the Real World and Mathematics then connects mathematics to be used in the real world.  In mathematical discussions, students need to make a choice what to do to solve the problem (Pollak, 2011).  As planning goes, due to time allotment, the presenter mentioned to try having students complete one to two math modeling activities a month.

IX. Problems Without Numbers

Presenter – Stephen Cicioni

Clue words that have been taught to help signal which operation to use to solve the problem is showing that it may not be beneficial.  Students are looking for the clue words and then dive into solving the problem and miss out on what the problem is asking.  The strategy Problem without Numbers takes away the numbers and forces the students to truly read the problem and forces them to make sense of the problem.  Having students discuss the task is important to let them get a sense of what is needed to solve the problem.  Once the understanding is reached, insert the numbers and let the students complete the mathematics to come to a conclusion for the task.  This is an interesting approach and one I would like to model with students to help students become more comfortable in being successful to completing a task.

X. Formative Assessment Techniques for Your Classroom

Presenter – Marian Avery

In the last session of the conference, the presenter shared various examples of formative assessment.  Utilizing formative assessment in the classroom allows me to establish where the learners are in their learning.  Examples given in the session seemed to be a good fit could be added to my toolbag to help guide my instruction.


In attending the 2018 PCTM Conference, it excited me to look at math and to to remember to show the students that MATH IS FUN!  This conference provided me with great resources new and old that remind me that the strategies are important and that thoughtful planning should be done to implement them to help them be successful.  The message also given was that students need to talk about the math and that by doing so helps to build a mathematically community with a deeper level of understanding.  I highly recommend this conference to all math teachers.  The 2019 Conference is scheduled for August 7-8, and I plan on putting this on my calendar.

On Monday, April 23rd, 2018, I attended the Media Arts Professional Development Day at the Pennsylvania Training and Technical Assistance Network in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania.

This training was offered to educators that teach courses in the media arts (animation, film, music technology) in public and charter schools in Pennsylvania

Speakers from Pennsylvania, New Jersey and Delaware presented workshop sessions on:

  • National Media Arts Standards
  • Designing a course in Filmmaking aligned with the National Media Arts Standards
  • Music Technology in Action
  • Designing a course in Animation aligned with the National Media Arts Standards
  • Program Start-ups

The first session “National Media Arts Standards” covered the individual standards and four stages of the artistic process: creating, producing/presenting, responding, and connecting. The standards can be found at http://www.nationalartsstandards.org/.

These actually are more inclusive for my animation class in comparison to the Pennsylvania Standards for Science and Technology. There are 11 anchor standards that separate out by proficient, accomplished and advanced levels of skill.

The second session was presented by Robb Bomboy from Cumberland Valley High School. He explained how his program has evolved from four categories previously that included vector based design, video, 3D animation, and motion graphics to its current state of just film and digital modeling but with each of these content areas broken into 3 sections/levels that basically goes from basic to intermediate to advanced/self guided group activities.

The third session was presented by John Madas from Central Dauphin High School. Mr. Madas discussed his usage of the ADDIE (Analysis, Design, Development, Implement, and Evaluation) model in his classroom. Although most of the discussion was on music technology he provided information on several other teaching tools which included Padlet, Poll Everywhere, Bubbl.us and GarageBand.

The fourth session was presented by two animation teachers. Michael Bolkoven from North Allegheny High School outside of Pittsburgh and Andrew Teheran from East Side High School, in Newark, New Jersey. Mr. Boloven’s presentation was related more to middle school curriculum. Mr. Teheran’s presentation was much more interesting to me being a high school teacher. His students do community research projects and often present to decision makers.

In general it was a great day of professional development, networking and idea sharing between educational professionals that teach animation and film.

Last year, I was afforded an opportunity by the Central Pennsylvania Math Content and Coaching Project to attend some classes at Penn State Harrisburg with the goal of obtaining a math coaching endorsement from PDE.  Part of the process in seeking endorsement is completing field hours, some of which were offered through workshops and meetings at the Lincoln Intermediate Unit in New Oxford.  As such, on March 2, 2018, and April 6, 2018, I attended the meetings there.  By attending these two days, I was able to network with teachers across varying grade levels and school districts within the LIU, as well as gaining additional insight into mathematics education and data analysis.

One of the guest speakers was Dr Jane Wilburne, an Associate Professor of Mathematics Education at Penn State Harrisburg.  She is also the chair of teacher education.  Dr Wilburne shared with us some mathematical journals from all ages of math education and also shared a presentation on the process for getting published within these journals.  We spent some time reading through the articles as well as brainstorming and outlining topics that we could use for publication in the future.  Dr Wilburne agreed to work with us in the future to discuss how we could present what we teach daily in a format that could be published.

I also had some time to work with Dr Carrie Soliday, a professional development specialist at the LIU, to gain some insight into the CDT diagnostic tests that the algebra teachers use at the high school level.  We were able to discuss how the test works and how to use the data meaningfully to create student focus groups and for planning purposes.  I have discussed the need for Dr Soliday to visit with the algebra teachers at South Western to provide more support for the CDT.


April 9-11 I had the opportunity to represent South Western School District and other public school districts in Pennsylvania at the 100Kin10 Summit in Arizona.  100Kin10 is an organization that has the mission of adding 100,000 science, technology, engineering, and mathematics teachers to American schools in ten years.  The organization is made of partner organizations (corporations, nonprofits, and schools of education) as well as teachers that are a part of the 100Kin10 Teacher Forum.

Day one of the summit involved interactions with partner organizations as well as school visits all over the state of Arizona. I was able to visit a working copper mine in the town of Bagdad, Arizona.  The mine owner/operator, Freeport-McMoRan is invests heavily in STEM initiatives in towns in which they operate mines and smelters.  The mining operations were breathtaking, and because of the landscape, really hard to establish a scale to what I was observing.  The experience was really fascinating to me because of my Earth sciences, chemistry, and physics background.

After spending two to three hours observing the mining operations, we moved to Bagdad Middle and High School.  We were served lunch that was made by the students enrolled in their culinary career and technical track and met a teacher, the school principal, and the district superintendent.  It was interesting to learn about how the investment that Freeport-McMoRan has made in the education that the town’s students were getting has allowed an incredibly small school (graduating approximately 30 per class) to offer fantastic programs. In discussion  the school size was being viewed as an impediment to offering kids the best programing possible. In the past I would have agree, but I believe that if given the financial resources of the larger schools by Freeport-McMoRan, having a smaller number of teachers and students may serve them well.  If change is to happen to a course’s curriculum, and only one teacher is teaching it, there are less people that need to be on-board. In a similar sense, there are less “checks and balances” to changes that are taking place in a school like that.

After touring the facilities, learning about their grant writing program, and listening to a representative from an Arizona STEM collaborative that been highly involved in Bagdad Unified School District’s significant curricular changes, made the long drive back to Phoenix.  We ended the day at an hors devours mixer that allowed us to meet many of the 100Kin10 partner representatives.

Day two of the summit started with breakfast and opening remarks by Talia Milgrom-Elcott, Co-founder and Executive Director of 100Kin10, during which she revealed out the organization has used over 30,000 data points to map what they’re calling the Grand Challenges.  The Grand Challenges are system level impediments to growing and sustaining the number of STEM teachers in America’s schools. The approach was scientific and significantly revealing, and the outcomes have been used to develop strategic moves going forward for what approaches 100Kin10 will take to close the gap between their current progress and their goal (~60,000 STEM teachers). After the welcome session, participants were able to attend three sessions led by partner representatives.

During first session that I attended, representatives from three partner organizations described programs that their organizations use to reach out to STEM teachers.  The first was a representative from the San Diego Zoo Research Facility that described how teachers can get involved in zoo research that also allows students to collect data and learn about their local environment.  Next two representatives discussed professional development and STEM teaching opportunities available through the American Modeling Teachers Association. This organization promotes an approach to teaching science that involves students observing a phenomenon, collecting data, using that data to build a claim, and finally developing a model that explains the phenomenon. Finally, a woman from the diversity center at Arizona State University discussed their work to develop programs to encourage participation in an after-school robotics program for girls.

Session two included representatives from three institutions.  The first was from the Carnegie Corporation of New York, an organization that has worked over the past few years to develop high-quality materials that can be used appropriately to implement the NGSS.  He also showed the attendees the evaluation system and rubric that the organization uses to evaluate resources that claim to be NGSS aligned. Their goal it to make it easier for true implementation of the NGSS by assuring teachers are using high-quality materials.  Next, two presenters from the University of Colorado work on building PhET interactives presented on some of their new releases and how they are intended to be used. I enjoyed their presentation because I frequently use PhET interactives in my class currently. They also shared some new mathematical concept interactives that they’re releasing.  Finally a presenter from the California State University described the work they’re doing to promote K12 use of the makerspaces at their state institutions. I found this presentation interesting because college-based makerspaces are less convenient to use, but have substantially better equipment offerings than most K12 makerspaces.

After session two, all of the attendees, teacher forum representatives as well as partner representatives, had a catered lunch outside of the Arizona Science Center.  Tables were assigned and we were provided with discussion questions that provided for an awesome “cross-pollination lunch.” I was able to meet and make connections with educators from all over the country.

For session three all of the teacher forum members were placed in the same meeting room.  We were introduced to TED Masterclass, a new initiative from TED that will provide for app-based coaching for educators interested in building their own TED Talks.  Next, teacher forum members were introduced to the concept of the “Listening Session” that they will hold. The purpose of the listening sessions are to generate feedback on teachers’ perceptions of some of the Grand Challenges identified by 100Kin10.

During the morning of the third (last) day I was invited to visit the CREST STEM Program at Paradise Valley High School.  This program operates as a career and technical education school for students interested in graduating with Biochemical, Computer Science, or Engineering credentials.  Because it was only a group of five on this visit, I had the opportunity to have a lot of my questions about the school answered. I was really impressed with what they’re doing, and I believe there is room for a similar school that serves the Hanover area.  After about two hours at Paradise Valley, headed to the airport for the flight home.

Elementary librarians Stacey Fisher and Tina Hagarman were able to attend this year’s PA State Librarians Conference “Limitless Learning” at Hershey Lodge on the afternoon of May 4th and Friday, May 5th. This afforded us genuine opportunities to network with colleagues from around the state, experience makerspace items hands-on, meet with potential vendors, and attend a variety of workshop sessions of choice to further our professional development.

Descriptions of attended workshops are as follows:

Limitless Learning with the AASL National School Library Standards (Attended by Stacey Fisher and Tina Hagarman) Presented by PSLA President, Jennifer Bates, and President-Elect, Allison Mackley, who had 1 ½ days of training, introduced the new National School Library Standards for Learners, School Librarians, and School Libraries to us in a three hour session. The framework for the standards was explored which reflects best practices for implementation.

Keynote Address: Gwyneth Jones, The Daring Librarian- Choose to be Fierce and Future Ready (Attended by Stacey Fisher and Tina Hagarman)

Gwyneth, a middle school librarian from Howard County, Maryland, and “a blogger, a trope and meme archivist, creator of content, a citizen of advocacy, and a resident of social media” was a very engaging speaker who stressed that as technology moves forward, we must move forward with it to maintain rigorous instruction for our learners.

Session A:

Mobile Media in the Classroom: Diving into Digital Discoveries (Attended by Stacey Fisher) Examples of mobile strategies such as new ideas for QR codes, Kahoot, Instagram, Bitmoji, Augmented Reality, and Boomerang were presented to interactively engage learners by Gwyneth Jones. She also encouraged participants to try one new thing at a time and to make library happenings public to our stakeholders via social media, particularly Instagram. She was adamant that this is program promotion, not personal promotion.

Making: A Curriculum (Attended by Tina Hagarman)

Elementary librarians from the Penn Manor School District shared how they incorporate ‘making’ into their fixed schedules. In grades one through three, classic literature is used to tie in with project-based activities, as the students come up with solutions to problems within the stories. The students design something to improve the situation by using materials such as K’NEX, Legos, clay, 3Doodler pens, straws, magnetic and traditional blocks. In grades four through six, students conduct independent research, then create a group project on the curriculum-based subject by using primarily recycled materials. Discussions on logistics provided great information on how to combine essential library curriculum with makerspace activities.

Session B:

#10M2M-Makerspaces for a Fixed Schedule  (Attended by Stacey Fisher)

“Ten Minutes to Make” offered librarians who operate on a teacher release schedule a way to incorporate makerspace philosophy in a set amount of time. This offers learners free and creative choice on a regular basis. Presenter Sarah DeMaria from Hempfield School District teaches at the elementary level and showed a very accessible way to include makerspaces on a fixed schedule.

Straight from the Source: Engaging Students with Primary Resources (Attended by Tina Hagarman) Lisa Lopez-Carickhoff from The Baldwin School and Courtney Dalessandro from POWER Library expanded on ways to engage students using primary sources and make learning fun! Primary sources help students with critical thinking skills and connect with history. In addition to using digital resources from POWER Library, Library of Congress and Digital Public Library of America, librarians/teachers can loan text and non-text exhibits/resources from local historical societies, museums, and national parks to display or use for research projects.

Session C:

Connecting Back to the Future-It’s a Mindset  (Attended by Stacey Fisher)

Each gear of the Future Ready Framework was unpacked during this workshop by Jennifer Boudrye, Director of Library Programs, District of Columbia Schools and Project Connect Librarian Leadership Team. It was emphasized that many of us already apply this mindset and call to action. Connections to standards, Model Curriculum, and Deeper Learning were made as well as application for best practices. Collaboration with the public library was emphasized to build partnerships to provide more access to all stakeholders, especially those who do not have internet access.

The 5 W’s of Library Makerspaces (Attended by Tina Hagarman)

This session explored the questions many have when integrating makerspaces into the library. Why? To help students problem-solve, be creative, think critically and address differentiation. What? Determine what tools are going to teach without dismissing low tech. When? Making should be intentionally and purposefully integrated into the curriculum. Where? An area with open access to everyone. Who? In addition to students and teachers, administrators, and maintenance staff should be involved. How? Start with a plan, determine funding needed, look for lessons already created and tailor them to your curriculum/what students need to learn.

Session D:

Beyond the Book: How to Experience Books with Making (Attended by Stacey Fisher)

This session was a whirlwind of children’s literature presented book talk style by Maren Vitali, Elementary Librarian at Milltown School. Creative projects to enhance and enrich learning for each book were shared and placed on display for attendees to look at and ask questions.

Beyond Library Walls: Teamwork Makes the Dream Work (Attended by Tina Hagarman)

Michele Naas and Michelle Wetzel shared a variety of creative ways to build relationships with students, teachers/other specialists, community members (parents and other librarians), and school administration. Going beyond the library walls creates valuable  partnerships that enhance the student experience and overall library program. I’m looking forward to incorporating some of these ideas to what is already being done in the district.


I attended the 2018 Research Pre-Conference and the National Art Education Association National Convention from March 20th-24th in Seattle, WA. The theme this year was Art+Design=STEAM.

Research Pre-Conference-Making Knowledge/Moving Knowledge:

The pre-conference began with a plenary panel discussion on knowledge building by B. Stephen Carpenter, Amelia Kraehe, Christine Marme Thompson, and Marilyn Stewart. Topics discussed included what people have been writing about, what counts as knowledge in art education, qualitative verse quantitative research, and how to move the field of art education forward. The panel discussed the relevant topics that are the focus current art publications: STEAM, arts integration, pre-service education, arts as therapy, arts equity/social justice/human rights, choice and freedom-what does it look like? Potentials? Pitfalls? Other topics included assessment, credentials, early childhood, art museums/sites of learning, visual methodologies, feminist theory/pedagogies, post-critical thinking, post-qualitative work, and disabilities. The panel also mentioned the interactive discussion board on Collaborate from NAEA where you can get an immediate sense of what is on people’s minds.

The conversation then moved to the classroom and focused on how there is a desire for quantitative research because assessment is high on a practitioner’s agenda. There is a general hunger for numbers because they help defend art practices and programs; therefore, practitioners are looking for a synthesis of research to help substantiate their practice. When looking at the landscape of knowledge construction in the field, where should we focus our attention to move art education forward? The panel mentioned centering research around and with children in the classrooms because researchers have a tendency to research what is convenient for them, especially in Studies for Art Education. They would also like to see more research with young children, ESL students, and international contexts. Furthermore, the panel discussed the importance of incorporating other types of publications such as NPR and Edutopia, which would offer additional spaces for sharing research.

Finally, the panel shared how they might encourage more K-12 art educators to publish research. They felt that when we call teachers practitioners, we limit their ability to conceptualize themselves as researchers; therefore, the panel discussed how they might build incentives to encourage K-12 art educators to publish. Consider all the teachers that blog-how might they be nudged to convert their blog writing into articles?

Several breakout sessions followed the plenary panel discussion. I attended Researching Spirituality in Art Education and The Role of Research in High School and Middle School. I found the second session both informative and thought provoking. Megan Leppla shared the importance of journaling, which is the processing of information and making deeper connections. Most student experiences with journals are teacher-driven spaces where they are told to write down words. Here, students have no personal connection. How do you teach visual journaling/visual thinkers? We want our students to think and engage in the process. Currently, students are brought up in education where the teachers teach the information and the students regurgitate it. How do we allow students to think for themselves? We want students to have the ability to ask questions and be okay with failure. How do we foster this type of environment? We need to begin by creating a safe space where students feel socially comfortable with peers.

Kimberly D’Adams shared how we underestimate what teenagers are capable of. She teaches both metacognition and constructivism practices where big interdisciplinary topics are explored in art. She asks her students, what is your investigation? In her classroom, students design their own course of study and are immediately interested in it. There is an emphasis on metacognition-learning about learning. Allowing students to find their own area of passion and acknowledging the social issues that are happening outside of school creates a space for students to reflect and make their own art. When art becomes real, there is a major shift in motivation.

The afternoon of the pre-conference consisted of the second plenary discussion focused on knowledge mobilization featuring Juan Carolos Castro, Graeme Sullivan, Dennis Inhulsen, Gino Molfino, and Sarah Ackerman followed by more break-out sessions. The panel defined knowledge mobilization as empowering circumstances to allow others to join you in what you are doing and the ability to learn what others do. They also posed the following questions: How can we better help members become reflective practitioners? What empowers teachers to read and comprehend on a daily basis? If the role of research is to continuously build knowledge, how does it move? How do we engage teachers that do not feel comfortable with research? How do you translate what researchers do into something that is usable? The panel also shared how teachers (especially new) tend to read in 150 words or less because of social media’s impact. How are we to change that? Perhaps providing easy access to journal articles or developing 100 character moments to engage teachers that are not ready. Ultimately, we need to build confidence in our educators so that classroom teachers are not afraid to share their own challenges in art education.


National Convention Sessions:

There were hundreds of sessions offered throughout the three-day convention focusing on all aspects of art including STEAM, curriculum, pedagogy, advocacy, national standards, research strategies, and artmaking. I found myself most interested in the sessions focusing on TAB (teaching for artistic behavior), choice-based art, design thinking, creative inquiry, and art critiques. Below are highlights from these sessions:

I Think I Can, I Think I Can…Create a Choice-Based Design Thinking Studio 

By Pamela Ehrenreich

Ehrenreich runs a student-centered studio that helps facilitate student ideas. She creates a structure for her students to think and act as artists. Her students are not use to choice; therefore, Ehrenreich assists them in becoming autonomous learners by first scaffolding the discovery of an overarching theme. She lays out artwork centered on a common theme and the students have to make connections between the artworks to research the theme. Once the theme is explored, the students move into skill builders where they are challenged without a lot of rules and the pressure of completing a final piece. Examples include a cardboard challenge, installation art, and media mania. Next, the students explore a personal theme by visually researching and questioning what they want to make. After exploring, the artist begins to design-planning out what they want to create. Here artists sketch, play with materials, and make models with modeling clay (if working 3D and have a difficult time drawing it on paper). These designs become the impetus to create the artwork. Once the artwork is made, students reflect on their process using the RAT critique via the platform SeeSaw where they R-respond to the question posed, A-ask a question, and T-tell something they are doing or have done really well. This type of critique provides meaningful feedback from peers and helps facilitate conversations.

Ehrenreich told us the planning is different in a choice-based classroom. She facilitates ideas and responds to students’ needs. She does not create final products, but plans broad themes and curates resources/materials for students. Her job is not to tell an artist how to do something, but to facilitate his/her idea by giving them the tools and materials they need.

What’s Wrong With STEAM? Why Teaching Disciplines Doesn’t Work if Creativity is the Goal! 

By Cindy Foley and Julie Toole

The presenters gave a background of STEM and what rationalized this movement. They discussed the critical importance of art and how our discipline is not meant to make other disciplines fun. They questioned why we still teach in discipline-specific boundaries and how we engage minds and foster creative dispositions. Foley and Toole discussed trans-disciplinary research where you start with an idea and all disciplines are in service to that idea. The conversation then moved to creativity and the question “is this even art?” was addressed. What does quality art look like? A child’s aesthetic is different from an adult’s aesthetic. Art teachers need to consider the quality of engagement and the ability for a child to reflect and innovate. The focus of artwork should be to engage children’s thinking. The assignment in art class is to grow as an artist.

Creative Inquiry in Art and Science: The Heart of STEAM 

By Julia Marshall, Amy Pfeiler-Wonder, and Erin Kraal

Marshall, Pfeiler-Wonder, and Kraal discussed the similarities between how artists and scientists work. They discussed the beauty of collaboration-how it both inspires and challenges. They questioned-how can we use arts integration to promote deeper understanding of contemporary art? Contemporary art is not cozy because it is unfamiliar/surprising/difficult therefore compelling deeper thinking.

Creative inquiry is the spinal cord that is science and art. It is testing things out, making observations, and drawing questions that provide a wonder and the desire to know more. Artists and scientists question, analyze, envision, imagine, play, invent, and resolve. Both disciplines use visual imagery to conceptualize and think through problems, which make inventions come to life. Real science is messy, complicated, and involves explanation. The scientific method is not linear, but a complex process that intertwines structure and function with cause and effect. The creative process in art shares this language. Making art is the generation of new knowledge-it is the aspiring process of asking good questions and seeking answers.

The presenters talked about research workbooks to foster creative thinking. These notebooks dissolve the notion that the teacher is the expert and opens a space for artists to be inspired by their own curiosity. Here, a student begins with a question to follow their curiosity which leads to digging deeper into places that were not even imagined. In this situation, learners can see that they are agents of understanding and not just doing research to earn a good grade. What is it like to smell, hear, see, and taste knowledge? These workbooks allow the student to become the researcher and to construct new knowledge. Students feel competent that their thinking matters. It also becomes an incredible way to document student learning because “being curious and asking questions is something we don’t outgrow”.

Danielson, Choice-Based Art, and the Distinguished Evaluation

By Cynthia Gaub and Mary O’Brien

Gaub explained the importance of communicating and educating administration on what a choice classroom looks like. Student choice allows students to work at their level using the time, space, and resources available. It is key for the teacher to provide demonstrations and mini lessons that focus on the students’ needs and interests. Choice is not a free for all; there is a lot of behind the scenes planning that is not always visible. Assessment looks different where the focus is on how the student understands the process of art through their work and written reflections.

Gaub shared the structure of her studio classroom. For the students that are not use to choice, she scaffolds and provides parameters. She finds this especially important for the artists that are reluctant and need redirection. In this scenario, Gaub asks students if they can relate to an idea/theme from the previous year. Choices provide times for exploration and experimentation. The teacher questions student work and how they plan to move forward rather than telling them what to do. Here, teachers adapt to the needs of their students-they are flexible and responsive.

The Art Critiques: Challenges, Strategies, and Solutions

By Clara Lieu

Lieu began by asking the question, what is a critique? It is a bunch of artists sitting and talking about artwork; a creative discussion space where you can hear viewers’ reactions to your work. It is also an opportunity to leave your head and step outside yourself. It provides an opportunity for you to expand your thinking, as artists tend to work in their heads and in their own universes. Lastly, it is a chance to expand the options of your artwork-have you thought about this?

Critique Topics:

Intent-what are you trying to do?

Motivation-what got you to do this? What created the spark?

Subject Matter-why did you choose that subject matter? Would your idea be better conveyed if it was something different?

Use of Materials-How did you use your materials?

An effective critique is a group effort. If the students do not understand this, they will think it is the teacher’s job. A successful critique helps the student move forward. It is not a personal attack, but an opportunity to get an overview of different opinions. Lieu reinforces the importance of respecting every opinion if if a disagreement arises. Students need to be in the right frame of mind to absorb a critique; they have to decide to absorb the information. Lieu suggested having students watch a critique before they participate in one. Critique strategies included the sandwich, playing devil’s advocate, and pushing diverse opinions. The sandwich is when you start with a positive statement, move to suggestions, and end on a positive note. This strategy opens the door for students to hear the critique because many of them look for validation. Devil’s advocate is when you take on multiple opinions and say things that you do not personally agree with forcing students to see another side of the artwork. Pushing diverse opinions stops everyone from jumping on the bandwagon and just agreeing with the first comment. It encourages others to disagree with the group. When students provide vague comments such as, “I just think it’s cool” or “It just does it for me” respond by asking why.

A teacher’s role in the critique is to ask questions when it falls silent. What do people think about…? Is the composition too crowded? too simple? Teacher’s also recommend artists from history and contemporary art, refer to and compare to previous artist’s works (only by the same student), say what the student won’t or can’t say, and recognizes effort. Lastly, we foster conversations; it is not a one-way street where students get information and walk away.

The Seasons of a Studio-A year in a Choice-Based Studio

By Julie Toole

Our role as an art teacher is to allow students to develop their voices. We have the power in our program to tell students that their ideas and voices matter. Every decision she makes revolves around the core belief of TAB: What do artists do? The child is the artist. The art room is their studio. Toole provided an overview of her TAB classroom throughout the year and discussed the ebb and flow over time.

Back to School-Toole considers room flow because she wants her students to be autonomous and easily move throughout. She finds herself consistently getting rid of furniture and reflecting on open space. Some storage has moved under the tables such as cardboard and cardboard tubes. Studio centers are designed for student autonomy so that students can independently find what they need, set up their workspace, and put materials back. A digital portfolio via SeeSaw allows the students to track their progress. She also has each artist create a portrait on SeeSaw where every student records his/her voice and talks about who he/she is as an artist. Also tracking progress are sketchbooks, which are meant to be a visual journal to plan ideas. It is not a tool that everyone is required to use, but available for those that chose to use them. Goal setting based on SHoM is covered in the fall. She tells her students that their job is to grow as artists and how they grow is up to them. Students set goals at the beginning of the year which relate to envisioning, developing craft, stretching and exploring, or expressing. Twice during the year, students refer to their goal sheet and reflect on their growth. This takes the responsibility off of you and puts the students at the center of their own learning. In addition to goal setting, each class sets a group agreement. This sets the tone and creates a safe space for students to take risks and see themselves as part of an artist community. However, with great freedom comes great responsibility; therefore, students are asked how they will care for the studios, how they will care for each other, and care for themselves. Toole summarizes each class’s answers and incorporates them onto a sign where she obtains the students’ signatures. Media exploration is also completed in the fall where students participate in a round robin to explore different materials. The goal is to play and then talk about the discoveries. In John Dewey’s words “We don’t learn from experiences, we learn from reflecting on experiences.” Toole also utilizes the fall to introduce creativity and team building games such as the task party, tantemounter, and the cardboard challenge. Procedures and systems are also introduced so that students understand the expectations to maximize artmaking time.

Winter-Toole finds that some students face a creativity slump, so this is when she looks at emergent ideas and responds to the patterns that are occurring in the studio. Winter is also a time to open mini-centers like encaustic, collograph, bookmaking, and Styrofoam printing. Portfolio reflections and the critique process are also introduced at this time.

Spring-Group agreements and natural consequences are revisited. Students are required to take ownership of their studios; therefore, if a center is not cleaned up properly it is closed. An agreement is a living document and students need to be held accountable for their choices.

Summer-Toole defined this season as the time of year where the most growth occurs as a teacher. It is a time to nurture yourself as both an artist and teacher through professional experiences, reading, deep planning, making art, and reflecting.

The Psychology of Creative Thinking: What Does Teaching and Learning About Creativity Imply?

By Angela Foreman

The characteristics and behaviors of creative thinking consist of risk taking and having the courage to be wrong, a sense of humor, and trusting intuition and a willingness to trust thoughts.

Foreman outlined and discussed fluency, flexibility, and elaboration as they relate to creative thinking. Fluency is the ability to produce multiple ideas quickly. To experience this, students receive a sheet of paper filled with empty circles. In 10 minutes, the students need to fill as many circles as they can without doodling. The goal is not to focus on drawing skills or the quality of drawing, but to focus on idea building. Following the activity, she discusses originality and higher creative thinking strategies such as taking two circles and combining them into one or drawing outside of the circle. Furthermore, a conversation surrounding cliché images like smileys, suns, and peace signs occurs. Flexibility is the ability to adapt and change your ideas in thinking relative to a task. This ability relates to the comfort and willingness to change ideas like in an artist’s thumbnail sketches. Students need to know that it is okay to make mistakes and change their ideas. Elaboration is the ability to ad details to existing ideas. Ideas are built from other ideas just like research. Foreman simulates this in an activity where each student draws a monster or alien. The drawing is then passed around to another student whereupon he/she must add details onto someone else’s original idea. The task becomes more difficult each time the drawing is passed.

Foreman ended her session by sharing three steps to transform our classrooms into a creative powerhouse:

  1. Establish brain compatible learning environments that include differentiation, safety, choices, sense of humor, and constructive and positive praise.
  2. Build ongoing awareness and reflection. Teach students about creative thinking to build metacognition and awareness of thinking through a process. Incorporate critiques and assessment.
  3. Provide regular practice and thinking opportunities that allow time for experimentation.


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