Curriculum Design

Exploring the National Standards: Create (Ep. 206)

This is the first episode in a series of upcoming podcasts exploring the national standards, and today, Janet Taylor joins Nic to talk about the Create standard. Listen as they discuss when and why the standards changed, how we can break them down, and why your teaching probably lends itself to meeting the standards more than you might think.  Full Episode Transcript Below.

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Nic: Have you ever been inspired to become more interested in a subject because of someone else’s enthusiasm and passion for the subject? I know that I have several times in my life not really cared about something until I met someone else who was super passionate about it. For example, in my life, that’s my husband, Tim. He is an avid fisherman and I never really cared to know anything about fish. Then when I met him and he was so passionate about it, I thought this is a good way to connect and then it has gone even further. I’ve watched him fish and the light in his eyes and the excitement he gets when he’s telling me about the fishing and the lures and the bait and all that stuff, it’s contagious.

That’s a little bit like the conversation we’re going to have today. Janet Taylor is a friend of mine who I have found to be inspiring when it comes to really taking the idea of national standards into my classroom and making me become excited for it. Janet has true enthusiasm for this subject. She has complete passion, and you’re going to hear that in her voice, as she speaks with us today about the national standards for art educators in the United States. This is Nic Hahn and this is Everyday Art Room.

Welcome, Janet. I am so excited to have you on today on the podcast because we are going to talk about a really… It can be a very intimidating subject. I know that you’re an expert in this area. So let’s get started by just doing a little introduction of your past experiences and education, kind of what qualifies you thus far to really talk about this, because I know you’re passionate about standards.

Janet: Yeah. I really geek out, don’t I?

Nic: Yeah. Yeah, you do.

Janet: Yeah. So I have been a secondary art teacher for over a decade in the Chicago area, both in the city and the burbs. I would say it was probably about maybe five or six years into my teaching practice where I had been on committees to work through assessments and aligning to standards prior to the change in the new standards. I guess they’re not really that new anymore, but-

Nic: No.

Janet: Then it was about five or six years in when I started kind of shifting my own teaching practice, right? I became more of a choice art educator with a tad of philosophy behind it. I started deep diving kind of into my practice and what was kind of best for my students. Then kind of along those same lines, the assessment side of it really started to kind of emerge as this kind of piece that needed to be addressed, right, and to be more authentic in my assessments and align them to what was going on in my classroom. So that’s when the shift happened with the standards. We really, as a district, started unpacking the standards and then trying to understand what those were for our district, right, and how that worked with all of our different teaching philosophies. So I get really super nerdy about assessment and standards.

Nic: That’s why I love you. That’s why you’re here today. You mentioned that the national standards are not so new, but for many of us, they feel brand spanking new because they’re hard to tackle and they’re a huge shift. So let’s talk about the national standards. They did a switch in I think it was 2014. I want to talk about what they look like and what they look like now and what are the similarities and differences in the two.

Janet: Right. So when these standards changed, right, they really shifted into this world that a lot of art teachers were like, “What is going on?” To be quite frank, I feel like most teachers felt like there was a huge disconnect from the higher ed and the idea of what artists are or how they’re creating and what is being actually taught or the logistics of teaching practices in the classroom. I think that’s where a lot of teachers were like, “What the heck is going on here and how are we suppose to then apply this to what we’re doing in a practical sense?”

What was actually happening and after spending years looking at them a little bit closer and trying to really understand, there really just was like this broader art making idea and thinking process instead of being so formulaic in how we are teaching, they really are trying or were trying at the time to push art teachers to reflect on authentic artistic art-making processes, right, that’s actually happening.

Nic: Sure.

Janet: So the idea was through that how do artists actually create? That meant the entire process, not just the making part and the doing part or it didn’t just mean the end result. It really was looking at all of the pieces that go into making something and creating. I think the other piece, right, that we look at is also addressing how our students are looking at artists in a different way to have a deeper appreciation of what they’re seeing out in the world and the connections that they’re able to make in their everyday lives, right? Everything has art in it.

So when we have a deeper understanding of what goes into making that and the processes, I think we have a deeper appreciation of everything then, right? It’s not just taken for granted like, oh, there’s an ad on the street. Or I see a poster or whatever, right?

Nic: Right, right.

Janet: Then I also think that the reason why that changed or why they shifted was because there really wasn’t examination at that time of what is the best art education teaching practices. A bigger conversation, as you might know, I love to talk about education as a whole, and the idea is that teaching and education is super inequitable. Our art ed teaching practices also were and they still kind of are, right? We really have to examine that continually. So these standards, I would say, were a way to proactively address some of the inequities that are happening in art education or in education.

Janet: maybe kind of if we change the standards as a national organization, if we change the standards, then we’re kind of driving in a ninja like way how teachers need to start assessing students in arts education. Then I think the big piece of that is that since art is so subjective, we need to shift our focus toward the bigger picture and not so the little tiny logistical pieces of creating. It’s like big picture talk, right?

Nic: Yeah, yeah. Well, I mean, and what would you say your experiences prior, I guess for me prior to 2014, we were looking at very concrete, you’re going to teach line, you’re going to teach to color. You could check the boxes.

Janet: Yes. Yeah.

Nic: I don’t think that that’s the way it feels right now.

Janet: No.

Nic: You can’t necessarily check the boxes and we’ll get into that a little bit more for sure. But it’s a broader idea. I think it came from a lot of the committee who made this group up. Wouldn’t you agree with that?

Janet: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Nic: It was a broad group of people.

Janet: Yeah. I think coming from different perspectives makes a huge difference, right? This is not just a group of elementary art teachers deciding this, right? It’s a wide group, like you say. Having that perspective of how to teach littles, how to teach middle, and higher ed and where are we going and what’s the bigger purpose of making standards anyway, right?

Nic: Yeah, yeah.

Janet: And the connection of life, the bigger pieces, right?

Nic: Yes, yeah. There was a large, well, I don’t know… There was representation from museum educators as well.

Janet: Right, right. Exactly.

Nic: So that’s a whole different thing. Yeah. I don’t know. I think it was done correctly and done well. Seeking what you’re saying, equity and deeper thinking and deeper meaning. So how would you say that the national standards basically changed your approach to your curriculum? You mentioned that there was a shift. Was it kind of in conjunction with this?

Janet: So I think it just was a convergence of affairs happening there. I’m not sure that one drove the other so much. I would say that my maybe obsession of assessment and authentically looking at how we’re assessing art education and what does that really mean came from… My practice drove that interest, but it was the standards that happened to also completely align with that practice, right? So I’m a huge proponent of saying that a lot of times there’s that stigma of, wow, are you process-driven or are you end product, right. I say, “Both.” The process is what’s driving the product, the end product.

So as I was working and working through my own processes, the standards, looking at those, helped me to remind myself of what I needed to hit along the way. There’s a big chunk, like I said, that kind of that piece where teachers were like, “What’s going on here? Why is this change happening?” Then there’s these like maybe the choice art teachers, tab teachers were probably like, “”This is great.” It’s not like this or that again. It’s not a competing approach, right? These are integrated. So when you really think about it, it’s like the standards are to nudge you, to remind you of the different pieces that go into art making. It’s not like the technical piece of, like you said, like line and shape and all those things, right, that kind of go into the art making. It’s not like all of a sudden those are gone from the standards.

Nic: Not at all.

Janet: They’re just more embedded into the language. So it’s just reminding you that not only are you doing this, but you need to think about how do you create with a plan or how do you play with materials or how do you think about your artwork? That kind of a thing.

Nic: Yeah, yeah. For sure. So we’ve been talking kind of broad about the standards right now, but if we were to break that down, let’s say to a brand new art teacher 101 class, and we break down what the standards look like. How would you explain that to your art 101 class?

Janet: Yeah. Okay. My favorite go-to is that at a glance chart that kind of shows all of the standards and it breaks it down into their little subcategories and everything like that. So when I’m creating a lesson or something like that, right, I’m looking or looking at my curriculum map, I’m looking at that at a glance because that helps me kind of go through and make sure that I’m hitting something, right? It doesn’t mean that I have to do all of those standards at once. It’s just like almost like a good checklist to go, “Oh, right. I need to make sure I’m integrating this.” So when you look at that chart, especially as a new teacher, it’s like, “Oh my God. It’s multiple pages. There’s all these sub things. There’s essential question.” What is going on there? It’s very easy to become overwhelmed when you’re trying to interpret all the semantics that go into it.

So I look at it the best way is to always remember the overarching goals of the standards and what each standard is big picture addressing. Because when you look at the small areas, whatever that kind of are more specific task-oriented. You have to remember that those relate to the big picture, right? So if you look at the overall goal of the standards, we’re looking at artist communication, deeper understanding of ourselves, right? Connecting to society, our global cultures, our history to help us be insightful and knowledgeable. Appreciation and of course the mental health benefits that come with making art and looking at art.

Nic: Sure, yeah.

Janet: Then connecting us kind of beyond our community and that sense of beyond ourselves, right? So when we’re looking at the create idea, right, the idea behind create is generating original artwork and this is all defined in the framework so there’s also that document.

Nic: Sure.

Janet: So it’s the idea of making art, right? But then there’s these keywords in the at a glance. So I look at those. So okay, I know I’m kind of probably overwhelming with all these info too, right?

Nic: That’s good too. No, I like that. That’s a really good tip.

Janet: Okay. So if I’m looking at create, and I’m thinking, okay, it’s generating original artwork, it’s the process of making art. I look at the keywords and the keywords I see are investigate plan, make, reflect, refine, continue.

Nic: Wow.

Janet: That is the creative process right there, right?

Nic: Yeah, yeah.

Janet: So I kind of look and break it down that way to try to understand that a little bit easier in bigger picture of what it is it’s asking me to do. So again, present, that’s interpreting and sharing and the keywords are select, analyze, share. I mean, so, right, you’re just kind of putting these pieces together, like, “Well, okay. I already do these things.” I think that is the big aha moment that everybody should be having right now. It’s like-

Nic: It is for me, yeah. Absolutely.

Janet: It’s like, I don’t want to do these new standards. This is crazy. This is not how I teach, blah, blah, blah, right?

Nic: Yeah, yeah.

Janet: But actually it’s exactly how you already are teaching.

Nic: Yeah, right.

Janet: We’re just kind of stuck in the semantics behind it.

Nic: Yeah. So we have create and we have present. Let’s talk about respond and connect?

Janet: Respond? Yeah. So response. So, okay. So again, present, if you go back. So we know that create is that creative process where that’s the making part, right?

Nic: Sure, yeah.

Janet: Present, we’re talking about putting up your artwork, how do you put it on display? How are you actually taking information and sharing it with the world? Then respond and connect are interesting because they both connect back to that meaning-making piece. So respond is meaning-making. It’s the visual literacy component. It’s how do you read an artwork and then articulate what it’s about? So the keywords that you see on that at a glance are perceive, analyze, interpret, right? So you’re taking in the information, trying to make sense of it and giving it meaning.

Then the connect, which I think this is… Respond and connect I feel like are maybe the hardest ones to really understand because they’re so closely aligned. So connect is also that meaning-making, but it’s exploring visual literacy, engaging yourself with understanding of the world.

Nic: That’s right.

Janet: And how ourselves fit into this world. So the keywords there are synthesize and relate. Synthesize is a really difficult word actually. If you look at AP, so we’re looking at the end of the spectrum, right, because you look at these standards and you think kindergartens synthesizing.

Nic: Yeah. Yeah. Yeah.

Janet: Right? The big picture is to try to get to the end, right? So AP shifted their whole portfolio, right, and they’re talking about synthesizing media and we’re still like, “What does that mean, synthesizing?” The whole idea of this is how are we actually taking all that we’ve learned and connecting it personally? How does that relate to myself and my art making and my understanding of what I’m seeing in the art world in a global context?

Nic: Yeah. When you break it down like that, I think a kindergartener, I know a kindergarten can absolutely synthesize because of the definition that you gave it there of connecting it to yourself.

Janet: Right. Yeah. It would be-

Nic: It’s your natural way.

Janet: Yeah. It’s like we need like a teacher-friendly version of this.

Nic: Actually, yes. Absolutely. That’s what this is. That’s what this conversation is. It’s to break down this very academic, which we are all academics, however, break it down to our kindergarten level. How am I going to put this in my first grade classroom and my second grade classroom? Just that idea of keywords was exactly what I needed to hear. I’m sure that is true of some of our listeners right now.

Janet: Yeah. So the ones that are on that left side of that. So of the at a glance, they’re kind of vertically written or whatever. But that’s the thing is that there’s so many components to the at a glance. It’s like, where do I look? How do I make sense of it? For sure.

Nic: Yeah. I have a big poster and then I have it broken down in a couple of documents that are smaller. I concentrate on those big words, the present, respond, connect, and of course create. Then I go down to the anchor standards, but I have not done the keywords. So I really appreciate that you pointed that out to me who has been using this for a long time. So how does the teacher go in and think about everything that we just mentioned and actually put it into our practice and put it into our lesson plans and keep calm about it? Not get so frustrated or excited or nervous to do so.

Janet: Okay. So I would say there’s two pieces to this, right? So the first part is taking those bigger picture pieces that we just talked about, right, and looking at the anchor standards and trying to understand what all of those really mean. I think that helps us calm down a little bit, honestly, when we actually understand what’s being asked of us.

Nic: Sure.

Janet: So the first is more of like a technical logistical thing, right? So again, if you’re looking at the at a glance or even the framework, it talks about the anchor standards, like you mentioned. What is an anchor standard? That is the general knowledge or skill. It’s like the target, right, the goal that you’re doing, right? Students will do this. Students will be able to accomplish that. Then under there, there’s the enduring understanding and essential questions. These are really helpful for us as we’re guiding our curriculum writing and trying to know where to go with it.

So those are the big picture questions. They help us organize the information. The enduring understanding is the connection to the why. So what does it look like for an artist do this? The essential question helps us ask our students in order to connect the purpose of that skill to the standard.

Nic: Sure.

Janet: Then there’s the performance standard, which is that little tiny little box that I was talking about earlier, the little sub, sub, sub, subcategory under each one. Those are the attainable measurable goals. So how are we going to get there, right?

Nic: You’re talking like in first grade, that little part?

Janet: Yes.

Nic: In second grade, that little part, right?

Janet: Yes, yes. Yeah. The little box.

Nic: Yes. The tiny box. Okay.

Janet: Yeah, yeah.

Nic: I think that’s the part, that’s where I started. I think that is just unfair. To look at that, you have to do this kind of backwards design, what you’ve been describing.

Janet: I think that was a huge shift for me because I did the same thing. I think we all did. We were like, “Okay, what do I need to do? There’s the task. Got it.” The language felt very vague. It didn’t seem connected to anything. You’re like, “”What does that really mean to do X, Y, and Z?” It was like, “Oh right. I have to really dig in and understand how this is even laid out or organized.” So, okay. So the great thing about the standards is that you can quickly see that at a glance, right? Now, that you understand, and you can go like, “Okay, which one of these do I need to hit in my lesson, my unit, my curriculum app, how am I going to scaffold, et cetera?” Right?

Nic: Yeah.

Janet: So you can literally say, “I’m only focusing on create.” You don’t have to do all of them. I think I mentioned that earlier. A lot of times we’re like, “Oh, I have to hit every standard and every lesson.” No, you don’t, right?

Nic: No, no. Don’t do that.

Janet: No. That’s the same thing with assessment. When I talk about assessment and I give all these great examples, right, that’s great and all, but when it comes down to especially the littles, you might not be focusing on more than just one aspect, right? That’s okay. So you can say, “I’m only focused on creating this unit or lesson. The next one, I’ll make sure I talk about present or something like that.” Right? That’s not a big deal. It helps us actually have a better idea of our larger scope and sequence that we’re thinking over time, right?

Nic: Yeah, yeah.

Janet: Then what I always say, calm down about… Keep calm and keep moving on, right?

Nic: Yes, yes. Yeah.

Janet: I mentioned this earlier, we already are doing a lot of this stuff. So you just need to kind of just chillax a little bit and say, “Okay, I’m a good teacher. I’m already doing great things. How am I actually in my lessons that I’m already teaching, the curriculum I already have, how am I already addressing the standards?” Sometimes, there’s just a few little tweaks or additions that you need to kind of adjust your curriculum, whether it’s within a lesson or over a bigger picture time to balance that, right?

Nic: Yeah.

Janet: Then I also say the great thing about these standards is it also reminds us sometimes to let go of trying to cram everything that we want to do into a short amount of time. Instead of focusing on the constant output of creating, we need to give ourselves and our students kind of more space and time to explore, reflect, consider, challenge themselves and engage beyond just the, I say just the because that’s such a huge piece, the creating part, right?

Nic: Of course. But that’s the easy piece. That’s why you’re saying right just the. Because that’s what I think I discovered in these new standards/old standards. I think I discovered, oh my goodness, I’m not hitting reflect enough. Then I spent one whole year where that was the only area that I was adding new things into my curriculum. I was only thinking about reflect. Then the next year it might be something different. I need to concentrate on whatever it is, connect. So I think that’s another tip. Kind of piggy-backing on what you were saying of don’t hit it all, hit parts of it. Absolutely.

Janet: Aligned to what you’re saying too, what I like about these standards now that I understand them at a different place, right, is that they kind of nudge us or remind us that there’s other ways to think about artwork and how we’re creating. So I might always think, “Oh, my kids are reflecting.” I give them a reflection thing every time, right?

Nic: Sure.

Janet: They fill out a form. There are other ways to reflect. There are other ways to present. There are other ways to create, not just a way of going through, oh, let’s make sketches and then let’s… I remember one of the conversations I had with one of my colleagues when we were kind of unpacking these standards was it’s telling us that we need to have students create without a plan. We’re like, “But everything that we teach in our district is you have a plan. You sketch something, you have materials.” Logistically, that’s really important, right? Because as teachers, things can get crazy out of hand if you don’t know what’s going on, right?

Nic: Sure.

Janet: The plan helps us manage our lives and our teaching, right?

Nic: Yeah, it sure does.

Janet: But there’s ways to interject those thinking without it being this whole three-week project based around not planning something, right?

Nic: Right.

Janet: So the idea of exposing our students to different ways of thinking, in that deeper thinking, critical thinking that we were talking about, that it focuses on and not just on the output.

Nic: So we talked very much about how these standards work really well in your classroom when you were switching over to the tab classroom. But if I’m a teacher, which I am half of the time, I really consider myself to have a very varied approach to education. I’m a teacher who might do a step-by-step lesson. So how did these standards… Are they still friendly to a teacher like myself when I’m addressing class that way?

Janet: Yes. I think, again, it’s more about how we’re looking at how art is being created and it’s making what we already do more explicit in the foreground, right? So it’s not just about, oh, I’m just focusing on process. That’s not the point either, right? It’s about all these other components that we are already teaching in our practice. So let’s say, you know what, [DBAE 00:27:49] or Steam or design thinking or any of those other pieces, right? It doesn’t really matter what your philosophical approach or methodology of teaching is. The standards are looking at how we go through making, thinking about, appreciating art, right?

It talks about historical context, contemporary context, how we’re connecting, what we understand of art education, of artists and the purpose. So again, that’s what makes me feel good about these standards in general is when I actually started reading a little bit more about them and their framework. The framework that the committee created talks about why they came up with them in this direction in the first place, right?

Nic: Right.

Janet: So it kind of talks about the history of the standards and where they’re kind of going with that and wanting to address the inequities and things like that. It’s like you’re giving them the skills so that as you’re working through that, it’s embedded in the practice, right?

Nic: Sure, sure.

Janet: In their art making practice. The students don’t even need to know you’re hitting the standards, right? That’s not their job, it’s your job. So those standards, you’re looking at how we’re thinking about art. It’s just a broader way to approach it. It’s not necessarily telling you how to teach it. Does that make sense?

Nic: Yeah, that’s true.

Janet: It’s more about the why.

Nic: That’s true and that’s… Yeah, that’s what I actually liked about the standards is it’s just more of a… You can go so many directions with the same wording and really make it fit into any lesson that you’re teaching in my opinion.

Janet: I agree with that.

Nic: Janet, is… Oh, good. Good, good. We’re in agreement then. Janet, are there areas in this conversation that you would just to leave us with today? Any closing thoughts?

Janet: Yeah. I guess my biggest point of all of this, right, we kind of went through what it’s about, what does it look like, how do you break it down, all of that. But really, I hope that listeners gain from this is that aligning to the standards isn’t about revamping what you’re teaching so much as considering other ways to teach some of those same skills, right? So maybe you’re giving students watercolors and ask them to explore those watercolors to achieve four different looks exam, for example, without telling them how to do it first. You’re still teaching the same thing. It’s just maybe reflecting on different ways to get students to think about what it is that they’re doing.

Nic: Sure.

Janet: So I would say, as we kind of go through life, it’s always about not starting in reinventing the wheel and to take a moment and say, “Yes, I am doing this right. I just need to change this or that to make it more accessible in different ways.”

Nic: Yeah. I love that. Thank you for those closing thoughts.

Janet: Thank you. Thanks for having me.

Nic: Wasn’t I right? Janet’s amazing, right? She is so passionate about standards and I feel she really can break it down nicely so that you don’t have to feel overwhelmed when trying to implement standards into your classroom. Now, if you’re looking for more information or maybe you’re more of a hands-on, maybe you need some reading or some documentation or some videos to talk about the national standards, we’ve got you covered from the Art of Education University.

Of course, we have magazine articles and other podcasts revolving around this idea of national standards, but we also have a pro pack by Joanna Russell and she is so great. She talks about implementing the national standards into your curriculum as well. If you take a pro pack, if you do a pro pack, what that does is that gives you clock hours towards your license. So that’s a really nice aspect of PRO. I use it all the time in my personal life, but now you might have your interest piqued a little on the national standards. Know that there are PRO packs for that. So that’s exciting news right there.

Let me explain a little bit more exciting news. As our teachers, we definitely have creates. I mean, it’s kind of what we do. It’s the doing, the making. We create in our classroom. That’s the first standard. Out of the four, we always create. I don’t feel like we need to really dive deep into that aspect because most of our podcasts kind of revolve around that. What we do or might need a little bit more of is respond, connect, and present. So for the next three weeks, that’s what we’re going to dive deep into.

We are going to have a whole podcast of where people use respond and how they use it in their classroom. Another podcast about connecting, how people connect, really address that standard in their classroom, and then present, how are people using or creating that opportunity for their students to really present in an authentic way, addressing the national standards. So we have something to look forward to in the next few weeks.

If you have a really good idea, reach out to me, find me on Instagram. My Instagram is minimatisseart, and just say, “Hey, I have a really good idea for respond or connect or present. We can talk more about that.” I love hearing your voices and I love sharing them. Thank you so much for listening today and thank you to Janet Taylor for taking the time to speak with us.

Magazine articles and podcasts are opinions of professional education contributors and do not necessarily represent the position of the Art of Education University (AOEU) or its academic offerings. Contributors use terms in the way they are most often talked about in the scope of their educational experiences.