- Grades, participation, & academic progress
- How they feel about the class & their art skills
- What I can do to improve as a teacher or the curriculum as a whole
1. Get Feedback from Your Students
This was something I was not expecting, but was beyond value to me! While talking with each student privately, they provided me with a ton of feedback to improve my teaching and curriculum. When I asked students how they felt about the class, most students said "Good". When I asked them about the pace of the class, I had several students say they felt that it was going too fast. Many students said they'd like to spend more time on their paintings. If I had never asked them this, I would have kept trucking along! I also asked students how they felt about the projects. Many students shared their own ideas for projects they would like to try. They gave me so many ideas, I just wish I had them for the entire year so we could do them all!
2. Identify Strengths and Weaknesses
While discussing grades, I also talked with students about their strengths and weaknesses. Even if a student has 100% in my class, I know they are not perfect. For example, I have a student who has exceptional skill and a high level of perfectionism. Her artwork is college-level work, but her artist statement writing is below average. When discussing this with her, I discovered that she has always struggled with writing and just doesn't know where to start when writing an artist statement. She said she really struggled with getting her thoughts onto paper. We talked about this for a bit, so I offered a piece of differentiated instruction: I would walk her through the questions for the artist statement verbally, then she would orally respond with her answers and I would take notes for her on her responses. Next, I had her re-write my notes as a 2-paragraph artist statement. This seemed to really help her through the process and she still demonstrated her learning (which is the goal, right?) Identifying strengths and weaknesses with students helps them understand where they need to improve and grow, but it also helps me understand where I need to start with a lesson. It helps me differentiate depending on student skill level and readiness.
3. Help them Stay on Track
I don't know about you, but I have a few students who would rather sit on their phones all day looking at themselves than work on their projects. For these students, I found the mini conferences to be extremely valuable. First, I showed them what work they were missing. One girl literally had no idea she was missing 3 assignments. Turns out, she forgot to turn 2 of them in. She immediately went to her drawer, got the 2 assignments out and turned them in. I didn't take points away. She had done the assignments and demonstrated her learning. Next, we talked about participation. I showed students the total number of points they had received and why they lost points (on their phones, not working during class, etc.). I think this was a real eye opener for some students. While the points don't negatively affect their grade, I keep track during class as a way to collect data. If a student is not doing what they are supposed to do, I take a point away, and attempt to redirect them. While I love my cell phone, I explained to students that when they're just on their phones the entire time, they are not able to focus and also miss important things like announcements, lessons, and the real world around them. I ended the conference by telling them that I care about their success in my class, whether they like art or not, and that my job was to help them succeed. I can't tell you how many of my struggling art students went right to work afterwards!