UDL & TAB
During our professional day at the beginning of the school year, we discussed practices in UDL, Universal Design for Learning, which is a choice-based model designed to accommodate a wide variety of learners. Art is naturally choice-based, where students are able to make decisions about concepts, media, and techniques based on their personal goals and the outcomes they are aiming to achieve. This freedom is more prevalent in more advanced art classes, where students have already learned the basic tools and vocabulary needed to make those choices.
During the 2016 Massachusetts conference, one particular theme stood out to me - something called TAB, or Teaching for Artistic Behavior, which is a choice-based model for the art classroom. I thought, isn't art already choice-based? It turns out that TAB gives students even more choice. It is more rapidly changing middle and elementary school classrooms, where younger students are given the freedom to make more decisions as independent artists. This freedom has given students more confidence in their art-making abilities because they have control over their own process and growth, and students are given the opportunity to respond to their own ideas and interests.
I had heard a little bit about TAB and choice-based art education, and I was curious to know more about how it actually worked. I attended a panel led by an elementary art teacher in Andover whose professional goal was to research and incorporate TAB into her classroom. She explained that the goal of TAB is to give students an authentic experience in art, to allow them to experiment, create, think, and reflect. Choice is something that empowers and accommodates ALL students, just as UDL does.
A TAB, choice-based art classroom is divided into stations based on medium, technique, or theme, and the types of stations vary depending on the curriculum, program, and district. Some stations are permanent (drawing, painting, printmaking, collage), and some are temporary depending on the theme (still life, narrative, mask-making) or the availability of materials, such as clay & sculpture. At the beginning of the course, the teacher explains how to walk around the room, how to get materials, and how to clean up the materials and space when students leave a station, but students are not instructed on which materials to use. The teacher spends no more than five minutes at the beginning of each class introducing an artist, theme, material, or technique, and the rest of the time is set aside for students to work. There may be an optional prompt or assignment, but otherwise, there are no predetermined projects, and students are expected to work at their own pace and make their own discoveries.
There is not as much information available about TAB for students at the secondary level, though some high school art programs are shifting to a TAB model for all courses, including beginner level courses such as Studio Art I.