mindPOP Eric Booth workshop notes

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On Monday, Oct. 8th 2012, several Creative Actionists had the opportunity to attend a workshop by mindPOP featuring Eric Booth.  Eric Booth is a respected theatre practitioner, educator, and is sometimes referred to as “the father of the teaching artist profession”.

His biography can be found here: http://www.everydayarts.info/

Below are some notes from his lecture:

The Core of Teaching Artistry 

The following is an excerpt from an essay in process. The essay captures my learning from leading the First International Teaching Artist Conference in Oslo, Norway.  Representatives from 23 countries came together for three days of experimentation and inquiry to discover what is common and distinct in teaching artistry as it has arisen in so many different cultures.  The following 13 points are a preliminary list of the essential core elements of teaching artistry around the world.  The Teaching Artist:

  • Guides participants to IMAGINE NEW POSSIBILITIES, “to imagine the world as if it were otherwise” (John Dewey).
  • LISTENS ACUTELY before, during, and after the work–the excellence of the listening, the humble dedication to hearing and respecting the person/people who offer their voices, and the priority on hearing the true artistic voice in everyone.
  • Seeks to have participation reach beyond compliance and willingness, to ACTIVATE PARTICIPANTS’ INTRINSIC MOTIVATION to “make stuff they care about” (art).
  • Uses ACTIVE PARTICIPATION as the main tool for learning, relying on giving information as an extension or expansion of, response to, or follow-up from experiential learning.
  • ASSUMES THE INNATE COMPETENCE OF PARTICIPANTS, and constructs experiential activities that intentionally tap those competencies (often latent capactities that individuals didn’t know they had), to spark and speed the experiential learning process.
  • Offers ACTIVITIES THAT ARE INHERENTLY FUN, that launch interesting creative problem solving processes, and that seek to engender pleasure and satisfaction, hopefully joy, in every participant on every occasion.
  • SCAFFOLDS THE SEQUENCE OF ACTIVITIES, to provide satisfaction and success at each step, building courage and investment, toward greater challenge and accomplishment.  With scaffolding, TAs can lead a group to accomplishments they would never have imagined possible in a short period of time.
  • Uses GREAT QUESTIONS as underpinnings of the work to provoke participants to identify the ways in which the activity is relevant to their lives, and to deepen the resonance of the process.  A great question is one that is inherently interesting, has a kind of emotional or intellectual bite, and provokes complex answering processes.
  • Uses REFLECTION to ground and expand the learning of doing.  As Dewey says, “If we do not reflect on our experiences, we do not learn from them.”  TAs use a variety of reflective invitations to guide participants to consider what actually happened inside and outside them during activities to grasp key elements of their experiences: feelings, thoughts, questions, memories, words, insights, etc.
  • Has a plan for every given occasion and IMPROVISES within it, responding to learning opportunities and the participants’ experiences that arise withing the process itself.
  • Takes on a VARIETY OF ROLES in leading a group, including facilitator of group process, as well as the roles of designer, leader, colleague, teacher, and witness.  Good TAs are nimble in changing their role relationships to learners, enjoying each role, and modeling the multiplicity of roles that artistry requires.
  • Seeks in the long view to CHANGE CULTURES.  They seek to activate the human birthright for a caring, creative, collaborative culture that respects the capacities and contributions of all members  that recognizes and appreciates excellence in all its forms, and that delights in the play of imagination for other ways reality can be.

As teaching artists, we can PREPARE PEOPLE TO HAVE ARTS ENCOUNTERS/EXPERIENCES in ways that will make those experiences more meaningful to them.  What if we did 2 minute exercises every class or day focused on specific skills like brainstorming (instead of in bigger blocks of fine art classes), if they are fund and challenging and low risk?

TEACHING ARTIST STRATEGIES:

  • Tap Competence. Assume everyone is a colleague and capable.
  • Personal Relevance.  Place a high priority on helping students to draw connections to their own lives from an arts experience or encounter.
  • Scaffold the Experience. Build your activities so that there is a progressive experiential return on the investment of paying attention and participating.
  • Enabling Constraints.  Use obstructions to allow for greater critical thinking and creative problem-solving.
  • Entry Point.  Pick one core idea and draw people in experimentally through that core idea.
  • Engagement Before Information.  Engage students through experiences and create a hunger for information before you deliver it.
  • Law of 80%  Eighty percent of what a TA teaches is who she is as an artist/person/learner/citizen.  Accepting the responsibility that we must be that change we wish to see in the world and embracing a wide view of the role of an artist, the TA is dedicated to living authentically and bringing that self into teaching opportunities, which include more occasions than just dedicated workshop time.
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