TIP: who is a good art teacher?

The following is a draft guide for what to look for when selecting a good quality course and teacher.

It looks like a hot topic at the national level within the ceramics profession, and possibly with the wider arts community, as governments exit art teaching, and an unregulated market emerges.

What do you think? 

What advise do we give to the consumer in researching independent classes and teachers?

Leave your comments at the bottom.

The following is a general guide for what to look for when selecting a good quality course and teacher.

Class size?

Larger classes are cheaper, as the teacher's wage is spread across the group. 

In small classes, you will pay more per lesson, but your experience is customised to suit your experience and ability.

In large classes you learn at the pace of the slowest, or fastest person.

In large classes you compete for teacher assistance with 15+ other students.

Smaller classes allow more individual student-teacher interaction, customised demonstration, instruction and advise. 

Consequently the learning experience is more  immediate and suits your personal needs and speed of learning.

Fixed, or flexible?

Not everyone has the work or family flexibility to attend formal TAFE or university classes. 

Some independent teachers offer more flexibility on day times, terms and duration, plus you can move between similar classes.

You directly pay independent teachers, so they focused on your experience, not their manager / administrator / institution. 

What will I be taught?

Public funded classes are required to teach a prescribed course of study.  

Students may be rushed through a set list of prescribed activities, set by a remote committee, sometimes interstate, or in the past.

Private classes are more likely to be flexible in what they teach.   They can respond to your specific interests and level of interest.

If you express interest in any particular area, and if your teacher has the breath and depth of training, it's possible to spend months, even years exploring your personal and technical interests.  his with the support an expert. Fellow students can also benefit from selectively watching and questioning you both.

Consequently the learning experience is pleasurable and rewarding.

Art qualifications? 

Does your tutor have formal training? 

A degree majoring in ceramics indicates that your teacher or tutor is highly creative, and has solid training in how to use materials, and a broad understanding of art.  Course entry is very competitive, and they have been repeatedly assessed over a number of years, to a very high level.

Teaching qualifications? 

Those with teacher qualifications, will have a wider range of techniques to help you learn and very highly developed interpersonal skills, relative to most artists. A sensitivity to the learning process is essential.

Not surprisingly, most professional Teaching Artists have trained as long, if not longer than other professionals.

Professional development?

Training does not end with a piece of paper.  

Do they keep improve and refreshing their skills and knowledge.  

Do they keep learning?  

Accredited by professional teacher associations and Teacher Registration Boards require regular, documented upgrading of skills and knowledge. Teacher accreditation also includes regular formal federal police and child protection clearances. 

Teaching Experience?

How long has the teacher been both an artist and teaching.

Generally the longer in both, the better. 

Experience in a wide range of situations, takes time to be acquired.

Moreover, with experience comes confidence in both their teaching ability, and student's innate abilities. A calm and capable teacher fosters a more positive learning environment.

Exhibiting experience?

In order to teach well, your teacher must have a deep and broad experience in making, thinking and talking about their own art. 

Number of, and years exhibiting indicate their commitment to making art, at a high standard.

Entry to exhibitions which are by invitation or selection, indicate that the work by the Teaching Artist, compared to their peers, is of a high standard.  

Selection for interstate or overseas exhibitions is less likely to be influenced by social networks, and more by the quality of the submitted artwork.

Invited to teaching elsewhere?

Repeat casual teaching at other venues over many years suggests that that other arts organisation's internal student reviews of the teacher, have been consistently positive.  That the teacher is also eliable and trustworthy.

Often arts organisation administrators invite teaching artists to work for them, after word of mouth recommendations through their own professional networks.

Look for burnout:  Attendance at workshops and conferences indicates an ongoing interest in learning more about new developments in their art medium, arts in general and art teaching.  It is also a good proxy for their continued passion / high level of motivation. 

Invitations to speak or demonstrate at state events indicate a sound professional reputation with profession peers, relevance of their knowledge or expertise, plus good communication skills. 

Invitations to speak, demonstrate or teach at national and international events indications higher levels of professional reputation, skill, knowledge and passion.

Writing about art, art education?

Independently published books and articles require an ability to reflect deeply on art and the art making process, either their own or others. This requires sound judgement, tact and outstanding communication skills. Look for national and international publications, as the editors have higher standards than local publications.

Word of mouth?

Look for a good word of mouth reputation. 

If you have not heard anything informally, then look online.  Ignore student quotes on the actual class website, as these can be easily manufactured.  Look for separate websites which provide reviews-at arms length. 

Google their name in quotation marks, and read also the second and third page of search results. 

You expect your accountant, lawyer, or doctor to be properly trained, qualified, and to be professional in their conduct, and sensitive to your personal details and circumstances. So too in the arts, where you will be dependent upon their expertise and guidance as you learn to make and express personal preferences, beliefs, emotions and thoughts.

Ask past and current students.

So, once you have done your research and made your selection, you can look forward with confidence to ongoing learning, increased relaxation and creativity, in all parts of your life . 

Kind regards

Graham Hay

My apologies: I posted this on my website sometime ago, and completely  forgot about it (even forgot to link it when updating whole website). This is it's fouth revision @ 23/12/15


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