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Student Teacher-Mentor Duo Walks Students through Making Meaningful Art

Inspired by the project Dear Data, Chloe Welch and Bart Francis encouraged students to collect and visualize data from their lives

Every fall and winter art education students in their final semester of the program complete student teaching in local schools. Paired with innovative mentors who offer authentic full-time teaching experiences, students have the opportunity to practice the theory they have learned in their coursework over the years.

Chloe Welch, one of six student teachers this semester, gradually assumed responsibility for Bart Francis’ high school art classes until she became the primary teacher. Outside the classroom, however, they continue to meet regularly for coaching, assessing and brainstorming lesson plans.

“It’s really supportive but at the same time giving me my space to learn, fail and experiment,” Welch said.

On the other side of the partnership, Francis said he loves the new ideas and excitement student teachers bring to the classroom. Early in the semester, Welch shared an idea about visualizing data as art, inspired by the project Dear Data, and Francis made the connection to a lesson he had previously taught on routines. Together they researched other artists who incorporate data collection and routines into their work and designed a lesson plan.

For the assignment, students collected data for seven days on one aspect of their life, then documented that data in an artwork that included a legend to help viewers decipher their image. Successful topics students came up with included the following:

  • How long it takes to catch my Shih Tzus and where
  • What time I change my clothes, the reason why, and what colors
  • How many times I say "yeah" in text conversations
  • Mental health records from therapist

In February, Welch and Francis presented their experience at the Utah Art Education Association conference. One outcome that resulted from the data collection project was that students were able to make meaningful connections between their art and their life. “If you tell students to make meaningful art, they don’t know what that means,” Francis said, “but this project walked them through that process step by step. Some of them realized it’s meaningful not just because of the time they spent on the artwork but because of all the thought they put into it prior.”

In preparation for student teaching, students in the Art Education program are given opportunities to shadow teachers and practice teaching in various contexts. After gaining proficiency in many different art forms, Welch said the last half of the major focuses more on practical teaching skills such as classroom management and curriculum writing.

While reflecting on her experience so far as a student teacher, Welch said she has learned to focus on the potential within students. “When you treat them as real artists, they’ll rise to the challenge and make great art,” she said. When you treat [students] as real artists, they'll rise to the challenge and make great art.

As Welch’s mentor, Francis said he has watched Welch grow and improve as a teacher as well, and increase in her confidence and ability to interact with students and encourage them to develop as artists.