Teaching in the Studio

Studio situations present their own significant challenges. Often, especially in performance areas, individual judgment is extremely significant, and the teacher has some hard questions to answer before the course begins. For example, instructional objectives take on particular importance when a teacher must consider whether talented performers who do little work will be judged on an equal basis with less talented performers who must work hard to achieve the same level of performance. Although much will vary depending on the precise instructional situation, the following guidelines may help.

Studio classes need to be planned carefully.

Determine in advance, and clearly communicate to the students, how the importance of such things as talent, level of achievement, attitude, effort, and attendance will be viewed. One major dilemma is the relative importance of process and product in the course. Will you feel the students have achieved the course goal if they demonstrate an excellent process, even if their final product is below par? Do you care just about the quality of the art work produced, or are you equally (or more) interested in how the product was arrived at?

Such issues require serious consideration before you write the syllabus. Whatever your decision, make sure all students have an attainable goal for the course, no matter how much talent or inherent ability they may have.

If you are interested in the process students follow, you need to determine some way to measure it, both for evaluation and improvement, and build this into the course.
Other than relying solely on your personal observation and assistance, you might require dancers or actors to keep a rehearsal log, or ask artists to keep a journal listing the dates and reasons for major breakthroughs in the project. You could give quizzes on readings or require students to turn in rough drafts, plans, or outlines as ways of documenting process.
Give feedback constructively (especially when a student may have a good deal of emotional investment in a creative project).
It is imperative to restrict criticisms to things students can do something about (this restriction may require more conscious effort than you expect) and to help them overcome barriers that only s insurmountable.
Work on recognizing potential.

Some students will be obviously talented in the studio area; others will have abilities that have not yet surfaced. It is your job as teacher to pull that talent out into the open and not to make snap judgments.

It is especially easy in performance areas for a teacher to take on the role of parent. While nurturing students is obviously important, it is equally important not to be patronizing about their achievements. Similarly, although students may be fellow artists at a difficult point in their careers, it is crucial to retain as much objectivity as possible when it comes to their performances and not become too emotionally or personally invested in their creative growth.