Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

April 2010

I’ve spent big parts of the past three days reading through the ENGAGE site(s), trying to understand what you’ve been doing in the project and what you’ve been learning. I realize that you’re at the end of your projects, so I’ve been pondering what it makes sense to tell you about the Studio Thinking Framework at this juncture. Here are a few thoughts that focus on how the framework works, from my perspective. Now that you’ve used Studio Thinking in action yourselves, this should make more sense than it would as lifeless theory.

Studio Thinking is two parts, as you know: Studio Habits (or the dispositions that teachers want students to learn so that they develop artistic mind) and Studio Structures (or how art teachers put together arts learning experiences). Both parts of the framework are analytic lenses that teachers and students can turn on their practice to make it more visible and meaningful. They’re accessible, “ordinary language” terms for concepts that can help educators, advocates, and students share with the unconvinced what it is that artistic minds do to create and judge the quality of artworks and how art teachers set up learning experiences that nurture that kind of growth. I’ll talk about each part of the framework separately.

Studio Habits bind together artistic practices – that is, the ways serious artists work — and arts education, so that what we teach and what students learn more closely resemble genuine artistic efforts.

Lately, I’ve been most interested in levels of Studio Habit use as shown in what students make, do, and say, because I want to find ways to guide students toward higher quality uses of their developing artistic minds. I think about what it looks and sounds like when students work with Studio Habits at lower and middle and higher levels. The low level is a kind of “rote and ritual” level, where teachers and kids use the habits as labels and/or recipes. It’s not a bad place to start, but it’s not a good enough place to end! We want more than just naming from using these categories. But we also can’t expect of students what we see and hear at the level of the expert artist, where the habits interact so seamlessly that they can seem not even to exist. While that’s a wonderful level to aim toward, it’s not generally a possibility for our students — not on a sustained level, anyway. And if expert artist-teachers stay at that level, it makes artistic practice seem too mysterious to be attainable – a magic act performed by a talented few. So it’s the middle level that interests me most.

I refer to the middle level as “thinking with support.” It interests me, because it is the equity level. All students, regardless of ability, can work at this level. And by working at this level, learning happens. That’s why it’s so helpful to use the Studio Habits if you’re interested in teaching equitably. Too many students don’t ever get to work at the “thinking with support” level in their educations. Many schools never ask them to, and so they just stay at the “rote and ritual” level of memorizing, repeating, and performing on cue, becoming pawns in a game that keeps them below the status and responsibilities of being active, responsible decision-makers. As it happens, many urban youth refuse to play as pawns in that game — and that leads them out of school and into the streets. We need to engage these students not in games with low odds for success, but in genuine thinking that holds their interest and keeps them in learning environments in schools and other organizations.

When teachers show student-artists what youth can do with the eight kinds of artistic thinking represented by the Studio Habits, the fun begins. That’s because, no matter which studio habits an artist uses at the start of a project, reflecting on them helps students find more possibilities within each habit while the artistic process itself pulls the budding artists to use more studio habits responsively. Let me illustrate what I mean.

For example, a youth plays around with paint (stretch & explore) to make marks and colors. By doing so, he develops some skilled technique (develop craft). He sees (observe) the results of those efforts and reflects on (envisions) possibilities for meaning (express) – certain marks feel like anger or movement; certain colors feel like openness or fear. As he engages in using his hands to slow his thinking down and create expressive effects, he finds motivation to build more skill in more techniques – nuances of color lead to an appreciation of nuances of idea – this red says anger, this one says love, this one says joy, this one, power (deeper into develop craft, deeper into express). He struggles to make just the right red (deeper into develop craft, envision, and express), and because he cares about the work he’s trying to make (engage & persist), about what he’s trying to do and say through his work (express), he learns to persist (engage & persist).

He observes what he does and makes (observe, develop craft: technique), compares it (reflect: evaluate) to his intention (express, engage & persist) and, with support, compares that (reflect: evaluate) to how other artists have used similar techniques and approaches (understand art world). When allowed and encouraged, he talks about these efforts with other interested artist peers and teachers (reflect: question and explain, understand art world: communities). And around and around and around the habits wheel we go, developing more skill, more inclination, and more alertness within each habit while using habits in clusters that support one another.

The process of art-making wends through pathways of learning that take the youth from a vague idea in his head and, through his hands on the materials, out into the world. As he turns back into his head, he finds that he appreciates the idea more clearly, and so he turns back to his hands to represent that more explicitly. Perhaps, mid-process, he moves into the community of fellow artists and others interested in expression of ideas, then, perhaps, back into his own head, and then his own hands — iteratively. In the end, the process of art making has woven in and out of the various studio habits, and the artist has a clearer idea about what the work is and is about and a more carefully made work that expresses that intention better than his or her initial attempts. It’s both the idea that develops and the product that represents that idea. Not process OR product, but process FOR product FOR process! (Note: I was first introduced to these ideas by Kay Stables and Richard Kimbell from Goldsmith College, London. For further information, here is their project report.)

Teachers are critically important in this process; without them, students don’t often see as many possibilities for developing their idea or their work – they need kind, helping hands held out to them consistently, inviting them to take a chance, take a stance, take another step. The approach offers individuals the help they need as they cross the obstacle they’re facing at any given time along the path they’ve chosen to take for their own reasons. Explicitly using the Studio Habits with students invites them into understanding themselves and processes of critical and creative thinking during the arts-making experience itself.

But there are so many students and so many paths! How does a teacher address all this need and possibility? It’s the Studio Structures that answer that question. Studio Structures guide ways of working that promote community learning atmospheres and support students’ development of studio habits during their arts learning experiences. By carefully sequencing the three Studio Structures – Students-at-Work, Demonstration-Lecture, and Critique – teachers optimize students’ time in the kinds of rich experiences that nurture their growth.

The Students-at-Work structure promotes more engagement and fewer off-task disruptions, more productivity, and more personalized products from students than didactic instruction. How? Because students are pursuing their own creations, teachers have time to monitor their process and intervene when they need to, with the kind of assistance most needed by each student, and at the moments when a given student really needs it. Mostly, students move forward under their own steam, engaged with thinking and doing as they make artworks, turning to their peers for help and support in the informal atmosphere of the art studio. That frees the teacher to watch and act on any student’s behalf when he or she needs it – and to leave students to their own pursuits when they don’t. Sometimes students need to struggle, and the wise teacher builds that into her decision-making during Students-at-Work sessions. But the teacher is aware, alert to the pulse of the class and the students within it, noticing the subtle clues that suggest it’s time to move in closer and offer another perspective, a possible tool, or another way of thinking through a dilemma.

The Critique structure reminds teachers to build in reflective, meta-cognitive conversations to complement the learning developed by making works during studio experiences. Students usually are up close to their work, but that only offers one perspective on what they make. Skilled artists know to back off from their work periodically, taking a step back literally and metaphorically, to view the work from a distance, to talk about raw ideas and sketches before they commit to an idea, to seek out suggestions about which other artists, works, objects, or phenomena might be good to consider as resources for their own ideas, and to show work in progress to trusted peers and mentors as they discuss frustrations, problems, successes, possible solutions. Building critiques into the process of studio work means building in reflection; thinking is already slowed down by the making, and critiques help to bring to the surface and unfold the richness, complexity, subtleties, and nuances inherent in the process of creating artworks.

The Demonstration-Lecture structure reminds teachers to offer “just enough” information to get students launched into making – they need only the information that helps them make what they are trying to make right now. The Demonstration-Lecture structure also reminds us that talking at students is usually not enough to engage them in developing genuine understanding; they need to see what’s being said, and, more importantly, actively pursue their own solutions if they’re going to develop the skills and attitudes needed to understand – that is, to grow the genuine understanding that means using what they know flexibly in novel situations.

By mixing and matching the studio structures so that they privilege students-at-work time, limit time in high-quality demonstration-lectures, and build in frequent, low-stakes critiques, teachers have the formats needed to help students develop rich networks of understanding within each Studio Habit and around clusters of Studio Habits that push and pull on each other in creative tensions. And that’s why we need the Studio Thinking Framework – because it helps artist-educators and artist-students see the complexity of the artistic process in the moments of the constantly evolving process of making work. When we name the elements of the process as they arise, students can begin to see what this kind of working is made of and to internalize its methods to use for their own purposes.

It’s been thrilling to see the efforts you’ve undertaken to support college and high-school students in mentoring one another in your ENGAGE projects, and the ways you’ve used the Studio Thinking Framework to support those endeavors. I hope these thoughts help you see even more ways to take work of this sort further in your next collaborative effort. The more you can understand what you’re doing and asking the students to do, the more you can refine and focus your intentions, your alignment of the projects and challenges you create with those intentions, and the way you check your students’ developing understanding so that you can adjust your own teaching to meet your students’ unique individual pursuits and needs.




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Thanks to all of you for your postings the past month. It’s great to hear your thoughts on the articles and your work with your students. I understand we’ve given you a lot to read this semester, but I think it would be very helpful for all of us to read Part III, “Integrating Studio Structures with the Studio Habits of Mind,” pp. 89 – 111, in our Studio Thinking text. I know the examples represent ‘traditional’ visual arts classrooms (and our classes are anything but!), however, I would like us to re-orient ourselves with the studio structures and the 8 habits of mind, and to really look closely at our own teaching practice this semester. Which habits are we emphasizing and how?

Please use the reflection prompts on page 109 to think about your own work in the context of your partnership:

  • What habits of mind do I tend to emphasize?
  • What habits are naturally built by particular activities?
  • Which habits come up frequently in individual (or group) consults with students?

Some of your work will fall in clusters. Identify the clusters and notice how they push and pull on each other. I also will be interested to know where you will place the relationship building parts of your class. Understand art world? Reflect/Question/Explain? Other? Where do those activities belong? I really want to hear from our partners on this.

Lois Hetland, one of the authors of Studio Thinking, will be our guest blogger in the next two weeks. She will be looking over our blog and your course blogs, and will be very interested in your thoughts.

If you need more resources on culturally responsive pedagogy, I’ve compiled a short list of sites and articles that might be helpful to you (thanks Virginia), check them out at your leisure:

  • The Olivia Gude article on Color Lines from the Teaching Tolerance Web site is an excellent read. (Trena, I hope you’ll have your students read this as it might put a different spin on attaching meaning to color.)
  • Teaching Tolerance: Amazing resource for culturally responsive pedagogy and tools for teaching in a racially diverse classroom, I LOVE THIS SITE for all of its resources.
  • Harvard Project Zero’s Visible Thinking site provides resources for creating a culture of thinking in the classroom. Look at the Thinking Routines for short, guided discussions that your students can do together.
  • Minnesota Public Schools Web site offers wonderful tools to help you plan your teaching using Artful Backwards Planner and Teaching for Understanding frameworks, as well as assess student learning using Studio Habits of Mind.
  • Art Is Education Web site that highlights the 10-year anniversary of Alameda County’s Art Is Education work. Please note that Amana’s Art Esteem Self as Super Hero is featured as well as Peralta Elementary where Trena is artist in residence.

Great work, you all! Looking forward to hearing from you online, and for our upcoming guest bloggers:  Lois Hetland from Project Zero/Massachusetts College of Art and Design and Dave Donahue from Mills College.

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Hi CCA Faculty and Partners!
I’m Nate Ivy, the Service-Learning Waste Reduction Coordinator for secondary schools in Alameda County and the Regional Lead for Service-Learning in San Francisco Bay Area. Prior to joining the Alameda County Office of Education, I taught American Studies in Irvington High School’s Center for the Creative Arts magnet program where I helped develop grade level wide interdisciplinary service-learning projects in 9th and 12th grades. I am keenly interested in the ENGAGE Project because it has the opportunity to create ‘social justice-oriented’ artists who explore the various and dynamic roles artists can play in our country.

As a nation, we are a country of contradictions–a collective people with a split personality. At the same time our native literature developed the transcendentalists and their appreciation of nature and harmony, our emerging industry sought to tame and exploit the environment. Similarly, our motto “E Pluribus Unum”- “Out of Many, One,” can be difficult to reconcile with our image of the “rugged individualist” of Horace Mann and Ayn Rand.

When considering questions of service and civic engagement, similar contradictions arise. Joe Kahne, the Dean of Education at Mills College and Joel Westheimer, Professor of Education at the University of Ottowa are two of North America’s leading researchers on youth civic engagement. In their paper, “In the Service of What?” Kahne and Westheimer challenge us to examine our motives for engaging students in service programs while highlighting the historical foundations for divergent beliefs about service.

The heart of Kahne and Westheimer’s provocative article highlights the different values and approaches behind service as charity versus service as social change. Charity based service can provide immediate relief, but often fails to get to the root of a problem. Charity based service often reinforces the privilege of service providers over service recipients and emphasizes the charitable nature of the individual.

Service as a means of social change is more difficult. It requires that people seek out the root causes of injustices in our communities and find ways to work together to solve them. Service as a means of social change is more likely to avoid projects that provide “service to” or “service for” communities and frequently requires a “service with” approach where communities work together in mutual support and advocacy.

Ultimately, service is a political act–both in the choices of problems to address and the approaches to solving those problems.

As you read the article, consider:

1) How does the article relate to the role of art, art making, and creativity in communities?

2) How can artists best serve their communities?

(For more from Kahne and Westheimer, you may also be interested in “What Kind of Citizen?” where they examine three types of citizens our society strives to produce.)

I look forward to reading your comments and hearing what you think of Kahne and Westheimer. Please post comments before Monday, March 22nd.

Peace, Nate Ivy

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“A social justice lens can focus goals in required art courses at any level by examining the reasons and ways that artists create art, influence others, and actively engage social problems through art in communities.” — Armon J., Ortega T., and Uhrmacher, P. The Significance of Self-Portraits: Making Connections through Monotype Prints in Letres y Arte. Art Education. November 2009

This quote by Armon, Ortega and Uhrmacher captures the important role art plays in enlivening discourse, action and reflection around social justice issues. By looking at artists who explore injustice, racism, sexism, homophobia, displacement, immigration and identity, students engage in, express and formulate their own perspectives about themselves and the issues. Through viewing art, discussing, de-constructing, making and critiquing, students become producers of their own meaning, and enter into the vital understanding that their voice matters.

In her 2009 Lowenfeld Lecture Art Education for Democratic Life, Olivia Gude explains why art education is one of the BEST arenas for the development of self and active citizenship. By telling their own stories and expressing themselves in artistic and metaphoric ways—students create self and thus, positively project themselves into social space. Who am I and how do I fit into this world of complex social issues (many of which are listed above)? The creation of self allows students to think deeply about issues that concern them, achieving a heightened sense of self-awareness and motivation to communicate ideas with peers and the community. Furthermore, by using creative strategies to solve problems, students become active participants in their quest to understand their own power in the contemporary web of social, political, intellectual, and cultural ideas, norms, contradictions, pitfalls and possibilities. Simply put, arts education helps young people achieve a sense of agency to shape their world and be active in it.

The work you are doing is helping young people to build self. We are now almost 2 months into the semester and we need to hear from you! How is it going? What are you learning?

On our group blog: Please read Gude’s article, The 2009 Lowenfeld Lecture (it sings) and write a short reflection in the comment section before Friday, March 5th. A possible question to consider: By working with youth/college mentors: how might your students gain a nugget toward heightened sense of self-awareness and engaged citizenry?

On your blog: Post at least three photos to your course blog and reflect on what you’ve learned and what your students have learned so far. Please also mention specific examples of how you are using Studio Habits of Mind. Also feel free to mention your ‘content expert’, field trips, warm ups, discussion prompts or readings that might interest your colleagues.

I’ll be beginning site visits next week, and I look forward to checking in with you in person. (But I still need to see/hear from you online. Peace:)
Lauren Elder, Mission High Tuesday February 23
Aimee Phan, O’Connell Tuesday, March 2
Virginia Jardim, Peralta Hacienda Wed., March 3
Trena Noval, Emery Secondary Tuesday March 9
Amana Harris/Naema Ray, Claremont Middle TBD

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“What our children need is love and the arts–love to know they are valued and the arts to express that value.” –Haki Madhubuti

I met with Amana Harris yesterday at her office at Attitudinal Healing Connection, the grass-roots community-based arts organization that runs Art Esteem and places many artists in the schools and in after school programs in West and East Oakland. Her organization is responding to very profound need in the community, like all of yours, a need that is making me think a lot about our work. Simply put, our children need to connect with caring adults. So I ask, how is our work both caring and connected? What are we in the service of?

Dr. Mary Stone Hanley, teacher educator and performing artist from George Mason University recently visited Alameda County, sharing her knowledge and wisdom with teachers, principals, superintendents and parents. Her words were inspirational and real, and touched everyone she met. During a presentation to educators on January 17, Dr. Hanley said, “you know, that first grader comes into your classroom with all of his parents, his brothers and sisters, his aunties, uncles, cousins, his pets, his ancestors, and 500 years of oppression. So, that’s what you have in your classroom, how are you going to deal with that?” Her words were forceful and strong. I’ve been thinking about them ever since–how are WE going to deal with overcoming 500 years of oppression?

So, in an effort to think deeply about this issue, I’m interested in your thoughts, ideas, musings, research, and questions on Dr. Hanley’s report: Cultural Responsiveness, Racial Identity and Academic Success: A Review of Literature. Please read the EXECUTIVE SUMMARY and respond with comments about her themes for culturally responsive pedagogy. How do you see your project addressing the need for culturally responsive teaching strategies and developing caring relationships?

Here’s what I need to see by Friday, February 12th:

ONE comment about when and how you’ve introduced Studio Habits of Mind to your students.

ONE comment on Dr. Hanley’s Executive Summary.

ONE post on your own blog re: your project’s progress…How is it going? What have your students done so far?

I look forward to our online discussion!


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“The Studio Habits of Mind is a protocol to help students take themselves more seriously.”–Diane Wang, 4th grade teacher, Jefferson School, San Leandro

What does it mean for students to take ‘themselves’—their artistic and academic practices—‘more seriously’? How can we as artists and cultural workers help students become agents in their own growth and learning? These are questions educators face every day.

I hope you all had a productive week meeting your students and preparing them for a rigorous semester of critical thinking and service learning through the arts. Please introduce your students to your project by sharing your understanding goals with them. Making your goals transparent helps students make the connections between the why (purposes), the what (knowledge and forms), and the how (methods). Use your inquiry questions as discussion or reflection prompts to quickly assess students’ experience and knowledge and any cultural or academic misconceptions. This formative assessment can act as a compass for texts, discussions, and hands-on experiences you might need to build in to support students’ prior knowledge. Also, share your own learning as you tackle your own research. By making your learning visible, you model how to create a culture of critical thinking in the classroom—we are ALL learners.

Our Studio Thinking in Practice blog is the hub of our academic learning community while your project blogs are action spaces to present and discuss “the work.” In the hub, our focus is on three areas of study: understanding and applying the Studio Habits of Mind; implementing culturally responsive pedagogies; and reading and responding to critical service-learning texts to increase awareness of social justice in education. Here’s the protocol: I or a guest blogger will post an article and a reflection prompt every other week. Please read the article and write a comment within 7 days. We want to create an online discussion among both CCA Faculty and Partner Instructors to share and exchange ideas and resources. If you would like to make a post or submit an article, just email me and we’ll work it in.

Our first reading is: Studio Thinking: How Visual Arts Teaching Can Promote Disciplined Habits of Mind by Ellen Winner, Dr. Lois Hetland, Shirley Veenema, Kim Sheridan, and Patricia Palmer. Found in your binder, the article provides a background on the research that led to the creation of the Studio Thinking Framework. Please think about and comment: In your project, which Studio Habits (SHoM) will you develop with your students? How do you plan to introduce the SHoM to your students and in what ways will you use the Studio Thinking Framework to build critical thinking skills and collaborative practice?

On your own blog, please post who/what your partnership will accomplish and anything relevant to your collaboration thus far. Do you have an expert yet? If so, who is it?

Lastly, I want to introduce a new collaborator at Mission High who will be working with Lauren Elder’s Home Grown: Art in the Environment class to create a garden and mural. MaryAnn Brooks is co-teaching the social studies class and works with Pie Ranch, a farm in Pescadero that supports youth development and sustainability. MaryAnn, please feel free to introduce yourself in your post.

Look forward to a discussion about where you are with implementing the 8 Studio Habits.

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And We’re Off…

I want to thank all of your for participating in the ENGAGE at CCA Studio Thinking in Practice training day in December. Thanks to Ann and Sanjit for hosting and to Joe and Kristi at the Center for Art and Public Life for scheduling, Xeroxing, compiling, ordering, schlepping and helping with all aspects of the day.

It was very inspiring for me to meet all of you and experience your commitment to service learning in and through the arts. As we usher in a new year and more importantly, a new decade, I view our collective work as a powerful tool to inspire the future of Service Learning at CCA. The following is a log of the day’s events, with a few of my own notes thrown in for good measure. Feel free to make comments as you see fit as these are not exhaustive, but a taste of some of our musings and findings.

One of the main goals of the Studio Thinking in Practice project is to use teaching tools to increase student engagement as well as teacher reflection and analysis. (See our understanding goals in the post below.) The Studio Thinking Framework, developed by Harvard researchers Lois Hetland, Ellen Winner, Shirley Veenema and Kimberley Sheridan at Harvard’s Project Zero identify how and what the arts teach. The three studio structures explain HOW the arts teach: Demonstration Lecture (group instruction), Students-at-Work (individual or partner collaboration time–this is where the ‘rubber meets the road’), and Critique (talking about art with peers and instructors). WHAT the arts teach–the real crux of the framework–is identified in the 8 Studio Habits of Mind: develop craft, envision, observe, engage and persist, stretch and explore, express, understand art world, and reflect.

To better understand these 8 habits, we watched Bay Area painter Hung Liu in her Oakland studio painting and reflecting on her artistic process and personal history. We collectively de-constructed the video and listed our observations on the Studio Habits of Mind (SHoM) wheel, a circular graphic where no habit is privileged over any other:
-Sense of herself as a contemporary painter
-Awareness of history/China/Homeland
-Lives in Oakland, part of the American art world

Hung Liu in the studio, image courtesy KQED SPARK

-Studied art in China
-Mural maker
-“Not sure where to start”
-Enters with confidence
-Finding/collecting photos
-“Who are you?”
-“How will I represent you?”
-Where she is/what she wants/how she paints

Hung Liu with photo, image courtesy KQED SPARK

-“I’ve lived lives of others”
-Looking at photos
-Living/lives her experiences suits sadness
-Life in fields/connection helped develop eye sensitivity
-Remembered her time in China
-Developed drip technique with linseed oil

I find it very compelling for young artists to watch accomplished artists at work and use the Studio Habits to articulate what they saw the artist doing. By doing so, young people gain more knowledge of the art world, art history, techniques and styles, and learn to identify qualities such as artistic vision, perseverance and problem solving–all qualities we want to nurture. Other videos I recommend are: Art21’s Kerry James Marshall, Mark Bradford, Kara Walker, Pepón Osario, and SPARK’s Favianna Rodriguez, Enrique Chagoya, and RIGO, to name a few.

We then brainstormed the question: How might these Studio Habits of Mind enrich our classrooms and our collaborations? The list below is evidence of our collective purpose and willingness to embrace a new framework:

  • Linking principles of attitudinal healing deeper sense of self
  • Enriching a ‘task’
  • Helping students see more relevance
  • Linking to “relevance” “rigor” “relationship”
  • Increasing visual fluency
  • Connecting to life skills
  • Turning a new eye to neighborhood life
  • Encouraging art/observing/envisioning
  • Focusing on practice/history of environment
  • Bringing in cultural relevancy
  • Connecting/re-connecting to indigenous practice
  • Importance of teacher/investigate structures & history & biases & aesthetics ‡ art world systems of power
  • Applying to writing process
  • Multiple contexts/other disciplines life skills
  • Importance of reflection, shifting paradigm ‡ giving = receiving
  • Reflection gives purpose! “What did you appreciate today?”
  • Documentation of personal growth

In addition to learning the SHoM, we assessed our students’ strengths and needs and began identifying our understanding goals in four areas of learning: academic learning, studio learning, collaborative/community learning, and inter/intra personal learning. (To download your colleagues planning documents, click on the planning tab.) We also ventured into the lab to learn the basics of blog posting. Thanks to Trena for setting up each blog and for training us.

Much of our professional development this semester will study service learning pedagogy and our applications of the Studio Thinking Framework. We also want to think about how we make our own learning visible. In the coming months, we will dialog online re: new pedagogical frameworks, methods, and practices that push our thinking forward. I hope this space will reflect the diversity of thinking among you and allow creative reflection, questioning, and resource sharing. I will be posting articles and reflection prompts every other week to encourage conversation. Please post to your blog bi-monthly or even weekly so that you have a solid record of your service learning collaboration and your own learning.

And we’re off…

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