SchoolArts Room

Engage and Persist: Studio Habits of Mind

By Nancy Walkup, posted on Oct 10, 2014

How do you feel about value scales? Stereotypical still-life paintings? Rudimentary color wheels? Do these excite you? How about your students?

My interest in the Mexican Days of the Dead has led to many unique opportunities,
such as visiting Mexico and sharing the experience with my students.


Such exercises seem to me to be just that - exercises, not long-term projects. I know that these did not excite me when I was a student in art class, and as an art teacher, I tried to make these exercises just a small part of more engaging projects. To fully engage our students and encourage them to persist and work through challenges in their artwork, we must present art problems that will capture and maintain their attention and interest.

"Engage" and "persist" are dispositions included in the Habits of Mind in the Studio Thinking Framework published by Teacher's College Press and the National Art Education Association. The Habits of Mind are intended to serve as a resource to help teachers develop rigorous art classes and refine their teaching and assessment practices. "Engage" and "persist" go hand in hand.

Why is student engagement important in developing art problems? When students are engaged, they are  intrinsically motivated to persist and work towards a solution. As an art teacher, you can help students identify their own interests and encourage them to build upon them. Once you know their interests, you can also use this knowledge to specifically tailor engaging art problems that will challenge and motivate students.

Persistence itself is a trait you want students to develop. If you want to get good at anything in life, you must be persistent. You can share your own high expectations of your students while encouraging them to continue working on projects despite difficulties or challenges instead of giving up. Your challenge as an art teacher is to develop art problems that will engage your students and encourage them to persist to satisfying solutions. The result will be rewarding for both you and your students.