Teaching is a two way street in which both educator and student must be active participants. This is not always possible with all students, so as an educator I must also be able to understand how to pull them out of their shell and make them interact with the group. I achieve this through a simple method of lecture, discussion, demonstration and hands-on learning. This is the approach that I take in all courses and it is my attempt to touch on all different types of learning styles.

Lecture and discussion are related and often co-exist. My lectures cover the overall concepts, history, related examples, and specifics. During lectures and discussions I attempt to involve all students. This can be difficult when working with non-interactive students, but through direct attention to those students, calling on them by name for example, it is possible to bring them into the discussion and exchange ideas. Many of my past students have stated that they have learned most when talking around a table, in a seminar style, and simply discussed the project or lesson goals. The free exchange of ideas allows for clarification of concepts and brainstorming. Within this process, it is my goal to create a sense of community, in which students feel the freedom to ask questions and share their thoughts and grow.

Demonstration is always important in the art classroom. In a demonstration it is important to get across the idea of process. How colors interact, how one medium is transparent—one opaque. The creation of a line and how that line interacts with a shape to create space. Demonstration is the opportunity to do this. Students also see the growth of artwork through this step and can begin to understand how long something truly takes to develop within the creative process.

During this process it is important for students to understand that the overall concept of creativity is much more important than the steps. Rote memorization is not an indication of student understanding. Rather an overall conceptual understanding of processes will allow a student to problem solve and be successful.


Hands-on experience is the binder, the opportunity for a student to apply all that is learned through lecture, discussion and demonstration and bind it with muscle memory and make it their own. The successful student is going to be the one that understands that s/he may not get it right the first time, but through practice, reasoning and perseverance are able to replicate the good and problem-solve the bad.

For a student to be successful they must also learn to accept criticism and objectively criticize their own work. This can be difficult but I often tell students to step away from their work, look at it the next day. Do not become prematurely judgmental of their work. Give it time to digest and review the process objectively so that they can make honest evaluations of their work and accept honest criticism and opinions regarding their work from others.

My teaching philosophy is a multi-layered approach to working with students over time. My goals are to help students develop a personal viewpoint and develop the students’ critical thinking skills. It is my goal to teach the student to think about the overall concepts, and to allow for exploration without the fear of failure or condemnation and relay the skills that will allow this to take place.

© 2015 by TOM CLIFTON / tgclifton@ualr.edu