Serving Art Educators
and Students Since 1994


Best Practices

Best Practices in Education

As a result of recent brain research and data, various educational institutions and researchers have come up with a list of "best practices" for a good art teacher.

Lanlois and Zales (1992) identified eight proven methods of effective teaching. They say a good teacher has:

  1. High expectations of student achievement

  2. Course methods and routines that are clear to the teacher and student

  3. Varied and appropriate teaching method and materials

  4. A supportive, cooperative atmosphere

  5. Enthusiasm, energy, caring, and maintenance of a nonthreatening atmosphere

  6. A manifest belief that their subject is important

  7. Relates instruction to student interests

  8. Content expertise

See also Advice for New Teachers.


Chickering and Gamson (1987) identified seven research-based principles of effective education. They said that best practices:

  1. Encourages contacts between students and art teachers

  2. Developed reciprocity and cooperation among students

  3. Uses active learning techniques.

  4. Provides prompt feedback

  5. Emphasizes time on task

  6. Communicates high Expectations

  7. Respects diverse talents and ways of learning

Through 50 years of research, Thomas Angelo (1993) identifies 14 principles for good teaching:


Best Practices in Art Education



Use in Classroom

Students are actively engaged in learning


Students teach other students, collaborate, hands-on work, and are motivated by the teacher.

Teacher focuses attention by making it clear what is to be learned and the priorities of subject elements.


Teacher tells students initially what they are going to learn and why it is important for them to know the material.

Teacher sets high, but realistic goals


Some of these goals are formulated from test data and your assessment of student knowledge.

Teacher meaningfully connects new information with prior knowledge


"Yesterday we learned about primary and secondary colors. Today we are going to use what we've learned by ______."

Teacher helps students unlearn erroneous knowledge and bias


The teacher assesses the success of the lesson and then reteaches if necessary.

Teacher organizes subject content in meaningful ways that are personally and academically appropriate, and is aware of their own learning style (meta-cognition)


Sometimes the organization of subject matter changes dynamically as the teacher teaches. Each group of students is different.

Teacher gives timely and specific feedback to students.


The teacher roams the room and looks over the student's shoulder to make sure they understand and then gives immediate feedback. Examination results are reviewed and retaught if needed.

Teacher knows in advance the standards to be used in assessment and evaluation, and the nature of that assessment.


The teacher hands out the rubric for the lesson ahead of time so students know exactly what constitutes an "A."

Teacher invests adequate time and quality with a focused effort.


The teacher plans for a longer lesson, and then shortens it by priorities if students need more time.

Teacher finds real-world applications in many contexts so that students transfer what they are learning.


"If you become an art director, you will need to have thorough knowledge of the elements of design."

Teacher perceives and adopts high expectations of achievement.


Let students know your expectations and ask them what they expect from the course.

Teacher balances instruction so that all learners are challenged.


Because novice learners need more time, give more challenging material to high achievers while you spend more time with remediation.

Teacher clearly perceives the value in what is to be learned.


Explain to students why it is important to know the material. The value of the material should also motivate both students and teacher.

Teacher interacts frequently with learners and other teachers.


Learn students' names, ask them all engaging questions, and collaborate with successful teachers.

John Jay Bonstingl (1995) says that there should be a new paradigm in instruction. The old paradigm doesn't work with today's students anymore. Following is a chart of the old vs. the new:

Old Paradigm


New Paradigm

Success if limited to a few winners. All others are made to consider themselves and their work as mediocre.


Unlimited, continuous improvement and successes are the goals of the school.




Lessons are linear, consecutive segments of one-way communication


Learning is a spiral with offshoots, with energy directed toward continuous improvement.

Product-oriented. Focused solely on results. Grades and rankings are important in themselves.


Process-oriented. Goals are important, but the process of getting to the goal is at least as significant. Assessments are used for diagnostic and prescriptive purposes.

Life, including schooling, is only worthwhile if you reach your goals. The process has little or no intrinsic merit and must be abbreviated whenever possible so goals can be reached sooner.


Life is a journey and has intrinsic merit if lived with a zest for life, love and learning. Developing a "yearning for learning" is most important of all.

The system and its processes don't matter, as long as the ends are achieved.


The integrity and health of the system, ts processes, and its people must be maintained, or the system will be substandard and eventually fail.

Work is a task, not intended to bring joy and pride to the worker.


Work should be challenging, invigorating, and meaningful. Workers should take pride and joy in the products and processes of their work.

School is a place where teaching is done to students. Students are passive, while the teachers are active.


School is a community of learners in which administrators, teacher, and students learn how to improve at the work they do together so that everyone succeeds their "personal best."

Teachers are isolated from each other by time and space.


Teachers work together on school time to build success with each other and with a manageable number of students in a cooperative group.

Administration is viewed as the teacher's natural adversary.


Administrators are viewed as teammates and partners in removing obstacles to student and teacher success.

Teachers are viewed as the students' natural adversaries.


Teachers are viewed as teammates and partners in removing obstacles to student and teacher success.

Single-discipline instruction


Multi and cross-discipline instruction

Learning is restricted to the curriculum.


Learning is the foundation for life-wide, life-deep, and life-long learning. (3D Learning)

Factory model- Rule by compliance, control and command. Authoritarian, hierarchical. Management frequently based on fear.


New model- Lead by helping and providing vision and support, making it possible for students and teachers to take pride in their work together and have joy in the process and product of continuous improvement. (The Japanese call this kaizen)

Centralized control over resources, curriculum, teaching methods, length of class periods, etc.


Ste-based management of resources, curriculum, teaching methods, length of class periods, etc.

There is one right answer for every question asked by the teacher, text, and test.


External and internal truths are discovered through teachers' and students' questioning together.

Testing is the primary means of assessing the learning process.


Testing, when appropriate, directs instruction and the learning process. Performance-based assessments such as portfolios, exhibitions, and performances.

Instruction is set up to generate the correct answer.


Instruction is set up to generate questions followed by inquiry. Students demonstrate their understanding of the nature of questions and the way they are solved.

Teachers are expected to know everything about their subjects. They give students data and information. Students memorize facts and then forget it later. (Rote memorization)


Teachers are experts in their field. They are the most enthusiastic and dedicated learners in the classroom. Students learn from teachers, from each other, the community and other sources. They incorporate this knowledge into their own lives and apply their insights to real-life challenges.

Parents are outsiders, often made to feel unwelcome.


Parents are partners, suppliers, and customers. They are an integral part of the student's progress from the beginning through the end of their schooling.

Businesses adopt schools and are kept at arms length.


Businesses are invited to become partners, suppliers, and customers in the students' continuous progress, not for commercial gain.

The community is not encouraged to be involved in the local school or in youth. They are not encouraged to take pride in their local schools.


The community is welcome in the school and encouraged to contribute time and talent to the betterment of their school and youth.

The final goal- Students are products of the school.


The final goal- Students are their own products, continually expanding their interests, their abilities, and developing their character. They have continuous improvement and help others to do the same.

[Copyright ©John Jay Bonstingl 1995. All rights reserved. Permission to duplicate or otherwise use this material solely nonprofit educational use is hereby granted, provide this copyright notice is given. For further information, please contact The Center for School of Quality, PO Box 810, Columbia, MD 21044 USA. Telephone (410) 997-7555. FAX (410) 997-2345.]

Instructional Techniques

According to Howard Garner, a good art teacher will reach their students verbal/linguistically, mathematical/logically, bodily/kinesthetically, visual/spatial, musically/rhythmically, interpersonally, intra-personally, naturalistically, and existentially. Every child has a different strength among these intelligences. The more of these intelligences are addressed in a lesson, the more students are reached and learn.

You can integrate several of these intelligences in one lesson. For example, you can reach both linguistics, body/kinesthetics, and visually oriented students by writing a play, illustrating and performing it.

Following are activities that can be included in each lesson:


Essays, journals, logs, newspaper articles, storytelling, debates, creating audio, poems, letters, PowerPoint audio, plays, interviews, books, product slogans, newsletters


Puzzles, designing a calendar, story problems, categorizing facts, strategizing, problem-solving, formulas, reasoning, interpretation


Manipulatives, role playing, dancing, building, scavenger hunt, model making, skits, making a frame, sculpting, simulations


Art (duh!), maps, video, slide show, creating posters, illustrating a book, graphs, charts, albums, filmmaking, art software


Composing, rhythmical patterns, musical games, MIDI music, write new words for a song, put music to a presentation, sing a song that tells a story, play historical music, dance to music


Teaching others, leading, cooperative learning groups, environmental, social, and political issues, apprenticeships, blogs, IM


Self-directed projects, self-assessment, goal setting, emotional processing, diary, autobiography


Collect objects in nature, texture rubbings of leaves, plotting from a compass, cooking a meal from plants found in nature, landscape painting, sculpting clay found by a river bed, baking clay in an underground oven


Philosophical discussions, creating art that questions life and reality, discussion on religion, discussion of good and evil, creating religious art