Magazine article Multicultural Education

Art as a Behavior Modification Tool

Magazine article Multicultural Education

Art as a Behavior Modification Tool

Article excerpt

In Preparation

Like a sleeping giant, the project slumbered. As I prepared for my first day working with students in the after school program of the local school district, I could not help but wonder what I would discover when that giant stretched, yawned, and opened its eyes. As the Artist in Education at the art center of a small rural community, I wondered was it possible to share my love of art with students who would be attending because they must and had already been in classrooms all day.

I wondered would my idea to use the creative process as a behavior modification tool be successful. Barkan (1962) argues that ...."artistic activity anywhere is the same, whether at the frontier of art or in a third-grade classroom...The difference is in degree not kind" (p. 14) I hold this belief to be true.

The supplies were gathered, the pages of ideas organized into lesson plans, the schedule determined, and it seemed as if it was finally time to begin. Armed with resolve, I stood outside the cave. "Wake up giant," I cried...." I have come to play."

Paradoxically, social responsibility in art education presupposes a willingness to play. If play is a willingness to explore and investigate a particular environment, to take risks in the search for novelty and discovery to engage interactively in a continuing dynamic process, then play is at the heart of art education (Hicks, 2004).

Standards and Skills

The format for rules, consequences, motivation, and implementation were developed together by students and the lead instructor. The project purpose was to teach the process of "Discipline Based Art Education" (DBAE) to youth at risk by using art's creative process as the tool for developing cognitive abilities that promote decision making and problem solving. These strategies can be taught sequentially.

DBAE teaches the brain how to learn. This methodology builds confidence which leads to the discovery of self and leadership skills. With the advent of DBAE, student contact with original works of art was considered central to curriculum planning and art museums became of particular importance in the study of art (Clark, Day, & Greer, 1987).

Intended Outcome

The lessons were developed according to state art standards and taught in the sequence that would offer the greatest amount of success for the students:

(1) Children and youth demonstrate skills, knowledge, and/or understanding of the arts consistent with national, state, or local arts education standards by teaching the creative process in accordance with content standard #6, using active learning projects that include both two and three dimensional art projects in accordance with art content standard #1, brainstorming techniques, how to recognize ideas, and mind mapping, how to prioritize ideas, and plan development, steps to completing the work, content standard #3, developing visual journals as a form of student evaluation in accordance with content standard #5, formulating gallery talks, discussion of terms, styles, cultures, and history, content standard #4.

(2) Children and youth will learn to work together, complete projects, and control their behavior.


Developing a method to guide and motivate self control was implemented at the beginning. On the first and following days, each student was given a sticky note that was placed in front of him or her on the table. When rules were broken, the sticky note was removed and was not replaced for the remainder of the session. If the note was in place at the end of the session, the student could sign it with his or her name and place it in the opportunity box. At the end of the week, there would be a drawing and the student whose name was drawn would receive the reward.

The reward was a simple art supply, but in the eyes of most of the students, it was a treasure since most did not have access to art supplies at home. Sometimes it was an eraser, a pencil, a gel pen, nothing extravagant. …

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