Teaching | Teaching Statement

I am interested in an educational process that emphasizes observation, focuses on inquiry, and grounds itself in art making as practice-based research. I support students in this process by grounding projects in core concepts, modeling techniques and methodologies with examples and
demonstrations, and assigning reflective exercises that emphasize analysis and critical thinking. My goals are to give students confidence in their problem solving abilities, demonstrate the value inherent in the creative process of design, and teach students how art frames and shapes our understanding of the world.

Practice-Based Research

I nurture students’ critical inquiry by helping students to formulate questions of personal interest and guiding them through a project-based research process designed to answer those questions. My courses begin with assignments that emphasize exploration of core principles, like the elements and principles of design. Reflective and analytic writing exercises build on those project-based
explorations via a critical articulation of knowledge gained through the process of making. I assist by providing pertinent background via theory and examples of other’s work while also providing students with opportunities to develop and test their own problem solving methods.

Final projects

Emphasize refinement of particular moments of interest or growth discovered in prior exploratory assignments. Framing my classes around inquiry stimulates growth for all students and allows for classes with students of differing skill levels to learn from one another.

Embodied Learning and Technique

Making is an embodied experience that teaches through process. Conceiving of a project and building that project teach different skills which inform one another. The structure of my classes is such that many ideas are conceived of and a selection of those are fabricated. In support of the production process I teach technique and craftsmanship. Having spent many years as a fabricator, I
believe that technical instruction and craftsmanship play an important role in art education. I believe these skills are best used in service of articulate ideas and there is value in rejecting them at times. Yet, technique and craftsmanship are forms of training that teach perseverance and patience and also provide a foundation to fall back on while wading through the, at times, messy articulation of ideas.

Critical Reflection

I encourage growth and problem solving by coupling art making with reflective analysis. Art education’s greatest benefit is to help the student understand the implications of their ideas, actions, and works. Critical discourse is crucial to this purpose. I assign presentations and written reflections which prompt students to examine why they are attracted to specific works and how that knowledge informs what direction they might take with subsequent work. I also assign reflective exercises that prompt students to examine their methodology and which parts of their research, design, and production process are most effective and inspiring for them. Practice-based research instills confidence in students’ problem-solving and way-finding abilities while embodied learning and critical reflection gives students a toolkit for articulating their goals and identifying the techniques which best suit them. My desire to teach students these methods comes from my experiences as a practicing and exhibiting artist. My courses and educational framework stem from a desire to share the pleasures of art making as a practice of creative problem solving, idea generation, and skill development.

Liz Lessner