In two essential ways, the curriculum revolves around student voice and agency:

  1. Students choose what topics they will research, and the materials they will use to research.

  2. Students are routinely invited to edit and critique the curriculum in collaboration with the teacher, leading to the development of student-tested processes for learning how to do arts-based research.  


Essentially, there are 5 foundational beliefs that allow teachers to teach art in this new way:

  1. The art studio is a place where thinking processes are taught a, practiced and internalized.

  2. Art making is inherently interdisciplinary, should be driven by student interests, and is a disciplined process that goes deeper that  emotional expression.

  3. There is a process to creative arts-based research and project development.

  4. All teachers and students are co-researchers; the teacher is a "master researcher" whose job it is to model how to research, ask questions and facilitate another's learning.

  5. For deep learning to occur, students must become a "learning team", which requires the careful and deliberate building of trust through team building activities.​



  • With teacher guidance at each step, students first learn about how learning works by studying constructivism and discussing the roles of the teacher, peers and themselves in the learning process.  

  • To build this learning team, we do trust building activities to create a sense of emotional safety needed in the studio to facilitate critique and peer learning.

  • Students explore what they are curious about, to find the topic or question they will investigate for the first research cycle.

  • Students learn a process for creative research, using their own question or topic as the focus for each stage. This process (see chart below) is called Stages of Research-based Artmaking" and has distinct stages, and each stage is documented in the students research art book. The names of these stages form a common vocabulary so students can understand each other's work and give feedback at each stage. (Note: Students may personalize their creative process only once they have learned all the stages.)

  • Students develope skills to document each page—decide what types of information needs to be included at each stage, how to organize that on a page, and how to represent it all in their Research Artbook.

  • Students are introduced to the idea of critique as a gift we give to other artists, explore critique styles by watching videos of artists & teachers critiquing and learn the term "Warm Demander" to understand their role in helping peers improve.

  • Students create artwork, focusing on frequent critique, revision and resolution of a few related artworks, rather than quick production of a breadth of unrelated works.



These are the stages we developed to help students learn the process of Arts-Based Research.  Each stage is documented on a page (or more) in the student's Research Workbook.  At first, I teach the stages in the order listed below, but as students become more adept they can skip around, or repeat stages as needed- as the grow more nimble they use whatever stage they find most useful as they develop a project.  As the teacher, when a student gets stuck in their process, I first ask questions to determine why they are stuck, figure out which stage they skipped or might find useful to repeat and deepen, and then direct them to repeat that stage.
* I find that these stages work for about 85% of my students-usually those new to art making.  Those students who already have a developed voice and way of working, or who are interested in more emotion-based ways of working and reject arts0based research, often find these stages limiting.  They generally need more flexibility to skip certain stages, or to not use these stages at all, and to simply use tier own way of working.   I find there is a marked difference in the finished artworks, and the learning, of those students who do not use the stages from those students who do utilize these stages.  


Related Research Page  

(coming soon)



List your curiosities
Explore and list things you are interested in, have questions about, want to learn more about, or want to solve.
When you want to choose an investigation, but do not know what to pick.
investigation &
parse out sub-topics
Choose one topic from your Curiosities Page, and break it down into sub-topics. The frame-work of your investigation and exhibition will evolve from here.

When you know your investigation and need to identify the interdisciplinary facets and sub-topics that relate


When you start a new project and need to choose a new subtopic to focus on

(Materials, Artists, Artforms, TED, Interdisciplinary, Interviews, etc)
Become an expert on your topic by doing
deep research.

Use when you need more inspiration, ideas, knowledge and skills. Deep knowledge about your topic helps you build a foundation for more creativity and serendipitous connections.

Choose 1 subtopic from your Sub-Topics Page, and brainstorm all the associations (colors, connections, textures, materials, feelings, etc) you have with that subtopic

Use when you have a clear subtopic in your investigation, and want to do a project focused on just that subtopic.

This step helps you clarify, and communicate your research through art, by giving you different ways to conceptualize your meaning.  Using creative strategies gives an artist multiple strategies for thinking and communicating.  Using the same subtopic from the previous step, consider 3 ways to communicate your ideas and feelings, each using a different Creative Strategy as its driving force.  Remember to consider not just content but how to express your passion AND provoke thinking and emotions in your audience.

Use to envision possible artworks that would communicate your subtopic.


Use when you want to make your original project idea more interesting and less basic.

Propose Potential Projects (activity)
Share project ideas with peers, get feedback, consider new Creative Strategies, do crazy idea brainstorm, mix it all together to get to a more resolved unique project idea.

Use to get feedback on the original idea for your project, to get feedback and new ideas for how to make it more resolved, so you waste less time/resources on young ideas..

Develop Project
Document your project idea with a drawing, written description, justification, research plan and building timeline.

Use when you have a clear project idea that is resolved, chewed over and ready to make

More Research
Research whatever is needed to support making your project. Always keep researching!

Use as you develop your project to gain knowledge, techniques and craft.

Journal Process
Document your progress, and articulate your thinking and learning as your project progresses (with photos)

Use to track the evolutions and changes in your project from the first idea to the finished product, and to record all your learning, frustration and connections.

In-Progress Critique (activity with notes)
Critique the progress of your project in groups, considering clarity of concept, communication strategy, ambitiousness, craft

Use when you need to check in about the direction of your project, to get feedback and new ideas for how to make it better.

Revise Project
Consider critique and incorporate any comments you think were valuable or useful

Use when you know the project is not quite there yet...and you need help and ideas from peers

Connect the Dots
Review entire cycle, and think about how it all fits together and impacted you.

Use when you are ready to review a chunk of steps, to see new connections between them and reflect on how you have grown.

Revisit and
Revise again
Keep making bold moves to resolve your ideas and artwork into something you love.

Use when you know the project is not quite there yet...but you know what to do.

Art Research book
Book where you keep your notes, research, thinking, sketches, collages, drawings, ideas, inspirations, metacognition, and everything else!

Use for anything you like! It’s yours.



  • The classroom is set up differently:  All materials are accessible to all students, at all times.

  • Team Building is a cornerstone of the classroom, allowing for trust and vulnerability which facilitate learning and peer critique. Team Building is ongoing and a foundation for everything else.

  • The teacher needs to flexibly move between teacher, facilitator, and learner roles, and model these roles to the students.

  • Student artist/researchers use their research workbooks to explore, experiment, and play with ideas; look for themes that connect these ideas; and record and examine historical/cultural influences that inform their artwork.




This timeline explains the order in which I teach each lesson, and how our year is laid out. Please modify (or ignore) it as fits the needs of your students.



  • Start class

  • Class materials

  • Trust Building

  • Constructivism lesson

  • 2nd year critiques

  • Overview of Research Cycle

Learn Research Stages

  • Pinterest Inspiration

  • Choosing Investigation

  • First research cycle

  • Creative strategies

Apply Research
  • Multiple Intelligences

  • Trust Building

  • First year critique

  • Synthesis & New Learning

  • Metacognition

  • Visual metaphor for Thinking

  • New research cycle

  • Project pages #2

  • Solidifying Investigations

  • Curriculum critique

  • Teacher interviews

  • Latinx contemporary artists

  • African (American) contemporary artists

Critiques and Research
  • Trust Building

  • Collaborative Learning tools

  • Artist of Middle Eastern descent

  • Process Critique project #2

  • Review calendars for upcoming months

  • Project/Time Management

  • Final Critique for project #2

  • Synthesis

  • Brainstorm project #3

 Workdays & 1 on 1 Conferences with Teacher 
  • Trust Building

  • Critiques

  • Workdays

  • Winter break

Workdays & 1 on 1 Conferences with Teacher 
  • Trust Building

  • Start project #4

  • Body of Work Critiques-2nd years

  • Semester synthesis

  • Curatorial Review

  • Trust Building

  • Why do you care about your investigation

  • Body of Work Critiques-1st years

  • Art sale notes

  • February/March calendars

  • Display notes

  • Artist statement Drafts


Final critiques, revisions and exhibition prep

  • Trust Building

  • Final 2D critique

  • Final 3D critique

  • Artist Statement due

  • Labels due

  • Matting and framing

  • Installation


Reflection, Revisions and show

  • Trust Building

  • Curating

  • Exhibition!

  • Docenting Exhibition Visitors

  • Reflect on show

  • Appreciations

  • De-install


Curriculum Critiques & Reflection on Learning

  • Trust Building

  • Reflect on research cycle and whole year

  • Feedback for Teacher


Class wrap-up

  • Final synthesis due

  • Appreciations

  • Assign summer homework