"Because the deeper questions about the relationship of the artist to society and the conflict between the artist’s sense of art and the general public’s sense of art have not been adequately addressed within the art school environment, a cavernous rift has developed." (Becker, 1993, p.46)


The standards that I selected to form the conceptual framework for this portfolio are not only indicative of my current areas of research, professional aims and trajectory but also reflective of my professional values and ideologies. I believe that there is inherent value and great power that lies in the educational potential of artwork. It is my aim as an educator and practicing artist to amend this rift between contemporary artists and their publics.

Effective teaching practices lie in ones ability to adapt their approach to suit the individual, to be reflexive and multi-faceted. Similarly, between the contexts of non-formal gallery education and formal university education, there lies a myriad of approaches that combine to support these complex processes. However, there are three theories that I find often form the framework of my research and ideal practices.

1. Consructivism 

Supported by theorists such as Piaget, Vygotsky and Dewey, favouring active meaning-making and interpretation, constructivism manifests itself in art as each individual’s unique experiences and identity is drawn upon to construct knowledge by, “making connections between their lives and the objects they encounter” (Sienkiewicz, 2015, p.235). As these personal factors influence each interpretation, it can result in multiple meanings being constructed (Williams, 2010). These experiences, prior knowledge and the ability to share them are an essential teaching resource.

2. Socratic Teaching; The importance of questioning.

As stated by Peter Jarvis (2010), Socratic teaching “introduces questioning into the learning process…directing a logical sequence of questions at the learners, enabling them to respond and to express the knowledge they have, but which they might never have crystallised in their mind” (p.144). This transformative and enlightening experience is the perfect encapsulation of art, to present ideas and connections that would otherwise have been left unchallenged. 

This Socratic style forms the basis of Visual Thinking Strategies (VTS)—codeveloped by Philip Yenawine and Abigail Housen—a method of facilitation which poses “open-ended questions and invites students to find more in the artwork they are examining”(Singh, 2016, p.47). These strategies promote critical thinking and prompt the viewer to connect with their interpretations, while also guiding them as the facilitator strategically injects information (Nappi, 2017).

3. Social Learning theory and communities of practice.

Wenger’s theory of social learning is rooted in the concept of learning as participation. “Participation here refers to [an] encompassing process of being active participants in the practices of social communities and constructing identities in relation to these communities” (Illeris, 2008). For myself, the role of the ‘community of practice’ is an essential part of developing a sustainable practice, and these interactions are crucial testing grounds for ideas and techniques with like-minded colleagues. Whether manifested in a discussion between two viewers in a gallery, or two practitioners meeting to discuss a new project, the inherently social aspect of art and education is inescapable, and essential to any endeavour therein.


I am often reminded of an early teaching experience. After I was invited to deliver a talk at the BCA, there were some one-on-one tutorials with a selection of students. When I entered the first tutorial, I immediately assumed that the student shared my own professional ambitions. Not once did I consider the fact that this young artist might be making this work for therapeutic reasons, or because they wanted to teach art in primary school. I can still picture the blank look on their face. These simple assumptions, without the room for reflection and the ability to unpick those experience, can be so easily made.

I have had expereince in a remarkably diverse range if practical fields, including furnitture restoration, shop fitting and art handling. This practical ability and my years of study in one of the worlds best art universities has given me an uncommonly broad range of experiences to draw from in my teaching, and I am willing to draw from these skills in any way to aid the learning of my students. However, no amount of theory can help you respond to somehting you don't understand. Until beginning this graduate diploma, I was blissfully unaware of the complexities of education. However, as I reflect on these expereinces through this new lens, I can see how essential this training has been. Yet this knowledge has made me realise that I still have a long way to go, and I need more practical experience with students.

As I move forward in my career I can't help but feel as though I am starting anew, in as much a I must be aware of my past shortcomings in order to truly deliver the educational expereinces that I hope
that I now have the awareness to do so.