Teaching Philosophy

As both an educator and an artist, I have an immense appreciation and passion for education within the artistic fields. My teaching philosophy is centered by my goal to provide my students with the knowledge, skills, and confidence to pursue their own creative aspirations. In over ten years of teaching experience at the college level, I have established a pedagogical practice based on mentorship and developing my students’ art and design education comprehensively. I instruct my students in the formal technical and craft skills of this discipline, cultivate an understanding of art and design visual principles, foster an appreciation of historical perspectives and current trends, and promote the ability to analyze and reflect upon their work and the work of others.

Teaching is profoundly rewarding for me as I love to be of service to others as well as share my enthusiasm for art, design, and learning. As a lifelong learner, I endeavor to be a role model to my students, instilling passion and emphasizing that personal growth as an artist is a result of continued exploration and study. I urge my students to continually push themselves through consistent investigation of new techniques, ideas, and media. 

I expect all of my students to be active participants in their learning and to be ambitious in the development of their creative abilities. I make myself readily available and promote a safe, fun, and inspiring learning atmosphere in which students are encouraged to ask questions and motivated to participate. Every student is unique, and I make it a point to get to know each individually. Learning about my students allows me to better serve them as their instructor. What works for one student might not be the case for another. I spend time working with my students one-on-one, addressing each student’s individual needs.

Within my courses, I employ a diverse range of teaching methods suited for engaging a variety of learning styles. Each aspect of my methodology is targeted at developing multiple facets of my students’ creative skill sets. Lectures, presentations, and class conversations emphasize fundamental art and design theories as well as provide historical perspectives and examinations of current trends and developments. Research, reading, and writing assignments are designed to reinforce the material that has been introduced and discussed in class. 

Visual projects build on the foundational elements presented in my lessons and are based on real-world creative tasks. Hands-on assignments are vitally important as the process of art and design creation cannot be fully understood without firsthand experience. For these projects, it is imperative to pair technical skills with art and design concepts and principles. Technology and studio techniques afford students the ability to execute their ideas, while a solid foundation of conceptual knowledge and essential principles brings balance and substance to the final creative work.

A key aspect in all of my courses is a foundational creative process. Generally, each assignment will begin with a project brief which is followed by research, brainstorming, ideation sketching, roughs, and revisions before arriving at a final solution. I emphasize that art and design is a process and that a thorough, structured approach is helpful in yielding a well-developed, successful final output. 

Students engage with their process and the work of their peers through critiques, verbal presentations, and written reflections. Critiques are of paramount importance in art and design education. During a critique session, students present their work to the class for review. This formal evaluation identifies both the strengths and weaknesses of the visual work with regards to specific project criteria, utilization of principles, craftsmanship, and expression. It is a valuable opportunity for students to develop their abilities in evaluating creative work and to hone their communication skills.

I am a firm believer in leading by example and aim to convey my dedication and enthusiasm for art and design not only with lecturing and coaching my students through the development of their projects, but also by providing demonstrations of my own creative work and examples from my professional experiences. My goal is for my students to trust in my instruction by seeing the real-world applications of my lessons. Demonstration is an essential component of my teaching and I make it a point to show digital and traditional studio techniques, both in group settings and in one-on-one sessions. My teaching is expanded upon with custom instructional materials. For example, I routinely record videos of my demonstrations and make them available to students via Learning Management Systems for outside of class viewing. I also write step-by-step guides for techniques covered in class, which students can use as a reference. These resources have been met with a high level of student satisfaction as well increased student success.

With the current state of technology and social media, it is vital that aspiring artists and creative professionals have an online presence. I instruct my students to create online portfolios using a variety of services. In addition to posting their classwork, I prompt my students to network with other artists and to be active participants in online creative communities, which are a source of inspiration, learning, and feedback.

Assessment is a crucial component of my teaching as it allows me to reflect on my efforts as an educator and ultimately improve student learning. Through assessment, I am provided evidence of student learning and can then use this data to make alternations in my instruction, reinforcing concepts and skills as necessary. I utilize a variety of techniques to evaluate my students’ level of success. Visual projects are instrumental in gauging my students’ comprehension of art and design principles and provide clear evidence of their ability to apply necessary concepts and techniques. Quizzes and writing assignments allow me to assess my students’ understanding of factual material covered in my presentations and the assigned reading. Critiques and class discussions are integral in measuring my students’ mastery of discipline-specific vocabulary as well as their ability to speak thoughtfully about art and design while articulating the “why” and “how” of creative work. I provide my students with regular feedback and encourage them to grow from these assessments by offering the opportunity to resubmit assignments for improvement.

It is not only important to evaluate my students, but also myself as an educator. I measure my effectiveness as a teacher in a number of ways. A student’s visual pieces are often times the result of working together with the instructor. I consider my student’s success to be a reflection of my effort and dedication as a professor. Student course evaluation surveys are a valuable tool for gauging students’ opinions of my instruction and course materials. My course evaluations are consistently ranked in the highest percentile of faculty, which informs me that my students consider my courses to be engaging, informative, and enjoyable. Student insights are helpful and I regularly prompt my classes for feedback. While my pedagogical practice has been very successful, I am flexible and continually seek new ways to improve. I collaborate with other professors and colleagues from the artistic community which allows me to provide my students with different perspectives.  As both an educator and artist, I remain dedicated to professional development and am excited about learning new media and techniques and exploring fresh ideas. Ultimately, I make use of every resource available to me in an effort to provide my students with the best educational experience possible.

Prof. Mike Ryan and his students.