TAB: A Philosophy with a Choice Continuum

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Lately, I’ve been seeing the phrase “I’m not full TAB”, or something similar to that.  And to be honest, at first I would kind of roll my eyes and move on. But then as I started to see it more and more, I thought that maybe some people don’t quite know or understand that TAB is a philosophy with a choice continuum. 

What do artists do? You are the artist. This room is your studio.
Signage from Clyde Gaw’s TAB classroom.

Over the years, there have been many conversations about TAB vs modified TAB / “not full TAB”. And, in the end, the same conclusion ensued–there isn’t really modified/not-full TAB. That would infer that not all 3 core tenets are followed when setting up the program. And asking, which one(s) are you leaving out?

What do I mean by that? Well, TAB (Teaching for Artistic Behavior) is a philosophy that follows 3 core tenants. It asks What do artists do? It believes the child is the artist. And it believes the classroom is their studio.  To put it more simply, as Ian Sands would say, it’s about Making Artists.  The end goal should be helping/teaching our students to behave and think like artists. Obviously there is much more to it, I mean there are many books written about it and have been several theses written about TAB as well. But that would be a longer post for a different day.

How you achieve the end goal of “Making Artists” is the methodology.  And that is where the continuum comes in. TAB teachers offer levels of choice for this.  Good TAB teachers will vary the level of choice on a number of factors, including the individual needs of the students is one of those factors. In fact, there may be varying levels of choice within the same class period, and it can fluctuate over time going from more choice to less choice and back again.  TAB is student-centered after all. I wrote another blog post that includes some reasons why you would vary the level of choice. Below is an image that displays the continuum of choice that can be offered, and there is a time for each level, including teacher directed, although that should probably be employed the least in a TAB practice.

continuum of choice chart by Diane Jaquith
Douglas, K. and Jaquith, D., 2018. Engaging Learners Through Artmaking. 2nd ed. New York: Teachers College Press, p.21.

In the end, if you believe in the philosophy and you arrange your program with the goal of making artists/teaching to think and behave like artists, you are a TAB teacher. What you modify is the amount of choice. And that will change as you learn about your student population and their needs, and it will vary from class to class, and student to student. At some point, students will be 100% self-directed, and that’s a beautiful thing.

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