Circular Watercolor Brush Stroke

Informal Learning in Art Education Task Challenge

Using inquiry as a method of learning “creates a motivation to learn and provides a set of constraints that make the learning meaningful” and produces a whole range of experiences (Learning as Inquiry, paragraph 4 and 5). By asking questions and following those questions to other questions, one can move not only through a certain subject but across subjects. Inquiry as a learning method isn’t about explicit knowledge that can be transferred and assessed, it is “instead an act of imagination” (Learning as Inquiry, paragraph 5). The use of imagination and relying on tacit knowledge allows one to go “deeper into the process of inquiry” (Learning as Inquiry, paragraph 8).

Thomas and Brown go further to describe that feeling that one gets through “prolonged inquiry on particular topics or from repeated use of skills and techniques” (Indwelling, paragraph 1). “Indwelling is a familiarity with ideas, practices, and processes that are so engrained they become second nature.” It’s how we “make connections among the tacit dimensions of things” (Indwelling, paragraph 1-3). It’s adaptive and is the “largest reservoir [a student] has of tacit knowledge” (Indwelling, paragraph 4).


  • Brown, John Seely, Thomas, Douglas (2011), We Know More than We Can Say (A New Culture of Learning: Cultivating the Imagination for a World of Constant Change, CreateSpace)

An Informal Learning Task Challenge

Pick a subject which you would like to visualize in some form and/or a technique which you would like to improve on (analog, digital, mixed media) and make a series of multiples exploring the subject/technique. Post images of your first series in a blog post and talk about your subject/technique and the success, challenges, and/or areas for improvement. Search for resources to help you with your challenges and/or areas of improvement and use the knowledge gained from those resources and your experiences from your first series to start another series of images. Compare the second series with the first series and write about the experience in a follow-up blog post. Search again and repeat for a third series. Compare the third series with the other two and talk about what you have learned, how/if you’ve improved, and how you built upon these experiences through the exercises to gain new knowledge and build upon existing knowledge.

So for example, perhaps you would like to improve your drawing skills. Let’s use a still life as the subject, and perhaps the still life contains some glass items because you know it is tricky, and maybe charcoal as the medium. Charcoal can also be a real challenge, so you’ve got the deck stacked–drawing a still life with some glass item in it and using charcoal. Start your first series of images. You can pick the number, but at least make it a few–perhaps 3 images per series. They don’t have to be billboard-sized images, you can pick a manageable size. Okay. Go.

Scan or take photos of your first series and add them to a blog post about your experiences and include some resources for gaining more knowledge about improving your skills. These resources could be books, online web sites or videos, a chat with an artist, etc. Go out and search for things to help you improve for your next series. Absorb. Get ready for round two.

You’ve done your first series, blogged, and have done some research. Move on to the second series armed with the experiences of the first and your information gathering. Knock out another series. Scan or take photos and add them to another blog post about your experience with the second round, your information gathering, and how it compares to the first series. Repeat. Knock out another series based what you have learned from the preceding two series and any additional information gathering to create a third series. Scan or take photos of your work and add them to another blog post about your experience. In your third blog post, compare the previous two series and comment on how you’ve progressed and what you’ve learned during the challenge. Share, mix, and create more if the process was a good experience.

4 thoughts on “Informal Learning in Art Education Task Challenge”

  1. Michael, this fits into something I am currently embarking upon, so I’m going to give it a go. My husband and I are in the process of starting up a little production company. Ultimately we would like to be doing artful photographs, videos, graphic design, and other media projects for personal or business purposes. However, in order to build up a clientele in our very conservative and remote town, we need to do a bit of “grunt work” in the form of family portraits. I had my first go at taking some family portraits and it totally reinforced why I have been so hesitant to go in this direction with my family. I will explain more about my struggles with this in my blog post, though.

    I am glad you posted this as your challenge, as it gives me a little structure and possibly some accountability to try and make something meaningful and beautiful out of a task that I find somewhat cliche and am so reluctant to pursue. Maybe by incorporating some research and reflection, as you suggest, I can evolve my skills into something in which I can have a lot of pride!

    1. Great, Sarah! Yeah focus on research and technique and take what you already have built up with knowledge to help you build new knowledge. And if you keep the iterations and series small, they’ll be less painful. And perhaps you can supplement the learning with some personal work by taking family portraits of friends and family of your own who would be willing to be a little more adventurous?

      Good luck!


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