Tag Archives: research

The Struggle. It’s Real.

The struggle, as they say, is real.
blocks IKTXXHC augiJ6y

When I was trying to wrap my brain around an excellent research question, I finally figured out what made it so difficult.  I filtered my search through too many audiences.

Is this a good research question?  What will Dr. Tillander think?  How will I sell these ideas to adults without boring them to death?  Where does the scholarship come down on this?  (And why are all the articles I’m finding FROM THE 1980’s?!  Is my topic irrelevant now?)  Will I be able to explain this to my grandmother?  Is it narrow enough for me to grasp?  Is it complex enough to keep me engaged?  Do I have more than a snowball’s chance in hell of getting other people to be as passionate about this topic as I’m going to have to be to get through the rest of grad school?

My mind was a cloudy place until I asked myself…
For whom do I give my very best?  For whom do I organize and present my thoughts clearly?  With whom am I the most passionate about communicating?well-duh

My students.

Now that I’m certain my research is for them, I’m having a much easier time putting my thoughts into words.  I will, of course, have to write everything in APA and format it properly so that other very official grown ups will listen to me, but this is the heart and intent of my current research.  It’s best form is a letter to the artists and students that I love.

Dear Artists,

When easy access to information is unaccompanied by lust for discovery, it weakens our creative souls.  Should you get curious about how hummingbirds hatch, you may Google it, watch a high resolution video, and let your wonder die on Youtube in six and a half minutes.  I wonder how long those sounds and images would stay with you.  On the contrary, I wonder if you could ever forget standing over a nest, holding your breath, and actually watching tiny hummingbirds break out of their tiny shells.   Basking in the soft glow of the Internet’s glory will rarely surprise and delight you to the same degree as boldly investigating our world.

These investigations, these investments, need not be laborious.  Through research, I hope to learn how to help you pick up the scent of ideas that set you on fire and compel you to hunt them down, to flesh them out.  For you I wish joy, curiosity, obsession, whimsy, boldness, and wonder.

As my fellow artists, I hope that you will learn our language, master our skills, and understand our history.  But my greatest hope is that you will discover how to show us the world through your eyes.

There is so much adventuring to do, so much to create, and it is very important that you find and offer the world your distinct view. I can’t wait to see what you come up with.

With love,

Miss Horak


The Methods in My Madness

At last!  I have survived my research methods class and have a proposal to present for review.  From now until December, this document will get tweaked and poked and prodded to record my research on…


Here’s the PDF for all you deep readers:

Research Proposal, updated April 24th, 2014

The powerpoint for you visual folks:

Research Proposal Presentation

And an excerpt about the significance of the study…the only part where we could wax a little idealistic…;)

“It is our responsibility as art educators to draw attention to the silence of our students’ artistic voices as a cultural void.  If we will expose ourselves and our students to this vacuum, it may very well suction out of our hearts, minds, and hands that which our world needs from us. When students are only exposed to and taught to create artwork that replicates pedestaled artists and styles foreign to the time and place in which they live, the subject of art-making gets hidden in a dusty corner of their minds.  This study will investigate what art educators can do to promote student engagement and contributions in art-making, and it will provide art educators with a list of strategies for doing so.”



The Madness in my Methods

Lately my personal and family life has required more of my heart and my brain than usual.  As such, grad school got shoved onto a back burner where (I hoped) thoughts would magically bubble and brew into a delicious research proposal.  That’s not exactly what happened…

My mother, a seasoned educator, believes that it is extremely important for students to be emotionally ready to learn.  I’ve recently experienced this in full force, and I agree with her theory.  I’m just now getting my heart and my head back in the game, and I want to share with you where I’m headed with my research.  There’s going to be plenty of madness in my methods, but I’m looking forward to it. 🙂  I’ve honed down my broad, ambiguous, and elusive subject of “play” into a more concrete research goal:

  • My research goal is to develop strategies that encourage student contributions in the art classroom.  My end goal is NOT a curriculum.  It is a set of practices/activities/prompts/questions designed to invite students to bring more from their own worlds and lives into their art making.
  • My study will take place in a unique setting, a summer art camp at the Renee Foosaner Education Center in Eau Gallie, Florida from June 3rd to August 1st.
  • This research is of interest to me and to the field of art education because it is capable of addressing a wide range of issues in the art classroom such as play, collaboration, motivation, agency, and personal voice…yet it will provide specific strategies for encouraging student contribution.
  • This research is relevant to art educators who wish to provide more opportunities for their students to “bring something to the table” in the creative process.  It is relevant to the lives of students who will have an outlet to share and creatively build upon their collections/ideas/creations/findings and the contributions of their peers that come from outside of the classroom.  It is also relevant to parents who might see their children looking at the world with wider eyes and developing their own methods for recording the world around them so that they share what they experience with their art teacher and their peers during the creative process…and, ultimately, they may share these experiences with viewers who see their artistic products.
  • My research lies tangent to (but does not include) collaboration in the art classroom, found art, non-traditional art making materials, and the Reggio Emilia approach.

Ridiculous Research Tips

My research mandala.  So.  Many.  Post-its.
My research mandala. So. Many. Post-its.

To do anything well, I must allow it to consume me.  Research is no different.  I’m deeply conscientious (see, I’m even conscious of my conscientiousness), so the satisfaction of being a responsible student motivates me, but only to a point.  Invariably I reach a phase of burnout where the desire to be a good student is outweighed by the desire for other needs…like sleep and human interaction.  Honestly, I’m in one of those phases now, but there’s one thing that is helping me get back on that horse.  I ignore all the usual, sensible pieces of advice and set my brain on fire.

Get plenty of sleep.  If you are in the zone, work late into the night or first thing in the morning.
Pace yourself.  BINGE RESEARCH.  It’s okay to crave knowledge like the delicious luxury that it is.
Wear something professional and go to a public place to work more efficiently  Pajama pants+couch+laptop+a mandala made out of your own notes=where you will probably accomplish most of your work.
Block off time in your schedule for research.  Every minute of your life is now devoted to research, especially if you are driving, showering, or trying to fall asleep.
Keep snacks handy.  Wait…no…that’s a good one.  Definitely keep snacks handy. 🙂  Baby carrots are my favorite.

In short, I can’t research in moderation.  For me, it’s easier to take the plunge and allow my life time to recover later.

Dr. Tillander is Smiling on the Inside

After our first online meeting in Research Methods, one my classmates and I clung to each other for support (virtually, of course) via a flurry of Facebook messages.  We vowed to be each other’s CFFs (Critical Friends Forever) and helped strengthen each other’s research questions.  I dissolved into lunacy at this remark from my CFF:

Screen Shot 2014-03-07 at 1.11.53 AM

 Dr. Michelle Tillander said she’s been told that her smiling face looks unnatural, something with which I totally relate.  I tried to smile reassuringly at a student’s drawing today…you know, getting all that rapport-building non-verbal communication on…and they looked like they were going to cry.
“Ms. Horak, What’s wrong with it?!?!”
“Nothing!  I like the direction you’ve chosen!  Keep up the good work!” *SMILE! :)*
“But you look like there’s something wrong with it…”
“No, it’s great!  That color was a strong choice!” *SUPER SELF-CONSCIOUS FORCED SMILE! :?*
“Ms. Horak…are…are you okay?”
*le sigh*

I do have a touch of the crazy eyes.

Crazy Eyes Horak
Crazy Eyes Horak
I've decided this manic smiley face is actually just my grad school game face.
I’ve decided this manic smiley face is actually just my grad school game face.

A million thanks to Dr. Tillander for being the first professor I’ve actually SEEN via Adobe Connect!  I really appreciated being able to assign the name a face, even if we’re both only smiling on the inside. 🙂

Research Methods or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb (that might blow my brain to bits)

(Disclaimer:  This post has nothing to do with Dr. Strangelove or the impending Cold War II.)

The things we love can hurt us the most.  In my case, it’s the love of knowing everything in the world that’s going to do me in.  Sometimes I’m a super annoying know-it-all, the kind that can’t let other people be wrong, like Hermione in the early Harry Potter novels.

Please, please, PLEASE call on me so I can save everyone from the falseness of your previous statement!
Please, please, PLEASE call on me so I can save everyone from the falseness of your previous statement!

And sometimes I just really want to learn all the things. (Thank you, Allie Brosh for one of the most useful expressions of our time.)

When I’m at my worst, I’m all about KNOWING everything.  You know, being smarter and better than everyone.  It’s probably one of my most unattractive qualities.  When I’m at my best, it’s not about the knowing.  It’s about the learning.  It’s about conquest, challenges, discovery, exploration.  It’s about “TO INFINITY AND BEYOND!”  Which sounds a heck of a lot cooler than “LET’S DO SOME RESEARCH!”
Screen Shot 2014-03-04 at 10.35.09 PM

But research we shall!  I’ve just started ARE6746, the robot name for a Research Methods class in the Masters of Art Education program at the University of Florida. (Bleh…what a mouthful…)  From now on, this program will just be known as UFARTED.
Screen Shot 2014-03-04 at 10.58.17 PM

I’m going to shoot straight with you.  I’m terrified.  I’m the kind of gold-star earning, sticker-chart keeping, color-coded note-taking dork that usually stares down challenging coursework while gleefully stroking my (hopefully) invisible beard and murmuring “Myesss, myesss”.
Screen Shot 2014-03-04 at 11.25.23 PM
Not this time, folks.  I just created twenty new computer folders to help me organize this bad boy of a class, and I don’t feel much more prepared than I did an hour ago.  This journey is going to be difficult.  I must strive for much more than gold stars.  I’ve got to do some very real grappling with art education.  It’s dangerous to go alone, so  I’M TAKING YOU WITH ME.

Stay tuned to find out if my brain will explode or if it will simply swell into a learning, bleeding, throbbing chunk of grey and white matter.