Serving Art Educators
and Students Since 1994


TAB - Teaching for Artistic Behavior

"Imagination is more important than knowledge" ~ Albert Einstein

Choice Based Art Education fosters imagination. Teachers all across the country are discovering a new way to motivate children through the method of instruction known as Choice Based Art Education (Also called Teaching for Artistic Behavior - or TAB™). Choice is an organization of teachers who teach using this method. Centers are set up in the elementary and middle school art classrooms and students choose which centers to participate in for the day. High school students are self-directed in their studies and studio work. While definitive research on this topic is not available online, some Choice teachers are reporting a positive affect on learning in the core curriculum. (See Clarification of Terms - See poem that shows need for Choice)


You can find out more about TAB Choice from the Knowledge Loom Web Site PDF. pdf "Choice-based art education regards students as artists and offers students real choices for responding to their own ideas and interests through art making." - Teaching for Artistic Behavior


"Listen" to what these dedicated teachers have to say about TAB Choice. Visit the Web logs.

TAB Choice Teachers Share Their Views

From Clyde Gaw:

Nothing in education is more powerful than authentic, student directed, student centered learning experiences constructed from the bottom up. TABThe TAB art education concept allows students opportunities to take ownership of their art experiences from conception to completion with teacher acting as classroom manager, environmental designer, art expert, facilitator, and student mentor.


From Kathy Douglas:

I am connected to a group which works to create student-centered art experiences in public schools, the Teaching for Artistic Behavior Partnership (We call ourselves TAB for short)  One of our favorite quotes is from our friend Pauline Joseph: "The job of the artist is to have an art idea and find the best medium to express it, or, to use a material which leads to an idea." We call this the real work of the artist, and our aim is to provide settings where students can do this work. We study productive ways to arrange the space, the time, and the materials that our individual situations offer and we feel that choice teaching allows us to make the best of those always limited aspects. Teaching takes place constantly, but in addition to traditional whole-group demonstrations we use small group, one-on-one, peer teaching and indirect teaching via menus in the centers in the room.

We know that teaching is a most individual art and each of us has our own spin on personalized learning; however we believe that art teachers can be very isolated, especially when they attempt to teach in a way which may be outside the mainstream. In the Teaching for Artistic Behavior Partnership we support each other in multiple ways:

1. Frequent informal "conferences" in each other's homes
2. Email collaboration, troubleshooting and mentoring
3. Conference presentations
4. Detailed replication content on Dept. of Education funded best practice website. This includes stories of Massachusetts teachers who embrace this concept of teaching.
5. A newsgroup to which you can subscribe via Yahoo Groups
6. A web log which is published daily with stories and quotes. This hasn't been updated since 2006.
    ( )
7. Visits to each other's classrooms

8. Visit the Teaching for Artistic Behavior website.

9. Visit the Teaching for Artistic Behavior (TAB) Art Educators Facebook page.


From Kathy J. Velon

I just recently joined the TAB at beginning of January 2005. The choice-based art program works perfectly for deaf and hard-of-hearing students with or without additional disabilities. These students often get pulled out of art classes for additional IEP services. They work at their own paces and are learning much more than before with better quality teaching from me. Even they get so occupied, most misbehaviors disappeared!


From Patty Knott - TAB CHOICE improves student behavior

Every day I offer more and more choices.

Choice for me is going well beyond activity centers. It's behavior choices I'm throwing back to them - their behaviors that make me nuts and you know what? Every time I say you choose, they mostly choose what is appropriate... MAKE IT SNOWBALL


See an essay on TAB Art on IAD. Also see a poem appropriate to TAB art teachers on IAD.

Why TAB Choice - Choice Based Art Education?

Submitted by: Kathy Douglas


There are many wonderful outcomes for both students and teachers using the choice concept of teaching:

  1. The choice teacher is freed from trying to think of a "clever" idea that will engage every student.  Instead students are told that artists make art about things that fascinate them.  When doing the work of the artist students will be expressing their own ideas.

  2. When students chose the work they are self-motivated; most behavior problems disappear and the quality of the finished work is quite good.

  3. When students are working independently the teacher has time to observe students, determining needs that can be met in future demonstrations.

  4. Students can work at their own speed. Some students work on a painting or weaving for four or five weeks while others may use more than one center in a class period. Students have the opportunity to try something over and over again, leading to mastery.

  5. The choice teacher can introduce something new every week, even though some art works will take much longer to complete as the students work independently.

  6. Students see an enormous variety of ideas and techniques at the end of class when amazing discoveries are shared.

  7. Choice teaching encourages independent thinking, persistence and risk-taking, all qualities valued by practicing artists.

  8. Where supply budgets are slim, the choice teacher can order just a few of each item.  For instance, there are rarely more than 6 students painting at any one time. We can offer these painters 2’ by 3’ 90 pound paper and better quality brushes. This would be impossible if every student had to paint.

  9. Most students choose experiences in each of the centers over the time that they are in our schools; however, even if a child never makes a tapestry weaving, she has observed the teacher demonstration, seen the vocabulary and background material in the fiber area and perhaps watched her best friend creating a piece of fabric. There is a lot of learning going on there too!

  10. When students have chosen their work, they can discuss it easily, can describe their working process and false starts and usually evaluate the effectiveness of the finished work.

  11. Time is used very efficiently; the initial five-minute demonstration and the brief clean up time leaves more time for student work.  Additional detailed instruction is given to the small groups choosing the demonstrated topic as they work.

    ©Katherine M. Douglas 2004

Steps to a Choice Based Art Exhibit Design and Implementation

The project incorporates student choice in every phase of its design and implementation.

  • Throughout the year, students choose both subject matter and media studied in class.

  • The content of the show represents the choice of the individual student artists.

  • Students are given the opportunity to explain their thoughts and working process in written artist's statements.

  • Members of the school community have the opportunity to view the show in depth and respond to the artwork of their choice.

Implementation Steps:

  1. Members of the school community have the opportunity to view the show in depth and respond to the artwork of their choice.

  2. Encourage students to leave work in the designated box all year long.

  3. Photograph students creating artwork.

  4. In January invite students to bring back artwork that was taken home.

  5. Sort the work by class and lay it out so students can choose what to show.

  6. Touch base with students who have not selected work to make sure that they do not wish to participate in the show.

  7. Transcribe their artist's statements.

  8. Attach the artist's statements to the artwork.

  9. Mount the selected artwork simply--stapled to construction paper.

  10. Hang the exhibition on a Saturday morning (an average of 400 pieces).

  11. Send a letter home to the parents describing the show.

  12. Invite all teachers to make "in-school field trips" in which their students can view the exhibition and respond.

  13. Designate a gallery manager for each classroom to check the work every morning and tape up fallen pieces.

  14. Make sure that at the end of the month the gallery managers take down the work and return it to their classmates.

Katherine M. Douglas
Teaching for Artistic Behavior 2002


Tips for Getting Started

  1. Start simple.

  2. Introduce centers one at a time.

  3. For each center create menus, vocabulary lists, some student/and or master examples, some references, whatever might be useful.

  4. For each center create a simple system for finding and putting away materials.

  5. In each center introduce the simplest-to-use media first.

  6. When that is going well, go back around and add more complexity to centers.

  7. Introduce everything that kids are to use.

  8. If they can see it, they can use it.

  9. Demonstrate what good clean up looks like.

  10. Allow for experimentation and play, but look forward to finished work.

  11. Provide supervisors with hard facts before you begin. (print out the pdf website and pass it to them in a nice binder.)

  12. Communicate with parents.

  13. Hold students accountable for using their time well (and experimentation with materials is using time well)

  14. One suggestion for opening centers is found in post #1072 of the Yahoo group. (

This way of teaching requires organization, structure and energy from the teacher. The students provide the ideas! It is important to do a lot of reading to prepare for this.

From Kathy Douglas © 2007



Look at these resources and see why Choice teachers are so excited about what they are doing.


Differentiated Instruction
Discover how research into how students learn led to changes in how teachers teach -- and the differentiated model of education.

How to Differentiate Instruction
After having read what the research has to offer on differentiated instruction, specifically, brain-based research on learning, learning styles and multiple intelligences, and authentic assessment, you are now ready to plan.

Instructional and Management Strategies
Features instructional and management strategies to support differentiation in the classroom.

Strategies for Differentiating [Archive]
Within the four ways for differentiating instruction there are embedded several other learning strategies which are used in conjunction with each other.

Differentiated Instruction [Archive]
If there was an official home page for Differentiated Instruction, it would be this page.

Using Technology to Differentiate Instruction
This online presentation provides the rationale for differentiating using technology, as well as a multitude of examples that may be used in your classroom. Simply hit the "Next" button to go to each page.



Cynthia Gaub - Virtual Classroom [Archive] Choice Base Middle School. Visit the student gallery [Archive]. Cynthia has a unique situation in that her classes are multi age. She has found that providing centers keeps her students motivated and will provide new experiences for her students each year.  Cynthia is now retired, but her sites are archived and linked here.

Clyde Gaw, Indianapolis, Indiana. "Transition to Choice Based Art Education"

Ann Gray - McAuliffe Elementary, Tulsa/Broken Arrow, Oklahoma. Check out Ann's TAB Choice Art Room Blog.

Kathy Douglas, Elementary Art, Bridgewater, Massachusetts

Laurie Dyer, TAB room, Bountiful Elementary

Nan Hathaway, Rocky Mountain School for the Gifted and Creative, Colorado
Carolyn Bonomi, Elementary, Massachusetts. "My Choice-Based Art Room"

Bonnie Muir, Elmwood Elementary, Massachusetts

Deborah - Parklane Choice Elementary, Aurora, Colorado

Heather - Art at Jackman - Elementary Art, Toledo, Ohio

Kathy J. Velon "Choice Based Art for Students with Disabilities" - 'Teaching Artistic Behavior' Program (TAB) is being applied in the PreK-12 art studio set up for students who are either deaf, hard-of-hearing, or hearing with or without additional disabilities. Primary language instruction is signed ASL, secondary in spoken English.

Recent art work from TAB classrooms at NAEA Show of student work prepared for the National Art Education Association conference in Boston. Schools in six states contributed to this exhibit of over 300 pieces. The work can be viewed at the Arnhiem Gallery in Boston from Feb. 22-March 8.


Knowledge Loom TAB Choice pdf - This is the "promising practice" in education site, funded initially by the Department of Education and run by the Education Alliance at Brown University. Teaching for Artistic Behavior (TAB) professional group created the visual art content. Register to interact with this website. Note: The Knowledge-Loom has no tie in with TAB or Choice-Based Art Education. It is run by Brown University and places article of "best practices" on their website.

Adventure of an Art Teacher - A blog with an article on TAB.

Marvin Bartel's Learning to Think Artistically A growing online book of ideas, innovation, and inspiration for teachers and parents by Marvin Bartel. See "Encouraging Creative Thinking with Awareness Questions" (see more links for creative thinking). Site See "Creativity Killers" and more.

Poem for Every Art Teacher "Once a Girl" - Shows need for Choice

See the Prezi presentation on Choice-Based Art by Alisa Blundon


Creative Knowledge Environments in Choice-Based Art Education by Lori Pickering




"Teaching Students to Become Independent Artists: A Film Script 1" Art Education, Jan 2005 by Szekely, George - Excellent article showing the value of Choice Based Art Education.

"Art and Ideas: Reaching Nontraditional Art Students" Art Education,  Sep 2001  by Andrews, Barbara Henriksen - Excellent article showing the advantage of a Choice Based Art Program.

"Art, Reflection, and Creativity in the Classroom" pdf Art Education, July 2005 by Andrews, Barbara Henriksen



TAB-Choice Art Ed - This is the listserv and Internet community created by the TAB Partnership. Register at this site to post, take polls, view photos and lesson plans. A vibrant, online art education community. More and more people have been visiting the Teaching for Artistic Behavior (TAB) Art Educators Facebook page, however.



These books provide many philosophical and practical underpinnings for choice teachers. These are not books specifically about Choice Art Education.


George Szekely's Encouraging Creativity in Art Lessons: New York: Teachers College Press, 1988. George Szekely has written an inspiring book which looks first to the learner, then to the habits of practicing artists in order to create pedagogical practice. Personal creative processes often have little resemblance to current art education curriculum and practice, often resulting in unmotivated, disconnected students and mediocre "products". Szekely's delight in the unschooled personal art work of small children and in the quirks and habits of creative people is evident and is at the core of his teaching. This is an accessible and inspiring book with a philosophy that has energized my teaching for a decade. (Kathy Douglas)

Peter London's No More Secondhand Art: Boston: Shambalah Publishers, 1989.
Having studied with Peter London over the past ten years I can assure readers that as a teacher he lives what he writes. He embodies what every teacher should bring to students: careful listening, respectful attention, thoughtful questioning. His writings have won the deserved respect of his educator and artist colleagues nationwide. Treat yourself to a fine book. (Kathy Douglas)

Research Supporting Choice Based Art Education

Developing Self-Directed Learners pdf - [Archive] "Self-directed learners are responsible owners and managers of their own learning process'"

Self-Directed Learning - [Archive] from ERIC Digest - learners as responsible owners and managers of their own learning process.


See Promising Practices [Archive] - on Knowledge Loom pdf site.

ERIC Document: ED404007
Constructivism and Arts Based Programs. by Armistead, Mary E.;
Date: 1996-06-05 - 14 pages

"Children in the visual arts program work in seven areas of choice and learn to explore, test, and repeat manipulation of materials."

"The paper concludes that arts-based programming is cumulative, promotes risk taking, and is effective especially for at-risk children, and that teachers must move from interpreting and teaching art to the constructivist notion of supporting children's discovery of the arts."


ERIC Document: ED412010
Improving the Motivation of Middle School Students through the Use of Curricular and Instructional Adaptations. by Eisele, Todd - 66 pages
Date: 1996

"A review of solution strategies resulted in the selection of three major categories of intervention: cooperative learning, students choice in activities and assignments, and lessons designed to reflect students' learning preferences."