Reflection Questions

Examining visual arts curriculum and instruction through an ABAR lens.

It is important to note that anti bias, anti racist teaching is a constant practice and not a state of being. We must always work to reflect- to learn and unlearn. Let us take the time to (re-)examine our visual arts curriculum and instruction through an anti bias, anti racist (ABAR) lens.

WHO is represented in your curriculum?

Representation matters. Begin by completing an audit of your curriculum. How many artists are of the global majority? How many female or non-binary? How many are LGBTQIA+? How many are of varying abilities? Once you have completed this audit, you may begin to see gaps within your curriculum. Make the commitment to incorporate artists of the global majority throughout the year.

1. Ask yourself- What artists are you sharing with your students? Is it predominantly dead, white European men commonly referred to in Western canon as "Masters"?

2. What does the focus on the art of “Masters” communicate to your students? Are these "Masters" representative of your student population?

3. Who has the power to identify these artists as “Masters”? Who decides who is an artist? Do you consider your students to be artists?

4. How have entire groups of people been erased from art history? Whose stories are left out? Whose work is valued and displayed within museums/art institutions?

5. Who controls the means for representation? Do you have a choice in the curriculum and content that you teach?

HOW are artists presented in your curriculum?

Diversity in representation can be used to provide new perspectives and affirm a student's identity. But we need to make sure we are doing so in an authentic and respectful way. Work to incorporate artists of the global majority year round. If the only artists of color you're teaching are from another country and from the past, you are presenting art history through a lens of white supremacy. Presenting artists as “cultural, diverse, or historical” figures promotes the idea that they are “others” rather than living, working, joyful, contributing members of your community. (Dipti Desai, 'Imaging Difference: The Politics of Representation in Multicultural Art Education')

1. When and why are you introducing artists of the global majority? Are you only introducing artist of the global majority at certain points in the year? Are they only represented as "add ons" to your curriculum?

2. How are artists of the global majority introduced? What is the context in relation to your curriculum? What is your reason for wanting to represent these artists? Are you centering Western aesthetics?

3. How are artists of the global majority discussed? Are you providing background information? Are you sharing the artists work through a first hand narrative or are you speaking from your own positionality? Is there an opportunity for reflection or to examine biases students may have?

Who holds the KNOWLEDGE in your instruction?

As educators we must decenter ourselves and center our students. We have so much fo learn from each other and we must provide opportunities for this collaboration to occur. "We can teach in ways that transform consciousness, creating a climate of free expression that is the essence of a truly liberatory liberal arts education.” (bell hooks, ‘Teaching to Transgress: Education as the Practice of Freedom’)

1. How are students interacting within the art room? Are there opportunities for conversation and dialogue? Are they encouraged to collaborate and learn from one another?

2. Whose voices are being amplified? When are students "allowed" to speak? Is it the same students speaking?

3. Whose stories are told? How are students able to share their thoughts and ideas? Is there a climate of free expression?

4. What concepts are valued? Are you centering western aesthetics and ideas?

Who holds the POWER within your instruction?

1. How is a sense of community cultivated and encouraged within your art classes?

2. How are relationships built and sustained? When and how are you interacting with students?

3. What choices do students have? Are the majority of your lessons 'cookie cutter' and teacher-directed?

4. Who has authority? Who complies and who enforces? Do you create all of the rules or do you collaborate with students to establish norms?

It is important that our students know that their voice and actions matter and that they have the power to create change. The traditional "Banking" concept of education (Paolo Freire, 'Pedagogy of the Oppressed') positions teachers in positions of power. Instead as educators we must work to de-center ourselves and empower our students.

1. How do "cookie cutter" art projects uphold common attitudes and practices of the "banking" concept of education?

2. How do these attitudes and practices uphold white supremacy culture? Whose voices are heard and ideas valued when we teach in this way? What can we do to transform our pedagogy?

3. How can we create an art room that is truly liberatory and empowering for ALL of our students?

Who holds the LANGUAGE OF POWER within your instruction?

1. How does language empower or disempower our students from taking ownership of their learning?

2. What does language such as “you’re allowed too”, “I’m allowing you too”, “I expect you too”, “you have permission to…” communicate to our students about who holds power in the classroom?

3. How can we be more intentional in our language in the classroom to instill confidence and self-worth in our students?

How do your RULES, ROUTINES, & EXPECTATIONS impact your students?

1. Reflect: What is the function? Who does it serve? Is it essential for ALL students’ success? How might it be adapted for different worldviews?

2. Revise: Simplify to clear actions with direct language.

3. Communicate: Use clear, direct phrasing when communicating expectations and requests of students- did you phrase it as a suggestion when you meant it as a directive? ('Culturally Responsive Teaching and The Brain: Promoting Authentic Engagement and Rigor Among Culturally and Linguistically Diverse Students' by Zaretta Hammond)


Remember, even if you examined your curriculum and instruction through an ABAR lens last year, it is important to take the time to re-examine. This is not a 'one and done' deal. It requires constant reflection- learning and unlearning.