Imagine you have never studied art before and you enter a typical practical art based lesson.

There is a short demonstration and then you are expected to experiment and explore. The words “explore” sound more like something you do in the wilds of the jungle rather than in a classroom. You give it a go and quite enjoy the freedom and the experimental side of things. Those are what most students find the fun parts.

Someone new to learning in the creative subjects will not get the same out of the lesson as someone who has an awareness of how to squeeze the most out of it. This might include positive actions like fully reflecting on the learning, documenting the production process or getting feedback from peers and putting this in the sketchbook.

Well, there is no difference between this kind of classroom learning and self-directed study, although you have to do it on your own. You need to realise that it is a skill in itself and there are important points to consider so you can make the most out of your precious time.

What is self-directed study in art, design and media?

At lower levels, you might be asked to do quite specific self-directed study. For example, you might be asked to reproduce a particular image using a certain kind of media. That is a simple direction and you should try your best to follow the instructions.

However, at higher levels students are expected to be more independent. Moreover, your creative ideas have to demonstrate individuality and this means steering your own study in personal directions. Inherently, this means you need to structure and map your own explorations into the topic.

This is where it gets complicated. Keeping on track and being able to remain true to the subject without direction is very difficult. Students have to balance and prioritise a wide range of activities in their own time:

  • Practical responses
  • Investigations into media
  • Developing ideas
  • Considering topics and issues
  • Making connections: historical, contemporary, social, political, economic etc.
  • Self-evaluating and reflecting
  • Analysing artefacts

Further Links

These links cover a range of study skills and have some really good tips relating to self-directed study and studying in general:

Daniel Freaker Daniel Freaker Educational Consultant, Editor for Pearson Portfolio.