In het archief van de NDV bevinden zich bronnen die het beeld kunnen verrijken van de historische ontwikkeling van het daltononderwijs. Periodiek presenteert en becommentarieert het lectoraat Vernieuwend Onderwijs in de Nieuwsbrief steeds één zo’n bron.

In 1942 neemt Helen Parkhurst ontslag op de New York Dalton School. Ze is dan 56 jaar. Voor haar was dat een leeftijd om een ‘tweede carrière’ te kiezen. Ze gaat met een geheel nieuwe uitvinding, namelijk de portable bandrecorder ‘de straat’ op om kinderen te interviewen. Kinderen zijn enthousiast. Ze horen voor het eerst hun eigen stem. Dat is natuurlijk ‘lollig’, maar voor Parkhurst is het ook volstrekt serieus bedoeld. Ze wil kinderen een stem geven in hun eigen ontwikkeling, hun eigen leven. En dat is voor haar eigenlijk ‘de andere kant van dezelfde medaille’. Kinderen een stem geven was immers ook wat ze op haar school wilde realiseren.

Het interviewen van kinderen leidt ertoe dat Parkhurst voor radio en tv gevraagd wordt. Een aantal van die opnames van gesprekken met kinderen zijn bewaard gebleven en over een aantal thema’s waarover ze met kinderen sprak, zijn ook artikelen en zelfs een paar boeken verschenen.

Onlangs kwam een artikel uit 1955 van haar hand ‘boven water’, over de vraag ‘what kind of Art Teacher do Children Like Best?’. Ook dit artikel is gebaseerd op gesprekken die Parkhurst hield met kinderen.

 What kind of Art Teacher Do Children Like Best?

By Helen Parkhurst

(Gepubliceerd in: Rawls-Luke, D. (1955). Alpark’s new Educational Handbook. A Window to the Child’s Mind. New York: Starbridge Publications).

Trying to answer the foregoing question is like attempting to point out the particular beam that held up the house that Jack built. Art is many things because it is the sum total of any experiencing, even when the result is but a single line. For the experience, all unseen, has a million facets – each like an eye that is capable of mirroring the whole process. This is why art is important. Its very nature has made it the key to all civilizations throughout all time. And so it will remain, not only for a culture but for an individual; for art is a completely indigenous expression.

Each child stems from a certain soil, an environment comprising many ingredients, and the determinant of his art is his complete experiencing within that framework. Like a seed, he thrives, or he doesn’t thrive; he is encouraged or discouraged by all those factors which affect his growth. These factors are both people and things. And they all add up to make their own peculiar contribution in each and every ‘situation’. When we think about art, obviously our difficulty is that we are too prone to look at results. We want to assess it tangibly. Thus we fail to consider the situation as being of more consequence. We must realize that the solution of any problem lies within the ‘situation’.

The teacher is like a gardener. He must find a way to supplement everything that is lacking in the soil, and he must also add all of the ingredients that are not contributed by the normal climate of contemporary criticism and opinion. The teacher cannot change the seed, but he can learn how to make it grow. This process of civilization is an art in itself.

The Child’s Needs

Now, when we consider the child we must realize that, being a thoroughly aggressive, vital, changing young thing, he always prefers and likes best that person of factor which assists his growth by satisfying some need. Frequently these needs are pressing; usually a child’s needs demand immediate attention. Although he seldom likes to do so, an adult is able to wait. But with the very young, time is of the utmost importance; to the child minutes seem like days, and delay may be frustrating. At any given time he knows what is troubling him, but several days later so much has transpired that all he remembers is the feeling of confusion he experienced. At times the young child’s constitution demands that he let off steam and rebel, in order to rid himself of extraneous (and therefor useless) impressions which, at the moment, are unrelated to those he can use.

Creatively, he collects at will, now here, now there, seemingly at random, until he is satisfied. Were he able to explain his purpose, he might be able to make his methods of selection seem important to us. He mulls over his impressions up to the very moment when he gets the urge to shape them to his will. Until he has had time to mull and ferment, he is not ready; he is not able to create. When he desires to externalize, that is to ‘give form to his thoughts’, we should rejoice that he can do so. What he creates – the finished form that satisfies him –  may appear a hodgepodge to others, but he understands it; for him it holds reality; it is his; he alone has made it. Sometimes, he too is surprised, particularly when his impressions grow into a pattern. As one boy told me: “all of a sudden my picture turned into a dog – I could hardly believe it!” The pattern is alien, yet he recognizes it as part of himself. At this point, any postponement of interruption is apt to discourage him, nor can he explain his needs adequately. As Emerson says: “He makes wild attempts to explain himself, being quite sure that if nog in this town (school or studio) yet in some other town is the wise person that can put him in touch with the instrument of his desire.”

And thus he turns against some teachers, and turns to others. Why? That is what we must find out. It would appear that he allies himself, first, to those who understand his primitive urge to create. He cannot put his feelings and images into mere words – words would not be sufficient to contain them. He is faced with the choice: to express his feelings or to ‘bottle them up’.  He senses whether or not he is understood. That ‘something’ he makes may turn out to be a three-legged horse, or a queer-looking man, or merely a ‘round’. Probably the horse had only three legs from where he viewed it; possibly he wanted to cut off one of those legs for a very private reason of his own; perhaps he was angry at some adult and at this particular time desired his man to be ugly. These are conjectures. The layman cannot be sure, nor should a teacher probe for explanations or reasons. Initially, there is only one criterion: Whatever the child calls it, to all intents and purposes that it what it is. If his teacher is interested in him, that is what it will be permitted to remain, without apology or question. The experience belongs to the child, and it should be closed until, without over-persuasion, he chooses to reopen it. For in this moment his confidence in some adult is at stake. Confidence is born in that experience. And it is important that it not be misplaced lest the child thereafter be afraid to confide his inner thoughts and feelings. At such times, the child needs understanding, not correcting.

The creative Effort as a Satisfaction in Itself

Years ago, while visiting a classroom, I saw a three-year-old child rush to an easel and seize a pot of gay paint and a big brush. And then she announced: “I’m going to make a bird!”. Her assurance fascinated me. I was so hopeful that I fully expected to see a magnificent bird! That is, until the teacher, who had also heard, leaned over to whisper in my ear: “She can’t make one.” As the teacher spoke, I felt as if someone had struck me. Quickly I thought for a way to get the teacher out of the room. I sent her to telephone a message and I remained alone, to observe the child. She splashed the paint over the paper for a time; her chubby, unskilled hand held the brush tightly. But the bird in her mind was caged – it did not appear. I realized that the child’s efforts were not succeeding because I saw her puzzled face. I decided to wait. She had started an activity. And, though the bird remained in her mind, I felt I must help her to get all that she could out of the experience.

Suddenly the child turned to me, and with a pained expression said: “But that bird doesn’t make!” Projecting myself, I asked: “Do birds ever fly away?” And the child flashed me a smile and said: “That bird flew out of the window! He went to get his lunch!” Glancing up at the clock on the wall, I saw that it was noon, the child’s lunch hour. It should be mine too, and I said to her: “I’m going to fly to my lunch, now. Would you like to clean up and go with me?” The teacher returned just as I started off with the child. Later I talked with the teacher. She was eager to learn and merely needed my help to remember her own childhood experiences. After our talk, she could see that there are times when the dignity of a child’s personality is of more consequence than a mere product, and that there are frequently times when a young child must be saved from the shock of pseudo failure. At such times, it is more profitable to assist the child to complete his experience than it is to help him complete a picture. Otherwise he would never feel that the picture belonged to him. And if forced to finish it, he might keep alive the feeling of failure.

There is a classic story told by Montessori of an incident in the Pincian Gardens. Just when it was time to go home, a nurse grabbed up a crying infant who had partially filled his pail with sand and put him in his carriage. Thinking that the child cried for more sand, the nurse quickly filled the pail and gave it to him. But the child continued to scream all the way home. Why? Because the nurse had failed to realize what the child really wanted. It was not a pail full of sand but the satisfaction of filling his pail for himself.

Children crave activity and get much satisfaction from it. Activity with purpose has direction. But even without purpose, it has rhythm and form. The purpose of art is not to have something to frame and look at. Enjoyable creative activities must be arranged in which the child’s satisfactions are so rewarding that he will be encouraged to continue to find other equally satisfying activities. In this way he will develop his personality. This development is only achieved through creative activity which sets in motion the rhythms of his inner being, where he is free to use his emotions with purpose and pleasure. Only in this way can art education be creative; in this way art is permitted to play a major role in the life of the individual. Through him and other individuals it can reach out to the community.

Investigating the Child’s Point of View

In a period of two years, on my radio program ‘Child’s World’, I interviewed over five thousand children and I discovered that children have a very real world of their own that is not often shared with adults. Many adults, parents and teachers alike, are kept out of this world by strong walls of opinion, fear, and anxiety. To discover what children think, to learn why they feel as they do, it is necessary to explore the child’s world. The way is not easy, for the children have methods peculiarly their own by which they keep adults out. Too few adults realize this. Because I had become sufficiently disciplined to explore the Child’s World, I desired to question groups of children about the kind of an art teacher they would like. My purpose was to find out how children felt about the art teacher. I would share this information with others. To achieve this, I had to set up a special research project. The research centered around two questions: (1) What kind of an art teacher do you like? And (2) How much help do you need? Obviously, question 2 bore a direct relationship to question 1, for in answering question 2 the children would be certain to mention ‘unwanted help’ that had been unwittingly inflicted upon them.

I interviewed children from public schools, private schools, and settlements. In the New York area, children were sent to me from the University Settlement, the United Art-Workshops of Brooklyn Neighborhood Houses, and some also came from New Lincoln School. Having planned to spend some time in the Chicago area, I decided to question groups there. I used children from Hull House Settlement, from the Skokie School in Winnetka, and a third group from the Bryn Mawr School in Chicago. The children were selected by the schools and settlements. I did not see them previous to our interview. The total number in all groups comprised one hundred children. The Chicago children came to the American Broadcasting Company studios, where we used their facilities for recording. With the exception of several very young children from Hull House, the children ranged from ten to thirteen years of age.

A great deal of time and thought are given to creative work in all of the settlements mentioned. Both Skokie School and the New Lincoln School have been outstanding in the recognition they give to art as a part of school experiencing, so I had reason to believe that the opportunities in the two areas were comparable. The New Lincoln School is classified as a private school, whereas Skokie is classified as public. However, the fact that Skokie is in a wealthy suburban district and the New Lincoln School includes children from lower income groups approximating a cross section of pupils in its enrollment, made the situation comparable for my purpose. All of the one hundred children were known to enjoy art. They were selected by their schools or settlement houses on this basis. Neither the schools nor the settlements knew the questions I would ask, nor were they informed beyond the fact that the children were to make a recording. It was assured that our discussions might be used for radio.

It is apparent that such a selection of children would not misrepresent their art teachers. The children were a cross section of many nationalities; the groups include colored as well as white children. Although the settlement children were not so well-spoken as the other children, art was a language in which they were proficient. By and large, I felt that the settlement groups were outstanding in vitality and eagerness. There were not fine paintings or rare art objects nor was special emphasis placed upon culture as such in the homes from which they came, but the underprivileged children gave every evidence of being able to add to our cultural heritage in quite a wonderful way. These children were eager to attend art classes; and they had made it clear to their parents that art was something they could not do without. Coming as they did from so many national groups, the children spoke with many accents, but they were Americans all, and all spoke the language of art.

The Art Teacher Children Like

Here are some of the comments of the settlement children in response to my question: ‘What kind of art teacher do you like?”

CHILD    : Someone who likes to work with children; I can’t explain but I know the difference.

Miss P.  : How can you tell?

CHILD    : Well, I can tell inside; I just know.

CHILD    : I like someone who is kind and will pay attention to you.

CHILD    : Someone who is nice and patient even when I get it wrong five times… one who doesn’t yell at you and say she doesn’t like me.

CHILD    : One who doesn’t say: ‘Hurry up and get through’

CHILD    : one who lets you use your own ideas and does not make you do what others do, as my class teacher does. At the Settlement it is not boring and I can use my ideas… That’s what I like.

CHILD    : Just one teacher I know gets a mad look on her face… that hurts like a bad smell… but not no more because she’s gone away.

Miss P.  : Is it important for the teacher to understand?

CHILD    : Yes, because if she understands your ideas she knows how you feel…. When my mother says that she likes what I bring home I know she understands me and I get a happy feeling inside… I don’t get that feeling too much with the teacher but when I do it’s the same.

CHILD    : I like a teacher who lets me use my own ideas because it’s more better when it’s my own.

CHILD    : A teacher is better who does not chase your mood away… that spoils everything because in the mood you have more ideas… then I feel like doing it… and I put all I’ve god into it to make it good… and then it is.

CHILD    : One who doesn’t make you do things… when you want to you are happy… when you don’t want to and she nags, you feel lazy quick.

CHILD    : The nice teacher I like to give my work to… the other kind I hide my work from.

CHILD    : I do not like a teacher who wants me to copy.

Miss P.  : Why not?

CHILD    : Because then, it seems like to me, that it is not mine and belongs to someone else. It’s just like writing the same word over and over… you can’t stand it like… You want to cry and kick because you want to make something, but it must be something else.

CHILD    : I feel sick when teachers get mad when you do not do their way… art work is more fun when not compelled… What you do with your own ideas is more better because you put all your mind to it and use your will power too.

CHILD    : When you grow up you have to be on your own and you should try it in art too!

CHILD    : Once I made a boy playing with a ball… The teacher said she couldn’t see it like I said, and so I did it over so she could see but I felt bad and discouraged… I stayed away a while… She didn’t care but I didn’t have to see her for two weeks.

CHILD    : It looks more better when it’s your thing, and no one should change it. I never give my permission to change and I’m mad when it gets changed… No one can ever fool me about where I put the paint… It just stays in my mind like and I know every spot… I know because don’t I put them in? So why shouldn’t I know whose spot it is?

Bold children from the non-settlement schools speak of their experiences with art teachers.

CHILD    : I don’t like to repeat ideas. You lose out on an idea when you repeat… The idea vanishes, for you are bored.

CHILD    : Two and two makes four in other subjects but in art it is different… and it is the difference that you like.

CHILD    : I like to experiment because sometimes you find ideas that are bigger than you are and then you work awfully hard… It gives you courage. You are sure you are somebody.

CHILD    : I did a cocker spaniel once and it was so good that the teacher said: “Why not make another one?”… But I couldn’t… I knew another would be bad because I put everything in the first one… all my love and feeling… There was nothing left for another… the idea even bored me.

CHILD    : One day I didn’t seem to be doing much… The teacher did not say anything, he let me go on fooling, and all of a sudden my picture turned into a dog… I could hardly believe it for I’m no specialist in dogs… But there it was, even when I turned the paper around… and the teacher was glad too… He looked at me as if I was a real artist.

CHILD    : I don’t mind being forced in art as much as other things because I like art, and I say to myself: “Heck, I’m going to have a good time anyway, in spite of the teacher.”

CHILD    : When the teacher is nice, she lets you do things your own way… You don’t feel you are creating when you are told what to do.

CHILD    : I like the teacher who lets me enjoy my ideas… Sometimes when I’m not trying too hard my drawing turns into something that really isn’t anything but is just something, if you know what I mean.

CHILD    : Sometimes at night I dream and in the morning I remember and I want to hurry to school and do things… I can hardly wait… But when I am compelled I never do a good job. (N.B. – This boy was in a different school from the other child who used the word ‘compelled’).

CHILD    : Like in the wood shop, when the idea isn’t your own, you hit the wrong nail, and then the nail goes through another leg… and you get mad… Then if you keep on, you get disgusted, and pretty soon you are making mistakes on purpose.

CHILD    : You aren’t anxious enough about the teacher’s ideas… You get tired very fast… Because you know it you just can’t think… you stop inside… You just find you’ve stopped… Queer, but it’s that way.

CHILD    : I like a teacher who lets me alone as much as possible… Someone who lets me use my own emotions… When they are your emotions you let them out, but if someone fusses over you, no ideas come out.

Miss P   : What do you mean by ‘emotions’?

CHILD    : Well, you feel happy, or angry, or good, and that’s what you let out.

CHILD    : Even with a book, I don’t get so much out of it when I’m made to read… And in art it’s a much worse feeling… you don’t have anything to go on.

These comments by the children need little explanation. As stated, the comments voice good principles of action. One child said that children cared less about the looks of the art teacher (how she dressed) than about how she treated them. The children admitted that they expected the art teacher to look nice, for ‘usually an art teacher did’, but they all agreed that dress was not very important because they were more concerned with ‘using color in another way’. They were very outspoken in saying that a teacher’s appearance made more difference in certain ‘boring’ subjects, for there it was essential for teachers ‘to keep up their morale’. One boy said that sometimes he did even better work in art when he wore his old clothes. For me these remarks were interesting sidelights and I include them as such.


The Help Children Feel They Need

When it came to the second question, there was no noticeable difference among the individuals of any group or between groups. In fact, it was here that there seemed to be unanimity of both opinion and statement. The children were in complete agreement on the following points:

  1. They wanted no help that they themselves did not ask for.
  2. They felt more secure when help was not offered. One child said she liked to be ‘treated as if she knew what she was about’.
  3. Help that was thrust upon them seemed to carry with it a feeling of interference. “Only bossy teachers try to tell you”, said one girl, to which all of the group assented. This feeling was general in all groups, although it was stated slightly differently. One boy said that he did not object when the teacher threw out a lot of suggestions and let the children choose, but he quickly added that “most people choose art because they have ideas of their own.” Over and over, the idea of independence seemed to be stated as art’s counterpart.

Of each group I asked if the children would like the opportunity to work at art whenever they felt like it, that is, at any time during the day. The question got an immediate response. One girl said that “such a plan would be Utopia for the children, but that the teachers probably wouldn’t like it.” The freedom to go to a studio at will as regular procedure was a completely new idea to them. After the recording in New York, while the children were having cola drinks, members of the group asked a great many questions about the possibilities of such a plan. One child asked what I thought of such an idea, would ik work, had I ever known of such a plan for art, and so on. In answering, I set forth principles of the Dalton Plan. I did not mention my special connection with that plan, nor did I call it by name. They were quite ready to settle for that way of doing things if given a chance, but they laughed over the prospects of having a try.

The children strongly indicated, and I believe they have tried to say this in their own way, that art is emotional articulation. Therefore, when teachers try to turn art into ‘subject matter’, they fail to appreciate the fact that the emotional power of the artist is what really counts. Frequently, children express strongly rooted and mature ideas, but they do not, nor should they be expected to, use mature methods except when they apply to such things as the car of brushes and so on. The value and advantage for the child to experiment in his own way lie in the possibility that he may find new methods through his experiencing, and because of his opportunity to cast some methods aside for others that will better serve his purpose. This is the road to maturity. It is the way mature artists find their methods, their way of accumulating experience. It is the only rout by which one artist can discover that he is different from his fellows as he achieves distinction in the field of creativity.

Wide Agreement of the Children’s Opinions

When I selected the above comments I used a single criterion, which can best be stated as a question. I kept asking myself: “From all that has been said, do you feel that any one of the hundred children might substantially have said the same thing in stating his own point of view?” Unless there was evidence that a comment expressed a common point of view (belonging to all the children), I temporarily set it aside, eliminating all duplicates. In this fashion, only those which represented different points of view were kept. These, regardless of wording, represented a common denominator of opinion.

The experiment entailed somewhat more than eight radio hours of recording, of which only a single fifteen-minute segment has been broadcast. Part of it will be used for a record to be called ‘Creating With One’s Own Hands’. To select the comments necessary for this article from the many records which had been made meant hours of listening, despite my radio background which increases one’s listening speed. Every comment selected had been reiterated by so many separate individuals from each of the different groups that it represented the opinion of all. Geographical location had little effect upon the children’s enjoyment of art. One could not help but be impressed by the universality of children’s feelings. East or west, they all demanded the same verities. Their different accents only emphasized common denominators in art and more forcibly drove home their feeling about creating. There was no mistaking what they wanted of an art teacher or what an art teacher’s job should include.

The work of selecting comments from the whole body of opinion was fascinating though difficult. The children were so sincere in their affirmations that I was loath to exclude any. I kept many more than this article permits. The selections seemed to represent a ladder of opinion. I affixed names to all comments to avoid quoting one child more than another. Arbitrarily, I eliminated all comments which might be considered excessively ‘brilliant’ or those which might appear ‘sophisticated’, especially those from a child who lived in a veritable museum of fine paintings, with collectors for parents, thus eliminating any possibility of his repeating what he had heard adults say.

At no single point could I finalize my opinions. Throughout I avoided asking direct questions that would cue answers; therefor, the children’s contributions cannot be said to have been inspired by me. Neither had I any forgone conclusions; I was merely trying to find out from children who like to work in a variety of art media what difficulties they find, and what qualifications a teacher would need to get the maximum from their creative energies. I was amazed at the children’s wisdom. The criteria that they set up for the art teacher would attest to a teacher’s qualifications in any field. It is obvious that if these children feel as strongly about teachers and work conditions as their opinions suggest, it is necessary that we look upon these conditions as a minimum for all children who pursue creative activities. One cannot read their opinions without accepting their validity.

The Children’s Insight Into the Creative Process

Art is a thoroughly creative process. Every child needs its emotional release and discipline. As there were children’s statements which show real insight about the creative process, I include a few. These comments have meaning for an article like this. Today we lack the necessary insight to explore evasive problems which continue to pile up without solution. I have culled these fine bits from the recordings from each group. They represent a rare combination of intellect and spirit, attesting to children’s profound insight.

BOY       : You start with something small… a little piece of an idea… and then you work up… you improve your method and you keep getting new ideas.

GIRL       : In art, I get some things that I never get from anything else… When I work, I let out everything in me… Sometimes I feel bottled up, and when I don’t let it out I get all stuffed up.

GIRL       : I don’t think I always do justice to a thing… Still, I do get as much pleasure… But I wouldn’t show it (the work) to anyone because if they saw my poor attempts, they might not like that kind of art (modern).

BOY       : Sometimes I get depressed with a big idea… If you put a lot of work in a thing, you want it to be good… and some people make you feel fine.

GIRL       : To be a big push inside, it must be all my own ideas just… I put more feeling in it when it’s just my own.

BOY       : If you start one thing, it keeps turning from one shape to another… Ideas are often changed by mistakes, so I think mistakes, even if teachers don’t like them, are good for you. I hid my mistakes but I keep making them because I learn… While working once I wanted to make a modern man, but what I was doing kept looking like a prehistoric man… It just happened that way.

Miss P   :  Had you been thinking about prehistoric man of studying him?

BOY       : (As if talking to himself) In science… While I worked, I noticed a couple of prehistoric features… and then my fingers pushed the face in here and there and soon it all looked prehistoric.

I feel very strongly that in a case such as the child just quoted he should be questioned very little. One who is untrained in the art of questioning could easily ‘shove’ the child’s focus and confuse him. Questions are apt to confuse when they are inserted in conversation like wedges, interrupting creative thought. When a rapidly moving thought is interrupted, the child loses contact with the threadlike idea just coming over the threshold of his consciousness, and it is difficult, if not impossible, to recapture that interrupted moment. The swift movement of an idea should not be broken. It has strength and force when kept intact, something essential to creative experiencing. An overcurious teacher’s questions might, if inopportune, prevent the child from completing some thought or idea which he is struggling to release. Even if a child produces good work only now and then, he gives evidence of his ability to use ideas realistically and constructively, and he should be let alone. His work may never be consistently good. Even the ‘best’ art student will not always be at his ‘best’. The children said:

GIRL       : Sometimes ideas work me and sometimes I work them.

Miss P   : Can you make this clear to me?

GIRL       : It is like this… You start to work… You have an idea… You are forming the idea… And then it begins to work you or you would stop.

BOY       : You think about it and you decide to do it… When I start to think, it comes into my mind very fast… You think in your mind how it is going to look… Once I did a king… In hung it up and I felt great… when I saw him all purple and yellow and brown… Everyone saw him and some said he was nice… I felt proud because it took so long and was good at the end.

The children quoted below were in widely separated groups; they met for the first time to make our recording.

GIRL       : (very young) I made a picture… It had dots, and circles, and squares!… And I felt good as it got nice.

GIRL       : When some teachers don’t like something, they say ‘put more color in’ – ‘make it more real’… How silly to tell me, when the colors are written in my heart. When they say your painting is stupid or your painting isn’t very nice, the child is insulted… It isn’t right to me for the teacher to neglect the child’s peace and encouragement… especially when he works hard on what is beauty to him.

GIRL       : My parents might not know about it as part but they know it is beautiful to me, and in that way they know more than the teacher who wants me to do just like her and be stuck with ideas, right in the middle, that’s what.

BOY       : He never hurts (hits) me, but he should tell me without hurting my feelings.

These children were speaking from their hearts. They seemed unaware of my presence. I was a mere listener. Sometimes their language was crude, but in speaking their tone was never bitter. As times passes, I am more and more impressed with what they have said, for these things ring true. I have not used children’s names because without them the statements are more objective; they stand on their own and therefore are more pertinent to our topic. These comments furnish us a key, if not a solution. Within their frame-work the whole child can be viewed.

Because children live in a different world from adults, they have different standards. Great care must be exercised not to impose adult standards on the young. Help should be given if and when wanted, and then only in well timed, small doses. Long ago a very wise teacher of mine said: “To teach is to cause your pupils to become that which they would not have become had you not been there, in order that they do that which they would not have done had you not been there.” Our being there should make a difference. The art teacher can play a noble role in the history of progress, for the spiritual values of art make it the child’s most important pursuit.

(This article is a reprint from the 1949-50 issue of ART EDUCATION TODAY, a Teacher College, Columbia University publication, with permission of the Department of Fine and Industrial Art, who sponsor the magazine).


Wat zien we hiervan terug op onze daltonscholen in Nederland?

In dit hoofdstuk wordt heel duidelijk de rol van de leraar benoemd; enerzijds de kinderen de ruimte geven om zelf te kunnen denken, doen en daardoor verder ontwikkelen en anderzijds de kinderen juist de hulp bieden als ze daarom vragen. Er moet ruimte gegeven worden aan persoonlijke ontwikkeling en groei. De stimulans van de leraar en de leerrijke omgeving zijn hierbij van groot belang. Hoe mooi om te zien dat kinderen verwonderd raken wanneer de leraar in een rollenspel een rol aanneemt. De ogen van de kinderen gaan stralen, ze kunnen er helemaal in opgaan en meedoen in het spel. Bij creativiteit gaat het om verwondering, om het leren door te ervaren in een realistische en ‘echte’ setting.

In de onderbouw van het basisonderwijs zien we dat leraren bewust zijn van hun rol en de leerrijke omgeving om bijvoorbeeld het spel en de creativiteit te vergroten. Zij proberen de wereld naar binnen te halen en met de kinderen daarover in gesprek te gaan en hen juist ook de ruimte te geven om zelf te ontdekken en te ervaren: in de groep, in spel en met de verschillende materialen die voorhanden zijn. Maar ook buiten op het schoolplein én buiten de school, bijvoorbeeld door met hen het bos in te gaan, hun zintuigen te prikkelen door kinderen te laten ervaren hoe dingen voelen, door met je handen te tekenen in scheerschuim of met verf. Hierbij kunnen kinderen hun hele lichaam ervaren en opgaan in hun eigen creativiteit. Aan de hand van thema’s, zelf ingerichte hoeken en daarbij bijvoorbeeld spelscripts samen met de kinderen worden bedacht om tijdens hun spel meer verdieping te stimuleren. Zo zijn er meerdere manieren om de creativiteit van de kinderen te prikkelen.

Als een leerling vraagt: “Heb ik het goed gedaan? Is het zo klaar?”, dan kan de leraar feedback geven en ook vragen wat hij/zij er zelf van vindt en waar nog kansen voor verbetering en verdieping liggen om de leerling uit te dagen te reflecteren op het proces en product. Medeleerlingen kunnen ook worden gevraagd feedback te geven. Een mooi voorbeeld hiervan is het Amerikaanse filmpje van Austin’s butterfly ( Op een paar daltonscholen zien we ook dat op deze wijze kinderen gestimuleerd worden om zichzelf te verbeteren.

De meeste daltonscholen werken met portfolio’s waarbij de kinderen hun eigen ontwikkeling kunnen volgen, doelen stellen en dingen verzamelen waar ze trots op zijn; iets wat ze hebben gemaakt, gedaan of beleefd en daarvan maken ze dan een foto voor in het portfolio. Een voorbeeld is ook dat elk jaar/periode de kinderen gevraagd wordt een tekening te maken van henzelf. Zo kunnen ze door de jaren heen zien hoe zij zichzelf hebben getekend, waarbij een mooie ontwikkeling te zien is (van koppoters, tot aan het gezicht helemaal in proportie met hulplijnen waar de ogen en oren moeten komen et cetera).

Op een daltonschool zul je kinderen niet continu dezelfde dingen zien doen en ook geen 25 of 30 dezelfde werkjes zien hangen. Er wordt ruimte gegeven voor eigen inbreng van de kinderen. De leraar stimuleert door kinderen uit te dagen om met eigen ideeën te komen en zodra kinderen ideeën hebben, hen hier zelf verder mee aan de slag te laten gaan. Helen Parkhurst benoemt hier mooi: ‘hulp zou gegeven moeten worden als en wanneer kinderen dat nodig hebben, en dan alleen in goed getimede en kleine doses’.

Wat weten we vanuit de wetenschap?

Kinderen een stem geven, zoals Parkhurst doet, betekent ze horen, serieus nemen en er (samen) iets meedoen. In het onderwijs is het met name na de introductie van het klassikale onderwijs dat initiatieven ontstaan die kinderen een stem willen geven in hun eigen ontwikkeling. In plaats van een leerkracht die bepaalt wat er wanneer wordt geleerd en hoe, krijgen leerlingen wat meer ruimte. Ze mogen bijvoorbeeld bepalen wanneer ze aan bepaalde zaken werken en met wie. Naast het anders inrichten van onderwijs zodat kinderen meer autonomie ervaren, kwam er meer ruimte om leerlingen te horen. Vanuit deze ontwikkeling is uiteindelijk het idee van ‘student voice’ geboren.

Student voice wordt gedefinieerd als het hebben van een stem, het krijgen van de mogelijkheid om deze stem te uiten, het hebben van een recht om gehoord te worden en het krijgen van een reactie en het kunnen uitoefenen van invloed op besluitvorming (Lundy, 2007). Student voice kan op tal van manieren vorm krijgen, zoals het betrekken van leerlingen bij het activeren van het eigen leerproces, het inventariseren van de huidige en gewenste mate van leerlingparticipatie in onderwijsactiviteiten, het betrekken van leerlingen bij zaken als toetsing en het betrekken van leerlingen bij besluitvormingsprocessen op klas- en schoolniveau.

Hoewel vrijwel iedereen hieraan waarde zal hechten, blijkt dit in de praktijk niet altijd te betekenen dat er werkelijk sprake is van student voice. Kinderen een stem geven blijkt vaak wel te lukken, maar om die stem serieus te nemen en van invloed te laten zijn, dat is lastiger (Draxton, 2012; Mager & Nowak, 2012). Natuurlijk hangt de manier waarop en mate van student voice ook af van je visie hierop. Een welbekend model om het denken hierover te stimuleren is de student voice ladder van Hart (1992). De ladder toont acht tredes van leerlingdeelname in onderwijs, waarvan de eerste drie tredes eigenlijk geen deelname zijn. Op deze tredes ‘overkomt’ het onderwijs de leerlingen en is inspraak minimaal. Vanaf trede 4 is er sprake van inspraak; leerlingen krijgen dan opdrachten en worden geïnformeerd. De hoogste trede is dat leerlingen en volwassenen samen besluiten nemen over het leerproces.

Hoewel het model van Hart (1992) interessant is om het denken te bevorderen, is tegelijkertijd omzichtigheid geboden. Zo’n ladder met treden wekt gemakkelijk de indruk dat hoger beter is en er altijd gestreefd moet worden naar de hoogste trede. Over ieder onderdeel van het leerproces zouden leerlingen en leerkracht dan samen moeten besluiten. Of dat haalbaar en verstandig is, is de vraag. Daarbij suggereert het model dat vorming niet goed is en vermeden moet worden, omdat leerlingen geen inspraak hebben in het proces. Maar moeten leerlingen dan altijd inspraak hebben? Kan onderdeel zijn van een collectief proces en dit proces ondergaan niet net zo leerzaam zijn als je stem laten gelden?

In het denken over het vormgeven van student voice in daltononderwijs is het dus belangrijk om genuanceerd hierover na te denken en niet te veronderstellen dat meer voice altijd beter is. Het zou ook zeer interessant zijn om leerlingen een stem te geven in het vormgeven van student voice binnen de school. Dit zou zelfs in een mooi nieuw hoofdstuk kunnen resulteren: “What kind of student voice do children like best”.

René Berends, Vera Otten-Binnerts, Symen van der Zee



Lundy, L. (2007). ‘Voice’ is not enough: conceptualising Article 12 of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child, British Educational Research Journal, 33:6, 927-942.

Draxton, S.L. (2012). “Switch my desk mate” and “I need 20 minutes for writing”: The impact of student voice on the teacher’s approach to pedagogy. Chapman University, USA.

Mager, U. & Novak, P. (2012). Effects of student participation in decision making at school. A systematic review and synthesis of empirical research. Educational Research Review, 7(1), 38-61.

Hart, R. (1992). Children’s Participation from Tokenism to Citizenship. Florence: UNICEF Innocenti Research.

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