According to Wikipedia, “In page layout, illustration and sculpture, white space is often referred to as negative space…. White space should not be considered merely 'blank' space — it is an important element of design which enables the objects in it to exist at all, the balance between positive (or non-white) and the use of negative spaces is key to aesthetic composition."Wendy Richmond is a visual artist, author, educator and a contributor to Communication Arts. In a recent column she discusses the need for white space in teaching art.
Artists know that designing the void, or the white space is just as important as designing the content that surrounds it. Wendy explains it this way....
"In my teaching, I use the idea of white space as a metaphor. When I develop a syllabus, I also design the activities for which I will not be present. On the first day of class, I tell my students, “By the end of this course, I hope to be the least important person in this room.” I believe that in addition to providing the content, my role is to create an environment that contains an active void. I need to disappear enough for my students to jump in and fill the learning environment with their own excitement and discovery. Again, as in my artwork, it takes confidence to leave that space empty.
I have a friend who teaches memoir writing. In every session, each student reads a short piece of his own writing. In the first two classes, my friend makes notes as she listens, and then delivers a constructive critique. In the next class, she institutes a change. After each reading, instead of delivering her critique first, she waits for the participation of the other students. Inevitably, there is silence; an awkward void where there is no response.
Initially, my friend found it hard to remain quiet. She feels that it is her job to keep the class engaged, to be imparting knowledge. In other words, as she told me, she had to make sure they are getting their money’s worth. It required confidence to not fill the silence with her critique. She had to trust that this emptiness was essential; it allowed the students to develop their own responses. When her students began to talk, there was a new energy that continued not only during the coffee breaks, but between classes as well."
Have you considered the time you are not teaching, not speaking or directing students is just as important as the times you are?
Are you giving your student enough white space to operate in? Reminds me of the idea that the more I am teaching the less I am talking.
When using design thinking to plan your instruction, don’t neglect the white spaces. Find the right balance. It might make all the difference.