Welcome to the website of Susan M. Coles, Artist & Arts, Creativity & Educational Consultant.

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We have two special TEA (Thinking, Expression, Action) events coming up this autumn. The first will be a TEA inspired Big Draw day on Saturday 12th October. TEA teachers and families and friends and the public will engage in Big Draw activities at the three venues which have hosted the previous face to face days. These are Baltic (Gateshead), Ikon (Birmingham) and Bristol Museum and Art Gallery. The events are all 1pm to 4 pm and we hope to get a Skype or Facetime link going between the venues.

Then on Saturday 9th November we have the BIG event, the TEA National Symposium to be held at the National Gallery in London. This will be a celebration of all that has been achieved in terms of developing drawing in school, creating resources, the collaborative projects, classroom practice and use of social media. There are also some significant and important guest speakers. It is not an exaggeration to say that this is a unique event. Please book your ticket and spread the word: Tickets and information link

TEA has been a powerful experience for me. I knew that the opportunity for teachers to work together on a common focus, through submitting the case studies and at face to face days, would be significant in this CPD programme. But I also knew that we had opportunities with digital platforms which could take this further. What has happened since has been extremely positive and affirming at a time when the status of visual art in our education system is being devalued.

We started, in the spring of 2012, with a group of just under a hundred art teacher educators, from schools, prison, PRU’s, and FE colleges. We have lost a few along the way but the number of original participants is around about 85. At the beginning they were asked to write a case study, the focus of which would be almost an audit of how they used drawing as a learning tool, and illustrated with examples. They also received a TEA pack, which outlined the programme and supported the learning about the purpose of drawing. The programme basis is action research, concerned with changing and improving professional practice. Investigation allows experiment. Case studies provide evidence. Peer review ensures exchanges of experience and ideas, and opportunities for reflection and evaluation. Face to face days provide stimulus and a framework for change, and encourage teachers to be articulate about their practice. First case studies

Summer 2012 was approaching and as my role was to support the group with opportunities to interact via social media. I created platforms on Twitter, Facebook, Linkedin and Flickr. I also used the collective email loop to make sure that everyone was included. I suggested a summer project for the group, “drawing on the back of an envelope” and sharing that online. A small gallery of images started to appear and soon that became a large gallery! The envelopes were an amazing source of creativity, humour, personal moments, invention, fun and a great focus for what became collaborative learning and the making of art.

Summer projects developed into mail art projects, which were about sharing, about interpretation, about building your idea onto someone else’s idea. Online friendships blossomed. Discussions took place. The gallery grew bigger.

September came and many teachers took the ideas into school, using our teachers as the artists to inspire their students. Schools started collaborative projects inspired by the summer ones.
In November 2012, we met all the participants in three different locations: Bristol Museum and Art Gallery,Ikon Gallery (Birmingham) and Baltic Centre for Contemporary Art (Gateshead). The face to face days allowed people to connect and interact and talk. They enjoyed learning about drawing, taking part in workshops and sharing their own work based concerns, such as how assessment sits (or doesn’t sit) with creativity.

Inspired by these days and by the other group projects, people returned to work and developed new schemes of work and fresh approaches which had drawing at the centre. The online participation continued, new ideas and projects were shared every single day. I often describe the Facebook page as a virtual staff room, full of art people, all chatting enthusiastically about their work. At the end of a long day, it’s a great way to spend some time.

Many of our participants used the BIG DRAW as a drawing focus, some for the first time and some involving whole school approaches. Once again, being able to share the work online was a pleasure.

In 2013, a second case study was submitted. Many of these show how the learning had moved on with drawing. They contain a rich diversity in content too. You will be able to see all of these as part of an online resource from November 2013. New collaborative projects were set up and devloped, spin off groups grew. We even had a national TEA day in July! TEA day collective blog

I have tried to keep visual evidence of these in one place on our rather busy Flickr pages (we have had over 50,000 views at the time of writing) : TEA Flickr page sets

The use of social media to offer art TEA educators a platform for sharing and for discussion has led to many spin off projects. These have happened both in school with learners and out of school as artist teachers. The TEA community has spread outside of the original 85 to larger groups joining in and also sharing drawing experiences. The word has been spread via online publications, web pages and social media sites, articles in journals, conferences (local, regional, and international), talks, network meetings and symposiums. TEA has become more than an acronym, it has become a word than is synonymous with partnership and collaboration.
Here are some links:
Arts in Education article
Article for Pearson Edexcel

Opportunities for art educators to network are sparse these days. Opportunities for subject specific CPD are rare and often refused on grounds of cost and cover. TEA has been able to create a model for CPD which could also be followed by other subject areas too. It has brought together like minded and very passionate visual art educators who have formed working relationships across the miles, and used the programme to develop drawing practice in their schools but also across schools in collaborative projects. It has developed friendships through working together on numerous mail art and shared projects, which will all continue to grow. The growth of the group via online projects such as the TEA Roadtrip and the postal project Sketchbook Circle has been impressive. We have seen so many other people find the courage to get involved and enjoy the opportunities.

The original TEA group are planning an exhibition of teacher work in 2014. Many TEA members have revived their own artistic practice and found it to be a support and a lifeline in a job which is becoming more and more dominated by paper work and data crunching. There is a tangible sense of pride in what they have achieved individually and together, which is a real highlight for me. If this involvement in the programme impacts positively on creative experiences in the classrooms and in the lives of both teachers and their learners , then we have clearly done our job.

It has also been a pleasure to see NSEAD, Campaign for Drawing and NADFAS develop their own united front in working together on this and forming links which I hope will continue in the future. We must sincerely thank the Helen Rachael Mackaness Trust for giving us this opportunity.

TEA has allowed me to work with valued colleagues and friends but I have also met an astonishingly creative group of “new” friends from across the UK. At the end of the day, we can really say with both pride and confidence, that the future of art, craft and design education is safe in their hands. Long live TEA.



3167 days ago

i hope you do this again as I would love to take part. I admire all that these teachers have done.


3167 days ago

Hello from the USA. How do you get this sort of activity anyway? Do you already have large networks for art ed? Do you get school time to do this? What age range is it for?


3167 days ago

Kirsten- this is for secondary teachers and they teach ages 11-18. We have a nayional society for art education here called NSEAD. You have a US version I believe? The work done with pupils is in schools. The teacher projects were in their own time and the face to face days were on a weekend.

Karen Wicks

3167 days ago

Well said and makes me feel really proud for being part of it all! Thank you for steering the TEA ship :)

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