I did a days cover this week for my old friend Steve who is having to nurse his very ill mother. It's the beginning of the final year of the students' degree programme and the course always begins the process by getting students to review what they they have achieved so far. In small groups they present and staff (with the other students support) try and highlight significant moments and interesting threads that run through the work. This is a delicate process. You can't just tell someone what sort of practice they should be developing, its more a process of leading them towards self-reflection. If a student doesn't 'own' the practice, it wont be sustainable and you can find people 'illustrating' your ideas rather than discovering new things. Only in work will directions be found, but if the work is being done in too predictable a manner, its unlikely that new, surprising things will be uncovered. Process is as important as materials, which are as important as content, which is as important as concept. Some will need to start with materials play, others with conceptual engagement, some with the documentation of personal experience, others with a dialogue with the art business. The advantage of experience here is that the more you have the more possible entry points are recognised. I'm never sure of course how people feel about this. No matter how hard you might try to be objective, people can read your suggestions as being subjective. It's therefore better if there are at least two members of staff to offer opinions, and/or articulate and supportive other students.
These days still fill me with excitement. It's amazing how many possibilities are revealed and I can see so much potential in the different approaches to developing a practice. Some students are clearly just as excited by what they are doing and others are less confident. It is at this juncture that confidence comes into play more and more. There is a need to 'go for it'. A willingness to just do things and hope for something to happen. Soon the need for crafting, editing and refinement of ideas will come but for now its better to be slightly all over the place and awkward, the work will have to develop its 'edge' and that will not come from understanding but from a process that supports finding and discovering.