Philosophy of Education
Visual art, when approached with interest and openness, naturally encourages students to question, be keen observers, and look inward for inspiration. The visual arts allows students to self reflect or ‘critique’ the processes and products of their own and other’s expressions, be resourceful, and become risk-takers as they try out new media, processes, and solutions to aesthetic problems; often becoming empowered by their successes and failures. I see art education as a constructive process. As an art teacher and art teacher educator, I invite students to actively search, build meaning, and build an understanding of their world through their experiences and interactions with art and society. My students are guided toward integrating and accommodating new views, meanings, and information. Then they may draw from these experiences, discoveries, and understandings as they create and teach art, and, as a result, awaken new revelations.
All the courses I teach, whether methods, content courses, or seminars in art education, are built around the idea of socially constructing knowledge through group and individual work. Materials read and projects prepared before class are essential to the small and large group discussions conducted during class time. Beyond the verbal dialog conducted during class, students maintain a written discourse about the course materials (readings, lectures, discussions, and projects) in the form of responses. These responses are not simply summaries or reflections of readings and course work. Students are encouraged to move toward synthesis by designing/formulating scenarios, creating visual responses, proposing alternative literature or views, predicting what may come next in practice, or appraising how the information may impact their future teaching. This discourse allows me to evaluate student understanding of the material and check for transfer into pedagogical/methodological understanding. Students appreciate this open channel of communication and feel comfortable expressing ideas and receiving feedback in a private supportive way. Additionally, these strategies support individual learning as contributing to group learning and understanding. Student learning is not always gauged lesson to lesson or class period to class period but is rather an arc across the semester. This is evident in students’ growing confidence about their ability to teach visual art, the disciplinary and interdisciplinary role of art in the classroom, and how they will use the visual arts in their future classrooms.
As a K-12 art teacher and as a teacher of future teachers, I strive to instill clear ideas about the effective processes of teaching and learning, in the art education majors that I instruct. The undergraduate and graduate certification art education students, who are in the M330 / Z531 Foundations of Art Education & Methods I course that I teach, worked in teams as they researched, and developed, curriculum units and individual lessons based on the theme of family and community stories, and taught these to students between the ages of 5-11 in a Saturday Art School setting. Focusing on this theme encouraged these pre-service teachers to look at how identity and the ecological influence of the family and community affected and were reflected in their artworks as well as in the expressive creations of their elementary-aged students. Through efforts to work as a community while researching, developing and implementing these thematic lessons, my university students were discovering what it means to be good planners, instructors, and evaluators of art processes and products.
I am an advocate of teaching art and the instruction of art as a means of developing socially conscious and culturally sensitive global citizens. This begins by insisting that my student acquire deep knowledge about art and develop significant art-making skills, as well as master skills of teaching art knowledge, skill, and become effective curriculum designers. While artists are permitted, even expected, to innovate new styles and initiate original ways of using of media or enacting process of art, young student-artists need to be informed about traditional styles and have basic skills in the manipulation of media and materials before they can use these as tools for conveying meaning to audiences. Art teachers must teach and be able to evaluate the progress and success of students in mastering these skills.
Students also must be provided with experiences to acquire abilities to think critically, analyze, interpret, and consider alternative courses of action. These proficiencies and inclinations permit students to engage with issues that matter to the larger community. Contemporary artists often identify crises of modern society as a subject of their artworks, thus prompting dialogue and social action. In my teaching, students are invited to identify projects that might benefit the local community. Additionally, I design field experiences that require art education majors to work in community settings like Boys & Girls Clubs. This offers my students opportunities to practice socially responsive art education.
I believe education is a transformative experience. Many art education students have experienced the transformative and transcendent power of art within the context of the art studio, for my pre-service art teachers, transformation must also occur within the context of teaching. Learning to write and conduct lessons, and manage the learning experiences of several students in a K-12 classroom is invariably a transformative experience for my pre-service teachers. They discover the qualities of social interaction (i. e. teacher/student and student/student) and qualities of engagement with materials and ideas that make teaching and learning experiences meaningful. My pre-service art education majors begin to find their rhythm as teachers during the Saturday Art School experience. They are able to take the theoretical, that which has not been internalized and weave it into practice. As they do so, they are transformed; they come to understand what it means to be an art teacher and to see themselves as ‘teachers of art’. Yet, I also believe, in the words of Elliot Eisner, that “art is about more than the teaching of art…ultimately we are concerned with students and with their overall development as well as their particular development in the arts.” My teaching practices reflect this belief in the power of art and the importance of teaching through and about art.
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