This course, Concepts in Art Education, provided an enormous amount of information relevant to my future as an art educator. Through in-class lectures, readings from Studio Art and Differentiated Instruction in Art, numerous outside articles, and several reflective essays, I was able to explore and build on the main concepts and theories of art education. The Service Learning portion of the class then gave me the opportunity to put these concepts and theories to practice in the classroom. This teaching experience also allowed me to begin discovering my own teaching style and how I want to structure my own class in the future.
Trying to summarize all the information I’ve gleaned from the semester, I feel there are three overarching categories that’ve really informed my ideas about art education: the art making process, student choice/differentiation, and approaches to teaching art. The ideas that form each of these categories were presented by the class resources and substantiated during my service learning experiences.
The first of these, the art making process, was largely described by Zurmuehlen in Studio Art. He states that the act of making is essentially a continuous cycle of intending, acting, realizing, and re-intending. We may enter the cycle at different points, but we will ultimately go through each stage as we create. At the heart of this cycle, Zurmuehlen also discusses the ideas of praxis and doing verses making. These ideas feed directly into the originator instinct, and are many times, the foundation for creating a piece of art. A great example of this was the art making process that Robert went through during the first lesson in Service Learning. He started with praxis, simply experimenting with the tissue paper, but then switched to making and re-intending once he realized the form he created resembled a dragon.
Another important aspect of the art making process I learned about was the developmental stages that children undergo while creating art. Although Lowenfeld and Kellogg have slightly different theories on the age and stages a child experiences, their research has provided the following general outline for child development: the pattern/scribbling stage with random marks, the shape/preschematic stage with shapes and recognizable objects, and the representational/schematic stage with representational symbols of the world around them. Although overly simplified, this is the basic development process that students at the kindergarten through elementary level will be experiencing.
The second category, closely tied to the art making process, revolves around the ideas of student choice as well as differentiation. As discussed in the article “When is Creativity? Intrinsic Motivation and Autonomy in Children’s Artmaking”, one of the largest contributing factors to creativity is the presence of intrinsic motivation. This revolves around the student’s interests, curiosities, personal relevancy, etc., that are incorporated into the project or activity. If, however, the student is primarily motivated by extrinsic motivators such as teacher expectations, an emphasis placed on grades, etc., the student’s creativity will more likely than not be stifled.
Beyond just allowing the students to choose their own project, medium, etc., the topic of choice and differentiation also includes getting to know the students. The article “Values, Beliefs, Behaviors, and Artmaking in the Middle Grades: A Teaching Story” discusses the importance of getting to know the students at the beginning of the semester. Not only will this allow me to tailor lessons to garner maximum student engagement, but it will also aid in developing my classroom culture and an environment in which students feel safe to take chances and fail. Along these lines, Differentiated Instruction in Art is full of techniques to begin the process of learning students’ interests and building student choice into my lesson plans.
Throughout our time in Service Learning, we actively tried to incorporate these ideas behind choice and differentiation. For example, on the first day of class, we had the students complete a simple “get to know me” exercise to provide some insight into their interests. We also kept a strong focus on intrinsic motivation rather than stifling the students with strict requirements for the activities. The result was a group of students that were excited about their making, because each piece was of importance to them.
The final category, approaches to teaching art, encompasses a wide range of concepts. It includes everything from student interactions and discussions, to the actual class structure and how the curriculum is decided. In the article, “How Should Teachers Respond to Young Artists?”, two main ideas to keep in mind when interacting with students about their art are positive feedback and artistic dialogue. Unconditional positive praise leads to meaningless statements and students wanting only to please the teacher. Instead, positive feedback should be descriptive and focused around at least one of these ideas: student behavior, artistic decisions, art concepts, or interpretive meanings. In addition, the teacher should encourage artistic dialogue by creating a responsive atmosphere, phrasing questions that allow students to reflect on their pieces, and eliciting stories from the students about their work.
My dialogue with students during Service Learning, and trying to incorporate these ideas, was one of the main things I struggled with this semester. I continually found myself wanting to encourage them by saying I like their work or that I thought it was cool. It took a great deal of effort for me to modify my thought process and focus more on praising the acts rather than the products. This is something I will continue to develop and strengthen as my instruction progresses.
Overall class structure and curriculum was another big idea that we discussed during the semester. Through the class assignment, “Visions and Versions of Art Education”, I learned about the various methodologies used to structure art education curriculum. For me, the creative problem-solving/design approach was the most intriguing. I believe the most important aspect of my job is teaching students the skills they will need to be successful in life and this approach has the potential to make it happen. It will help my students conceptualize, analyze, and become creative problem solvers.
Overall, this course taught me a great deal about being an art educator. Pairing the course content with the Service Learning allowed me to practice the concepts discussed in class as well as begin to discover my own teaching style and the culture I want to foster in my future classrooms. The concepts and theories we discussed have transformed my teaching philosophy and will continue to inform my pedagogy as I become an art educator.
Fountain, H. (2014). Differentiated Instruction in Art. Worcester, MA: Davis Publications, Inc.
Guay, D. (2000). “Values, Beliefs, Behaviors, and Artmaking in the Middle Grades: A Teaching Story.” Visual Arts Research, 38-51.
Jaquith, D. (2011). “When is Creativity? Intrinsic Motivation and Autonomy in Children’s Artmaking.” Art Education, 64(1), 14-19.
Zurmuehlen, M. (1990). Studio Art: Praxis, Symbol, Presence. Reston, VA: The National Art Education Association.