Monthly Mentor

Kristin Taylor (September)
Kristin Vanderlip Taylor is National Board certified in Early/Middle Childhood Art and teaches visual art in the Los Angeles Unified School District and at California State University, Northridge. She has been a member of the California Art Education Association and the National Art Education Association for 15 years. In March 2017, she received the Pacific Region Elementary Art Educator award from NAEA, and she was awarded Outstanding Art Educator of the Year (2016) and Outstanding Elementary Art Educator of the Year (2012) by CAEA. Click "GO" to read her full bio.



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Monday 09.18.17

Finding Relevant Professional Learning Opportunities

From: Kristin Vanderlip Taylor

It’s been well noted that art educators often find themselves at a loss for meaningful, relevant professional learning (PL) opportunities, especially within their schools and districts (Battersby & Verdi, 2015; Berwager, 2013; Conway, Hibbard, Albert, & Hourigan, 2005; Gates, 2010; Milbrandt, 2006; Sabol, 2006). Many times, we have to look for outside sources like conferences, museum workshops, or state professional organizations to fulfill our desire for collaboration and communication with like-minded colleagues, especially for those of us who are the only art teacher in our school. Experiencing this firsthand, my friend Jeanne Hoel, who is the assistant director of education, school, and teacher programs at the Los Angeles Museum of Contemporary Art (MOCA), and I decided to partner to bring visual art educators from all over Los Angeles county together to collaborate and learn from and with each other. Excited by the idea, we initiated what is now a yearly event each fall called Think, Sync, & Drink at the museum as a way to get visual art teachers dialoguing, sharing their plans for professional learning for the year, and collaborating across schools and districts.

Because we had such positive responses to our first two events, Jeanne and I thought about how we might be able to cultivate ongoing collaborations throughout the year that might engage and inspire visual art teachers to further reimagine their own professional learning. After surveying event attendees regarding their PL needs and interests, we decided to form a smaller community of practice (CoP), which Wenger, McDermott, and Snyder (2002) define as “groups of people who share a concern, a set of problems, or a passion about a topic, and who deepen their knowledge and expertise in this area by interacting on an ongoing basis” (p.4). Attendees from Think, Sync, & Drink were invited to join the CoP, which is centered around the idea of identifying and exploring individual PL pathways or designing visual art PL opportunities to facilitate for others.

Our CoP, now in its third year, has grown a bit each year with a number of members returning and newcomers joining. The partnership with MOCA, facilitated by Jeanne, has been an invaluable resource for meeting space, opportunities for engagement with the museum exhibitions, critical thinking about art education in the 21st century, and legitimacy in supporting PL that is designed and facilitated for teachers, by teachers. The CoP has provided members with meaningful and relevant PL that is ongoing and content-specific and values the contributions of each participant. Our hope is that this CoP may serve as a model for schools and districts that are struggling to meet the needs of their art teachers, or for museums to partner with visual art educators to develop other CoP to further support the ongoing collaborative professional learning we so need and desire.

If you live or teach in or around Los Angeles and are interested in attending the next Think, Sync, and Drink event at MOCA on Thursday, October 28, you may RSVP here. To find out more about the CoP, email Jeanne or Kristin.


Battersby, S.L. and Verdi, B. (2015). The Culture of Professional Learning Communities and Connections to Improve Teacher Efficacy and Support Student Learning, Arts Education Policy Review, 116:1, 22-29, DOI: 10.1080/10632913.2015.970096

Berwager, K. C. (2013). Straddling the borderlands of art education discourse: Professional teacher identity development of preservice and novice art education teachers (Order No. 3562399). Available from ProQuest Dissertations & Theses Global. (1399574904).

Conway, C.M., Hibbard, S., Albert, D., and Hourigan, R. (2005). Professional Development for Arts Teachers, Arts Education Policy Review, 107(1), 3-10, DOI: 10.3200/AEPR.107.1.3-10

Gates, L. (2010). Professional development through collaborative inquiry for an art education  archipelago, National Art Education Association Studies in Art Education: A Journal of issues and Research, 52(1), 6-17.

Milbrandt, M.K. (2006). A Collaborative Model for Art Education Teacher Preparation, Arts Education Policy Review, 107(5), 13-21, DOI: 10.3200/AEPR.107.5.13-21

Sabol, F.R. (2006).  Professional Development in Art Education:  A Study of Needs, Issues, and Concerns of Art Educators. Reston, VA: National Art Education Association.  

Wenger, E., McDermott, R. A., & Snyder, W. (2002). Cultivating communities of practice: A guide to managing knowledge. Boston, Mass: Harvard Business School Press.

Wednesday 09.13.17

Feedback and reflection: starting right away

From: Kristin Vanderlip Taylor

Even though the school year is just a few weeks in, I knew that one of the most important things my students needed to practice right away was giving and receiving meaningful feedback. I am using the Studio Habits of Mind (SHoM) to guide my planning, instruction, and assessment, and “reflect” is one habit I know will be an integral part of everything we do. Because I have both middle school general art and advanced art classes mixed together, with sixth, seventh, and eighth grades combined, everyone is working at different levels and has had different experiences in art. Reflection is something they can all do successfully no matter their prior knowledge.

We discussed the differences between self-reflection, peer reflection, and my (teacher) reflection on student work. Each valuable in its own way, when used formatively these types of reflection can help students move forward in making choices about or revisions to their works in progress. The questions, however, must be specific and detailed; asking a “yes/no” question won’t provide the rich insight students may be looking for, and questions pertaining to whether someone likes their work or not aren’t necessarily informative either. I’ve posted a variety of sample questions students may use (such as “What suggestions do you have for… ?” or “How might I improve… or communicate … more clearly?”), or they may develop their own. Summative reflections, such as artist statements, may also help students better understand and evaluate their artistic process at the completion of a project. Even though the work is considered finished at that point, they may decide later to revisit it, or their reflection may help them discover new pathways for their next project.

While my middle school students get to practice giving and receiving feedback almost daily, it’s a bit slower going with my younger students, as I only see them once a week for 12 weeks. However, they are gradually beginning to integrate feedback into their discussions in art class and are no longer asking me if they are finished or if their work is good - a positive move in the direction of student ownership!


Monday 09.11.17

Getting to know who’s in your art room

From: Kristin Vanderlip Taylor

The first weeks of school are always so hectic. Everyone just wants to start making art - including me! But part of starting the year off right means getting to know who’s in the art room. Whether I’m working with young students or university adults, establishing time to learn about each other is one of the most important things I’ve learned. Everyone has something going on - something good to share, something that’s bothering them, something they want to ask.

With younger students, we spend twenty minutes of our first class together checking in and catching up. Everyone gets a chance to share something on their minds. In middle school and in college, my students complete surveys with questions helping me get to know them better - about their interests, their families, responsibilities outside of school, access to technology/art media. This year, I hand wrote notes in response to each middle school students’ survey so they knew how valuable their thoughts are to me. For my university students, the surveys help me understand the other demands they are juggling, which reminds me to be cognizant and respectful of their time. It also gives them an opportunity to share things that are important to them that I otherwise might not know – some are reluctant to speak up in class because of language barriers, some have had negative art experiences before, and others just want to connect more personally, which is always welcomed!

Sharing information is definitely a two-way street; our students are just as curious about us as we are them. I try to make my teaching environments as welcoming as possible by letting my students know that they can ask me anything; if they’re too shy, they can write notes and I’ll write back. I may not answer EVERYTHING (why do middle school kids always want to know our age?!?), but I try to be as encouraging as possible so they get to know me well, too.

Sometimes students share information that they might not have, had we not worked on relationship-building from the start. I’ve learned who’s shy, who misses loved ones, who has family issues that may interfere with their work. I’ve also learned when to provide support and advice to students, as well as knowing when to ease up on assignments because things are just too busy. I know we are all eager to get going, but this small act can make all the difference in how the rest of your year turns out!


Friday 09. 1.17

Finding time for our own artistic practice (or, play!)

From: Kristin Vanderlip Taylor

As teachers, we know that “summer vacation” is often a misnomer; we spend much of that time “off” engaging in our own professional learning, attending district-sponsored PD, or planning for our upcoming classes. And once school starts, we don’t stop any of this - it’s ongoing, on top of our instruction. That’s just the nature of the job. But it’s important to remember that we need to take time for ourselves - even if it’s profession related!

Being enrolled in Pepperdine University’s Educational Leadership, Administration, and Policy program for the past two years has pretty much eaten up any of my non-teaching time (I wouldn’t call it “free” or “extra”, as we know both of those are a myth when you’re in education!) However, this summer I made it a point to pull out my own art materials and just start playing again. At first, I went through that struggle of not knowing what I wanted to make...and then came that fear of it not being any good. It was my husband who suggested that I stop thinking so hard about it and just have fun. What a notion! I was reminded of all the times I said exactly this to my students.

So, I took his advice and lo and behold, I had fun! I stopped judging the process and tried working in ways I hadn’t before. I found myself back in the flow of creating and was reminded of what I’ve been missing. Now that school has started, I know that my time will once again be much more limited (hello, dissertation!), but I’ve vowed to myself that whenever I’m able to, I will squeeze in even a few moments to play with my art again. I hope that you are able to make that space, too… and just have fun!


Friday 08.18.17

Stress, Change, and Mindfulness at the Start of a School Year

From: Jody Boyer

Last Thursday the new school year began for me at Norris Middle School in Omaha, Nebraska. Norris is the largest middle school in Nebraska with over 1,150 kids between the ages of 11 and 14. This is a lot of adolescent energy! But this year is also a little different. Our building is in the middle of a multiphase, multiyear 30 million dollar renovation. This is terribly exciting for my educational community. Simultaneously it is stressful...very stressful. My classroom has changed location three times in the last eight months. I feel blessed to have the privilege of a new room with natural light and enough space to truly explore arts education in ways I have not before. But all of this is a great deal of change and a little bit like riding a roller coaster: exciting at first, but now I just want to get to the end as soon as possible!

My amazingly gorgeous new art room, near completion, in the summer of 2017

Before work this morning while doing my morning swim the feeling of a roller coaster came back to me as I went through the long “to do” list in my mind. Check off this, I missed that, so on, and so forth. Then the voice of Dennis Inhulsen, Chief Learning Officer for NAEA, butted into my mental ramblings. It was his voice leading Western Region leaders through a mindfulness activity this summer: “Breathe”. Yes, that is what I need to do. Find some balance, and just breathe!

Mindfulness, deep breathing, thinking with intention. In times of stress I try to remember these three things. Interestingly, at the Western Region Leadership Conference, Dennis also shared that the most popular NAEA webinar this past year was about mindfulness and creativity. It seems that balance and mindfulness are on the minds of a great number of art educators across the country!

Thus, in this hectic week of moving and unpacking my new art room (yeah!), this week’s blog post is focused on a few tidbits that may help you stay balanced and begin to explore mindfulness in the coming school year!

Strategies for finding balance in the teacher work/life mix:

1. Create a routine that gives you space, time, and respite in your work day. Even a few minutes can refresh your soul. During my plan time, I often walk two laps around the exterior of my campus when I need a little space and time to think. This only takes me 10 minutes, but does wonders for my bank of patience and helps clear my mind before the next set of kids come in.

2. Pick two to three days a week where you do not take anything home and you leave the building in a timely manner. If something is not done, don’t worry, it will get done the next day if it has to be!

3. Give yourself a treat budget. Then hide a few gift cards for your favorite splurge in your daily calendar, agenda, or even in your supply room! Better yet, have a friend do it for you so you don’t know when they are coming!

4. Build a buddy system within your building and outside your building. I have a few trusted colleagues to go to when I need a good laugh or a really good cry.

Resources to get started with a mindfulness practice: 

1. - This is a great resource to explore mindfulness from a broad perspective.

2. - This organization is offering free mindfulness training for schools!

3. Mindfulness, Creativity and Art Education Webinar from NAEA. If you missed it, the webinar was recorded and is available to view on demand by members for free here!

Happy Beginnings to a new school year!


Tuesday 08. 8.17

Reflecting on the Unknown, Perseverance and Discovery at the Cedar Point Biological Station

From: Jody Boyer

Nearly 10 days after my artist residency at an active field station I am still pondering how to connect scientific investigation to my classroom pedagogy. What exactly does that look like? Is it the creation of STEAM lessons, alignment to standards, or integrating the scientific method into my arts classroom? While thinking through these questions this morning I distracted myself from the complexities of the problem by reading a wonderful article in which writer Maria Popova explored how artists work in the realm of the unknown. Popova quoted sculptor and installation artist Ann Hamilton  from her essay “Making Not Knowing” – “One doesn’t arrive — in words or in art — by necessarily knowing where one is going. In every work of art something appears that does not previously exist, and so, by default, you work from what you know to what you don’t know. “

As I reflected on the first day of my art residency at Cedar Point Hamilton’s words rang true. That first  morning I felt an overwhelming sense of the unknown. I had researched and created for myself a framework of investigation for the week, brought a myriad of supplies with me and set up my workspace. Everything was prepared. But standing at the beginning of the metaphoric path of the artistic process all I felt was lost. Lost in the unknown. I often feel this way in my studio practice. But in a new environment, free from distractions of family and work, the aura of not knowing was sharp and knife-like. Instead of wallowing, I did what I had come to Cedar Point to do, I got to work. That first day I experimented, got frustrated, kept pushing, and created 12 small mixed media pieces. Those first 12 pieces are clumsy studies exploring a new amalgam of materials and processes. I am not happy with any of them. But they are a starting point in a new way of making. They are a discovery into the unknown.

Boyerwk2_photo1Artwork is Progress: Alternative Photography Experiments Exposing Under Plexiglass at the Cedar Point Biological Station

While thinking about discovery my mind also wandered to lunch on the third day of my residency where I overheard a group of students discussing their frustrations in regard to their search for parasites within dragonfly larvae. One student in particular, Silverio Barrio, mentioned he had collected and dissected 24 dragonfly larvae before he found a single parasite to analyze. Barrio’s frustration was clear, but so was his sense of accomplishment at discovering a parasite on his 25th dissection. One aspect of a field station is to bring scientific research to life by giving students an authentic experience of field research. Clearly an authentic experience was at times not what the students were expecting. This reminded me of aspects of practicing and teaching the artistic process and I was curious.  How is it that scientists continue to push forward when they face difficulty? Where does the drive to continue come from when the process seems to be not working, potentially even failing? What feeds the will to continue when faced with seemingly endless barriers?

After lunch I visited the Cedar Point biology lab and introduced myself to the young man I had overheard. I asked Silverio if I could chat with him about his frustrations. With grace he immediately apologized thinking I was concerned about his demeanor, but I expressed that I was interested in how he managed his frustration. In our conversation he mentioned that other students in the course had dissected over 100 dragonfly larvae before finding a single parasite specimen.As I looked down into a jar of dragonflies, I was reminded of my own visual research back in the Lubber Lab on the other side of the field station.  The day before I too had felt a road block in my creative process. Silver and I discussed how we approached these instances of scientific and artistic frustration. We both are driven by a sense of discovery and find solace in the perseverance of working toward our goals.

BoyerWk2Photo2Silverio Barrio, at center in red shorts and blue shirt, and other students searching for dragonfly larvae in a Rural Ogallala Pond.

Now thinking back to my initial question of how to incorporate scientific investigation in the visual arts classroom. Perhaps it is not the alignment of standards, the use a traditional scientific method or STEAM lessons that I need. From my time at an active field station I learned that scientific investigation and artistic investigation are really not that different. What I need is to foster a classroom environment framed by the quest for discovery and builds perseverance for failure. Whether you are searching for new parasites in the guts of dragonflies or embarking on the creation of new art the quest for meaning and understanding likely starts with jumping into unknown waters and often requires you to keep searching regardless if you can see the bottom of the pond.

BoyerWk2Photo3Standing at edge of a Rural Ogallala pond, wondering what is in the water.


Tuesday 08. 1.17

A Media Detox at the Cedar Point Biological Station

From: Jody Boyer

Last week I had the privilege of completing an artist residency at the University of Nebraska’s Cedar Point Biological Station. Since 1975 Cedar Point has functioned as a field research facility and experiential classroom for the biological sciences, geology, paleontology and most recently the visual arts. Since 2014 Cedar Point has included an artist-in-residence program that invites artist to stay for a week, giving artists the space and time to create new work, observe research at the station and experience nature from a new perspective. Over the next few weeks I will be sharing some of the experiences and insights I gained as an artist and arts educator during my residency at Cedar Point. 

The drive into Cedar Point descends down a long road just to the West of the 3.1 mile long Kingsley Dam, which created Lake McConaughy, one of the most scenic lakes I have visited in the Midwest. In the midst of all this sudden beauty I grabbed my cell phone, snapped a photo, and proceeded to send the image to my kids. Or that is, I attempted to do so. The rocky cliffs that surround Cedar Point interfere with cellular service and I was officially off the grid. In that moment I truly felt in awe of Cedar Point. I also felt how deeply and possibly too connected to the interaction of social media I have become.

BoyerPhoto1_Week1View of Lake Ogallala from the Cedar Point Biological Station

Once I arrived, settled into my cabin, and took in the enormous beauty of Cedar Point I made a decision. I would disconnect in order to reconnect. For the next 48 hours I did not check my email, social media, upload photos, or consume anything from technology. I took a two day social media hiatus in the woods and immersed myself in the production of art. Minus the need to share, connect, upload, or validate my actions through social media. A media detox in the Sandhills prairie of Western Nebraska.  This was one of the best choices of my recent adult life.

BoyerPhoto2_Week1Lake McConaughy at Sunset

One of my take-aways from Cedar Point is the need I have for space and time in nature, to think and rejuvenate. As I reflect on the coming school year I wonder how I can create the sense of solitude, focus, and serene productivity I experienced during my artist residency, both for myself and for my students. How do I bring the feeling of a nature-infused environment to my classroom? Many ideas have popped into my head, but I am not sure if I have the answer yet. My hope this coming year is to explore how to bring aspects of my Cedar Point experience to my students, including making a space for disconnecting from media overload and reconnecting to our natural world. I invite conversations from other arts educators who are exploring similar interests, perhaps together we can collaborate on this adventure.

In the meantime if artist residencies, field stations and the natural environment are of interest to you here are some resources to explore.

To find out more about artist residencies in general and in your region and across the globe, visit the Alliance of Artist Communities

To find a field station in your region, look at the Organization of Biological Research Stations.

Consider investigating local Nature Centers for possible artist residency opportunities. A good place to start is to look at the Association of Nature Center Administrators, they wonderful listing of its member organizations across the globe.

Researchers Working Sandhill Prairie of Western Nebraska

- JB

Wednesday 07.26.17

Overcoming Challenges to Integrating Visual Art

From: Dr. R. Darden Bradshaw

Two of the biggest challenges noted for why teachers choose not to integrate the visual arts into their curriculum is time and fear. Both of these barriers can impact our classroom space. For most of us, time is a key factor in our lives-both inside of the classroom and outside. It is a finite resource. Perhaps you, like me, rail against the inevitability of its passage and the fact that there never seems to be enough time!  Sure that is true but as a wise gentleman once said, “there is time enough!” 

In my role as an arts integration specialist, when I would propose collaboration I often heard teachers say that they always felt pressed for time. To them, taking one or two valuable class periods to “play around with art integration” would mean one or two less days for them to “cover” their content. Yet in my experience, finding ways to integrate the arts makes learning exciting and engaging-both for the student and teacher; this inevitably means more time! I, like most educators, have seen that when learners are engaged they learn the concepts more deeply and are able to transfer that knowledge to other contexts; for most educators, the worry about having enough time to ‘cover’ one’s content becomes moot

Fear is another major challenge I’ve encountered in arts integration. While it shows up in many ways, today I am going to focus on fear that stems from a lack of knowledge. Because “substantive arts integration” requires deep investigation into varying content or disciplinary areas, sometimes a fear of not knowing can stop us from moving forward. Embracing the collaborative nature of art integration allows us to share and actually multiply our knowledgebase. Rather than feeling isolated and responsible for everything, art integration allows us to work collaboratively, becoming life-long learners alongside our students. For instance, I recall a math educator sharing her knowledge of geometry while learning amazing strategies for integrating dance and movement into her classroom when she worked with my colleague Rick Wamer, at Arts Integration Solutions in Tucson, AZ. Rick, a talented teaching artist and theatrical mime who holds an MFA in Theater, brought his knowledge of the art form of dance to the table. And the teacher, brought her expertise in math. As the two educators talked about students’ challenges in understanding planar geometry, they collaboratively arrived at an engaging lesson that taught graphing and the x-y-z coordinate planes, moving beyond the two dimensions to three, through physical movement.  

Picture1Rick Wamer (L) working with Rover Elementary School students to embody their learning through arts integration.

Watching children using their bodies to demonstrate various plots of x, y, and z coordinates was thrilling.  And, more importantly, for those learners who previously struggled to comprehend the concept when it was taught only on paper, the embodiment of learning stayed with them and empowered them! By stepping outside her comfort zone and asking another to share their expertise, this teacher modeled that when we set aside our fear and work collaboratively with others the benefits far outweigh the risk!


Marshall, J. M. (2006). Substantive art integration = Exemplary art education.  The Journal of Art Education, 59(6), 17-24.

Tuesday 07.18.17

Selfies, Tourist Gaze and Authenticity: Engaging Middle School Students

From: R. Darden Bradshaw

All teachers, regardless of the age of their student, work toward and often question if we are meeting the needs of those students (Goswami, Lewis, Rutherford, & Waff, 2009).  I frequently wonder if I am doing all I can to prepare them for the complex, contemporary world in which they are living. This iterative cycle of questioning, adjusting my teaching practice, and evaluating the results of said practice supports reflection. For some teachers, especially those of us who work with middle schoolers, students can seem like “aliens in the classroom” (Green & Bigum, 1993 cited in Bigum and Rowan, 2009) and finding the right ways to get through to them can feel daunting.  I have found art integration to be a practice that celebrates multiple answers, encourages various ways of teaching, and results in students developing creative solutions (Bradshaw, 2016).  Art integration serves as a philosophical guide that supports the iterative cycle of reflective practice while also being a teaching process that celebrates the complexity of preparing students for their future.  In the current educational climate that asks teachers to move away from a focus on skills and shine the light instead on ways to help students develop “dispositions” that facilitate and foster the ability to acquire knowledge, respond to the demands place on them in their future work, personal and social lives, and critically and creatively question the world  - art integration stands at the ready.

For example, Megan Newton, a middle school art teacher in Miamisburg, OH has an opportunity each summer to travel abroad with a small group of middle schoolers and their parents through EF tours.  This summer, Megan says she noticed the interactions students (and even the adults on the trip) had with historical monuments and landscapes – specifically in the way in which they used photography.  In this setting, rather than simply extending their arm in a typical pose and snapping a photograph to document the moment, she notes,

“These students on tour were models! They would ask someone to take their photo and they would twist their body into perfect position--turn slightly to camera, bend a leg, tilt head, and put an arm on the hip. It was magical to see them whip these poses out in seconds.” 

Xailey Atkinson posing for her photo. Photo credit: Megan Newton

She continues, “One of the students even instructed another student on tour to take candid photos of her. She wasn't looking for the traditional posed photo. She was hoping for a more authentic photo of her experience. But is it authentic when she's instructing someone to do so?

Newton inquired further and states, “I also noticed that the adults were the ones doing the "typical" selfie. Is the traditional selfie out? Is this only something "old" people do?” 

Selfie of Megan Newton at Stonehenge, UK

Considering these questions, Newton had conversations with students about their photos asking them

* Why did you take that photo?
* Which one is your favorite? Why?
* What photos will you show your parents/post online to depict your 11 days in Europe?

Posing questions and engaging students in deconstructing their experience, Newton demonstrated the way adolescents need social interaction and ‘chit-chat’ to make sense of imagery (Buckingham and Sefton-Green, as cited in Duncum, 2002).  In asking students these questions, Newton states,

“I wondered about their ideas of authenticity. Were they taking tourist-y photos? What was their typical subject matter? These questions led to some great conversations with adults about the selfie culture, especially from the tour director who noted, "selfies are more about the action, not the image."

This statement encouraged Newton to pause and consider how to develop an art integration unit around authenticity, Tourist gaze, and selfie-culture for her students this coming fall.  Using their local community as the site in which their ‘tourist investigations’ will occur, Newton has begun developing the integrated unit as follows:

Lesson 1=tour downtown Miamisburg and take photos. The goal is to show someone who is visiting what Miamisburg has to offer--similar to a visitor’s guide

Lesson 2=print out photos and organize them by common themes in class. Discuss and deconstruct “tourist gaze” and “selfie culture”. Invite students to reorganize photos based on this new information. 

Lesson 3=Return to downtown Miamisburg with our new tourist lens and take another set of photos

Lesson 4=print out photos and reflect on the ways in which new information informed, challenged, or confirmed our ideas of “tourist gaze” and “selfie-culture.”

Newton was not just inspired by her interactions with students but she used her experience and their engagement as a springboard for curricular investigation.  The questions she is asking students to answer through this integration unit will allow them to become agents in their photographic choices, not necessarily followers and unconscious participants. 

This is a perfect example of the power for classroom transformation from one of the “emphasis on teachers covering material, getting through curriculum and transferring knowledge from their minds into the vacuous minds of students who must perform well on standardized tests” (Hinchey, 2004, p. 92) to one in which students are engaged in active creation of meaning, problem-posing and solution, and critical analysis of authentic understanding.   


Bradshaw, R. D. (2016). Art integration fosters empathy in the middle school classroom.  The Clearing House:  A Journal of Educational Strategies, Issues, and Ideas, 89(4-5), 109-117. Taylor & Francis.

Bigum, C., & Rowan, L. (2009). Renegotiating knowledge relationships in schools.  In S. N. and B. Somekh (Ed.), The Sage handbook of educational action research (pp. 131-141). London:  Sage.

Duncum, P. (2002). Visual culture art education:  Why, what and how.  Journal of Art & Design Education, 21(1), 14-23.

Goswami, D., Lewis, C., Rutherford, M., & Waff, D. (2009). Teacher inquiry:  Approaches to language and literacy.  New York, NY: Teachers College Press.

Hinchey, P.  (2004).  Becoming a critical educator:  Defining a classroom identity, designing a critical pedagogy.  New York, NY: Peter Lang.


Sunday 07. 2.17

Art Integration: Reflections on Challenges and Possibilities for Art Education

From: Dr. R. Darden Bradshaw

I began my career in art education sixteen years ago teaching at the higher education level. I worked as an adjunct in Foundation programs teaching 2-D design and art history to freshmen and sophomores in college. It was a challenging and fun place to start my teaching career. Yet the longer I taught these foundation courses, the more I became aware that many of these students had little to no exposure to or classes in art beyond middle school. What happened in middle school, I wondered? As a part of my investigation into middle school art education, I eventually sought and obtained my post-baccalaureate teaching license; I then jumped feet first into the role of an arts integration specialist in a middle school in the Southwestern United States. As a part of my job I was tasked with researching and developing curriculum that served as what Julia Marshall (2006) calls “substantive” art integration in which two or more content areas are taught through a mutually reinforcing pedagogical practice that celebrates and honors the unique aspects of various disciplinary foci. I discovered that art integration was a powerful philosophical approach to teaching art and an even more dynamic means of collaborating across the educational silos entrenched in schooling. It became clear to me that it had the potential to excite students in their pursuit of art beyond middle school. My time as a middle school educator created spaces for me to discover my true joy and passion as an art educator-building bridges between and among the arts and other content areas - and sharing that with future art teachers. 

Over the last few years, art integration has become a greater focus within our field. I have seen a marked increase in presentations on art integration at NAEA and local state art education conferences, as well as publications about art integration including the engaging Art Centered Learning Across Curriculum: Integrating Contemporary Art in the Secondary School Classroom (2015) by Julia Marshall and David M. Donahue. In this month’s Monthly Mentor Blog, I will focus on a different aspect of art integration in each post. These will include the challenges to integrating visual art, the value of art integration for preservice art educators, strategies for teacher collaboration across disciplinary boundaries, the different ways in which art integration supports critical thinking in various K-12 settings, and the power of art integration as a tool within University study abroad programs. I am an art integration practitioner; ever learning and finding new paths to better integrate the arts to foster empathy, support learners in making meaning of their worlds, and creating spaces where students comment on and critique their world through creative visual means. In sharing my experience here, I invite dialogue. Please send your thoughts, comments, questions, and concerns via email at


Marshall, J. M. (2006). Substantive art integration = Exemplary art education.  The Journal of Art Education, 59(6), 17-24.

Marshall, M. & Donahue, D.M. (2015). Art Centered Learning Across the Curriculum:  Integrating Contemporary Art in the Secondary Classroom.  New York, NY: Teachers College.