Monthly Mentor

Heather Kaplan (November)
Heather is a Visiting Assistant Professor of Art Education at University of Texas El Paso. She holds a BFA in Art and a BS and MS in Art Education from the Pennsylvania State University, teaching licensure in the state of Pennsylvania, and a Ph. D in Art Education from the Ohio State University. She is an artist, educator, and researcher. Heather has worked in the schools, museums, community education, early childhood education, and in higher education. As an artist Heather works primarily in ceramics but also enjoys other sculptural materials, drawing, and watercolor. Heather’s research focuses are studio art making and early childhood art education, and she considers her research to inform and be informed by her teaching and artistic practices. Click "GO" to read her full bio.

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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!

-RDB

References
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.” 

1
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?” 

2
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.   

References

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.

- RDB

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 dbradshaw1@udayton.edu.

References:

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.

-RDB