Monthly Mentor

Aaron Knochel (October)
Each month, a different member and NAEA awardee is the guest writer for the NAEA Monthly Mentor Blog. Aaron D. Knochel, PhD, is Associate Professor of Art Education in the Penn State School of Visual Arts and an Affiliated Faculty at the Art & Design Research Incubator (ADRI) at The Pennsylvania State University. His research focuses on intersections between art education, transdisciplinarity, and social theory. Aaron was named 2019 Eastern Region Higher Education Art Educator by NAEA. Click "GO" to read his full bio.



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Friday 10.18.19

Art & Design Research Incubator @ Penn State

By Aaron Knochel 

Transdisciplinary. Knowledge formation. Embracing complexity. Investigatory and constructionist.

Engaging learners as embodied problem solvers

What does it mean to value disciplinary crossover and specialization? What is the moment of knowledge formed and how does formation fold back to inform us about the world that we live in to make vital decisions, nurture realization, and cultivate wonder? How do we embrace indeterminate problems in systems that thrive on determinacy and a fixed sense of passing and failing? These are the complexities of the disciplinary body that we’ve been stitching together.

On any given day, these types of questions might not make the top ten. Instead, we have a sink to fix. An IEP to develop and implement. A parent to call. However, when we look into the next semester, organize a materials closet, take the time to plan with a team of colleagues about curriculum, these may be the questions that begin to creep in.

And then again, perhaps inquiry in. art education comes back to the art. The impulse to find inspiration in the world. The creative drive. The instinct of materials in our hands, eyes, noses, and breadth. There is a practice that is at the root of a discipline.

I wanted to share some of the places and people that motivate my drive for inquiry, investigation, and bringing together a layered practice of making with colleagues at my home institution of Penn State. As a large research university there is no end to the types of work going on here. To tap into these immense landscapes, the College of Arts & Architecture has formed the Art & Design Research Incubator (ADRI).

Operating within the College of Arts and Architecture Research Office, ADRI provides seed funding, technical support, and workspace to high-impact arts and design research projects that, although often in their initial stages, have a strong probability of attracting future external funding. In keeping with goals outlined in the College’s strategic plan, ADRI projects are typically collaborative and interdisciplinary in nature, push methodological boundaries, link research and teaching, make innovative use of technology, engage with university-wide research initiatives and priorities, and have the potential to garner national and international recognition. ADRI also coordinates and hosts a range of programming designed to foster and support innovative arts research and its broad dissemination (ADRI, About).

With faculty from across the arts, from theater to visual arts, ADRI creates a dynamic space to explore the kinds of project work that may help to inspire our thinking about the arts mutating new disciplinary bodies. In the next few posts, we’ll take a closer look at the work going on.


Wednesday 10.16.19

Situating Art Education as a Discipline

By Aaron Knochel

I’ve described what connective tissues are available within the transdisciplinary body of a discipline or its manifestation in an exquisite corpse curriculum. After reviewing these connections, it might be useful to zoom out a bit to position these connections within a larger discourse of art education as a situated discipline itself.

Art education has a long history of implementation in coordination with other disciplines whether it is through arts integration or interdisciplinary curriculum. As a part of the early 20th century progressive movement in education, art education was promoted within education for its significance to experiential processes (Dewey, 1934) and for the relevance of creative expression to student’s lives (Winslow, 1939). Liora Bresler (1995) describes a resurgence of arts integration in the 1960s and 1970s through Henry Broudy’s (1972) focus on aesthetic education as increasing imaginative perception and Elliot Eisner’s (1982) advocacy for arts learning as expanding the cognitive capacity of learners through the affective and sensorial. In the 1990s, the field of art education began asserting more of its own disciplinarity through Discipline-Based Art Education (DBAE) to gain status as a part of the core curriculum (Dobbs, 1992; Eisner, 1988).

The opening of the 21st century brought critiques of Discipline Based Art Education coming from visual culture studies perspectives (Duncum, 2001; 2009; Freedman & Stuhr, 2004) and an increased dynamism of how the field is conceptualized “through/with/by/for/ of/in/beyond/as” (Carpenter & Tavin, 2010) a disciplinary coherence. Ironically, this dynamism appears to proliferate within an ever more burdensome era of national standards, narrowing budgets and high-stakes testing. These acts of arts integration as interdisciplinary conceptualizations, whether efforts of cognitive translation, assessing more global impacts of arts perception or understanding experiential impacts of the arts, have often been performed under threats to the field. The need to be more standardized in an era of standardization, the need to access cultural cache and funding support through the tumult of public sentiment, or the need to stay relevant to the diverse methodologies of contemporary art making, all exert pressure on art education practitioners effecting curriculum and understandings of what it entails. One sentiment that continues to be true is Elliot Eisner’s (1999) warning to the field in bending to the pressures of public persuasion:

It strikes me that we do the arts no service when we try to make their case by touting their contributions to other fields. When such contributions become priorities, the arts become handmaidens to ends that are not distinctively artistic and in the process undermine the value of art's unique contributions to the education of the young. (p. 158)

Current calls for arts-integrated curriculum could most certainly be guilty of some of these scrambles for funding and relevancy, but I would advocate that in addition to these very real pressures there be an opportunity to actualize a resurgence of the fundamental importance of making to all performances of learning regardless of the discipline.

I offer the following presuppositions for arts-integrated curriculum that when taken as a foundation may allow the arts to evade Eisner’s (1999) pejorative “handmaiden” status:

  • Transdisciplinary (values disciplinary knowledge crossover, intersection, and specialization)

  • Forming knowledge (understands the different types of questions that disciplines ask and the value of multiple ways of knowing)

  • Embraces complexity (sees the world as having complex, unpredictable, and indeterminate problems without singular solutions)

  • Investigatory and constructionist (engages learners as embodied problem solvers through the process of making and iterative methodologies)


I am careful here to not forget Glatthorn, Boschee, Whitehead, & Boschees’ (2015) distinction between prescriptive and descriptive curricular theories. In my suggestive curricular analysis, it is absolutely possible that through my soft prescription of the significance of my connections may in fact get turned on its head if an actual descriptive analysis of for example a STEAM curriculum were to apply these connections.

Nonetheless, in the posts to come I will try to put these connections to work with some suggestions of case studies that we might consider.

- AK


Bresler, L. (1995). The subservient, co-equal, affective, and social integration styles and their implications for the arts. Arts Education Policy Review, 96(5), 31-37.

Broudy, H. (1972). Enlightened cherishing. Urbana, IL: University of Illinois Press.

Carpenter, B. S. & Tavin, K. (2010). Art education beyond reconceptualization: Enacting curriculum through/with/by/for/ of/in/beyond/as visual culture, community, and public pedagogy. In E. Malewski (Ed.), Curriculum Studies Handbook  (pp.  244-262). New York, NY: Routledge.

Dewey, J. (1934). Art as experience. New York, NY: Perigee.

Dobbs, S. M. (1992). The DBAE handbook: An overview of discipline-based art education. Retrieved from

Duncum, P. (2001). Visual culture: Developments, definitions, and directions for art education. Studies in Art Education, 42(2), 101-112.

Duncum, P. (2009). Visual culture in art education, circa 2009. Visual Arts Research, 35(1), 64-75.

Eisner, E. W. (1982). Cognition and curriculum. New York, NY: Longman.

Eisner, E. W. (1988). Structure and magic in discipline-based art education. Journal of Art & Design Education, 7(2), 185-196.

Eisner, E. W. (1999). Getting down to basics in arts education. Journal of Aesthetic Education, 33(4), 145.

Freedman, K. & Stuhr, P. (2004). Curriculum changes for the 21st century: Visual culture in art education. In E. Eisner & M. Day (Eds.) Handbook of research and policy in art education (pp. 815-828). Reston, VA: NAEA.

Glatthorn, A., Boschee, F., Whitehead, B. & Boschee, B. (2015). Curriculum leadership. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications.

Winslow, L. (1939) The integrated school art program. New York, NY: McGraw-Hill.

Tuesday 10.15.19

Discipline as Body (Parts) IV

By Aaron Knochel

So far in stitching together the disciplinary body, we have covered skills (measurement, observation, & peer review) and dispositions (creativity, making, iterative methodologies, & collaboration). In this final post of the exquisite corpse curriculum I’d like to focus on larger themes that guide connections across disciplines.

Investigating Materiality

The rise of the academic field of material culture studies, combining anthropology, archeology and art, in the 1990’s has brought about a more exact focus on the nature of material both in their histories and their discourses. The term “materiality” indicates a theoretical approach that focuses on physical things as one starting point for building an understanding of thought and behavior (White 2009). Materiality has also been defined as to its properties to do something, or what science and technology studies scholar Andrew Pickering (1995) calls “material performativity” (p. 7). Pickering (1995) states

Scientists, as human agents, maneuver in a field of material agency, constructing machines that, as I shall say, variously capture, seduce, download, recruit, enroll, or materialize that agency, taming and domesticating it, putting it at our service, often in the accomplishment of task that are simply beyond the capabilities of naked human minds and bodies, individually or collectively. (p. 7)

So there is a world of material agencies doing things in the world, but that doing is never alone: for example, the digital materiality of something like software is not tangible matter, but rather its material agency to interact with its human counterpart accounts for a certain character of materiality. This interaction between the material as thing and performance as doing something makes it important as a way to follow material agencies in ways that engage, disrupt, and conjure modes of meaning.

9) Engaging Matters of Concern

Common to issues of discovery and innovation in science and the arts are the ways that they enter a public debate. Importantly, public discourse is often fraught with many contributing factors that go well beyond the facts, and engages discovery in complex assemblages of belief, regulation, and cultural difference.  Actor Network theorist Bruno Latour (2005) structures this public discourse without unity in his discussion of matters of fact versus matters of concern. Matters of fact are characterized by the rigor of scientific fact: an object or hypothesis has been tested and supported through further tests. A matter of fact is a closing down of investigation, a singularity, and an empirical certainty. However, Latour asserts that empiricism is not so certain; objects and matters of fact become more complicated the closer you get to them so that “the empirical multiplicity of former ‘natural’ agencies overflows the narrow boundary of matters of fact” (Latour, 2005, p.111). Innovations cannot be reduced to facts, but instead are multiplied as matters of concern. For Latour, matters of concern “while highly uncertain and loudly disputed, these real, objective, atypical and above all, interesting agencies are taken not exactly as object but rather as gathering” (p. 114). To see innovation as a matter of concern is to acknowledge the hybrid status of disciplinary knowledge as being situated within multiple disciplinary spaces simultaneously. Objective fact becomes an assemblage of coding and decoding that ultimately can have significant impact on how disciplines assert knowledge and engage inquiry.

10) Articulating Social Practice

Social practice is a form of participatory art engaged in social reconstructionism or a philosophy focused on achieving social change. Social practice has raised important questions about the role of the artist in society. These social-practice works are critiqued from a range of viewpoints: “Should they be evaluated for the social changes they produce, for the elements of performance they incorporate, or for the esthetic qualities of the environments in which they take place?” (Miranda, 2014, para. 21). Parallel to these developments in contemporary art, starting in the 1990’s, initiatives in engineering education have sought to incorporate a socially situated engineering workplace (ASEE, 1994), to better incorporate social contexts and stakeholders (Bucciarelli, 1994), and to contribute to a more just society (Baillee & Catalano, 2009). What is significant to both these developments in engineering and contemporary art is that there is a common thread in applying the range of aptitudes, skillsets, worldviews, methods, and epistemologies that come from any disciplinary position to a socially-engaged practice that looks to better society. Social practice as a connection between disciplines opens up a collaborative approach that can have a positive impact on “attaining social and ecological justice” (Guyette et, al. 2014, p 19).



American Society for Engineering Education [ASEE]. (1994). The green report: Engineering education for a changing world. Retrieved from

Baillee, C. & Catalano, G. (2009). Engineering and society: Working towards social justice. [Synthesis Lectures on Engineers, Technology and Society series]. San Rafael, CA: Morgan & Claypool.

Bucciarelli, L. L. (1994). Designing engineers. Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press.

Guyotte, K. W., Sochacka, N. W., Constantino, T. E., Walther, J., & Kellam, N. N. (2014). STEAM as social practice: Cultivating creativity in transdisciplinary spaces. Art Education, 67(6), 12–19.

Latour, B. (2005). Reassembling the social: An introduction to Actor-Network-Theory. New York, NY: Oxford University Press.

Miranda, C. A. (2014, April 7). How the art of social practice is changing the world, one row house at a time. Artnews. Retrieved from

Pickering, A. (1995). The mangle of practice: Time, agency, and science. Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press.

White, C. (2009). The materiality of individuality: Archaeological studies of individual lives. New York, NY: Springer Science.


Note: This series of blog posts is adapted from a much lengthier chapter for an edited book. Email me and I can send you the full copy or you can find it yourself:

Knochel, A. (2019). An exquisite corpse of curriculum: Transdisciplinarity, STEAM and Art Education [Chinese trans.]. In Y.Cooper (Ed., Trans.), On 21st Century Arts and Culture Education. Taipei, Taiwan: Hungyeh Publishing Co.

Wednesday 10. 9.19

Discipline as Body (Parts) III

We’ve covered the first three proposals for discipinary connections in those that refer to skills (#1-3): observation, measurement, and peer review and referentiality. Now let’s take a look at the next four which I refer to as habits or dispositions (#4-7):

4) Creativity

Creativity is a difficult idea to define, but its value is significant to understanding how individuals create novel and appropriate solutions to problems (Sternberg, 1999). Creativity has both social and individual functions, but the ability to play with concepts driven by strategies of inversion, juxtaposition, and re-patterning until something new emerges cannot be easily couched within any one discipline. Creativity is an important disposition through which students can establish new connection and a flow of ideas that is important to inhabiting transdisciplinary inquiry.

5) Making

Making provides a focus in educational settings on the active construction of things in the learning process. While the concept and performance of making is something that is inherently productive in the art room, project-based work has not always been the standard in STEM. Computer scientist, mathematician, and educator Seymour Papert’s idea of constructionism is an important concept in propelling project-based work in STEM subjects. Constructionism adds to constructivism by theorizing people learn most effectively when they actively make “external and sharable artifacts” as part of the learning process (Kafai & Resnick, 1996, p. 4). Constructionism has had important impact on fields such as mathematics and computer science in putting project work at the center of learning activities and this makes making an important part of all subjects.

6) Iterative methodologies

An iterative methodology emphasizes process and involves different stages of divergence and convergence in exploring solutions to an inquiry.  Design thinking is a good example of an iterative methodology that is not a singular approach to design or representative of a protocol for any one profession, although it has been closely aligned with creative and artistic processes (Bequette & Bequette, 2012). Rather, design thinking references a process of problem solving that takes a non-linear pathway through stages of define, research, ideate, prototype, choose, implement, and learn (Simon, 1969). While there are slight variations in these descriptive stages, centrally design thinking is focused on an iterative process of what Robert McKim (1973) calls “express-test-cycle.” From engineering to graphic design to painting, iterative methodologies can provide a core process by which scientists and artists pursue inquiry.

7) Collaboration

Collaboration is a process of working together that values group dynamics, human interaction, and the co-construction of ideas and outcomes. While the role of collaboration can be seen in the sciences and the arts, important to this description is the role that collaboration may play across disciplines. The transdisciplinary learning space is one that is necessarily collaborative (Guyette et. al., 2014), but there is also an interesting set of assets that arise from intermixing disciplinary collaborators that may reflect back upon their disciplinary spaces as well. For example, artists may gain from having a new world of materials and methods to play in such as bioart or sonic art, and scientists may benefit from increased communication skills and an unexpected range of new ideas for inquiry (Kieniewicz, 2013). Importantly, deep collaborations may so thoroughly blur the boundaries between art and science that there emerges what Arthur Miller (2012) calls a “third culture.” Miller asks “can there ever be art-influenced science or, better still, works combining art and science, making images that reflect a new aesthetic - a third culture, in which art and science fuse?” (para. 13). Assuredly, this third culture can only emerge by negotiation and interaction that comes with collaboration.

In the next post we’ll review larger themes (#8-10) that help to connect new and strange disciplinary bodies.



Bequette, J. W. & Bequette, M. B. (2012). A place for ART and DESIGN education in the STEM conversation. Art Education, 65(2), 40–47.

Guyotte, K. W., Sochacka, N. W., Constantino, T. E., Walther, J., & Kellam, N. N. (2014). STEAM as social practice: Cultivating creativity in transdisciplinary spaces. Art Education, 67(6), 12–19.

Kafai, Y. B. & Resnick, M. (Eds.). (1996). Constructionism in practice: Designing, thinking, and learning in a digital world. Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum.

Kieniewicz, J. (2013, June 19). Why art and science? PLOS Blogs. Retrieved from

McKim, R. (1973). Experiences in visual thinking. New York, NY: Brooks/Cole Publishing Co.

Miller, A. I. (2012, October 25). Fearless symmetries. Times Higher Education. Retrieved from

Simon, H. (1969). The sciences of the artificial. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.

Sternberg, R. J. (Ed.). (1999). Handbook of creativity. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press.


Note: This series of blog posts is adapted from a much lengthier chapter for an edited book. Email me and I can send you the full copy or you can find it yourself:

Knochel, A. (2019). An exquisite corpse of curriculum: Transdisciplinarity, STEAM and Art Education [Chinese trans.]. In Y.Cooper (Ed., Trans.), On 21st Century Arts and Culture Education. Taipei, Taiwan: Hungyeh Publishing Co.

Monday 10. 7.19

Discipline as Body (Parts) II

By Aaron Knochel

In my last post I was musing about the emergent and playful quality of the exquisite corpse as a metaphor in creating new kinds of disciplinary bodies. STEAM, SEAD, transdisciplinarity—whatever it is that you are combining, I posit that the essence of possibility, or emergence, is the key to lively, relevant and responsive curriculum. Of course, what the exquisite corpse curriculum also needs is connection.

How are we stitching this Frankenstein together?

In order for STEAM to perform these layered pathways of the curriculum, the following is a list of proposals for STEAM connections. I offer the list in an intentional order to suggest skills (#1-3), habits or dispositions (#4-7), and larger themes (#8-10), but acknowledge that the suggested ascension of their importance may be out of proportion when taken in the context of a given instance of curriculum.

Let’s start with skills,

1) Observation

Observation is a core performance in STEAM. From observing the live figure model in a drawing class to noting the growth patterns of crystal formations in chemistry, many of the learning activities in a range of STEAM curricula rely on observation within their singular disciplinary spaces. Observation is important sensorial and technological data gathering that impacts modes of inquiry and project creation that continues to have a foundational place in the transdisciplinary learning of STEAM.

2) Measurement

Measurement is concerned with issues of quantity, scale and relationality. Many areas of STEAM curricula rely on measurement to build project work, improve outcomes, and understand relationships. Like observation, measurement continues to maintain prominence within the transdisciplinary learning of STEAM.

3) Peer Review & Referentiality

Established systems of peer review and referentiality are a foundation of many academic fields of knowledge, but the pathways of how these systems of feedback operate can be quite different. The central idea is that concepts are vetted within collectives creating feedback loops that produce criticality and refinement. These feedback loops actively build records of knowledge and experience through the sourcing of prior discovery, building upon established knowledge, and seeing nuance and difference in previously understood quantities and qualities. An anonymous peer review of a research manuscript and a critique of a portfolio of artwork may appear as very different modes of feedback, but they both embrace the importance of review, feedback, and critique in building a realm of ideas.

In the next post we’ll tackle habits or dispositions (#4-7).


Note: This series of blog posts is adapted from a much lengthier chapter for an edited book. Email me and I can send you the full copy or you can find it yourself:

Knochel, A. (2019). An exquisite corpse of curriculum: Transdisciplinarity, STEAM and Art Education [Chinese trans.]. In Y.Cooper (Ed., Trans.), On 21st Century Arts and Culture Education. Taipei, Taiwan: Hungyeh Publishing Co.

Thursday 10. 3.19

Discipline as Body (Parts) I

By Aaron Knochel 

In many art classrooms across the United States, at some point in the year the art teacher will guide her students in creating an exquisite corpse. The exquisite corpse, part game and part art-making activity, was used by Surrealist artists in the early 20th century. Central to the exquisite corpse is that you have a collective submitting parts that build into an emergent whole. In drawing, a paper is folded as many times as there are group members and each member draws on their section making sure that the drawing picks up marks on the edge of the drawing above and leaves marks that invade the next section so that the next group member knows where to connect their new addition to the emerging form. Emergence in this sense is the resulting form that is created from separate parts and ultimately establishes something new: a form that cannot be reduced to those parts. Significant to the exquisite corpse is a wholeness that emerges from parts articulated through a structure, for example a folded piece of drawing paper, and transformed through an unfolding via connections at the crease of that paper.

Exquisite corpse

In the following blog posts, I will use this creative process of the exquisite corpse and its emergent production as a metaphor to gain insight into the connections that may be possible in curriculum between science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) disciplines and art education or what is referred to as STEAM (“A” standing for Art). 


This set up is already problematic. Is science really a discipline? Technology? Really!?! In the taxonomic hierarchy of knowledge isn’t that a bit higher in the ranking. It’s kind of like calling a wolf a dog because they are both in the genus Canis without any further clarification, but let’s go with it…

Moving on.

***aside over***

It is the emergent quality, the essence of unknown form, that makes the exquisite corpse a rich metaphor for drawing together disciplines into new bodies. Importantly, the exquisite corpse curriculum provides a playful structure in need of building connections that may aid in articulating the emergent, new whole. If STEAM initiatives are going to have any relevance to 21st century education it must have both this structure of connection and essence of possibility.

Anyone out there have any STEAM examples that capture this sense of emergence and connection?

- AK

Note: This series of blog posts is adapted from a much lengthier chapter for an edited book. Email me and I can send you the full copy or you can find it yourself:

Knochel, A. (2019). An exquisite corpse of curriculum: Transdisciplinarity, STEAM and Art Education [Chinese trans.]. In Y.Cooper (Ed., Trans.), On 21st Century Arts and Culture Education. Taipei, Taiwan: Hungyeh Publishing Co.

Tuesday 10. 1.19

The Form of Disciplines

By Aaron Knochel

Lately I’ve been thinking about the form of disciplines.

If art was an animal, what shape would it take? Physics? Biology?


During my October NAEA blogging mentor month, I’ll take the opportunity to think about disciplinarity: what practices, dispositions, historiographies persist when we think and act a discipline? And what happens when we draw together different disciplines into formations of more-than-one discipline? And what if we act in a null-discipline (Knochel, 2018)? Or transdiscipline?

The concept of transdisciplinarity need be understood within a collection of reference points for defining how disciplinary knowledge overlaps and intersects. Terms such as multidisciplinarity and interdisciplinarity also shape this conversation so it is important to articulate a definition and distinction. Multidisciplinarity is to view a central issue or inquiry from multiple disciplines that add multiple perspectives but remain focused on a disciplinary investigation (Nicolescu, 1999). Interdisciplinarity refers to research that goes on between disciplines, sharing degrees of epistemology and application, and in some cases generating new disciplines (Nicolescu, 1999; Russell, 2005). Transdisciplinarity “concerns that which is at once between the disciplines, across the different disciplines, and beyond all discipline” (Nicolescu, 1999, p. 2). Transdisciplinarity pushes multidisciplinarity and interdisciplinarity further, referred to as transcending or transgressing boundaries (Russell, 2005), into the “loosening of theoretical models and the development of a new conceptual synthesis of common terms, measures, and methods that produce new theories and models” (Ertas, 2010, p. 56). Although there are differences in how these terms are formulated, a common thread for transdisciplinary modes of learning is to address two characteristics: transdisciplinarity is 1) an a priori positioning of knowledge as interconnected, complex, and transcending total categorization, and 2) it arises from the need to address complex problems. Transdisciplinarity is a position from which learning is conceived as a layering of disciplinary pathways that are remixed in organic and emergent ways so as to suite the inquiry and may suggest disciplines that have yet to be defined.

To endeavor in this exploration, I will use a lens resisting chronology as the foundation and instead look to incubate an ecology of thought. I will tentatively locate idea microsystems that inform art education as both a field of research and a professional practice.


Then, we unpack, remix, and connect those ideas into new chimeras of thought. These thought mutations , I hope, maybe put to work to develop methods of engagement, pedagogy, and curriculum.


And if you put these together what mutations would they form? How might they thrive?

Stay tuned. Let’s see what monsters we can make!

- AK


The first image is from a free animal silhouette vector set I found at, and the other images are my own graphics remixed from that set.


Ertas, A. (2010). Understanding of transdiscipline and transdisciplinary process.  Transdisciplinary Journal of Engineering & Science, 1(1), pp.55-73

Knochel, A. (2018). Drawing together and falling apart. Parallax, 24(3), 295-305.

Nicolescu, B. (1999) The transdisciplinary evolution of learning [PDF document]. Retrieved from at

Russell, A. W. (2005). No academic borders?: Transdisciplinarity in university teaching and research. Australian Universities' Review, 48 (1), 35-41.

Friday 09.27.19

The Truth of Curriculum

By Benjamin Tellie

In my posts this month, I shared some things I do to stay organized, about mentoring, a middle school project about school bullying, my work in private tutoring, and a field issue. I thought I would share some of my art education experiences with you initially, but instead, as my time is almost up for this month, I want to discuss the importance of bringing more of yourself into your teaching and curriculum writing as you move forward into the fall semester with your students. Consider some questions: Where and how does curriculum begin and end, or does it have a beginning or an end? What is your truth in the curriculum you teach?

One of the most profound concepts in William Pinar’s scholarship in the curriculum studies field is that of currere—a form of autobiographical investigation about experiences both lived and informed by the world of the teacher and of the student (Pinar, 2011; Pinar, 2015). For currere to be realized and actively pursued as a concept in curriculum, teacher and student voices must be heard and their lived experiences must matter. Sometimes, it’s not always a matter of following the routine projects and objectives that lead us to certain outcomes or truths. For what is the truth of curriculum? Before Pinar’s work, our notion of curriculum has always been expressed as a noun and not a verb. 

Pinar (2015) states that curriculum as “verb emphasizes action, process, and experience, in contrast to the noun, which can convey completion” (p. 110). As art teachers, taking the concept of currere into account within your own practice, what would your art curriculum look like? What would it be like this semester for some of your projects to be centered around your students’ lived experiences and interests? Perhaps, elements of autobiography and storytelling? Will it be about infusing more of you into their lives? I encourage you to stop and ask your students—what are your goals and interests? What do you like about your experience here in the artroom and at school and what’s working and what’s not working?” Have more of you and your students’ voices be heard in the curatorial process as you make your next project, lesson, unit. Can you still hit the standards? What would happen if you found your and their truths? 


Thank you

I wanted to thank NAEA for hosting me and providing me the opportunity to write for the Monthly Mentor Blog for September. 

Please feel free to reach out to me if I can be of help to you to think through anything in your art education pursuits or practice. I wish you the best as we begin the fall season. Many good wishes and blessings.




Pinar, F. W. (2011). The Character of Curriculum Studies: Bildung, Currere, and the Recurring Question of the Subject. New York: Palgrave Macmillian.

Pinar, F. W. (2015). Educational experience as lived: Knowledge, history, and alterity. Routledge: New York.

Monday 09.23.19

Artist-As-Teacher Balance: Finding the Time to Create 

By Benjamin Tellie

I thought I would address the issue of the artist-as-teacher early in this week’s blog post for pre-service teachers, practitioners, and scholars to reflect upon for further discussion. These are two identities that are oftentimes separated in art education—the artist, who creates work in the studio setting and exhibits, and the art teacher, who resides in the classroom setting teaching art as a subject. I always hear how hard it is for art teachers to balance teaching with studio practice. I am also in this situation myself! Although, some do it magnificently while others might struggle with the balancing of the two. This can apply to any subject that is taught—music, language, history, math, and more. The question becomes how can teachers engage with their practice and feel connectivity while deeply engaging with the teaching of their subject. 

I believe staying connected to artistic practice as an art teacher can enhance student learning and inform curriculum to create meaningful experiences for students. Many art education programs throughout the United States prepare students as artist-teachers but it is often times hard for teachers to implement this model due to the demanding aspects of their teaching jobs (Graham & Zwirn, 2010). Ever since the mid-19th-century, authors have been thinking about the idea of “artist as a teacher” and bringing the knowledge of the artist into the world (The artist as teacher, 1855). For one example, artist-teacher refers to a philosophy of teaching where individuals incorporate their idiosyncratic talents, skills, and ways of being, as an artist, into their teaching practice (Daichendt, 2010). Artist-teachers construct meaning from lived experiences and information in the world around them by engaging with artistic practice (Freedman, 2003). The concept of practicing what you preach holds strong value. Being strongly connected to the practice of making art and teaching can develop our thinking in new ways—the ways in which we respond to our students’ needs and how we empower our students to grow as individuals in our society.

Many have conducted studies on the topic of artist-teacher and discuss the benefits of having both identities merge into one, that informs the other, to help contribute to student learning and curriculum (Ball, 1990; Graham, 2008; Hatfield, Mantana, & Deffenbaugh, 2006; Zwirn, 2002). Sullivan and Gu (2017) state that “there is a general acceptance that ‘thinking and doing’ embraces many learning modalities that not only instill competencies, but also build confidence, affirms individual and group identity, and generally develops capabilities for effective decision making” referring to artist-teachers (p. 55). In a qualitative phenomenological research study, Graham and Zwirn (2010) examine several practicing artist-teachers and discover their practice shows evidence of enhanced conversations and mentorship between teachers, students, and a studio environment for art-making. Evidence also suggests that “teachers who were engaged with the problems arising from their own artwork were sensitive to the artistic challenges of their students” (p. 223). Studio art-practice and teaching opens new doors and places for students to create new possibilities (Sullivan, 2010). The artist-teacher not only informs one another but strengthens the other. 

Here are some questions for thought: 

- How do you engage with your artistic practice throughout the year? How can you stay connected?
- What are some things that are holding you back? How might you make more time for yourself to make your own art?

Perhaps, through scholarship, making art with your students in the classroom, family art nights, carving out some time to make art at home on the weekends. There are many small and large things you can do to stay connected. Depending on how far you would like to take your art making and teaching. I would recommend finding what might work for you and scheduling that time for yourself, allowing yourself the time to create.  

- BT


Ball, L. (1990). What role: Artist or teacher? Art Education, 43(1), 54-59. 

Daichendt, G. (2010). Artist-teacher: a philosophy for creating and teaching. Bristol, UK: Intellect.

Graham, M. A., & Zwirn, G. S. (2010). How being a teaching artist can influence K-12 art education. Studies in Art Education, 51(3), 219-232.

Hatfield, C., Mantana, V., & Deffenbaugh, C. (2006). Artist/Art educator: Making sense of identity issues. Art Education, 59(3), 42-47.

Sullivan, G. (2010). Art practice as research: Inquiry in visual arts (2nd ed.). Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE.

Sullivan, G., & Min, G. (2017). The possibilities of research-the promise of practice. Art Education, 70(2), 49-57.

The artist as teacher. (1855). The Crayon, 1(14), 209. 

Zwirn, S. (2002). To be or not to be: The teacher-artist conundrum (Doctoral dissertation). Retrieved from ProQuest Dissertations Publishing.


Wednesday 09.18.19

VisAbility Art Lab, Rockville, MD

By Benjamin Tellie

Justin Valenti (see previous post) had a showing of his work at VisAbility Art Lab in Rockville, MD on August 30. This was an open studio night for VisAbility Art Lab Artists. According to their website, “The VisAbility Art Lab is a supported art studio for emerging adult artists with autism and other intellectual and developmental disabilities who have a strong interest in making art part of their professional careers.” VisAbility does a wonderful job setting up a safe and comfortable space that includes all artists no matter their disability. Artist’s are able to work comfortably at their own pace and rhythm, creating things of interest to them.

When I entered the Art Lab building, the scene was bursting with energy with many people and VisAbility Lab artists to talk to about their work. A young VisAbility Art Lab artist took me over to his work to show me what he had done. Ceramic cups surrounded by paintings of abstract forms and shapes that held a great deal of emotion and feeling. I was very impressed. I had the pleasure of seeing all of Justin’s wonderful work here and the work of many other artists. 

Here are some images of the show below.

Photo 1_Justin Valenti next to his artwork, Beagle Illustration, Digital Media, 2018.

Photo 2Visability Art Lab Gallery

Photo 3Various student artwork

Photo 4Various student artwork

Photo 5Various student artwork

To see more of Justin’s work and the work of other VisAbility Art Lab artists please visit:  VisAbility Art Lab Gallery

Need more information about teaching students with disabilities? Here are some of Justin’s picks: 


NAEA resources:

Disability Studies in Art Education (DSAE)

NAEA Position Statement on Art Educators with Disabilities

Successful Inclusion of Special Needs Students: Effective Mainstreaming for the Visual Arts Classroom

 - BT