Historical inquiry and epiphany : a bridge for elementary education majors learning to design elementary art curriculum
Boehler, Kimberly Raie
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Theory and practice for comprehensive art education (K-8) has continued to reflect and influence reform in general education since the 1960s. Yet in spite of development of exemplary programs, art in many classrooms is often limited to experimentation with materials, providing breaks in the day for students or teachers. Teacher educators need to consider what training will enable emerging elementary teachers to become competent developers of relevant and purposeful art curriculum (for learning built on knowledge and skills unique to the arts.) The purpose of this qualitative study was to guide, observe, and report on the experiences of Elementary Education (EDEL) Majors in an Elementary Art Methods course within the Education Department at Montana State University. These students were asked to engage in historical/cultural inquiry as members of a group in order to construct contextual understanding of one artwork or art site. Then students were guided through the process of designing curriculum from their insights of the same art prompt. The unit foundation guidelines used were from the Transforming Education Through the Arts Challenge (TETAC), a five-year project completed in 2001. The framework, which emphasizes art integration, was founded on Discipline-Based Art Education (DBAE) and Understanding by Design (Wiggins and McTighe, 1998) concepts. The results of this study indicate that emerging teachers have a pre-determined idea about what art is and should be in the classroom. Most EDEL majors say they intend to teach or integrate art but many feel art should be fun activity allowing for free expression. However, when given opportunity to cultivate informed understanding of an artwork, EDEL students were able to design substantive and well-aligned curriculum with meaningful enduring ideas, essential questions, and learning objectives for art skills and knowledge. The findings will encourage educators to approach inquiry in elementary art methods as an information-gathering process appropriate for preparing to teach in any content area. The inquiry process alone did not lead EDEL students to experience epiphany until they began to unpack their ideas according to the structure for unit design. Then one student remarked: "Pow, suddenly it all made sense!"