Three Approaches to Teaching Art Methods Courses: Child Art, Visual Culture, and Issues-Based Art Education

Article excerpt

Within art education, many researchers are concerned with teacher preparation in order to understand current practices, to recognize what is working well, and to determine future directions for changes (Henry & Lazzari, 2007). One area of neglect is the course taught at most colleges and universities that offer art education - that is, the service course in art education for elementary education majors. Although scholars wrote in this area in the 1990s and early 200Os (Gaudelius & Speirs, 2002; Grauer, 1998; Smith-Shank, 1993a, 1993b, 2001 ), little has been published on this topic since that time.

In this article, three art educators reflect on their ideas and experiences in developing and implementing innovative projects for their courses focusing on art for elementary education majors. At the 2009 NAEA National Convention in Minneapolis, we realized that we all taught this service course for our departments. We shared our expectations for the course, teaching strategies, and class activities. Our conversations developed into a cohesive presentation for the 2010 NAEA National Convention in Baltimore, and resulted in this paper. In this article, we explore three different approaches for an art methods course for elementary education majors. Each of the three authors will focus on one aspect of this course and we will conclude with a critique and recommendations.

The three areas that will be discussed in depth include: understanding child art, visual culture, and issues-based art education. Minam Kim uses her students' early artistic experiences and art products to (re)consider the artwork of other children. Eunjung Chang focuses on visual culture from three different entry points including an interdisciplinary focus, as a contemporary phenomenon, and as a substantial field for inquiry. Lastly, Maria Lim shares the importance of an issues-based approach for teaching art and illustrates techniques for implementing this concept with elementary education majors.

Elementary education majors may not have the depth of experience in child art, visual culture, and contemporary cultural issues that we see in art education majors. It is often difficult for them to incorporate their art-related experiences, interests, and knowledge into their teaching because of their lack of artmaking techniques. We do, however, believe that through the use of any of the three curriculum techniques presented in this paper, elementary preservice teachers will gain confidence with art.

Child Art Based Approach

"What do you expect to learn from this course?" Every semester, I start my first day of teaching with this question. Then, most of my elementary education majors give very similar answers: "I want to know many fun and creative art projects for enjoyment and therapeutic purposes in my future classroom," "I want to learn how to use art to teach other subjects more easily," or "I want to know how to incorporate art into my classroom" (classroom discussion, January 18, 2010). Many students add these words: "BUT, I'm not good at art. . " or "I can't draw well." Although these preservice elementary teachers believe art is important, they are also afraid to teach art because they lack art skills, techniques, and confidence. Check (2002) found similar concerns from in-service elementary teachers he worked with: "They were afraid of art; afraid of their own art skills. They were afraid to do anything where they could not control the outcome" (p. 53). Many elementary preservice teachers expect their university instructor to help them develop art skills and others simply want to have fun, using easy art activities that do not require sophisticated techniques. This was the way I felt before.

I majored in elementary education in college. I questioned my artistic ability and had no confidence in my ability to teach art. My instructors seemed to be worried about me too, so they made sure I had a variety of art projects to practice studio techniques. …