Art Curriculum Influences: A National Survey

Article excerpt

This article is the result of an empirical study1 that attempts to discern the extent to which certain factors might influence current curriculum content taught by K-12 art teachers in the United States with 0 to 7 years of teaching experience. Data were collected from a sample of 437 art teachers' completion of a survey instrument with quantitative and limited open-ended response questions. A principal components analysis with a varimax rotation yielded five general art content categories. The use of t-tests measured the relationships between these content categories with demographics, undergraduare coursework, and grade levels taught. Factors that might have influenced curriculum content include: undergraduate coursework, personal interests, national and state curriculum standards, and student issues. The relationship between those factors and the influences of current curriculum content being taught is discussed.

Factors Influencing Art Curriculum Content

Demographic research in art teacher education has been limited (Galbraith & Grauer, 2004), particularly on issues associated with the challenges of bridging contemporary art education theories to practice in U.S. schools. Some art educators in higher education have been concerned about the application of contemporary art education issues by newly trained art teachers entering the field. In order to better understand factors influencing the art curriculum content actually applied by new service art teachers, a primarily quantitative survey instrument with limited open-ended response questions was used for data collection. For the purposes of this article, curriculum has been defined as course content and implementation guided by external and internal factors such as the state or school as well as the beliefs, attitudes, assumptions (Congdon, Stewart, & White, 2002), and interests of the teacher.

Contemporary approaches of art teacher education and practice emphasizing, for example, feminist, social, and critical theories in art and pedagogy have offered progressive possibilities for art curriculum that are diverse and address current social (Efland, 2004; Lampela, 1995, 2001), political (Garber, 2004), and cultural (Banks, 1993; Grossman, 1995) issues that exist in our current world. Many educational researchers have recommended the use of curriculum that is relevant to students and reflects the cultural diversity of the students' community (Ballengee-Morris & Stuhr, 2001; Boughton & Mason, 1999; Heard, 1990).

Art Education Curriculum Trends

For more than two decades the predominant use of formalism has been challenged by new approaches and theories. True to a postmodern sensibility, there has not been a dominant curriculum theory or approach, but instead a plurality of approaches that address a more inclusive body of artists and issues (e.g., social, political, and cultural), preparing preservice teachers for the dramatic demographic changes occurring in U.S. public schools.

Despite this paradigm shift in higher education, there have been noted concerns about curriculum content and its applications. Jelcich (1998) claimed that the art education curriculum in most public schools was overwhelmingly Western European. Many teachers taught within a modernist framework emphasizing Western male artists from a formalist perspective. Stewart and Katter (2003) and Stuhr (2003) noticed some difficulty bridging contemporary theories to practice. Stuhr's own preservice teachers questioned the validity and application of these ideas, since they differed from how they were taught by their K- 12 art teachers, and what they felt comfortable teaching. La Porte (2001) and Jones (1997) asserted that educators tend to teach what they have been taught as students. If this was and still is true, then, current curriculum content being taught in public schools should reflect the elements that most influenced the new teachers, whether contemporary curriculum reflects the old paradigm or the new. …