The Use of Dispositions in Preservice Art Teacher Evaluation

Article excerpt

Art teacher candidates are evaluated on their dispositions for teaching at various programmatic intervals through the use of checklists and rubrics. Current methods do not fully consider the relationship between an art teacher candidate's inner life (hopes, dreams, beliefs, emotions, feelings, and values) and their practice. Further scrutiny of the criteria and methods used to evaluate art teacher candidates is necessary. Metaphor and a focus on dispositions associated with the heart are proposed strategies for art teacher candidates to connect their inner life with their practice, and to advance the notion of teaching art as complex, transformative, and even artful.

In recent years "an enormous amount of public attention [has been] focused on teacher quality and teacher preparation" (Cochran-Smith, 2006, p. 22) and the effectiveness of teacher education programs (Labaree, 2004). The teacher accountability movement in education launched in the 1980s with publications such as A Nation Prepared: Teachers for the 21st Century by The Carnegie Task Force on Teaching (1986) and What Teachers Should Know and Be Able to Do by The National Board for Professional Teaching Standards (NBPTS) (1989). Federal mandates continued with the Title II-Higher Education Act (HEA) (2001) that required the ranking of teacher education programs by test scores, followed by Goals 2000: Educate America Act (1994), and the No Child Left Behind Act (2002). These initiatives have listed teacher quality as a major factor in improving student achievement (Brewer, 2006, p. 270) and have focused national attention on teacher preparation. These external mandates fueled public concern at the state level and resulted in increased national teacher testing, new content standards, and changes in university curricula and state licensure requirements. In art education, Standards for Art Teacher Preparation (1999) emerged with revised professional standards for art teacher preparation. With these reforms came increased emphases upon the assessment of teacher candidates' dispositions.

Dispositions have been defined in teacher education as a desirable characteristic, quality, or demeanor (Weiner & Cohen, 2003), personality, attitudes and beliefs, perceptions and expectations (Knopp & Smith, 2005), and even social and emotional behaviors (Stronge, 1992). Taylor and Wasicsko (2000) identified numerous examples of research on teacher dispositions over the past 30 years and report that "Research findings on dispositions related to effective teaching were compelling to call for inclusion in new national standards" (p. 4). Dispositions have been articulated within art education standards for teacher preparation as well as in state teacher education standards.

Typically, preservice art teachers are assessed on dispositions related to attitudes and beliefs about teaching and learning. Common preservice teacher dispositions include being cooperative, reflective, respectful, and open to new ideas (Davison-Jenkins & Koeppen, 2004). Current methods of assessing preservice art teachers' dispositions include the use of rubrics and checklists. There is no compelling evidence, however, that disposition evaluations actually create a better quality art teacher.1 Current methods of evaluating teacher dispositions also do not fully consider the relationship between a preservice teacher's inner life (hopes, dreams, beliefs, emotions, feelings, and values) and practice.

Given the increased use and emphases of disposition evaluation in art teacher preparation, I believe further scrutiny of the criteria and methods that we use to evaluate art teacher candidates is necessary. As a teacher educator within a school of education, I have been involved in required formal evaluations of teacher candidates' dispositions within the art education courses, and during benchmark reviews at my university. I have observed that criteria and methods of disposition evaluation are not particularly useful for preservice teachers, or art teacher educators, as they do not provide a window into their beliefs, but rather focus on their outward behaviors. …