Bases of Preservice Art Teachers' Reflective Art Judgments

Article excerpt

This descriptive study investigates the bases used to support judgments of artworks by preservice art teachers at two large universities. Bases art teachers might use to judge artwork range from personal preferences, to cultural expectations, to criteria drawn from values of various artworlds. The 26 preservice teachers in this study used a narrower range of bases than we expected. Most participants based their judgments on ideas associated with beauty, realism, and skill or ideas associated with the expression of feelings and ideas. Few participants used modernist ideas to support their judgments. Only one participant in the study used postmodern ideas. The authors discuss the possible explanations for participants' reliance on a narrow range of ideas, raise questions, and draw implications for art teacher education.

Elementary and secondary art teachers make judgments about artworks in a variety of ways throughout their professional practice. Paramount among their judgments are those they make about their students' artworks as well as those they make as they select artworks to introduce in their classrooms. Teachers' judgments of student art often constitute the dominant evidence of student learning. Teachers plan studio lessons to help students achieve particular standards in artmaking and, presumably, draw these standards, at least in part, from their own notions of quality in art. Similarly, art teachers make judgments as they select artworks and other visual objects to present for their students' critical analysis, which, in turn, draw to some extent upon the teachers' own casual or carefully considered ideas about quality in art. Art teachers can support their judgments of art on a variety of bases, for example, personal preferences, criteria passed on within their culture, or criteria informed by the concerns of one or more artworlds. In a study supported by a National Art Education Foundation research grant, we asked preservice art education students to select works of art they thought were good and indicate why. Our analysis of the bases they used to support their judgments reveals their range of responses. It also suggests assumptions they may rely upon for future art education curriculum decisions.

Roland (1995) studied assumptions of preservice art teachers and concluded that, "What is taught in art is determined by the art teachers preferences rather than by consideration for the field of study, the particular needs and interests of children, or the sequential development of art knowledge and skills" (p. 129). Unrath and Norlund (2006) concluded their review of research on teaching art as a reflective practice by asserting that, "Reflective educators who are mindful of their inbuilt beliefs, [and] personal biases... will not remain unchanged and ensnared by their shortcomings" (n.p.). Preservice art teachers' judgments of artworks reveal their inbuilt beliefs and personal biases about art. It follows, then, that teachers who are reflective about the bases they use to judge art and who can use a variety of criteria are better prepared to make professional and teaching decisions than teachers who can draw upon only a narrow range of bases for those judgments.

We advocate that preservice art teachers need to be able to distinguish their personal preferences from their professional judgments in order to make reasoned and effective teaching decisions. Their need to make reflective art judgments is compounded by the wide array of choices they will face as they select visual objects to present to their students. In recent decades, art education theorists have called for the inclusion of multicultural and global arts (Chalmers, 1996; McFee, 1998; Sabol, 2000), objects from the designed environment (Guilford & Sandler, 1999; Hicks & King, 2007), and objects and events of visual culture (Duncum, 2002; Freedman, 2003, Garoian & Gaudelius, 2004). Preservice art education programs face the challenge of providing their students with diverse content and the experiences necessary to develop a repertoire of ideas for making reflective judgments of art that tJhey can use in their teaching. …