Is All Really Well with Graduate Programs in Art Education?

Article excerpt

What is the status of graduate programs in art education today? Have graduate art education programs grown stronger in the last three decades? In 1996, Anderson, Eisner, and McRorie conducted a follow-up study to Eisner's 1963 survey of graduate programs in art education in the United States and Canada. The purpose of the study was to determine the locations, scope, and nature of graduate programs in art education, and to examine the content and strategies that are addressed in these programs. The study also attempted to determine if new areas of specialization have emerged in graduate programs since the original study.

The Study and Its Summary Conclusions

The researchers sent out two rounds of questionnaires: a first round to all the graduate programs that could be identified (248), and a second round to a total of 25 programs (15 selected as the most influential by peer nomination from round one, and 10 more identified by the greatest number of students). The researchers suggest four major conclusions. First, based on the number of graduate students and the overall population growth in Canada and the United States, the size of graduate programs in art education has remained the same since 1963. Second, they state that strong graduate programs are in place throughout both countries and that substantive doctoral programs exist in every geographical region. Third, the researchers suggest that indicators of energy in the field of art education exist in part because of the great variety of areas of focus among graduate programs including some programs with substantive depth. And finally, they state that the field of graduate art education is "healthy and on track for the future." An examination of a few key findings in this study however, suggests that some of these conclusions may be overstated. At the least, there is a need for more information about graduate programs in art education.

Faculty and Resources to Support Graduate Art Education

Of the 124 programs reporting graduate programs in the first round, the study indicated that 32 offer the doctorate, and 117 offer some variation of the master's degree. While the results indicate 263 full-time faculty and 238 part-time faculty to support these programs, 15 schools reported having no full-time faculty members, depending instead on part-time and adjunct faculty. Further, since 1991, only seven schools accounted for 66% of the doctorates awarded. The researchers also conclude that only five programs have sufficient faculty and resources to provide their students comprehensive programs: Ohio State, Penn State, Florida State, British Columbia, and Georgia. If the researchers truly believe that these five programs are the most comprehensive, how can these mostly east coast institutions alone warrant the conclusion that strong graduate programs exist in every geographical location?

Approaches to Learning and Teaching Art

The researchers conclude that two approaches to learning and teaching art dominate graduate programs-a comprehensive approach such as discipline-based art education, and a studio-based artist-teacher approach. While the study reports that the emphasis on studio drops significantly at the doctoral level, 68% of all master's programs required traditional studio arts for students. Interestingly, the researchers also report that the majority of masters' programs that do not require art education theory or methods, do require studio arts coursework. As a followup to this study, it would be interesting to know if those masters' programs that do not require such theory or methods consider their programs to be "comprehensive. …