How De We Teach? Results of a National Survey of Instruction in Secondary Art Education

Article excerpt

This article summarizes selected questions from a 1999 national survey of instructional strategies used by secondary art teachers in the U.S. Results suggest art teachers most frequently use studio-- oriented teaching strategies, and find them most effective in motivation, demonstration, and questioning strategies. Particular note is made of assessment and evaluation, use of electronic technology, and art exhibition.

Introduction

Nothing is more fundamental to art education than the quality of instruction. While innumerable research studies focus on instructional practices, most pertain to small-scale studies done with self-contained groups at specific sites. Few are replicated. Generalizing to different, wider or larger frames of reference remains problematic. These anecdotal studies may provide valuable insights into teaching practices for practitioners and other researchers, but they do not give the kind of broad-based, discipline-- wide information decision-makers, policy-makers, and advocates wishing to influence them need or want.

Only a few demographic studies have been done that investigate instructional practices in art education across the entire nation. The NAEP Arts Report Card (Persky et al., 1998) was the first examination of art education students, teachers and some instructional practices done by the federal government in 17 years. According to a presentation at the Advanced Training Workshop for the Use of NAEP 1997 Arts Database (Sedlacek, 1999), the NAEP 1997 Arts sample population of 2,999 was carefully chosen to be highly representative of eighth-grade students. However, many of these students were not taking art at the time they were tested, may have only had a minimum of art instruction in middle school, or may not have been taught by art specialists in elementary school. In other words, the sample population is highly representative of eighth-grade students, but not eighth-grade art students. Moreover, the published analysis was generally limited to simple percentages. Deeper analyses were not undertaken. The findings, on the whole, were disappointing and unrevealing.

The NAEP 1997 data contain a wealth of salient information. It is possible to examine the data using more selective statistical procedures to reveal how well specific sub-groups (including art students) actually did and what instructional practices are in fact more successful. Diket, Burton and Sabol (2000) are currently conducting a secondary analysis of the NAEP 1997 data.

Chapman (1982) conducted a national survey of 187 art teachers, their conditions, curricula and teaching practices, in 1979. Mims and Lankford (1995) surveyed 332 members of the NASA elementary division on several factors, including patterns of practice related to time and money, and their impact on curriculum content and instructional decision making. Leshnoff (1997) reported on a national survey she conducted of teaching practices of art teachers who had student entries accepted in more than one Crayola Dream-Maker art exhibition. Burton (1998a) did a survey of the assessment and evaluation practices of U.S. K-12 teachers of art. Burton (19986) also surveyed U.S. K-12 teachers of art as to their use of electronic technology in their instruction. Williams (1996) replicated a national survey done by Eisner and Dobbs (1986) which examined art museum education practices.

This survey seeks to provide demographic baseline data showing the kind, quality and quantity of art instruction in secondary public and private schools across the United States. It focuses on secondary art instruction for two reasons: many elementary schools do not have art specialists or art programs, and enough significant differences exist between elementary and secondary art instruction to warrant separate surveys.

The quality of a survey of this kind depends to a large degree on the randomness of the population surveyed. Educational Directories, Inc. …