Visual Arts Teaching in Kindergarten through 3rd-Grade Classrooms in the UAE: Teacher Profiles, Perceptions, and Practices

By Buldu, Mehmet; Shaban, Mohamed S. | Journal of Research in Childhood Education, October-December 2010 | Go to article overview

Visual Arts Teaching in Kindergarten through 3rd-Grade Classrooms in the UAE: Teacher Profiles, Perceptions, and Practices


Buldu, Mehmet, Shaban, Mohamed S., Journal of Research in Childhood Education


This study portrayed a picture of kindergarten through 3rd-grade teachers who teach visual arts, their perceptions of the value of visual arts, their visual arts teaching practices, visual arts experiences provided to young learners in school, and major factors and/or influences that affect their teaching of visual arts. The sample for this study consisted of 25 visual arts teachers in three public and three private schools in AI Ain, United Arab Emirates. Data were collected through semi-structured interviews and work product analysis. The analysis of the study data was founded on an inductive approach that is based on a constant comparative method of data analysis. Results revealed two profiles of visual arts teachers: specialist teachers and generalist teachers. Results showed that visual art activities included drawings, paintings, print-making, clay work, construction, and handicrafts. An analysis of teachers' perceptions showed that visual arts were deemed less valued among other subject matter, but also indicated the commitment and determination of visual arts teachers to secure a highly appreciated and valued place of the visual arts in school curricula. Teachers also reported barriers to visual arts teaching, such as short class periods, parental and societal influences, curriculum, workload, lack of a visual arts studio, lack of collegial cooperation, and pressure to attend local competitions. Implications of the study for parents/families, visual art educators, teacher education programs, educational policymakers, and curriculum specialists also are presented.

Keywords: visual arts, teachers, perceptions, practices, K--3rd grade, UAE

There are numerous benefits of visual arts in education for young children, ranging from sensory exploration to the exercising of the imagination. However, visual arts are not granted the high value and serious consideration that they deserve in the school curricula and are not fully appreciated by the community. Although the educational importance of a mathematics, science, social studies, or literacy program for young children is rarely questioned, one can assume that teachers spend much of their time justifying the value of visual arts education in children's lives (Eglinton, 2003). Given the pressures to deliver the "core subjects," visual arts are given second-degree importance and are much neglected in school curricula (Pavlou, 2004). Even if valued in the curriculum, rigid timetabling requirements leave little time for visual arts teaching (Downing, 2005). In addition to these concerns, Gray and Purnell (2004) noted a perceived division between the visual arts and academics--either we study academic content or we participate in the visual arts. They affirmed that the majority of teaching time in schools is devoted to the "fundamentals of learning" and that the visual arts portion is considered supplemental. On the other hand, as Eglinton (2003) noted, some educators are fortunate to have like-minded people on their side who support the idea that experiences with visual arts should be made available to children in schools; yet we frequently find that many of these supporters remain unaware of the vast opportunity for development embedded in visual art experiences.

To promote the value of visual arts and create a visual arts program that works, it is vital to gain a clearer picture of how visual arts are presented in schools, who the visual arts teachers are, what they teach, how they teach, why they teach, and what developmental opportunities are housed in visual arts experiences (Lahr, 1984). The answers to these questions and many similar ones might bring a fresh insight to the learning-teaching situations in early childhood and elementary education programs. Thus, the current study aimed to portray a picture of teachers who teach visual arts, their perceptions of the value of visual arts in education, their visual arts teachings practices, visual arts experiences provided to young learners in school, and major factors and/or influences that affect their teaching of visual arts.

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