The Changing Face of Art Education

By Dake, Dennis M.; Caldwell, Barbara A. | School Arts, March 2000 | Go to article overview

The Changing Face of Art Education


Dake, Dennis M., Caldwell, Barbara A., School Arts


Out on the World Wide Web, a large group of midwestern art educators are collectively building a new kind of learner-centered art education. Anytime, day or night, these elementary and secondary teachers log on to the Internet and access a fully searchable, interactive curriculum database.

By typing in a request for a new teaching idea, such as art media, visual thinking skill, multicultural concept, artist, age level, and/or subject matter, each teacher receives access to a suggested group of full lesson plans from among a group of 3000 teacher-designed and classroom-tested strategies. Attached to these lesson plans they also find full-color examples of typical student artwork. Participants are suddenly part of a widespread art faculty collecting and sharing their most successful teaching ideas.

An Art Educator's Network

In recent years many professional presentations, reports, and standards have called for the improvement of art education, as it is currently practiced in K-12 schools. Art teachers are being asked to design new curricula, infuse substantive new art content, and invent original teaching methodologies that lead to accountable learning benchmarks and sequential growth.

How is the individual art educator, or even the art faculty from an entire school district, already burdened with heavy teaching loads and many extracurricular responsibilities, to accomplish this enormously complicated feat of educational reform? One answer may lie in large scale curriculum and staff development networks designed for cooperation and collaboration across school district boundaries.

The New Art Basics (NAB) project is a model of such an art educator network. In continuous operation since 1986, coordinated by the art education faculty of the Department of Art and Design of Iowa State University, NAB provides evidence for the success of teacher directed educational change.

The NAB project is based on the premise that, while the visual arts are not typically valued in American education as a basic discipline, K-12 art teachers can empower themselves collectively to "mine" and share a wealth of teaching ideas, based on solid educational, art historical, and scientific research. In the NAB project, the individual art teacher is the "expert" on how to best adapt this new content for classroom practice.

It is the primary goal of each individual NAB teacher to cooperatively work with other teachers to identify those thinking skills and pluralistic or cross-cultural concepts that are most basic to the production and critical appreciation of the visual arts. In usage, each teacher demonstrates that visual education is vital to all students and is a unique learning discipline whose learning outcomes are not a duplication of those from other school subjects. NAB emphasizes Technology-based Community Building, Curriculum Reform, and Life-Long Teacher Development to accomplish this revitalization and expansion of visual arts education as an educational basic.

Technology-based Community Building

The New Art Basics project interconnects teachers, new teaching ideas, and unique disciplinary content on its public web site at http:// www.design.iastate.edu/ART/NAB. From this site NAB teacher/share owners have access to the two original, password-protected, and interactive databases that connect them to a unique professional community.

Through the NAB teacher database, each participant has immediate access to locating and connecting with all other teacher/ researchers in the program and the additional opportunity to consult directly with university art education faculty and other project consultants. As one art teacher commented, "We have become one large art faculty, continually sharing our best teaching ideas and common concerns."

On the teaching strategy database, called the "Living Curriculum," each teacher is able to search for classroom-tested ideas that best respond to individual local needs, view examples of student artwork, file professional classroom testing evaluations, and submit new teaching strategy ideas to be reviewed for inclusion in the curriculum database.

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