Personal Perspectives on CONSTRUCTIVISM in a High School Art Class

By Hesser, James Francis | Art Education, July 2009 | Go to article overview

Personal Perspectives on CONSTRUCTIVISM in a High School Art Class


Hesser, James Francis, Art Education


I decided to be a high school art teacher when I realized the importance artmaking had for me as a teenager and the key role it played in my development as an individual. I have always hoped my teaching would help students discover the value and power of artmaking so they could put it to use in their lives. Recently I gave my students a survey about a painting unit we had just completed. Reflecting on the unit, one student, Renaissance,2 wrote, "I was . . . able to discover what kind of artist I am." Another student wrote, "I know what I want to do from the project and that is to go to an art school and become something using art ..." Normally these comments would have aroused my interest, lifted my spirits, and even renewed my faith in my profession; but I was especially intrigued, since this unit was the crux of a qualitative case study I was conducting on constructivist learning. Each year, before students leave, I make a point to get their feedback on their experiences in my classes. The previous year, several comments on end-of-the-year surveys revealed that students did not feel they had enough opportunity to "draw what [they] wanted." These responses made me rethink my classroom. Students seemed to prefer the projects that gave them the most creative control. So, why not give it to them? My research explored what happened when I did.

The purpose of this article is to draw attention to the power of shared responsibility in the secondary art classroom. While the conceptual framework I used is grounded in constructivism, readers may also find intersections with other instructional approaches, especially those that value student- centered learning over academic or quantitative political agendas.

History, Theory, and Practice of Constructivism

Educational theorists have argued for developing intrinsically engaging, socially relevant curricula for over a century. During the late 19th and early 20th centuries, John Dewey and the progressivists gained public acceptance for the idea that students were capable of more than just receiving, storing, and reciting information. Further, Dewey helped reform American education under the premise that students learn best when engaged in activities that reflect their interests and experiences (Foote, Vermette, 8c Battaglia, 2001; Marlowe 8c Page, 2005).

Cognitive psychologists such as Piaget and Vygotsky developed learning theories that support Dewey's philosophical premise. Piaget clarified the need for context in learning, theorizing that learning follows cognitive development and is based on experience that challenges concepts understood from prior experience (Foote, et al., 2001; Marlowe & Page, 2005; Piaget 8c Inhelder, 1966/2000). Like Piaget, Vygotsky (1978) linked learning to challenging prior experience, but believed that learning drives, rather than follows, cognitive development. Vygotsky also added a key ingrethent to the mix: social interaction. Vygotsky described learning as a social process in which knowledge is constructed through interaction with a knowledgeable mentor and one's peers. These ideas form the foundation of social constructivism.3

Constructivism bears many similarities to holism and critical pedagogy. All three educational orientations strive for greater student ownership of the learning process. Peter London (2006) and the holists use more esoteric language in their emphasis on teachers framing open-ended problems that "spiritually" or "artfully" engage students' bodies, minds, and spirits. Yet, nearly identical ambitions are part of the more utilitarian writing of Vygotsky and the constructivists. Critical education has roots in constructivism but places greater emphasis on socio-political power dynamics (Shor, 1999). A shared focus on practices that are relevant to students' lives, invite student participation, assure student control of the learning process, and promote facilitators rather than teachers underlines similarities creating a nearsymmetry among the theories.

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

Personal Perspectives on CONSTRUCTIVISM in a High School Art Class
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.