Navigating Graduate Study in Art Education

By Bain, Christina; Ulbricht, J. | Art Education, January 2004 | Go to article overview

Navigating Graduate Study in Art Education

Bain, Christina, Ulbricht, J., Art Education

There once was a time when art teachers flocked to university campuses in the summer to advance their education and learn new art teaching methods in hopes of becoming better teachers in succeeding semesters.

This was in the days when progressive teachers, principals, and legislators recognized the value of advanced education and rewarded teachers for their efforts with larger salaries and career ladder advancement (Stout, 2002). Today, some art educators find little incentive for graduate study beyond the bachelor's degree because of the increased use of inservice workshops for academic advancement and the lack of financial reward. After all, inservice workshops are advantageous because they are often free or paid for by the district, are normally scheduled during teacher workdays which reduces additional time away from the classroom, and are often scheduled at a convenient location in or near the district. It is important to bear in mind, however, that inservice workshops vary in quality as well as quantity. Do these types of professional development opportunities truly advance knowledge and skills or do teachers find themselves choosing any topic the district offers in order to fulfill specified requirements? Although obtaining an advanced degree may not be the easiest path to take, there are many reasons to consider exploring advanced studies beyond the bachelor's and master's degree. Some pursue their studies for personal enrichment and to satisfy their curiosity about current trends in art education. Some educators seek additional education in preparation for future employment in museums, schools and colleges. Others want to understand how to best advocate for changes in our field and therefore want to gain research skills to help them prepare facts and figures that support claims they will make to legislators and parents.

Based on a survey of 473 graduate students, we (Bain & Ulbricht, 2002) identified several intrinsic and extrinsic factors that influenced the completion of graduate education in art education. Personal motivation, interest, support, funding, and time were the major factors that contributed to the completion of a graduate degree. In the following article, we will develop these themes and also review some of the less important factors that respondents from 16 of the top art education schools in the country identified as problems in graduate art education.

We present the following article to enhance the knowledge of those who may be thinking about advanced schooling in art education. Our intent is to inform and encourage students to pursue advanced studies in visual arts education at the master and doctorate levels and to help teachers consider the various goals and purposes of graduate art education.

Graduate Study in Art Education

Based on a survey by Anderson, Eisner, and McRorie (1998), there are over 124 graduate art education programs in North America, of which 32 offer doctoral degrees and 117 have some variation of a master's degree. The researchers found that some form of discipline-based and studio-based teaching strategies were most prevalent (Patchen, 1998). Faculty members in master's level programs are more inclined to emphasize studio-based teaching, while graduate instruction at the doctoral level is more theoretical. One could conclude that the goal of many master's degree teacher educators is to enhance teaching and artistic skills for use in the K-12 classrooms, while at the doctorate level students are expected to expand their body of knowledge of art education theory and practice. Schools that do not offer a doctoral degree are more inclined to have a studio-oriented art education emphasis.

Improving graduate programs is a concern for every discipline (Brown, Davis, Fagen, Niebur, & Wells, 2001), particularly as departments vie for coveted national rankings. Golde and Dore (2001) found that since roughly half of the individuals who begin doctoral study never complete their degrees, students often do not match their goals with those of their selected graduate programs. …

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