In Their Own Words: What Student Art Teachers Say They Learn and Need

By Kowalchuk, Elizabeth A. | Art Education, May 2000 | Go to article overview

In Their Own Words: What Student Art Teachers Say They Learn and Need


Kowalchuk, Elizabeth A., Art Education


The student teaching experience is often consideted to be the final phase of art teachers' preservice preparation. For most, the internship is a time of relating theory to reality, of putting learning into practice. At its best, student teaching helps make prior training relevant and establishes a positive professional outlook in beginning teachers (Kowalchuk, 1999). The practicum can also be a period of great challenge as novices try to balance unfamiliar demands with their own views of what it takes to be a successful teacher. While some interns seem to easily step into being an art teacher, many sere with this role throughout their placements. What specific challenges do art interns typically face? What do student teachers think they learn and need to learn? How can those who serve as cooperating teachers and supervisors help them become skilled art educators? These issues were the focus of a recent project that examined the reflective writing of art interns over the length of they field placements.

Thirty-even student teachers enrolled in a large art education program at a northeastern college were involved in the project. Their training prior to student teaching was similar to the majority of art teacher education programs in the United States (Galbraith,1997; Sevigny,1987; Willis-Fisher,1993), with most of their preparation being in the studio areas and including several art and general education courses. In this case, art education courses were taught from a discipline-based perspective. Like many student art teaching experiences, interns were evenly assigned to elementary and secondary schools (two 8-week placements) so that roughly an equal number of individuals were teaching at the same level throughout the term. As part of the student teaching practicum, interns participated in a bi-weekly seminar providing time for collegial interaction and guest presentations on topics of interest. During each of seven seminar meetings held during the semester, student teachers also wrote guided reflective statements about their experiences by responding to open-ended questions about the challenges they faced, the successes they experienced, what they learned, and what they thought they needed to know to be a better art educator. Their reflections reveal the thoughts and struggles of novice art teachers as they begin their careers.

The Challenges and Successes of Student Teaching

Overall, four broad topics accounted for most of the subject matter in student teachers' reflective writing. Pupil learning and characteristics, classroom management, instructional strategies, and art content were discussed most often when combining all writing tasks and sessions. It is not surprising that student teachers were concerned about these facets of instruction because interns are often evaluated on their instructional strategies and management efforts during the short, intense internship. Since typical assessment check-lists focus on these topics, student teachers also tend to be preoccupied with them as well. Nevertheless, examining variations and patterns in what interns think about their own teaching and learning can be informative for cooperating teachers and supervisors who work with beginning teachers.

You can't fake it. . .

What They Say They Learn and Need to Know

When student teachers discussed what they had learned and needed to learn in order to be better art teachers, several themes were evident. Being organized and flexible and providing meaningful learning experiences were discussed frequently when interns wrote about instructional approaches and student characteristics. Having the ability to recognize when a situation is likely to become problematic was a key feature of what preservice teachers said they needed to improve about their classroom management skills. With instructional experience, many student teachers also reported a desire to improve and increase the depth of their art knowledge.

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In Their Own Words: What Student Art Teachers Say They Learn and Need
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