Changing Teacher Preparation in Art Education

Article excerpt

Current educational reforms are driving changes in teacher preparation that have implications across disciplines.

Within art education, Day (1997) and others (for example; Beudert, 2006; Galbraith, 2001; Galbraith & Grauer, 2004; Hutchens, 1997; Sabol, 2004; Thurber, 2004; Zimmerman,1997, 2004) have called for increased research into teacher preparation in order to understand current practice, to recognize what is working well, and to determine directions for necessary changes. Such efforts, if they are to result in substantive change, cannot occur in isolated situations but "must be considered within the context of calls for teacher reform" (Hutchens, 1997, p. 139). Sabol (2004) explained that the calls for reform in general education were shaped by forces that also "bear directly on the field of arts education" (p. 525). In this article, we will position teacher preparation in art education within the broader context of the recent reform movements' in teacher education in general and then describe efforts at one university to make substantive program changes in the preparation of teachers with emphasis placed upon those efforts as manifested within art education. The focus on one university is not intended to imply that this approach is necessarily unique, but instead is used to illuminate aspects of current practice that may be useful to others involved in art teacher preparation. In keeping with the increasing recognition of teachers as central to reform efforts (Day, 1997; Executive Summary, AERA Panel on Research and Teacher Education, 2005; National Commission on Teaching and America's Future, 1996), the teacher's voice is an essential component of this discussion.2

Historically, teacher education can be defined in three distinct ways, as a training problem, as a learning problem, and as a policy problem (Cochran-Smith & Fries, 2005). Cochran-Smith (2004) explained that she does not use the phrase "problem of teacher education" in a negative sense, but instead uses it to specifically focus attention on the challenge of "providing well-prepared and effective teachers," on the idea of "teacher education as a research problem," and on teacher educations continued existence "as an enterprise troubled by enduring and value-laden questions about the purposes and goals of education in a democratic society" (p. 295). She stated that from the 1960s to the mid-1980s, teacher education focused primarily on efforts to teach preservice teachers those skills and behaviors empirically linked to effective teaching. During the 1990s, teacher education was conceptualized as essentially a learning problem. The assumption was that "excellent teachers were professionals who were knowledgeable about subject matter and pedagogy" and, as a result, teacher education programs sought to develop in their students "...the knowledge, skills and dispositions [they] needed to function as decision maker[s]" (p. 296) in their future classrooms.

More recently, teacher education has been conceptualized as a policy problem in terms of teacher impact on student learning. Student achievement, most visibly present in the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB) (2002), is now the determining factor in federal educational policy. Cochran-Smith (2004) explained, "It is assumed that the right policies can simultaneously solve the problems of teacher retention, teacher quality, and pupil achievement" (p. 298). Although many educators question the efficacy of such an approach emphasizing the "training" of teachers to produce higher student testing results, she concluded that the current political climate fails to acknowledge that teaching is "an intellectual, cultural, and contextual activity that requires skillful decisions about how to convey subject matter knowledge, apply pedagogical skills, develop human relationships, and both generate and utilize local knowledge" (p. 298). Within art education, Chapman (2005) warned of the impact of NCLB on the arts in the public schools, the "one institution most clearly positioned to offer all students instruction, irrespective of differences in social class and preconceptions about their talents, interests, or aspirations for a career in art" (p. …