ART TEACHERS AS LEADERS OF Authentic Art Integration

Article excerpt

A MYRIAD OF ISSUES AFFECT PK-12 PUBLIC SCHOOL ART EDUCATORS' WORK LIVES, INCLUDING HOW AND BY WHOM ART IS TAUGHT IN SCHOOLS. Chief among these issues are budgetary shortfalls, time constraints, and general misconceptions that anyone who enjoys the visual arts is capable of teaching the visual arts. Perpetuation of this myth impacts art education, removing the locus of control over art curricula and schoolwide offerings from the art teacher. In this article, we discuss why (he pedagogy of art education - what one needs to know about art content and instructional strategies specific to art content - is critical to the development of authentic art integrated learning opportunities. The development of creative processes - the ability to find multiple problems and posit multiple solutions - is considered as one rationale for art-based curricula. We seek to motivate art teachers to think about the possibilities of influencing and shaping schoolwide curricula based on learning in and through the arts, and ultimately, their role in this process. Toward accomplishing this goal, we present a model based on the premise that all art-based learning within schools should be coordinated by highly qualified professionals. Specifically, we discuss the role of art educators as leaders, in charge of promoting creative thinking dispositions, and designing/ planning art integrated curricula that leads to the development of school wide art learning.

Problematic situations we witness in schools include classroom teachers with little or no art education; community artists, untrained in the art of teaching, replacing, or circumventing art teachers; and the misapplications of well-intended art integrated curricula. These problematic situations are exacerbated by art teachers' understandable reluctance to lead school-wide art integration initiatives. One possible explanation for this unwillingness is that many teachers need clarification about what art integration is and what it entails. We believe that true authentic art- integrated learning places visual arts content at tiie center of teaching and learning. Furthermore, the professional responsible for art-based learning in an art integration initiative must be educated in the art of teaching art.

Defining Terminology

Despite clear distinctions among the terms integrated, interdisciplinary, multidisciplinary, and cross-disciplinary curricular approaches, these are often used interchangeably. In multidisciplinary, interdisciplinary, and cross-disciplinary approaches, separate subjects remain distinct, and "content and skills from each are correlated to the theme" (Beane, 1997, p. 10), the greater objective is mastery in each subject area. An integrated approach to art supports simultaneous teaching and learning focused on experiences that lead to increased and assessable understandings in art as well as other disciplines (Smilan, 2004).

Unlike interdisciplinary work, art integration unites concepts and parallel skills, and employs real world-based organizing components related to the learner, thus authenticating each individual's experiences (Beane, 1997). Authentic Art Integration (AAI) is further defined as learning that is meaningfully connected to art content and art instruction. More importantly, AAI involves the students search for and construction of complex knowledge that leads to understanding relationships of larger social issues. Students engage in real and tangible work involving critical thinking, art-based, and problem-based methodologies that are developed in collaborative efforts among teachers. AAl is co-planned and co-taught and responsive to students' situations, replacing discrete, predetermined curricula.

Marginalization of the Visual Arts

Art teachers are continuously challenged to act as art advocates as ongoing testing initiatives and prevailing misconceptions about art and learning continue to marginalize art in our schools. According to data from Americans for the Arts (n. …