Tabitha's One Teacher Rural School: Insights into the Arts through the Use of a Story Constellation

Article excerpt

Introduction

This story constellation examines the lived experiences and associated teacher self-efficacy of Tabitha Jones, a third year teacher who is also the principal of a rural one teacher school in Queensland, Australia. It explores her daily struggles with teaching arts education against the backdrop of state and national reform in curriculum. It also probes those beliefs and values associated with rural stereotypes, teaching the arts and current support structures. From this context emerges the value statement "at this school arts education is travelling on a rocky road". Findings provide messages to those interested in improving arts education in rural schools in Queensland, Australia.

Arts education and teacher self-efficacy

Many beginning generalist teachers are responsible for the delivery of integrated arts education as part of their curriculum for students aged 10-15 years. This responsibility is dependent on their own beliefs about their competence, school context, pressures of the curriculum and benefits of the arts for students. Within Australia, arts education is considered a key learning area endorsed by the Hobart Declaration (MCEETYA, 1989) and more recently in the National Education and the Arts Statement (MCEETYA, 2005). It is comprised of music, drama, dance, visual arts and media. Research in Australia (Russell-Bowie, 2004) and around the world (Henessy, Rolfe & Chedzoy, 2001; Oreck, 2001; 2004; Smithrim & Upitis, 2001) however, highlight problems of lack of confidence, motivation and knowledge faced by generalist teachers in delivering arts education. Subsequently, these problems lead to avoidance behaviour, leading to limited teaching and learning of arts education within the classroom for students. This problem is also found in science teaching by generalist teachers who exhibit low self-efficacy (Plourde, 2002; Tosun, 2000).

It is accepted that confidence, motivation and self-knowledge inform a teacher's self-efficacy beliefs system. These beliefs operate as a key factor in a generative system of human competence (Bandura, 1997), leading to the assumption that they are powerful influences on the overall teachers' effectiveness with students. The higher the sense of self-efficacy, the greater the perseverance and the higher the chance that the pursued activity will be performed successfully. Moreover, teachers' beliefs in their efficacy "affect their general orientation toward the educational process as well as their specific instructional activities" (Bandura, 1997, p.241). Teachers who do not expect to be successful with certain students are less likely to put forth effort into planning and teaching, even if they know of strategies that could help students.

Teacher self-efficacy is still forming within the beginning years of teaching and once developed according to theory, is resistant to change (Bandura, 1997). During this beginning phase, teachers create their own self-knowledge through their efficacy beliefs as they reflect on teaching arts. Subsequently, efficacy beliefs determine how environmental opportunities and impediments are perceived (Bandura, 2006). Teachers therefore set goals, anticipate outcomes and monitor their actions as they reflect on their personal efficacy when teaching the arts. From this assumption, the developmental self-efficacy beliefs of beginning teachers are important for investigation for recognition of confirming and disconfirming experiences that shape this motivational construct.

Few studies in Australia however have investigated the impact of teacher self-efficacy on the overall effectiveness of the teacher with students, especially within individual subject areas such as the arts. An understanding of teacher selfefficacy in different subject matters is increasingly important during the middle grades and beyond as academic content grows and becomes more complex (Woolfolk Hoy & Davis, 2006). …

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