Perceptions of Practice: What Art Student Teachers Say They Learn and Need to Know

Article excerpt

The student teaching experience is an important component in the professional development of art teachers. Yet, other than anecdotal accounts, little is known about patterns of successes and difficulties encountered by art student teachers.What challenges do they face? How do they put their art understandings into practice? What do they believe they learn and need to learn in order to become an art teacher? To examine these issues, art student teachers (N - 37) wrote guided reflective statements seven times over the course Of their field placement. They described their successes, the challenges they faced, what they learned, and what they thought they needed to know to become a teacher. Art content references and concerns were pervasive and consistent across all writing tasks and data collection sections. Although the student teachers were challenged by the technical aspects of art instruction including classroom management and pedagogical strategies, subject matter was also a primary consideration. These results raise questions about the ways student art teachers make use of their art knowledge in teaching and how teacher educators can better assist novices to balance the technical demands of teaching with content needs.

Student teaching is often considered to be a culminating experience in art educators' preservice training. During this practicum, college art education majors intern with one or more inservice teachers for a period of time, often within the framework of the university semester or quarter. They begin their placement observing and assisting the cooperating teacher, gradually taking over instructional duties and responsibilities. For student teachers, it is a period of putting learning into practice, of relating theory to reality. In the best of situations, the field experience helps make coursework relevant and establishes a positive professional outlook. However, what specific challenges do art student teachers face? Are they able to use what they know about art in teaching situations? What are their concerns? Unfortunately, little is known about how well art student teachers apply what they know and learn from practice. Investigation could provide an understanding of topics requiring greater attention in preservice coursework and identify areas where student teachers need additional assistance during their field placement experiences. These issues provided the framework for this project which examined art student teachers' perceptions of their own successes, challenges, and learning as they participated in a 16-week teaching practicum.

Review of Literature Art Teachers' Professional Development

Although art teachers' professional development has not been studied in a sustained way, there have been several calls for attention to this topic in the field (i.e., Galbraith, 1997; Zimmerman, 1994). Most investigations in this area have focused on the art and education coursework required of undergraduate preservice art teachers rather than the processes novice art teachers go through as they learn to teach. For instance, Galbraith (1997) attempted to ascertain the content preparation of art specialists and found that degree programs vary. Her results were similar to those of Willis-Fisher (1993) who discovered that undergraduate preservice art teachers take an average of 36 semester hours of studio coursework in a total degree program of 130 hours. Willis-Fisher determined that programs typically require 9 credit hours of art history usually in the form of three survey courses covering Western art (also see Sevigny, 1987). Galbraith speculated that most art education programs offer a few number of art education methods courses where teacher educators attempt to help novice teachers make connections between coursework and understand the relevance of their preservice preparation. Because art education programs tend to be small, Galbraith also indicated that most make use of courses taught by faculty in other areas or departments (p. …