"Everyone Needs an Art Education:" Developing Leadership through Positive Attitudes toward Art Methods Courses

By Manifold, Marjorie; Zimmerman, Enid | Art Education, November 2011 | Go to article overview

"Everyone Needs an Art Education:" Developing Leadership through Positive Attitudes toward Art Methods Courses


Manifold, Marjorie, Zimmerman, Enid, Art Education


A student in one of our art methods courses for elementary majors told us, "Everyone needs an art education to be a well-rounded adult. Art motivates and helps children be creative and express themselves." As two instructors of these art methods courses, we sometimes are challenged about teaching art methods to generalist elementary majors, as some students are skeptical about the need for these courses. This student's comments lead us to reconsider how we teach and how students respond to these methods courses. In particular, we thought it would be important to consider strategies to help students who hold positive views to become empowered as future leaders, advocates, and role models for change in our classrooms and beyond.

Research about K-6 generalists, elementary, preservice majors in teacher education programs often emphasizes students1 who are resistant to art methods courses, although Galbraith (1991) and Gibson (2003) found some elementary majors held positive views about art methods courses. In addition, instructors who are frustrated by students who respond negatively to these methods courses often seek advice about how to have their students adopt positive attitudes (Galbraith, 1995). In a previous study we conducted with another researcher (Lackey, Manifold, & Zimmerman, 2007), some elementary majors were found to be unreceptive, yet others held positive views about art methods classes. This previous study suggested that developing leadership among those who hold positive views might be a means of nurturing constructive responses from those who do not.

In this article, we report results of a study we conducted using focus-group student discussions and focused interviews with instructors of art methods courses for elementary majors at universities in five sites around the United States. We determined that The Empowerment/ Leadership for Art Education (Leadership Model) developed by lhurber and Zimmerman (1997, 2002) would be appropriate to develop strategies for implementing positive change to counter the resistance that students and instructors sometimes demonstrate toward these courses. This Leadership Model2 is constructed on a feminist framework that has been successfully used in a variety of contexts that support building reflection and empowerment through interactions among groups of people working toward common goals. We created an interview protocol that focused on beliefs, attitudes, perceptions, experiences, and circumstances of students and instructors in respect to these courses. The Leadership Model provided categories for analyzing our data. The study was guided by the following questions.

1. How do instructors and elementary majors describe their positive and negative experiences about participating in art methods courses?

2. How do student and instructor responses to focus group and focus interviews align with stages of the Leadership Model?

3. What are implications of this study for enacting positive practices in art methods courses for preservice elementary majors in similar contexts?

What Elementary Education Majors Think About Art Methods Courses

At the conclusion of the spring semester 2005, we (along with a colleague) individually interviewed instructors and groups of students at our university who were randomly selected from seven sections of an art education methods course. We used focus interviews and focus group discussions because they provide a large amount of interaction in a short period of time (Morgan, 1997). The goal was not to learn about individual biographies, percentages of opinions, or classroom settings; rather, the focus was on identifying the overall sense of group attitudes relative to ideas being discussed (Greenbaum, 1998; Kruger & Casey, 2009). 3 Using a common syllabus, we had each taught at least one section of this course. We followed the same interview protocol when we interviewed a focus group composed of students whom we did not teach (Cohen, Manion, 8c Morrison, 2007). …

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