"How Will You Do This?" Infusing Multiculturalism throughout Art Teacher Education Programs

By Acuff, Joni Boyd | Journal of Cultural Research in Art Education (Online), January 1, 2012 | Go to article overview

"How Will You Do This?" Infusing Multiculturalism throughout Art Teacher Education Programs


Acuff, Joni Boyd, Journal of Cultural Research in Art Education (Online)


"How Will You Do This?"

During my dissertation defense, I passionately declared that I would create multicultural art education experiences in which students questioned power structures, identified personal biases, promoted equity, and learned empathy I hoped that my teaching and students' learning these lessons would inform their future art teaching. As I concluded my novice proclamation, a committee member asked, "How will you do this?" I did not have an answer, and I willingly shared this fact. Fortunately, my "I don't know yet" did not result in my failing the defense exam. The committee member's question was not proposed to contest my goals; its purpose was to make me cognizant of how I would have to plan a way to accomplish those goals. Art teacher education programs that thoroughly integrate multicultural goals into normative art education curricula are scarce (Knight, 2006). The committee member knew this and wanted to prepare me, as she was once in my position, asserting similar goals.

While her interrogation addressed the personal strategies I planned to use in my ensuing professorship, it also raised much larger questions. Why do some art education programs in higher education lack consistent infusion of critical multiculturalism?2 And are those art educators who are concerned with multiculturalism relegated to teaching only optional, isolated, special topics courses titled Multicultural Art Education?

This research revisits a previous inquiry explored by art educator Wanda Knight in 2006. In "Using Contemporary Art to Challenge Cultural Values, Beliefs, and Assumptions," Knight asserts:

Teacher education programs have the responsibility of preparing preservice teachers for a diverse society. Multicultural perspectives should not be limited to isolated courses but should permeate every aspect of the curriculum, the goal of which is to increase respect for diversity, reduce racism, and positively affect student learning, (p. 40)

Knight insists that multicultural perspectives should be integrated into general art education curriculum. Her solutions are discussed in descriptions of the pedagogy, instructional strategies and seminar activities she utilized to teach a special topics course titled, 'Using Contemporary Art to Challenge Cultural Values, Beliefs, and Assumptions." While I use Knight as a point of reference, my research is dissimilar, as it details work done in a course that is not marginalized in social foundations. My research addresses the query how can an art educator infuse multiculturalism into "general" undergraduate art education courses such as elementary and secondary methods, which attend to tasks such as curriculum development, assessment, and classroom and behavior management?

Methodology

This inquiry is positioned as action research; it interrogates practices done in the context of my university classroom. Kindon, Pain and Kesby (2007) suggest that action research is focused on "social action, policy reform or other types of social or systematic change" (p. 11). It is "teacher-conducted, classroom-based research whose purpose is to measure the effects of new instructional strategies, activities or techniques; the overarching goal is to improve student learning" (The McGraw-Hill Companies, 2011, para. 4). However, action research can also be a personal examination of one's own life and professional practice while steadily working to effect change or create institutional reform. The essential steps of an action research are plan-act-observe-reflect (Anderson, 2005). This methodology supports a reflective practice, allows one to try new ideas, and reliably assess their effectiveness. It creates meaningful and lasting change in one's practice, in students' learning, and one's school (The McGraw Hill Companies, 2011). The following section details this action research and is organized under headings Plan, Act, Observe, Reflect, the four steps of the action research process. …

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