Beliefs of Preservice Teachers toward Art Education

By Grauer, Kit | Studies in Art Education, July 1, 1998 | Go to article overview

Beliefs of Preservice Teachers toward Art Education

Grauer, Kit, Studies in Art Education


The impetus for this study was born of a desire to understand the education of prospective teachers with specific reference to their beliefs toward art education. My 20 years as a teacher, an art education consultant, and a teacher educator had confirmed the presence of a common theme from my work with preservice and inservice teachers. Beliefs about education and especially beliefs about what constituted the subject matter of a domain were powerful sources of influence on teaching and on further professional development. Teachers' knowledge about art, for example, did not seem as strong an indicator of willingness to learn about art education as were the teachers' beliefs about what art education entailed. Preservice teachers' beliefs about subjects seemed to be largely neglected by teacher educators yet appeared to strongly influence what they learned and what and how they taught. Among preservice teachers, beliefs about what was appropriate subject matter and the ways it should be taught often seemed to take precedence over their willingness to acknowledge or accept the values subscribed to in the educational literature. This seemed especially true in the area of art education. As a pragmatist, I felt that any area of study that had implications for planning and structuring courses in art education and that might lead to a greater degree of attainment of the course goals was worth pursuing. These observations caused me to examine the assumptions and suppositions that were common among program planners in teacher education.

Education courses are based on the assumption that beginning teachers will be influenced by the knowledge and understandings they bring to the program and more importantly, they are expected to subscribe to, and put into practice, the goals of the field. While the content of art education programs and courses is planned to introduce prospective teachers to a variety of art processes, to a consideration of pedagogical issues, and to an understanding of what constitutes artistic learning, it is also expected to inculcate attitudes and foster beliefs about the values of art education. Professional socialization in art education, like that in other fields, is not value neutral (Eisner, Laswell, & Weider, 1973).

In spite of the fact that this process is important in the field of art education, there is scant empirical evidence of what prospective teachers (elementary generalists and secondary art specialists) believe about the teaching of art when they enter a program or whether those beliefs are challenged or reinforced by their preservice teacher education art programs. As noted in the Handbook of Research on Teacher Education, "practice will continue to be guided for the time being by philosophical position rather than by empirical evidence. Likewise, the research literature is void of data supporting particular teacher education programs, practices, and techniques in the preparation of Visual Arts teachers" (Davis, 1990, p. 754).2

Underlying Premises

Beliefs and attitudes about teaching specific subject areas are powerful influences on the practice of future teachers. Beliefs about the nature and content of a discipline are likely to influence decisions of practice. As Pajares (1992) asserts, "attention to the beliefs of teachers and teacher candidates can inform educational practice in ways that prevailing research agendas have not and cannot. The study of beliefs is critical to education" (p. 329).3

An underlying premise of this study is that teacher education in art should be more than training in specific skills and knowledge. Personal beliefs about the subject should be challenged or fostered in light of the values and theories that are part of the field. It is not enough for preservice teachers to replicate their own education in art, or even to preserve the status quo in schools. Rather, preservice teachers should be able to reflect on their own beliefs in light of the values in the field as expressed in their teacher education courses, and reach informed conclusions on what is appropriate to teach. …

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