Synthesizing Experiences in Arts Methods Courses: Creating Artists' Maps in Preservice Elementary Teacher Education

By Huxhold, Dianna; Willcox, Libba | Art Education, July 2014 | Go to article overview

Synthesizing Experiences in Arts Methods Courses: Creating Artists' Maps in Preservice Elementary Teacher Education


Huxhold, Dianna, Willcox, Libba, Art Education


Each semester, preservice elementary generalist teachers navigate to and through the multiple sections of our art methods courses. These elementary education majors bring concerns relating to dominant education discourse such as high stakes testing and accountability measures that relate to how they will be evaluated as future teachers. Often, they are consumed with generalist issues regarding what and how they are expected to teach, such as ensuring grade-level reading mastery and math skills (Duncum, 1999). For example, one student stated,"This is going to be so hard... how am I going to put art in [the curriculum too]?"(personal communication, November 9,2012).

On a personal level, many are uncomfortable with artmaking and/ orean recall unpleasant art class experiences (Smith-Shank, 1993). Another student stated, "I'm very auditory... I do like the visual a little bit... I don't think this is how my brain looks" (personal communication, November 12, 2012). These preoccupations and preconceived notions often obstruct our students' way of engaging with experiences in art methods courses and conceptualizing this content in future pedagogical practice. How do we acknowledge these challenges, providing a safe collegial space to work with and through them?

In this article we describe a project in which preservice elementary generalists used artistic mapping to document, reflect on, and synthesize their engagement in our art methods courses. The maps also provided instructor insight about the nature of student thinking; learning; and experiences around key course topics, activities, issues, and questions. Artistic mapping is an alternative practice that uses mapping as an expressive medium in charting personal, conceptual, or imaginary geographies. We asked the 78 students (from our three sections of the course) to create maps that showed not only which projects were most memorable, meaningful, and relevant, but also how they made connections across course readings, assignments, and class content. Following we share our reflections on the success, challenges, and usefulness of this project for both students and instructors; side-by-side we made meaning together. How does our course content mesh with their professional concerns as preservice elementary generalist teachers? What do they perceive as useful and why? Additionally, quotes gleaned from conversations with students about their mapping experiences are provided to share students' perspectives in their own words.

General Course Context

Each semester, multiple sections of art methods courses for preservice elementary generalist teachers are offered. The duration of the course is one semester, 2 hours per week. Sharing a common syllabus across all sections, we invite students to use visual strategies and techniques to personally engage with various art media and to conceptualize how art experiences might be integrated with general classroom content and themes. This course also introduces a working relationship between art and generalist teachers around a shared responsibility for children by foregrounding the meaning and significance of artistic learning to children. Preservice elementary generalists can make unique contributions to childrens creative lives. We support them in realizing developmentally appropriate ways to use images and artifacts to engage children in discussions and introduce prompts for stimulating artistic responses (Thompson, 1997). Though the syllabus is shared, the activities vary slightly based on each instructors interpretation of projects. This offers a fluid approach to course content that is responsive to the uniqueness of each instructor and classroom community while allowing for diversity in outcomes.

Typically, at the conclusion of this course, students are asked to respond to the objectives in written form. Our motivation, as two associate instructors from art education who facilitate separate sections of this course, was to choose an alternative summative approach that privileged the visual, more accurately matching the course objectives and visually oriented activities students engaged in all semester long. …

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