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

By Kowalchuk, Elizabeth A. | Studies in Art Education, October 1, 1999 | Go to article overview

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


Kowalchuk, Elizabeth A., Studies in Art Education


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. 47).

How well do preservice art educators make the transition from student to art teacher? What are their perceptions of teaching and how do they balance the varied demands of instructional delivery and pupil characteristics with other pedagogical and content related aspects of teaching? Regarding these issues, Zimmerman (1994) states, "there are few contemporary research studies about preservice art teacher specialist education" (p. 82). She further concludes: Research about knowing subject matter content, how that subject matter content is put into practice in art teacher preservice education programs and the impact of outside influences need to be explored through a carefully constructed agenda rather than through idiosyncratic studies that are not generalizable to other contexts. (p. 86) Because it is the time when their training is first put into practice and their art and pedagogical knowledge is first tested, preservice teachers' perceptions of their internship experiences are important to study.

Novice Teachers' Professional Development

Many researchers have addressed the professional development of teachers and the importance of the field experience component in this process. …

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