Art student perceptions of the role of community service in Israeli teacher education

Bachar, P. and Ofri, V. (2009). Art student perceptions of the role of community service in Israeli teacher education. International Journal of Education & the Arts,10(2).

Abstract:

This study examines Israeli pre-service art teachers’ experiences participating in arts-based community service projects in a prison, battered women’s shelter, drug rehabilitation center and other sites. It looks specifically at how these experiences affect them personally and professionally as artists/teachers. The researchers conducted six interviews with, and gathered 117 questionnaires from, pre-service art teachers. Respondents indicated they learned about the needs of diverse populations, gained a sense of satisfaction, and discovered new skills by leading community students in the creation of murals, self-portraits, found art sculptures, and other arts activities. They also felt the experiences helped develop their professional insights, provided more teaching experience, increased their community involvement, and offered them interactions with non-mainstream populations. The researchers recommend, based on their findings, that arts-based community service be a formal part of the pre-service curriculum and occur alongside the students’ in-school practice.

Key Findings:

When asked to describe their community service activities and note what was most meaningful to them, respondents stated that they:

  • Engaged with non-mainstream populations with whom they had little prior contact, learning about the needs of these populations and gaining a sense of satisfaction while discovering new skills.
  • Developed and taught a range of arts-based activities that led them to gain a closer understanding of the contexts and conditions surrounding their students which contributed to their training and growth as in-school art teachers.
  • Experienced increased personal growth as they had to cope with limitations in working with populations new to them.
  • Felt enjoyment, curiosity, and increased camaraderie with other students in the program.
  • Discovered new characteristics and abilities in themselves by dealing with complex situations.
  • Learned to cooperate with groups they were working with, often in challenging situations.
  • Developed meaning for concepts that were foreign to them.
  • Felt that the community service experience did not tend to shape them as artists, though there was a broad range of responses for this concept and researchers felt this was an area the study did not adequately cover.

In general, respondents felt that the creation and implementation of arts curricula and the resulting work with a wide range of students in community service contexts was one of their most important program experiences. They developed compassion, worked with and learned about new populations, gained more art teaching experience, and became more socially conscious. They noticed that their students became more self-reflective and engaged in the arts which made pre-service students feel that their work as art teachers holds value in the real world as well as the classroom.

Significance of the Findings:

This study finds that arts-based community teaching that occurs alongside traditional in-school practicum experiences encourages civic involvement, but also enriches arts-based academic curriculum provided in pre-service teacher training. This study emphasizes that community service with diverse populations can help teacher candidates learn more about these populations and how to work with them. In addition, the study suggests that pre-service art teachers who participate in community service may become more skilled and empathic art teachers in the classroom.

Methodology:

The researchers conducted the study in two stages. During the first stage, they interviewed six randomly selected student art teachers who had participated in art community service programs at the School of Art at Beit Berl College in Israel. The researchers analyzed interview transcripts through content analysis and developed a survey from the results. In the second phase of the study, the researchers administered the survey to 400 student art teachers at the School of Art at Beit Berl College; 117 completed and returned it. The researchers analyzed survey data using descriptive statistics and content analyses.

Limitations of the Research:

The researchers note that the study examined the impact of participants’ community service experiences in general and did not probe the specific nature of their service experiences and the way in which particular qualities of these experiences might relate to the outcomes participants reported. An in-depth look at the activities in which the student art teachers participated would yield more information about how community service adds to the overall pre-service training curriculum.

Questions to Guide New Research:

How do the identity and characteristics of respondents relate to their perceptions of arts-based community service activities? How does involvement in community service activities affect the creation of student teachers’ artwork? Looking at the activities that occur at the individual site, how are these experiences impacting the participants in the activities and how does this shape the student teacher’s ability to teach art in schools and communities? How do the results of this study compare to non-art pre-service programs that utilize community service in the curriculum?