Artist-Teacher Partnerships in Learning: The in/between Spaces of Artist-Teacher Professional Development.

Kind, A., Irwin, R., & Grauer, K. (2007). Artist-Teacher Partnerships in Learning: The in/between Spaces of Artist-Teacher Professional Development. Canadian Journal of Education, 30(3), p839-864.

Abstract:

In this article, the researchers discuss findings of their study of Learning Through The ArtsTM(LTTA), a cross?Canada initiative that brings artists such as musicians, dancers, storytellers, actors, and visual artists into schools to work with teachers and students. Looking specifically at the nature of artist-in-residence programs as agents for professional development for teachers, the study describes conflicting expectations as artists and teachers learn from each other, and explore the relationship of artists’ growth and learning to teacher development.

Using participants’ narratives, authors illustrate existing tensions and challenges for visual art education, concluding the limitations of the professional development in the initiative as being only on the surface. They suggest that artists ultimately need to construct new understandings of themselves as teachers in relation to themselves as artists, and for teachers to develop artist selves alongside their teacher selves. Teaching and learning is not uni-directional and a deeper kind of professional development can happen when artists and teachers develop a complex and interdependent relationship.

Key Findings:

  • LTTA contributed to artists’ pedagogical development. The artists began improving their teaching skills through the program over years of participation. They developed respect and appreciation for the complexity of teaching. They had limited pedagogical knowledge and scant opportunity for critical reflection limiting the depth of their classroom interactions.
  • The quality of artist-teacher relationships largely shaped how successful LTTA was as a forum for professional development. Artists and teachers developed rapport over time and as artists improved their teaching skills, and teachers increased their arts’ understanding, mutual respect evolved.
  • Some artists held the belief that art is a form of self-expression, emphasizing students’ innate talent and creativity and discouraged teacher or artist “interference.” This approach made it difficult for teachers to see a role for them in their students’ art practice and the artist did not articulate how teachers could support student work in this lens.
  • Other artists saw art as a skill that can be taught and modeled the teaching of technical and external ways of making art. In this model, teachers saw ways they could support their students’ artistic growth and witnessed results in students’ artwork. This model also had limitations in that teachers’ focused merely on technical competence. The artists in this scenario were ineffective at demonstrating how art can be a mechanism for understanding and expressing deeper content and meaning.
  • Recommendations for improving outcomes for teachers and artists in artist-in-residence programs include helping artists develop teacher identities and for teachers to develop artist identities and that through each holding these multiple identities, new dialogue can emerge that can lead to deeper forms of professional development for both groups.

Significance of the Findings:

This study is one of the few that looks at how an artist-in-residence program impacts professional growth of artists and teachers. Understanding how programs impact artists will help program designers develop implementation models that are most helpful to artists in programs such as these. The narrative cases presented also show how critical it is to understand how the actions of the artist impact the teachers’ perceptions of art.

Methodology:

This study looked at artists and teachers participating in Learning Through The ArtsTM (LTTA), a cross-Canada initiative that brings artists into schools to work with teachers and students. The three-year program progressively added classrooms at school sites until all teachers were participating by the third year. Seven primary schools piloted the program and this study followed three of those schools. The researchers gathered data from artist and teacher participants through interviews and observations.

Limitations of the Research:

The study, while its focus was primarily on the impact of the program on artists and teachers, did not consider how student growth was affected in relationship to the artists’ and teachers’ development. Considering this relationship could show how students’ artistic development can be further strengthened when programs additionally work with artists.

Questions to Guide New Research:

What are the characteristics of artist-in-residence programs that help artists successfully develop pedagogical skills and teacher identities?

How can artists-in-residence best facilitate the transfer of art teaching skills from artists to teachers?

A pilot program that used skilled mediators with knowledge of the deeper tensions and contradictions that are inherent for both artists and teachers could be implemented to strengthen relationships between the two groups. It could then be interesting to follow how the professional development unfolded and if it would be strengthened and deepened as the researchers posit.