Experiences of artists and artist-teachers involved in teacher professional development programs

Upitis, R. (2005). Experiences of artists and artist-teachers involved in teacher professional development programs. International Journal of Education and the Arts, 6, 1-11.

Abstract:

This study describes the impact of two professional development programs on artists. The goal of the professional development programs was to help teachers teach in and through the arts by partnering with an artist. The researcher used data from interviews, focus groups, and surveys to learn about the experiences of artists who partner with teachers. The findings show the program had an impact on the artists in four areas: (1) positive influence on the artists’ art; (2) perceived challenges to arts in public education, (3) positive attitudes toward teachers; and (4) beliefs about the benefits of the arts for students.

Key Findings:

  • The professional development program had a positive influence on the artists’ art.
  • Artists believed challenges to arts in public education included not having enough time to plan arts, and an over-emphasis on curriculum, assessment, and standards. Other challenges are that teachers do not have enough time to engage in professional development programs which lead to problems with implementing the program, teachers and artist do not have enough space to work, and many students have very little exposure to the arts.
  • The artists changed their view of the teaching profession and after participating in the program had more positive attitudes toward teachers. Participation in the program also changed the artists’ beliefs about the benefits of the arts for students. Artists believed the arts help students understand and remember concepts, facilitate learning, and change students’ perceptions of who an artist is when children are allowed opportunities to work with an artist.

Significance of the Findings:

While other studies focus on the effects of teacher-artist partnership programs on teachers and students, this study focused on the effects of such programs on the artist. The study reveals that professional development programs and partnerships with classroom teachers also have a positive effect on the artists.

Methodology:

The researcher collected data from artists involved in two different teacher-artist professional development partnership programs. The researcher collected data through surveys (N=90), and interviews (N=4) with the artists over four years. The researcher also interviewed program administrators and conducted three focus groups with teachers to triangulate the findings.

Limitations of the Research:

The study took place over a four year period. The researcher aggregated the results across the four years but did not explain if the impact of the programs on the artists were the same across the four years. The researcher did not report the number of program administrators or teachers that were interviewed or participated in the focus groups. The researcher interviewed four artists, which is insufficient to generalize findings to other artists, programs, or partnerships.

Questions to Guide New Research:

What other effects did the program have on the artists? Were there any mediating factors such as quality of program or relationships with the teachers? Would findings be similar with a larger sample of artists working with similar partnership programs?