The artistic and professional development of teachers: A study of teachers' attitudes toward and use of the arts in teaching

Oreck, B. (2004). The artistic and professional development of teachers: A study of teachers' attitudes toward and use of the arts in teaching. Journal of Teacher Education, 55(1), 55.

Abstract:

In this mixed methods study of 423 K-12 teachers from diverse school settings, the researcher gauges teachers’ attitudes about arts practices in their teaching who have had access to arts-based professional development. The study examines teachers’ perceptions about the factors that support and inhibit their use of the arts in their classrooms. It also gathers data on the frequency of arts use by this population of teachers concluding that teachers in the study value the arts in education and see the potential benefits for themselves as teachers and their students yet they rarely implement arts in practice, citing many reasons including their own perception of lack of confidence to implement arts in a way that will lead to successful student learning.

The researcher concludes the study with specific recommendations of how pre-service and in-service professional development can address the issues uncovered in the study.

Key Findings:

In this quantitative study there are several key findings:

  • Teachers indicate a belief that the arts are important in education, yet they rarely teach them.
  • While the teachers in the study have had access to arts-based professional development, they have either not participated in it or felt that it was not sufficient for them to have the confidence to implement arts-based instruction in their practice.
  • Awareness of student diversity and the need for improved motivation and enjoyment in learning are the most frequently cited motivations for using the arts.
  • Teachers’ self-efficacy and self-image relating to creativity and artistry influence arts use more than other personal characteristics studied.
  • Prior personal arts instruction, current artistic practice, and years of teaching experience are not significant predictors of arts use in the classroom.
  • Primary reasons for not integrating arts in teachers’ practice include their perceptions about the possible lack of support from their supervisors and districts, the need to adhere to a pre-defined curriculum, pressures for their students to perform well on standardized tests, lack of space and materials, and lack of support from arts specialists.

Significance of the Findings:

To design effective professional development programs using the arts, it is essential to understand the personal and institutional factors that enhance or undermine teachers’ efforts to use the arts in their own practice and to look at the characteristics and attitudes of teachers who have been able to successfully implement the arts in various ways in their classrooms.

Teachers need access to arts-based professional development and this professional development needs to help teachers gain confidence on how to integrate arts in a way that will positively affect student learning.

Methodology:

The researcher developed a 48-item survey, which yielded a 43% response rate (423) teachers from urban, suburban, and rural schools who had access to arts-based professional development (which they may or may not have attended). Three research questions guided the study and addressed teachers’ attitudes regarding use of the arts, their frequency of use of the arts as related to their demographic characteristics and the primary issues related to the use of the arts in their teaching. Separate in-depth quantitative analyses were conducted for each question.

Limitations of the Research:

This sample was chosen because these teachers had specific access to an arts-based professional development opportunity and the researcher concludes that the findings in the study cannot be more broadly generalized because of the lack of knowledge about how many schools actually provide arts-based professional development for teachers.

Questions to Guide New Research:

What positive effects of arts-based professional development translate into actualized teaching practice?

What qualities must arts-based professional development have to effectively build a teacher’s level of confidence and efficacy in a way that leads to robust practice?