The impacts of the presence of the cultural dimension in schools on teachers and artists

Cote, H. (2009). The impacts of the presence of the cultural dimension in schools on teachers and artists. International Journal of Education & the Arts, (10)4.

Abstract:

This study examines the cultural partnerships of teachers and artists participating in Quebec’s Culture in the Schools program to expand the presence of cultural dimensions (the arts, creativity, and cultural studies) in the schools. Canada’s Culture in the Schools initiative, like that in eighteen other countries worldwide, supports cultural partnerships of teachers, artists, scientists, the media, and heritage organizations to support the development of students’ cultural identity, creativity, self-esteem, critical judgment, and aesthetic awareness. To analyze the impact of cultural partnerships on teachers and artists, this study uses semi-structured interviews with six artists and six teachers from the Culture in Schools program using the sociology of justification theoretical framework of Boltanski and Thevenot (1991).

Based on this analysis it appears that cultural partnerships can lead to meaningful and mutually beneficial teaching and learning experiences for teachers and artists when the partnership is built upon common goals derived from open dialogue based on mutual understanding and respect.

Key Findings:

Based on Boltanski and Thevenot’s (1991) seven logics of justification framework, interviews of the artists and teachers revealed that the impacts of the cultural partnership on the artists proved to be most concentrated in the love sphere (happiness and satisfaction) and the project-oriented logic associated with learning new information. Teachers also reported the most concentrated impacts in these areas, although the project-oriented logic was higher for teachers and the love sphere was slightly higher for artists. It was found that open and compromising dialogue between artist and teacher was essential to having positive impacts in this type of relationship.

The researcher concludes eight factors are necessary for effective cultural partnerships:

  • Flexibility – scheduling to allow collaborative planning and teaching.
  • Harmonious long-term relationships – artists and teachers maintain their friendships beyond the project’s duration.
  • Collective project and pursuit of common objectives – have a clear project in mind and a plan for implementation.
  • Investment and expertise – funding of programs and the ability for teachers to share their pedagogical expertise with artists.
  • Magic and surprises – to allow for the partnership to unfold and embrace the twists and turns that the arts bring.
  • Faith and love – cultural partnerships are built upon respect and love
  • Wages – artists need to earn a salary for their work.
  • Popularity – students look favorably on their teachers and the artists when engaged in partnership activities.

Significance of the Findings:

Open dialogue creates working relationships between two parties that ultimately share a similar goal: to enhance the learning experience of students as they explore cultural dimensions in their school curriculum. The fact that teachers and artists both felt enriched on multiple levels and believed that they were encouraging cultural growth and understanding in their students demonstrate the importance of creating cultural partnerships in school systems and the community.

Methodology:

The researcher conducted semi-structured interviews with six professionals from the cultural sphere (artists, writers, musicians, managers of cultural institutions) and six education professionals (elementary school teachers, high school teachers, and elementary school principals). She questioned the teachers and artists about the impact of the cultural partnership on their own teaching practice and their perception of the impact on their partner artist or teacher. She analyzed these data by sorting them into “meaning units” and examining overlap of self-report data with the perception of the partner artist or teacher in order to triangulate and test the results for consistency. The meaning units were categorized according to impact on teacher or impact on artist, and subsequently grouped according to the seven logics of justification.

Limitations of the Research:

As stated by the researcher, this study was limited to the impact of cultural partnerships on the teachers and artists without assessing the impact on students and the school culture. Additionally, the data were collected through interviews and not through any direct observation. Therefore, a case study to examine a cultural partnership in development might provide further insight into how meaningful and mutually beneficial relationships are developed in these partnerships.

Questions to Guide New Research:

How does the presence of cultural partnerships in schools, such as visiting artists working with teachers, impact the student’s classroom experience?

How do cultural partnerships between teachers and artists develop? What are the elements that promote or hinder the development of dialogue between teachers and artists that create mutually beneficial relationships?