Educational Philosophy (all 13 pages of it)

This creed states my beliefs as an educator. Through it I address my concept of art and what I feel art educators do. I describe the aspects of art education that I emphasize. My students spend their time creating original work that is relevant to them. I also describe my idea of creativity and what activities I would consider creative if done by my students. In addition to this I broadly describe my curricular orientation and use it to describe where a student in my class would grow educationally after experiencing my curricular orientation. Through doing this I hope to tie together all of the educational philosophies that inform how I view curriculum and pedagogy.

My idea of art is most compatible with Morris Weitz’s open concept of art. He states (1988), “the very expansive, adventurous character of art, its ever-present changes and novel creations, makes it logically impossible to ensure any set of defining properties” (p.8). This broad idea of art informs what I see art educators as doing. Henry Ward (2005) states that contemporary art’s high profile has provided art educators with a fabulous opportunity to alter the way they are teaching (p.31-32).

I agree with this idea, specifically in secondary art education where students may come from diverse art backgrounds. Art education no longer has to be 2D and 3D fundamentals – drawing a pair of shoes or making a plaster sculpture in the style of Henry Moore. Art educators can now allow students of all skill levels to create objects that have meaning to them. This is what I feel that art educators do, and by doing this, they foster a culture of inclusion, empowerment and validation in the art room. In addition to this, I feel that this culture is contrary to the dominant culture in the education system.

Viktor Lowenfeld (1982) states that the education system does not allow children to find rewards from within the learning process (p. 26). In other words, the way the education system is set up does not allow students to be intrinsically motivated. Lowenfeld (1982) also states that satisfaction is directly related to a student’s ability to identify with what they are doing (p.31). If this is true, then it seems that the reason students can not be intrinsically motivated is because they do not identify with what they are doing.

Although Lowenfeld was writing over 20 years ago, I feel that this is extremely relevant today. Because the disciplines are so divided and closed in the school system, students do not relate, on a basic level, to what they are learning. This is particularly similar to Piaget’s idea that knowledge does not and can not provide or produce representations of an independent reality (Fosnot 2005, p.xi). Students do not relate the knowledge they learn in their Social Studies class to politics in the real world. Art taught in a separate, regimented manner similar to other academic subjects like it is in discipline based art education (DBAE) is irrelevant in the school system today.

Karen Hamblen (1993) supports this idea by stating, about the original DBAE movement in the 1980’s “DBAE proponents saw art reform in terms of acquiring the legitimating characteristics of general education at a time when, ironically, general educators were highly disillusioned with their own modernistic practices” (p. 13). She states that this is what sparked the movement into neo-DBAE which is more aligned with, “the empowerment of teachers, assessment that goes beyond standardized testing, and programs responsible to diverse student populations” (p.13). In addition to this innovative statement, David Amdur (1993) states that because of its academic nature, DBAE is suited well to joining with other academic disciplines like social studies in order to give students a comprehensive understanding of art (p. 12). This is a huge step forward for art education (especially DBAE), and education in general, however I feel that art educators must go beyond this and seek to teach something that their students can actually relate to real life. In order to do this, students must create original art work and learn about art that is in tune with the postmodern art world and more importantly relevant to what they are creating. These are the aspects that I would emphasize in my art curriculum.

In order to address the issue of students creating original work, I would like to discuss the idea of scaffolding. I first came across the term in an article by Susanne P. Lajoie (2005). She states that Jerome Bruner (1979) used the term to describe a process through which a child could be assisted to achieve a task that they may not be able to achieve unassisted, until they can perform the task on their own (p. 542). I feel that this idea, if used in conjunction with Lowenfeld’s idea of creative self expression is key in helping students create original work that is relevant to them.

I stated in minor assignment 2: Art as a Subject of Study that the theory of creative self expression is setting students up for failure because it advocates expression, yet it does not provide the means for the child to express her self. The ‘means’ I was referring to were technical skills. However, having thought about Lowenfeld and Piaget’s ideas about a student’s motivation and relation to learning I feel that the ‘means for expression’ are a coherent visual language as well as sound technical skills.

I define a coherent visual language as a student’s proficiency in expressing the meaning they wish to convey successfully through an art object. The development of a coherent visual language is not something that is inherent to student’s development or training in school, especially for students who have had no experience with visual art or students who have been taught in an extremely direct way. To quote Henry Ward (2005), on unleashing children’s creativity: “what prevents this from happening, or at least a major factor that stands in the way, is skill or, rather the perceived lack of it. When a child believes they are no good at something …they cannot succeed” (p. 35). This is why I feel the idea of scaffolding is so important. As an art educator, I would require my students to create original work but in order for this work to be successful, it may need scaffolding to provide the means for success. I feel that this is similar to the way Kimberly Lewis structures her projects at West Island College.

As I stated above, the reason I feel that students creating original work or expressing themselves creatively is important is because it is validating and empowering. I would like to further examine this idea now and state why I feel it is important. Dennis Atkinson argues that self expression is a modern (as opposed to postmodern) idea and so it is irrelevant to art education today. Even though this may be accurate, I feel that what makes self expression validating for students is the activity of reflection.

Harold Pearse (1992) states that reflection is rooted in what he terms the Critical – Theoretical Paradigm which he describes as being, “empowering” (p.245). He (1992) states that this paradigm, “rallies those who have been marginalized by virtue of gender, race or class” (p.245). I feel that self expression/reflection can rally all students who have been marginalized by the disjunction of the education system. If Lowenfeld’s (1982) idea about intrinsic motivation and satisfaction being impossible without identification with work done (p.29-31) is accurate, then most students are marginalized in some way by their education. This is why I feel that validating or empowering students through having them create work that is relevant to them is extremely important in creating a counter culture. This relates to the idea of creativity and its place in education.

Creativity is evident in many of the disciplines, but it is usually called by another name. In business it is entrepreneurship, in math it is problem solving, in music it is composition (Reid & Petocz 2004, p.45), in science it is experimentation and in drama it is improvisation; I think that in art, creativity is all of these things. My idea of creativity is linked to my broad definition of art. I think that creativity is the ability to connect disciplines and see the bigger picture. Reid & Petocz (2004) state that creativity depends on a student’s approach to learning (p.49).

They cite the research of Marton & Saljo who found that the ways in which students go about learning can be divided into two different categories. They call the first a “surface approach,’ where the student is concerned with remembering facts in order to reproduce them later. The second is called a “deep approach,” in which the student has the intention of understanding an underlying meaning. They further state that students will adopt one or the other approaches depending on their expectations of what is required of them (Reid & Petocz 2004, p.49).

In relation to art education I feel that creativity is a “deep approach” to conveying meaning to a viewer. If students will choose one approach or the other depending on what they feel is required of them, an art educator must simply ensure that students realize that a “deep approach” is required of them. I feel that time is also a factor. Using a “deep approach” takes more time than using a “surface approach” so in my curriculum and subsequent programming, students would do few projects in a long period of time to ensure they have the time they need to be creative. This relates to Reid and Petocz statement (2004), “in order to obtain high creative learning, students need a learning environment in which they have an understanding of where they are headed, and they need freedom to explore a way through to the outcome that is unique” (p.52). I feel that it is the responsibility of art educators to provide these things for their students, and essentially grow their creativity by providing freedom. This is the creative self expression aspect of my curricular orientation.

Based on the above descriptions of creativity, inclusion and validation, I would describe my curricular orientation as constructivist creative self expression that employs the notion of scaffolding in order to aid self expression. This is because, based on my own educational experiences, I have the most affinity with the constructivist model. Tapio Puolimatka (1999) states:

There is no objective knowledge. That is why individuals may justifiably construct different epistemic structures. Their validity should not be assessed on the basis of their success in describing the assumed objective reality, but on the basis of how well they serve the purposes of their creators” (p. 2).

I think it is inevitable that individuals will eventually construct different epistemic structures, especially in art education based on self reflection. If follows that the evaluation of these structures should be on the basis of whether or not they fulfill their intended purposes. Because this notion is highly individualized, it works well with the concept of creative self expression.

Lowenfeld (1982) defines this as, “giving vent in constructive forms to feelings, emotions or thoughts at one’s own level of development” (p.61). The idea of one’s own level of development is extremely relevant to secondary art classes because, as I stated above, students may come from varied art backgrounds. This means that art educators can not expect students to be working in the same media or on the same themes. In minor assignment 2: Art as a Subject of Study, I described and advocated Ward’s (2005) approach to teaching, which he termed a, “guerrilla approach” (p.35).

In this approach, students begin with a theme provided by the teacher and change it so it is relevant to them through developing projects based on their confidence levels and interests. Prior to developing their independent projects, the students are presented with a variety of options to act as a safety net for students who do not have enough confidence to work independently, and to provide students with a backing of technical skills. The implications of this approach are that the students work independently in various media. I feel that this approach is sound, as it allows opportunities for confident students to explore their interests and grow creativity. However, I feel that something is missing in regards to students who lack confidence or a coherent visual language. This is why I feel the notion of scaffolding is so important.

If we take into account the fact that students from various art, family or educational backgrounds will learn together in the same classroom, it follows that different skills would need scaffolding for different students.  Lajoie (2005) describes scaffolding as a kind of apprenticeship (p.543). She states, “An apprenticeship, by nature, takes time and novices acquire skills through scaffolding by experts and deliberate practice” (p.543). The goal of the apprenticeship is the same for all students – I see it as the learning outcome which is to develop a coherent visual language. What varies is the skills the students need to acquire. Assessing this is the goal and responsibility of the educator; they can do this by observing student’s confidence levels, skill levels and the student’s own perceived weaknesses.

To return to the notion of a, “guerilla approach,” (Ward 2005, p. 35) it implies that students will work independently according to their skill levels and interest. This approach coupled with assessment of a need for scaffolding would work extremely well to aid students of different skill levels in creating meaningful work. I feel that this approach lends itself well to interdisciplinarity. If a student is skilled in another discipline they can easily incorporate it into their art. I think this would remedy the difficulty to identify with what they are doing and the subsequent difficulty finding satisfaction in what they are doing as this difficulty is a result of the disciplines being so sharply divided (Lowenfeld 1982, p. 29-31). I also have an affinity with the learning through the arts model, probably because of its constructivist leanings (Armistead 1996, p.4), but also because it allows for the disciplines to meld together.

Katharine Smithrim and Rena Upitis state that, “LTTA students scored significantly higher on tests of computation than students in control schools” (p.3). They came to this conclusion through a study of 6000 students over a three year period. They do not state the reason for the higher test scores, but I would hypothesize they were a result of student’s identification with what they were learning. In relation to the idea of identification, I feel that students can identify highly with content centered on self reflection. This is why I feel an affinity towards Pearse’s Critical – Theoretic paradigm and the empowerment of learners that results from it.

In relation to this, I would hope that a student in my class would learn to see the bigger picture of connectedness between disciplines. In addition to this, my goal would be that students develop a coherent visual language and learn to convey their meaning through a “deep approach.” Ultimately, my goal for my students would be to do this, without need for scaffolding so that they could continue to create original work and express themselves visually after leaving my class. This would, in turn, empower and validate students, as well as grow creativity which is valuable across disciplines.

In light of all of the philosophy and personal preference that underpins my concept of art education, I feel that art educators empower students to reflect upon and express themselves through creating original artwork that is relevant to them. In order to do this, teachers must aid students in the creation of a coherent visual language as well as providing the necessary conditions for students to be creative. This is important because self reflection that leads to the creation of a successful art object can validate and empower students. It is important to note that this validation would be intrinsic motivation for students. I also feel that art education can help to melt the boundaries between disciplines in schools and as a result of this, remedy the marginalization felt by students. The affinity I feel with the curricular models described above is a result of the marginalization I felt as a result of the school system.

In addition, I feel that art education based on empowering and validating students could have huge implications for socialization of students.  Armistead (1996) brings up the idea that an arts based constructivist approach to early childhood education is a more effective socializer than children learning “numbers and letters” (p.2). I feel that this can be extrapolated into the realm of secondary education because of the concept of validation. As students make tumultuous the journey into adulthood, it could be extremely helpful for them to have a source of self worth that they can continue to draw from.

Reference

Amdur, David. 1993. Arts and Cultural Context: A Curriculum Integrating Discipline-Based Art Education with Other Humanities Subjects at the Secondary Level. Art Education 46-3. p. 12-19.

Armistead, Mary E. 1996. Constructivism and Arts Based Programs. Presented at the national association of Early Childhood Educators Conference. 3-14.

Atkinson, D. 2005. Social and Critical Practices in Art Education, (D. Atkinson & P. Dash Ed.) Sterling, Oakhill: Trentham Books.

Fosnot, Catherine Twomey. 2005. Constructivism: Theory, Perspectives and Practice Second Edition. Danvers MA. Teachers College Press.

Hamblen, Karen A. 1993. The Emergence of Neo-DBAE. Paper presented at the Annual Meeting of the American Educational Research Association, Atlanta. p. 1-16.

LaJoie, Susanne P. 2005. Extending the Scaffolding Metaphor. Instructional Science. 33. 541-557.

Lowenfeld, V. & Brittain, L.W., 1982. Creative and Mental Growth: Seventh Edition. New York. MacMillan Publishing Co. Inc.

Pearse, H. 1992. Beyond Paradigns: Art Education Theory and Practice in a Postparadigmatic World. Studies in Art Education: A Journal of Issues and Research. 33/4, 244-252.

Puolimatka, Tapio. 1999. Constructivism, Knowledge and Manipulation. Philosophy of Education.  p.1-7

Reid, Anna & Petocz, Peter. 2004. Learning Domains and the Process of Creativity. The Australian Educational Researcher. 31-2. p.45-62.

Smithrim, Katharine & Upitis, Rena. 2005. Learning through the Arts: Lessons of Engagement. Canadian Journal of Education 28 1&2. p.109-127.

Ward, H. 2005. Social and Critical Practices in Art Education (D. Atkinson & P. Dash Ed.) Sterling, Oakhill: Trentham Books.

Weitz, Morris. 1988. The Role of Theory in Aesthetics

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