This was the second year that Eric had presented this unit of
study. There was a very little change from his first year
experience with the exception that he encouraged the teachers to
do the story writing assignments after, rather than before, the
clay workshop. As much as Eric talked about learning
through the arts, it was difficult to see what the
curriculum connections were beyond the writing assignment on
characters that the children made in clay. The modification of
changing some of the busts into musical instruments was not
integrated with any music instruction. Eric's sessions were
about learning in art. He gave the students many good
suggestions on working with clay, for understanding clay as a
medium, for understanding sculpture and relating the anatomy of
the human face to a realistic sculptural product. His objectives
had to do with developing vocabulary and processes that related
to clay and sculpture.
If we look at Eric in two particular classes, we can begin to
understand what impact Eric had on professional development
practices of the teachers involved.
Eric and Tamara
Like Eric, Tamara was in her second year of the Learning
through the Arts™ program. She is a grade 4 teacher in
a French immersion classroom. Tamara already has a strong
understanding of the visual arts. She had done studio art at
university and taken ceramics classes there. She had been
involved with Eric last year with a grade 3/4 class and this year
there were some of those same students in her class. In an early
interview she had suggested that she wanted to extend what Eric
had previously done with her class. She also said that
Eric's visit was one of the highlights of the previous
She had interviewed her children at the end of the year,
and the majority had discussed the clay sculptures as one of the
most exciting things they had done. In the first teacher workshop
with Eric, Tamara was singled out as one of the most capable
adults in the room.
In fact, Eric used her work as an example for
the other teachers and referred to her as "the gifted
student in the class". In the planning session, Tamara
pushed Eric to discuss the large sculptural figures that he was
doing in another project. Eric refused to change his plans to
include that type of work with her class. What he did suggest was
to make a musical instrument or ocarina out of the clay head as
an extension to the project. Although Tamara was not enamored
with the idea, she did go along with the decision. Eric admitted
that he had planned the ocarinas as extension to make the class
more interesting for students who experience it last year. Again,
his worry about boring children led him to make decisions without
real consultation with the teacher or any sense of appropriate
curriculum integration. Even within the program, the musician who
followed never referred to the clay instruments that the children
Eric and Tamara worked easily
together in the classroom. Tamara was actively involved with the
children while they were building. It was clear that she valued
art and Eric commented on the Andy Goldsworthy sculptural
pictures that were on the board. (He noticed the images after he
observed the researcher taking digital pictures of the bulletin
It was also clear that Tamara and Eric were frustrated with the
decision to make the heads into musical instruments. Tamara did
extra work with her children, and their sculptures were finished
by the end of Eric's second visit. The sculptures had to be
taken apart in order to make the musical instruments and the
success rate was not very high. Eric learned a lot about how to
make this project successful from working with this
Afterward, he was able to make the musical instrument project
work successfully in the other classrooms in other schools.
Although this was a positive learning experience for the
children, Tamara could have as easily taught this project as the
artist. During the previous year, she had gone into other
classrooms in the school and had done a similar sculptural
project. For Tamara, she needed Eric to move her experience
further than repeating this project. She already saw herself as
an artist in this medium and wanted to extend her
Eric needed to capitalize on his own artistic experience. He
never discussed his work with the children unless he was
specifically asked and then he did mention his web site and how
and where the children could go to see his work as a sculptor. In
his final interviews, he discussed how satisfying it was to have
students ask for his autograph and to be so excited to meet a
real artist. Unlike the musicians, perhaps the visual artists
have more difficulty sharing their artistic selves.
Margaret and Bob
Across the hall, in Margaret and Bob's class, the situation
was very different. Unlike the immersion classes, the students in
this class have a number of learning difficulties and challenges.
They were also younger, a 3/4 split rather than the straight
Margaret nor Bob saw themselves as art teachers. In fact,
Margaret was very adamant about her lack of creativity and her
lack of artistic ability. Both teachers where actively involved
with Eric during his teaching, however. Because of the high needs
level in this class, there were as many as four extra adults in
the classroom working with children. Both teachers were very
excited by the results of this class. They spoke about the
uniqueness of each child's work and how successful the
children were in this very well planned project. There were also
surprises that have to do with the individual nature of the
experience. One of the children was a new immigrant to Canada
from Ecuador. When he knew that a sculptor was coming to the
class, he brought in
some small clay figures that he had done in Ecuador.
Eric was extremely sensitive in how he approached the child.
Rather than singling him out in front of the whole class, Eric
spoke to him quietly in Spanish as he was going around to help
the children. The child was elated and the children around him
were thrilled that an artist could speak another language. The
teachers were also extremely pleased by this event. In the image
based interviews afterward, both teachers used this example to
illustrate how important the arts were in developing childrens
sense of self-esteem.
Margaret felt that she had made the greatest change in her
understanding of the importance of art in the curriculum. She
said that she was comfortable teaching the same unit as Eric had
just demonstrated. Again she saw it more as learning in art than
through art. What was obvious however, was the amount of art that
Margaret was now completing in a classroom with her students. She
had the children do marvelous paintings around the theme of
explorers in social studies and they did musical designs relating
their visual understanding to their music appreciation with the
second artist. As a professional development exercise, the
experience obviously paid off. Both teachers felt that the
learning through the arts experience in this example was
beneficial in both expected and unexpected ways. Although there
were difficulties with scheduling, the clay sculptures for
example went home at Christmas and were not used with the
musician who is the next artist in the series, the teachers were
sure that the underlying principle of learning through art
West African musician and dancer
Fana Soro is a drummer, dancer and musician from the Ivory Coast.
He was chosen as a new artist for the grade two level. Many of
the children had participated in the program in grade one but the
teachers, like Fana, were assumed to be new to Learning
through the Arts™. Fana came with an extensive teaching
background from Africa and Norway. He speaks several languages
and English is his fourth or fifth language. As with Eric, Fana
was enthusiastic about the idea of learning through the
arts. His understanding of what learning through the arts meant
seem to have more to do with learning about the instruments that
the children would be using than integrating or infusing music
into other curriculum areas. Although he never specifically
talked about cultural understanding through music, there was no
doubt that that aspect of his work with children was extremely
Pedagogically, Fana was an exceptional teacher. He demonstrated
very powerfully Schulman's (1993) concept of pedagogical
content knowledge. His enthusiasm for his music and his ability
to manage children was a powerful learning experience for the
As well as the teachers involved in the classrooms, several
observers came to visit. The district music specialist that I
interviewed after one observation of Fana teachings, was
enthusiastic about the numerous teaching tips that she had
gleaned that were related not only to music but to making the
most of children's own teaching and learning styles. For
example, Fana taught a simple West African greeting as an
attention-gathering device. When he greeted the children with the
phrase "yammo, yammo," they were immediately to
respond by raising their arms in the air and shouting
"ya!" He then brought them back to attention with
another greeting "Enchante", which they responded by
putting their hands together bowing and responding
"Umba". He was a master at sensing when these
greetings were needed to bring the children back on
Another example was his use of the children themselves as
teachers. When he brought in the musical instruments that they
would be playing, he divided the children into four groups, and
taught the rhythm and the music to each group. The children then
changed groups and taught each other their instruments. In this
way, each child was both a learner and a teacher with each
As with Eric, Fana's visits followed a predictable pattern
in each of the classes that he taught. He spoke afterward about
adjusting his lessons to the level and ability of the children.
In the classes we observed this was clearly the case. He even
seemed able to challenge more able students with more complicated
rhythms and musical interpretations. This was done in such a
seamless manner and even the other students in the classroom were
not aware that he was challenging students differently. Fana
started each class with some knowledge about the West African
instruments, where there were from, what they were made of, and
stories about their use. He brought enough instruments into the
class that each child could play. Children had made some of the
instruments in another Arts initiative and some he had imported
directly from Africa. In traditional dress, Fana had the children
actively involved in dancing, singing and playing African music.
He reviewed at the beginning of each successive class and
incorporated something new into each lesson.
Genevieve and Chantal
interviewed, the teachers had some interesting observations about
what learning through the arts meant after Fana's visits.
Two of the classes in the school were French Immersion
classrooms. The teachers were thrilled that Fana spoke French as
well as English and asked him to conduct classes in French. As
Genevieve said, "I don't care what else the children
learned. They saw a big black man speaking French and realized
that French was not only a language spoken in elementary
classrooms by white female teachers and by people far away in
France." This particular teacher was also a very
enthusiastic about the response of her children to Fana's
teaching. The children were extremely excited about his visits
and a very enthusiastic to be playing his instruments. A teacher
in another school described the kind of enthusiasm Fana
generated. His workshops ended just prior to Christmas and 18 of
the twenty children in her class asked for and received West
African drums for Christmas.
other French immersion class, there was not the same level of
enthusiasm by the younger students. However, what this teacher
did observe, was that the students who had difficulty picking up
the rhythm of the music were also the children that had
difficulty learning French as a second language. When asked, she
wasn't sure what to do with this observation or whether it
would change her instructional or her curricular practice.
Chantal had much more of an integrative approach than the other
teachers and she had the children writing and illustrating
Shelly, and Jill
Fana's visits brought up another question
with regard to the difficulty of using this program for
teachers' professional development. In the English speaking
class, it was a team teaching experience. The lead teacher was
only in the class with Fana for one visit. However, that
didn't seem to affect the artist or what the children
gained from the experience.
No matter who was in the class, and it varied from the first
visit with Jill, second, a substitute and final visit, Shelly and
a student teacher, all teachers participated actively and so did
the children. It was in looking at the digital images that Jill
remarked how much more difficult it was for her to do the work of
connecting curriculum and understanding the children's
learning when she was absent from two thirds of the experience.
The student teacher in the classroom, Darcy, suggested that
watching Fana teach was the single best experience that she had
during her teacher certification year. This begs the question as
to whether this type of program should be introduced into teacher
education programs as well as be seen as a professional
development opportunity in schools. All the student teachers and
teachers–on-call that took part in the program commented on
the importance of the arts for children and their own lack of
training in those areas.
It is still too
early in our research to do more that identify some of themes and
questions that we want to pursue. Several themes emerge when
viewed through the lens of our research questions on artists and
teachers beliefs about learning and teaching and understanding of
pedagogical content knowledge. These themes are not just specific
to the two artists and the teachers profiled but are emerging
from the larger body of research.
Beliefs about Teaching and
Professional development is a term
that is part of the vocabulary of the world of education rather
than the world of artists. The teachers in the program, to a
larger extent, were able to view the LTTA program a professional
development experience and articulate their pedagogical and
artistic learning from the experience. It was more difficult for
the artists and many did not see the relationship between their
experiences and their emerging practice. As with the research
conducted by Nelson and Hammerman (1996), we are beginning to see
change in teachers' beliefs about learning, in their
understanding of artistic knowledge, in the depth and flexibility
of that knowledge and in their repertoire of instructional
practices.They did believe that the
motivational and attitudes learned by having an artist in the
class was important both for the their students and for
themselves. Tamara, as a beginning teacher, was given license to
incorporate arts related experiences in her French immersion
program. She had scheduled visits to the local Art Gallery and
was doing more artwork with the children. For Margaret, it was a
change in her comfort level with using art and combining it with
other areas of the curriculum. In her interviews Margaret stated
there was no doubt in her mind that the amount of art activity
integrated into her curriculum was directly associated with her
experiences in the program.
For the artists, it is
the area of instructional practice that the most change appears
although it is too early to speculate on whether that will be the
case across time and individuals.
The structure of this program at this site works against the time
needed for true collaboration between artists and teachers. The
artists were in over twenty classrooms in a seven-week period and
barely could know the names of the teachers, let alone their
curriculum and instructional objectives. Planning time occurred
with groups of teachers prior to the artists visits and had more
to do with planning times, dates and supply needs than with
curricular concerns. Specific children's needs were
addressed if there were extremes of needs in the classroom. The
artists planned units that were similar for all classrooms and
made adaptations based on the learning abilities of the children
but seldom on the curricular concerns of the teachers.
The role of the
researchers and image based methodology in affecting
Several of the artists suggested that when researchers were in
the classroom, teachers were more involved but that the children
seemed oblivious to another adult presence in the class. This was
apparent in taking images with the digital camera; there was
seldom any concern or even acknowledgement from the children that
they were being observed. The use of image based research methods
seems to have some exciting possibilities for a greater
involvement of the participants especially as it was used in the
action research school. Many of the teachers used the images with
the children as reminders of what they had learned and as ways of
reflecting on the experience. The success of the computer
generated slide shows at the school's Open House was
another example where teachers' beliefs about the
importance of the arts were positively affected. The image based
interviews encouraged the teachers to comment on particular
children and glimpse interactions of which they were not
previously aware and to re-examine the artists' visits in
ways that enhances understanding. As suggested by Harper(1998),
photo elucidation techniques did blurr the distinctions between
researcher and participant. This also extended Bressler's
notions of case study and action research as powerful tools in
undrestanding artists and teachers knowledge of the arts and
The response of
the children in shaping beliefs
For most teachers there was no greater incentive to positively
view the arts place in learning than to see successful responses
from the students in their classrooms. In the image based
interviews, teachers invariably discussed the engagement that
they saw pictured on the faces of the children involved in the
arts experiences. Motivation, expressiveness and accomplishment
were categories that teachers attributed to arts activities.
Teachers were encouraged that children could represent their
thinking in different ways and that for some children who were
not successful in language or mathematical activities could be
successful through the arts. In some instances, the level of work
that the children accomplished was far beyond the expectations of
the teachers and caused the teachers to reassess their own
beliefs about teaching and learning in and through the arts.
Integration in an
The issue of
integration in an arts-infused curriculum is far too complex to
untangle at this point but it was a source of confusion between
most of the participants in the LTTA program. Often the views
held by the teachers and artists about integration were totally
different and not well communicated. Most participants also held
different views about what learning through the arts meant
in the LTTA program. Teachers were often expected to make the
links to curriculum areas without a clear conception of the
artists' pedagogical content. Barnes (1993) distinction
that the arts need to retain their integrity in the light of the
curriculum links and subject learning was difficult to achieve
with the lack of depth of content understanding in the
Chandler's (1993) conception of infusion rather than
immersion was typical of the two case studies where many of the
artists' beliefs about the program goals for integration
and their own knowledge of curriculum and child development were
at odds. Until both teachers and artists are more aware of what
they each mean by integration, attempts to fulfil that mandate
tend to be superficial.
particularities of each artist and each classroom are bringing
sets of questions that are exciting to pursue across classrooms
and across time. This is a unique study where the role of the
artist in pedagogical change is documented and analysed. Given
the rising interest in artist-in-residence programs across
Canada, and particularly the Learning through the
Arts™ programs across Canada and internationally, this
image based educational research contributes valuable insights
into the beliefs, practices, and issues surrounding such
A version of this
article was presented at the American Educational Research
Association Annual Conference, Seattle, Washington, April
10-14, 2001.The research reported here was supported, in part, by
the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of
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About the Authors
Art Education Coordinator
Department of Curriculum Studies
University of British Columbia
Kit Grauer is the Coordinator of the Art Education Program in the
Department of Curriculum Studies at The University of British Columbia. She
is actively involved in art education organizations at the local, national
and international levels and is currently the Chair of the NAEA Teacher
Education Research Task Force and Past President of the International
Society for Education through Art. Dr. Grauer's research interests include
international issues in art education, teacher education and curriculum and
instruction. For more detailed information on her work, please visit
Rita L. Irwin
Professor and Head
Department of Curriculum Studies
University of British Columbia
Rita is an active artist, researcher and teacher who also embraces taking a
leadership role in curriculum studies and arts education. She has published
widely in national and international journals, published one book and
several edited volumes, exhibits her art work locally, and continues to
contribute whenever possible to a number of professional organizations. For
more detailed information on her work, please visit
Alex de Cosson
Alex de Cosson has worked as a professional sculptor exhibiting
nationally and internationally for over twenty five years. He has an MFA
from York University and an M.Ed. from Brock University and is currently a
candidate at UBC. Alex has taught art for over twenty years at
various levels, teaching at The Ontario College of Art and Design since
1989 and Emily Carr Institute of Art and Design since 1999.
Alex has been an active member of Inner City Angels, an
organization dedicated to bringing art to school kids and has been awarded
numerous grants from The Canada Council, The Ontario Arts Council and The
B.C. Arts Council, and he has worked extensively with Artists in the
Schools programs. His research interests include arts-based and
Sylvia Wilson is a PhD student in the Department of Curriculum Studies at
the University of British Columbia. She works as a research assistant with
Learning Through The Arts. She also teaches art courses for pre-service
teachers and is a textile artist. Her research interests include art-based
research, and the relationships of experiences of loss and pedagogical
beliefs and practices.