DIALOGUES WITH VISUAL ART EDUCATORS ON SOCIAL-EMOTIONAL LEARNING: ADVOCATING FOR ART EDUCATION IN A PERIOD OF INCREASED SCHOOL STANDARDIZATION
by S. Bailey Jacobson
Published by the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, 2012
Educators struggle with the affects of school standardization, specifically the high-stakes testing requirements of the No Child Left Behind Act. Standardized testing often pushes out art classes in favor of subjects that are the focus of high-stakes assessment. This model of education reform relies solely on quantitative measurement, promotes positivist theories of education, and has been shown by the research to have utterly failed to improve the state of public education. Through my own research I seek to better understand the perspectives of teachers regarding the significance of social-emotional learning in art education, and how standardization is impacting teaching and learning. Prior research shows that students work on the social-emotional skills of self-awareness, self-management, social awareness, relationship skills, and responsible decision making through visual art. Simultaneously increasing pressures of standardization have upset the constructivist pedagogy that is often present in art education.
While teaching in public schools I observed how the environment of a constructivist art curriculum fostered the social-emotional growth of adolescent students. I longed for interaction with other teachers to discover if my experiences were isolated or common. I witnessed the increasing pressures of standardization upsetting the constructivist atmosphere prevalent in art education. I noticed educators pressured by the provisions of standardization and wondered if other communities were experiencing similar challenges. Through phenomenological interviews with three art educators in Chicago Public Schools, this research explores the lived experiences of teachers working Dialogue with Visual Art Educators on Social-Emotional Learning: Advocating for Art Education in a Period of Increased School Standardization in tension between NCLB and art education in public schools. The main interview questions are: How has NCLB and standardized testing affected the art classroom and curriculum? What benefits do art educators observe for their students in the practice of making art? In what ways do art educators describe how students relate to others in socially skilled, respectful, and constructive ways? How do art educators advocate for their programs?
Each interview was audio-recorded, transcribed, and coded for commonalities and differences. Participating educators expressed thorough disapproval for the mandates of standardization. Interviewees agreed that social-emotional learning occurs in art education, but disagreed on how this can be observed and the intentionality. Examples of school- and community-level advocacy methods for art education were explored. Recommendations for more overt recognition and application of social-emotional learning are suggested. Alternative and comprehensive structures of assessment are encouraged, and emergent examples of testing alternatives explored. This research advocates for the relevance, importance, and right for students to access art education in public schools.
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