Elementary art education: an expendable curriculum?

Ashworth, Elizabeth Laura Auger (2010) Elementary art education: an expendable curriculum? Ed.D thesis, University of Glasgow.

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Printed Thesis Information: https://eleanor.lib.gla.ac.uk/record=b2859056


This ethnographic study was initiated by the concern that elementary art education is an endangered subject, not only marginalised but expendable. This concern was based on informal conversations with pre- and in-service teachers and observations during pre-service teacher evaluations in elementary schools in Ontario, Canada. From these conversations and observations, it seemed that the emphasis in elementary schools is on core subjects with anything else deemed to provide balance alongside initiatives to improve literacy, numeracy, character, and inclusion. The school day is teeming with subjects and initiatives and the resulting crowded curriculum may be affecting teaching and learning in non-core subjects, such as art, negatively. In addition to such external issues are individual challenges faced by generalist teachers with little or no background in visual arts. These teachers’ lack of comfort with art might, I surmised at the start of this study, impede the effective planning, implementation, and assessment of art education.

To understand what impacts art education, specifically visual arts instruction, I used a variety of interpretive enquiry methods to interrogate what makes art in elementary schools a vulnerable if not an expendable subject. Initially seeking to find out if art was expendable, I went beyond this to explore perceptions of teachers on teaching art through a localised small-scale study involving 19 elementary teachers in two school boards in north-eastern Ontario. I conducted interviews, recorded observations, and read related documents to answer my research questions, which were as follows: Why is art education important, or not, for students, educators, parents, and other stakeholders? Is art jettisoned in favour of implementing other policies and curricular subjects? Do teachers use other programmes and initiatives as an excuse not to teach art? How do teachers feel about teaching art? Is art expendable?

Nussbaum’s (1997) capacities (critical self-examination, connectedness with the world, narrative imagination, scientific understanding) provide the theoretical framework for the study, support the analysis of the state of art education, and help defend its importance at the elementary level. Possible barriers to effective art education (history, policy, practice, economics, geography) and how they may affect learners’ ability to connect with the capacities through visual arts instruction are also analysed and discussed.

Through this study, I found that elementary art education is threatened in the participants’ schools for a number of reasons including external issues (minimal attention to, inconsistent delivery of, and poor funding for the mandated art curriculum; a high focus on literacy, numeracy, and other initiatives) and internal issues (discomfort with teaching art; wide range of concepts of art). The study concludes with concerns regarding overall problems with miscommunication and disconnection that threaten effective elementary art education. Recommendations for addressing external and internal issues, and these overall problems are outlined, along with plans to improve art education in pre-service teacher education, in-service practice, and the world beyond the classroom.

Item Type: Thesis (Ed.D)
Qualification Level: Doctoral
Keywords: elementary art education, art education in north-eastern Ontario, visual arts instruction
Subjects: L Education > LB Theory and practice of education > LB1501 Primary Education
L Education > LB Theory and practice of education > LB2361 Curriculum
L Education > LB Theory and practice of education
Colleges/Schools: College of Social Sciences > School of Education
Supervisor's Name: Hedge, Dr. Nicki
Date of Award: 2010
Depositing User: Dr. Elizabeth Ashworth
Unique ID: glathesis:2010-2403
Copyright: Copyright of this thesis is held by the author.
Date Deposited: 08 Mar 2011
Last Modified: 10 Dec 2012 13:54
URI: http://theses.gla.ac.uk/id/eprint/2403

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