Robert D. Quinn, Ph.D.
Assistant Professor, Art Education
Director, Distance Education
School of Art and Design
Jenkins Fine Arts Center
East Carolina University
Greenville, NC 27858
STATEMENT OF TEACHING PHILOSOPHY IN ART EDUCATION
Teaching requires balance. The work of an educator is a unique combination of directing, watching, coaching, guiding, and waiting. It is an enterprise quite unlike any other. Finding the balance between different modes of teaching as they flesh themselves out in pedagogical practice is a matter of responsiveness to given educational situations. At times, one can embrace more teacher-centered forms of instruction such as lecture; at other times, more student-centered approaches of construction, such as coaching, are required. In any teaching and learning situation, the teacher is directly responsible for making the provisions for one, the other, or both.
I have sought to achieve this balance in my own teaching experience. While doing so is a significant challenge, it has been a guiding principle for my teaching work. I have physically altered the learning environment to accomplish my goal. In my smaller classes, I have at times made specific efforts to engender dialogue among my students by arranging tables in an open circle. By providing this kind of learning environment, students are encouraged to engage with one another as they seek to understand the topics under discussion. At other times during the same class meeting, I have delivered illustrative information through lecture that is aimed at providing the students with a unique perspective on the material they have been reading in their textbooks.
In teaching larger classes I often utilize computer technologies, such as PowerPoint presentations, to facilitate my students’ acquisition of the material I present in short lectures. These lectures will be followed up with in-class opportunities for my students to apply what they have learned. For example after presenting principles and techniques of the work of art criticism to my art appreciation class, the students are paired up to conduct an art criticism exercise by critiquing works of art on display in the art building. After a short time, the students reconvene in the lecture hall to share their findings with one another. In the meantime, I will have taken pictures with my digital camera and loaded them on to my computer, so that these images are projected as volunteers share their critiques with their classmates.
Perhaps the most powerful way that I have struck a balance in my teaching is through the use of interactive computer technologies in distance education, such as WebCT, BlackBoard, and Centra, to name a few. I always utilize such courseware in my classes to facilitate intimacy and openness amongst the students. Not only do such courseware systems have the potential for allowing students to make personal
connections—particularly when the settings of my larger classes don’t lend themselves to it—but they afford students with opportunities to make their voices heard. In my art appreciation classes, I have required students to make frequent postings to the BlackBoard course discussion area in response to some topic that connects to what I have been teaching them in the classroom. Their responses are often vary candid and open as they feel comfortable sharing their thoughts and ideas about given topics freely in the virtual classroom, perhaps in such a way that they might never have in the physical classroom.
In teaching art education coursework, such as the early experiences courses, I believe that balance must be achieved as I guide students through the process of becoming art teachers. I say guide, here, because I believe it is crucial for art education students to gain practical experience in the classroom as they learn the real-world lessons associated with the knowledge they are exposed to during university classroom lectures and discussions. In teaching my art methods for elementary teachers courses, I have often coordinated practicum experiences where my students have the opportunity to teach art lessons to children. In doing so, my students gain practical knowledge in how to design and execute lesson plans, coordinate and manage classroom materials and students themselves, and assess the students’ work.
One such program is one that I co-facilitated with my dissertation advisor in 2003, in which our students worked in small teams to teach arts-integrated lessons in a local elementary school. Our students worked together to plan and teach these lessons in the general classrooms of a Title 1 elementary school. Under my supervision, these pre-service teachers gained rich and valuable experiences in the school for an hour each Friday for five weeks. During the remainder of the week, we would discuss important topics as I provided information that would help the students become even more successful in the following week. These real-world experiences helped to provide a backdrop for the theory that I would teach my students throughout the course of the semester.
Each of the considerations I make to achieve balance in my teaching is guided by a set of curricular principles to which I adhere in my design of art education courses. The first of these principles is that I will set realistic goals for my students. Each and every activity I conduct in the classroom will be aimed at the fulfillment of those goals. Students will be given the adequate support and structure necessary for their attainment of the goals that I have set for them. The second principle is that the course must, in at least one tangible way, prepare the students for their futures. There must be a “real-world” connection that the students can see in the work that they plan to do in their lives and the work in my course. In an art education class, I would fulfill this principle by providing opportunities for students to design lesson plans, plan a budget, or ideally to teach lessons in K-12 art classrooms. In an art appreciation class, I would prepare coursework that equips non-art majors with tools for handling real-life experiences they may have with art. This preparation can be achieved by providing opportunities for my students to view works of art in museums and galleries, prepare hypothetical rationales for the acquisition of works of art by their future places of business, or practice designing and selecting materials for their future living spaces according to guiding aesthetic principles. In an art studio class, I would meet this second principle by giving my students practical tools for art production, as well as theoretical foundations upon which they might build their portfolios, art philosophies, and creative thinking processes.
The examples I have provided throughout this statement are evidence of the ways that I continually strive to achieve balance in my teaching. I believe that such balance is necessary for a successful learning experience for any student. I desire to make an impact on my students in and outside of the classroom by leading them to an acquisition of balance in their own lives, personally and professionally.