THESIS UPDATE: Co-Designing Visual Arts Experiences With & For Classroom Teachers

Hi. My name is Natalie Nieves. I am a graduate student at City College of New York in the Art Education program and an art educator. I’ve been working for the New York City Department of Education as an elementary public school teacher since 2006. I also provide private art lessons and teach art to middle school students in an after school program.

My thesis research is an intervention that entails co-designing arts based learning experiences with two elementary classroom teachers in order to alter the quality of art instruction offered in their classrooms. My experiences and observations of how the visual arts are implemented in the classroom has led me to the question: In what ways can art educators promote more authentic art making in elementary classrooms by supporting teachers? By authentic art I mean art that allows the creator to take risks, explore, make choices, make work personally meaningful, and be unique versus the neatly conformed art products with little room for student interpretation displayed in school hallways. Moving away from this model and toward authentic experiences is important to developing student creativity. 

When questioned, many teachers have revealed they have little to no visual arts background and were not required to take a visual arts studio course during their education programs. It comes as no surprise that many hold poor attitudes and little confidence about their own art making abilities. However, with the push to accommodate multiple learning modalities, teachers are expected to incorporate some amount of art making into their curriculums. Classroom teachers are likely to struggle to teach what they are unfamiliar and uncomfortable with. Providing visual arts instruction (i.e., skills, authentic creative opportunities) to these teachers is a solid first step in promoting more quality art instruction in the classroom.

I have noted that students adopt many of their teachers’ character traits, behaviors, habits, and attitudes. This may also apply to student perceptions of their art abilities. If teachers feel confidently about their abilities to create, explore and risk take in their own art, they will transfer this to their students through their attitudes and art making opportunities offered in the classroom. This will have a much greater impact combined with their one or two art periods each week. I look forward to seeing the creative growth in my fellow teachers.

Below are a couple of illuminating links that relate to authentic art making in the classroom: ArtIMG_1222


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