Thesis update: How Art Teachers Prepare Themselves for Curriculum Design

IMG_6642 My name is Roberto Carlos Soto. I am currently the art teacher at a middle school in Harlem and previously worked as an elementary art teacher for three years. When I am not teaching, or studying, I enjoy traveling to Latin America, visiting family, doing yoga and running with my wife. Being from Mexico City, I have always been fascinated by the artwork of pre-Columbian cultures and explored themes that touch upon my Mexican-American identity in my own art-making.

In 2008, I graduated from Hunter College with a Master of Fine Arts. After that, I spent three years as a teaching artist and was afforded incredibly rewarding experiences working for institutions such as El Museo del Barrio and Community Word Project. It was during that time that I realized art education was my calling, and shortly thereafter enrolled in the Master of Art education program at CCNY. Nonetheless, despite my experiences, I always felt underprepared for fulfilling the demands of teaching art full-time in a NYC public school.

In the beginning of my career, I assumed my formal education would ameliorate these difficulties over time; however, while I highly value the instruction I have received in my program, I am currently in my last semester and have only recently begun to feel confident in my pedagogy. I came to realize that my levels of confidence as an art teacher are directly related to my skills, expertise and confidence as an artist. This realization has led me to question if I am alone in feeling as though my academic preparation has been insufficient in preparing me for the task at hand, and if not, how do other teachers prepare themselves to fulfill the high demands of our profession, particularly regarding curriculum development.

At present, I am conducting research on ways K-12 art educators prepare themselves academically and artistically to fulfill the exhaustive demands of designing and implementing curricula that meets standards in line with those of the NYC Department of Education.

Most scholarly research I have found thus far argues that the most effective professional development and graduate-level education address the dual identity of educators as both artists and teachers, and advocates for privileging this identity as a central part of one’s growth as an art educator. Furthermore, it acknowledges the misalignment between goals of art education programs and practical teaching applications.

Finding out the ways art teachers prepare themselves, whether through formal education or professional development, can help inform art education program designers and administrators about the practical needs of their students. Also, understanding the practical challenges art educators face in preparing themselves, and the importance of nurturing their dual artist-teacher identities can help universities and professional development programs align their objectives with the demands of regional and national standards, such as those prescribed by the New York Blueprint for the Arts or the National Arts Education Association.

My primary means of data collection includes surveys and semi-structured interviews with full-time K-12 art teachers in NYC public schools. My hope is that my findings will help shape my own pedagogical and professional decisions and shed light on what other art educators are doing to better prepare themselves to meet the comprehensive demands of art education in NYC.

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