2013: Year in Review

Here are ten important articles that touch upon some of the policies, initiatives, ideas, and research that shaped dialogue and practices in the field of art education this past year, both in and outside the classroom. Feel free to add titles and links to any additional articles you feel contributed significantly to art(s) education during 2013, in the comment box at the bottom of this posting.

(1) STEM to STEAM: Consequences, Challenges and Opportunities for K-12 Art and Design Education by Paul Sproll (Arcade, Issue 31.2, April 23, 2013)

The STEM to STEAM initiative picked up a lot of, uh, steam this past year (sorry for the pun) due in large part to the leadership of John Maeda, outgoing President of the Rhode Island School of Design (RISD), and a broad range of institutions, corporations, teachers, policy makers, students and other individuals who have thrown their support behind the movement. The impetus behind the move to STEAM is to enlarge the persistent focus on STEM subjects in schools (i.e., science, technology, engineering and math) to include integrated studies in the arts and design, which many proponents see as a key to increasing the nation’s competitiveness and ability to tackle the challenges of our time. It is against this backdrop that Paul Sproll cautions that “ . . .it would be unwise to believe that an emphasis on these [STEM] subjects alone can be solely responsible for reversals of the nation’s fortune and for improving its competitiveness.” In order for art education to find its place at the curriculum table, Sproll contends that visual arts educators need to scrutinize their curricula and pedagogy and ensure that the rigor of their subject matches what is typically found in STEM classrooms. He also feels that there needs to be a seismic shift in cultural attitudes before art and design can take on a more central role in students’ learning. This is more likely to occur once the distinctive features of art and design education are made more transparent and the quality of student learning in art is made more visible to the public and policy makers.

(2) Art for Art’s Sake? The Impact of Arts Education by Ellen Winner, Thalia R. Goldstein, and Stéphan Vincent-Lancrin (Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, June 14, 2013)

This far-reaching report examines the state of empirical knowledge about the impact of arts education on different kinds of learning outcomes including those involving non-arts academic subjects such as mathematics, science, reading and writing. Contrary to popular beliefs regarding the non-arts effects of arts education, the researchers found little empirical evidence to support a causal link and instead argue that the primary justification of arts education should focus on the intrinsic value of the arts and the related skills and important habits of mind that they develop.

(3) Art Teaching for a New Age by Sean T. Buffington (The Chronicle Review – The Chronicle of Higher Education, July 8, 2013).

According to Sean Buffington, President of University of the Arts in Philadelphia, students today have grown up learning to use powerful creative technologies for artistic expression raising the question “What do we need to do to teach them?” New technologies are not only affecting how the arts are taught, they have also brought about a “radical democratization of artistic expression,” which in turn is fundamentally changing how art students today “think about art, its meaning and purpose, and the ways in which it is made.” Buffington makes a strong case for developing new models of art education that are responsive to the changing conditions affecting higher education and how students today think about creative pursuits.

(4) New Opportunities for Interest-Driven Arts Learning in a Digital Age by Kylie Peppler (The Wallace Foundation, July 24 2013)

While arts education may be on the decline in public school curriculums, this report from the Wallace Foundation shows that young people today are finding alternative ways to engage in their artistic passions through the use of digital production tools and social media on their own time and outside of school. Forward-thinking arts educators owe it to themselves and their students to read this report that offers a framework for thinking about digitally-powered arts learning and practical approaches for bringing technology, children and the arts together in a variety of settings.

(5) Six Reasons That the Arts Are the Ideal Vehicle to Teach 21st Century Success Skills by Lisa Phillips (ARTSblog, August 21, 2013).

In this frequently cited article, Lisa Phillips offer 6 reasons why the arts offer excellent opportunities to develop vital workplace skills.

(6) What Next Generation Visual Arts Standards Are Not. . . by Dennis Inhulsen (ARTSblog, September 9, 2013)

The National Coalition for Core Arts Standards (NCCAS) released a framework document in January 2013 that details the rationale, goals, and strategies behind the new National Standards for Arts Education being developed that cover the five arts disciplines of dance, media arts, music, theatre, and visual arts. In this September 9 posting on the Americans for the Arts’ ARTSblog, Dennis Inhulsen, President of the National Art Education Association and Writing Chair for the NCCAS in the Visual Arts, describes the work of the writing team, an overview of what the standards are and what they are not. For more information, visit the NCCAS wiki.

(7) Children Who Are Taught An Art May Lead Future Of Innovation by Brett Smith (redOrbit, October 24, 2013)

According to a study published in the journal Economic Development Quarterly, people who participated in arts activities as children were more likely to generate patents and launch businesses as adults. The interdisciplinary team of researchers behind this study concluded that having an artistic background sets the stage for non-conventional thinking involving the use of analogies and imagination, skills that participants used to solve problems in their chosen fields.

(8) Common Core in Action: How One Art Teacher is Implementing Common Core by Andrew Miller (Edutopia, November 13, 2013)

In states that have adopted Common Core Standards this past year, art teachers are faced with new expectations that require them to teach literacy skills in their own area. In this November blog posting on Edutopia, Andrew Miller chats with Tennessee art teacher Cheri Jorgensen about how she has adapted her curriculum to include Common Core ELA standards.

(9) Science Says Art Will Make Your Kids Better Thinkers (and Nicer People) by Jennifer Miller (Fast Company, December 9, 2013).

A recent study published in the journals Education Next and Educational Researcher lends support to a position that art teachers have held instinctively for years: Kids who are exposed to the arts through museums and performing arts centers gain benefits beyond just being more creative. They display greater tolerance, empathy, plus better educational memory and critical thinking skills.

(10) Museums, MOOCs and MoMA: The Future of Digital Education Realised? by David Scott (The Age, Fairfax Media, December 9, 2013).

Deborah Howes, Director of Digital Learning at New York’s Museum of Modern Art (MoMA), shares insights gained through MoMA’s recent move into the realm of digital education via an array of fee-based online courses offered through their website as well as a free Massive Open Online Course (or MOOC) offered via Coursera. More than 17,000 enrolled in the first MOOC course that was designed as a professional development course for teachers interested in incorporating inquiry-based teaching strategies with works of art in their classrooms. Howes maintains that one of the biggest challenges faces educators in the 21st century is “ . . . letting go of familiar habits preventing you from reaching other audiences that expect and need to learn in different ways.”

Looking for more stories about art education? Check out my Art Education in the News magazine made with Flipboard for optimal viewing on the iPad.