Sunday, November 14, 2010

Preparing Teachers

In the last year I have been for the first time in my career fully engaged in Teacher Education. The real struggle, following my previous post from today, is that the field wants educators for education as it is right now not as it could or should be. Jim Walter made this point last friday. The solution may be engaging schools in a dialogue that combines change in schools and preparation programs together, learning from each others strengths and experimenting with new ideas. Research university preparation programs are uniquely positioned to do this well and move education ahead. For this to wotk you need to work with a school system that is NOT under attack, finding opportunities to work without the constant threat of sanctions and political endgame.
Of course I may just be delusional, probably am but right now i am hopeful.
I say all of this because this may be the only way creativity can sneak back into school and get the place it desrves.
The funny thing is that I resisted refocusing on creativity in our grant but now I am preoccupied with its broader implication.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Can we find room for creativity in the curriculum?

We have competing values in education. We want our kids to be motivated creative and innovative. At the same time we want them to succeed in assessments that are anything but motivating, creative and innovative.
The assessments always win, perhaps because we're obssessed with numbers and international comparisons... Are we first, eleventh? In what?
We need to rethink our assessments to represent what we value otherwise we are doomed to marginalize arts, foreign languages, design, enterprenuership. Marginalize them to magnet school and rogue teachers who find places to teach as they believe they should, half hiding, always defensive- totally right!

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Arts Integration in a Preservice Class- log

In my literacy methods class we went through an accelerated Arts LINC cycle today. We started with a Taylor Mali poem- reminding everyone that poems are often meant to be read out loud. We then proceeded to where each student chose a Thanksgiving poem (their search engine is awesome and now they have a ipod app).
Students joined with1-3 others who chose the same poem and practiced reading it out loud (mini readers theatre). Then we followed up by creating visual art based on the poem- using pastels. The results were stunning and diverse. After the art was completed each student generated 5 vocabulary words (no one cent or nickel words please) to describe the art (and not the poem). Finally they used the words to create a poem describing their art.
Results wer engagement, achievement and deep understanding. We finished with a few minutes of research results from Arts LINC long live arts integration.

It's the first time I've had this much fun with this group.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Thinking about Long-Term change in teaching

This fall two grants that I have evaluated came to a close. ArtsLINC and Reading First. They could not have been more different from each other is some very foundamental ways. Reading First was a top down federal initiatives while ArtsLINC was a local bottom up effort.
In rReading First professional development was mandated and practices were regulated, in ArtsLINC we sat with teachers to define what how and when they would like innovate and integrate the arts. both grants had exceptional leadership, adequate resources and a well designed professional development.
The progress in both grants have been very different. Reading First had immediate impact on the way Reading was taught, however, after the initial impact very little has changed in subsequent iterations. there were small incremental improvements to teacher practice and very little change in student outcomes.
ArtsLINC on the other hand had a very slow start changes in teacher practice and student achievement lagged. Overtime just like Reading First slowed down ArtsLINC picked up and the change in teacher practice became more pronounced. If you're looking for a quick fix go with the Top Down approach, that seems to be the way we are headed as a nation. If, however, you'd like to have long lasting impact then choose the long and tedious road. The difference is rooted in teacher agency, efficacy and development.

Friday, October 8, 2010

Time to Smile

Much of what I've been doing lately was griping. Griping about how we're headed down the wrong path, about the politics and about "Waiting for superman".
I have decided to stop griping and move on. There is much to do and many places and people to work with in wonderful ways.
I think part of my gripe comes from our much less intense artsLINC group. The grant is over and we are finishing up the report. I miss the interaction and the sense of something exciting is happening with a group of dedicated professionals. The truth is that I need to snap
Out of it, smile and remember that all of us are still in education and as long as we are there is great hope.
So No, I am not Waiting for Superman.
Integration of the arts technology and different subject matter is happening, will happen because in the 21st century we must be all connected, all integrated if we are to be full global citizens.

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Art Technology and Integration

Recently I had a conversation with a technology coordinator from our local school district. We had a great conversation. At the core though the problems we were discussing in technology integration mirrored similar conversations I've had about Arts integration.
At the end of the day technology is considered as nice but not necessary with most teachers ignoring it.
Instead of integrating most schools employ or nominate a technology teachers often actually reducing the chance of true integration into the curriculum.
As she described what works in technology integration it was very similar to our own growing understanding of connecting to the currculum, fostering technical expertise and providing support for real needs on an ongoing basis.

Saturday, June 5, 2010

The Immutability of Schooling Practices

It's been awhile since I posted, so I am a little rusty. At AERA I went (among other things) to listen to Michael Cole in a distinguished lecture. I will not claim to present this complex talk in a blog posting. The essence as I perceived it was to say that schooling is a persistent institution not just in goals but in practices, norms, and rituals. In challenging the view of modern schooling as a result of industrial modes of production, he claimed (with evidence) that these modes of instruction are as old as literacy itself. 
Faced with this notion of immutability, schooling has a clear and constant structure, I was forced to ask myself: How can we then engage with arts integration and its implications for the classroom (exploration, ownership, professionalism) as educational reform.? We know that as a wide phenomena we are doomed to fail. At best we can insert ideas from our practice to standards that then will be narrowly and mechanically interpreted by many.
Here too Cole provides an answer. He claims that only major social change in goals and dispositions that redefines the way we interact with each others, with other living things and the planet. Our job then is to create ideas and practices that will continue existing in small pockets- waiting for such social change giving future education options and choices to follow.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

AERA is Approaching

So I thought I would pick some of the sessions related to arts integration that looked interesting to me.
Hope to see y'all there.

1. Artful and Creative Processes as Modes for Teaching and Learning

Unit: SIG-Arts and Learning

Session Submission type: Paper Session

Time: Sat, May 1 - 4:05pm - 6:05pm
Place: Colorado Convention Center, Room 707

Unit: SIG-Arts and Learning

Session Submission type: Roundtable Session

Time: Mon, May 3 - 10:35am - 12:05pm
Place: Colorado Convention Center, Room 109, 111, 113

Unit: SIG-Arts and Learning

Session Submission type: Paper Session

Time: Sun, May 2 - 2:15pm - 3:45pm
Place: Colorado Convention Center, Room 707

Unit: SIG-Arts and Learning

Session Submission type: Paper Session

Time: Sat, May 1 - 12:25pm - 1:55pm
Place: Colorado Convention Center, Room 711

Unit: SIG-Bilingual Education Research

Session Submission type: Symposium

Time: Sat, May 1 - 4:05pm - 5:35pm
Place: Colorado Convention Center, Room 606

Descriptors: English Learner, Arts Education, ESL/ENL

Unit: SIG-Critical Perspectives on Early Childhood Education

Session Submission type: Roundtable Session

Time: Tue, May 4 - 12:25pm - 1:55pm
Place: Colorado Convention Center, Korbel Ballroom 2

Unit: Division G - Social Context of Education

Sub Unit: Section 1: Local Contexts of Teaching and Learning

Session Submission type: Roundtable Session

Time: Sun, May 2 - 10:35am - 12:05pm
Place: Colorado Convention Center, Korbel Ballroom 2

Unit: SIG-Arts and Learning

Session Submission type: Roundtable Session

Time: Fri, Apr 30 - 4:05pm - 5:35pm
Place: Colorado Convention Center, Korbel Ballroom 2

Unit: SIG-Indigenous Peoples of the Americas

Session Submission type: Roundtable Session

Time: Sat, May 1 - 10:35am - 12:05pm
Place: Colorado Convention Center, Korbel Ballroom 2

Descriptors: Indigenous Peoples, Arts Education, Social Context

Unit: Division K - Teaching and Teacher Education

Sub Unit: Section 7

Session Submission type: Roundtable Session

Time: Fri, Apr 30 - 2:15pm - 3:45pm
Place: Colorado Convention Center, Korbel Ballroom 2

Unit: SIG-Arts and Learning

Session Submission type: Symposium

Time: Mon, May 3 - 10:35am - 12:05pm
Place: Colorado Convention Center, Room 705

Descriptors: Arts Education, Adolescence, Early Childhood

Unit: Division K - Teaching and Teacher Education

Sub Unit: Section 2

Session Submission type: Roundtable Session

Time: Fri, Apr 30 - 2:15pm - 3:45pm
Place: Colorado Convention Center, Korbel Ballroom 2

Unit: SIG-Arts and Learning

Session Submission type: Symposium

Time: Mon, May 3 - 4:05pm - 5:35pm
Place: Colorado Convention Center, Room 704

Descriptors: Arts Education, Social Change, Communities

Unit: SIG-Arts and Learning

Session Submission type: Roundtable Session

Time: Sat, May 1 - 2:15pm - 3:45pm
Place: Colorado Convention Center, Korbel Ballroom 2

Unit: SIG-Research on Teacher Induction

Session Submission type: Roundtable Session

Time: Fri, Apr 30 - 4:05pm - 5:35pm
Place: Sheraton, Grand Ballroom Section 2

Unit: Division C - Learning and Instruction

Sub Unit: Section 5: Learning Environments

Session Submission type: Poster Session

Time: Mon, May 3 - 12:25pm - 1:55pm
Place: Colorado Convention Center, Korbel Ballroom 3

Unit: SIG-Arts and Learning

Session Submission type: Paper Session

Time: Sun, May 2 - 10:35am - 12:05pm
Place: Colorado Convention Center, Room 707

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Race to the Top of what?

Two states won race to the top moneys. I highly suspect that arts education and integration was not a big part of these two states application. Moreover, I suspect that future applications to the "Race to the Top Money" will emulate if not flat out imitate the two accepted applications. This in long standing tradition of educational funding born out of the Bush years and continued unhindered by the current one. Even in application there is no room for creativity.
Secretary Duncan has repeatedly made public statements in support of arts education as an essential part oif a 21st century education. The proof, however, is in the pudding. The two proposals that were approved included very little reference to the arts, and the rubric used does not seem to require it.
In many ways it seems that arts education, once again is not part of the national conversation in the way that matters- resources.

Saturday, March 13, 2010


This is a part of study reflection one of my students Marsha Silver who has taught art for over a decade:

"When I was in elementary school in the1960’s, I don’t remember having art. I know that I liked to draw and read but why don’t I remember any art? Maybe that is because I did not experience Art Education in a manner that impressed me. Some of the most important and influential artists of the ’60 and 70’s lived in my lifetime! Why did I not know about Andy Warhol’s Campbell Soup (Tomato), 1968, or Rauschenberg’s Retroactive, 1964, not to mention Jasper John’s Map, 1961, or Flags, 1968? Art Education is when students acquire different techniques to learn things such as drawing, sculpting, and other artistic abilities. It also teaches about artists from the past and present. In my opinion, I think that Art Education enhances creative expression. Using the multiple aspects of art education such as art history, art criticism, art production, aesthetics and assessments provide students with a greater understanding and appreciation for art. Being organized, defining learning objectives, teaching art production, exploring art history and  making connections beyond the classroom helps students become aware of the significance and influence that art has on other subject matter and their personal lives. Art integration, again, is interdisciplinary as I said in the first paragraph. So it does not go unsaid that art and other subjects cannot interact... It is my personal opinion that everyone has their own ideas about how to use the arts in education. Isn’t teaching about sharing knowledge and experiencing the unknown?"

I think we must be aware of the generation gap between us as  art educators, the contemporary art world, and the world our students grow up in. The question is how do we who grew up in different eras can stay open to new media and ideas in art and help deliver them to our students. Our own view of art and "what counts as art" is most often formed in our early interactions with art. By the time we become teachers this view is established and we are in danger of not "moving" with the times. I think it is easy to see why a student might not hear the clearest artistic voices in that very same era. Chances are that these voices are controversial in their time, possibly even unknown to the teacher who grew up  a different era.
Once in a while we must ask ourselves, are we exposing our students to the voices and media who 30 years from now will come to be the voices representing the first decade of the 21str century? 

Saturday, March 6, 2010

The Place of Integrated Arts Courses in Preservice Elementary Education

This week Deborah Loewenberg-Ball visited UNL and gave a talk on the place of Schools of Education in Research Universities. You can access the powerpoint of the talk here, and soon we hope to have a video up.

One notion that I find very interesting now, as I coordinate our Elementary Education preservice program at UNL is the notion of our programs as "labs of practice in which we explore and research new and innovative ways to educate the next generation of teachers. This approach is very much in line with my thinking about the role of formative or design experiments in which rigorous curricular design and assessment are intertwined to create an innovative self- correcting structure that is focused on development not as a result of external pressures but instead of growing understanding of process and product as well as influenced by the research we do in schools.
So what that has to do with the arts? Well we have a unique opportunity to leverage what we've been learning in the field into our preservice program. In the last few years we shifted from a domain approach in arts education (a class on music, visual etc.) to an integrated experience focused on aesthetic experiences. Our masters in elementary education (MAET) program has an integrated arts education course that integrates the arts, science, and literacy in the context of place based education (in our case the prairie). We are now ready to make the arts more prominent throughout our program. I am not yet sure of what form it will take but the possibilities are truly exciting.

Saturday, February 27, 2010

Abstract Thinking Concrete Thinking and the Arts

These are just beginning thoughts and may make sense only to me- oh well, I do welcome comments and questions.

We have a group of professors who routinely think about cognitive theory. On of the results of our thinking is presented in our book "The Unified Learning Model" (or ULM for short). But our conversations continue led by David Brooks who in bouts and spurts pushes our group along. Recently we've been discussing (among other topics) abstract thinking triggered by Elizabeth Spelke comment on Charlie Roses Brain series.

I have been thinking for a while about abstract concepts in relation to vocabulary and started to reject the notion of abstract concepts as concepts that lack objective context- as would for example a chair. Part of this is connected to our work in the arts where a representation of the object helps students realize what the concept is. Of course most of our work happens before students move into what Piaget called the formal operations stage- so my evidence is highly skewed by what I encounter every day.

Initially we tried on definitions for abstract thought. David Moshman noted:
"I've always found the notion of "abstract thought" is too vague to be of much use.  Language is inherently abstract in important ways and the process of learning it is in some ways a process of abstraction, but this is obviously not beyond the capacity of young children.  The same can be said of elementary mathematics, and one of Gelman's basic principles, which all children come to understand, is the abstraction principle.  Piaget defined formal operations as involving hypothetico-deductive reasoning, which involves making deductive inferences to see what logically follows from false or hypothetical statements.  This might be considered an advanced form of abstract thought."

As I challenged the notion of a Formal Operations stage David Moshman who spends his days thinking and writing about this responded:
"Is there really a formal operational stage?  Well, yes and no (that's my definitive answer).
On the yes side, there are indeed advanced forms of reasoning (and associated metalogical conceptions) of the sort identified by Piaget in his work on formal operations that are commonly seen in adolescents and adults but rarely or never seen before the age of 10 or 11.
On the no side, there is no general stage transition from consistent concrete operational reasoning to consistent formal operational reasoning."
So how does this connect to art? In my mind art can be one of the structures on which cognition can lean on as it learns to become abstract. Art can provide a representation that can help us guide students to ask questions that lead to metaphoric thinking a key to following the hypothetical deductive line of thinking. The point that emerges as we consider science, art, and abstract thought was made by Kieth Jacobshagen as he spoke to our class during the summer. He pointed out that what we perceive as a car driving up the road in the dark in nothing but two abstract yellow dots. That is to say all art is abstract and our brains create an image and fill in the gaps to make sense of it. All using concrete knowledge to understand what is an essentially abstract artifact.

So art is an abstract form like language and math and can serve as a bridge to advanced abstract thinking. hmmm maybe we should do more art in school.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

A Note about Teacher Education Programs

This stems from curriculum action on my campus recently.
The fact that a student took some arts classes in her past, and then went through an elementary education program with no emphasis on the arts education, does make her qualified to teach art in elementary schools. If we are to take ourselves seriously we must make sure that those who are certified get the best instruction and experience that we can give then. Just being an artist does NOT prepare you to teach the arts. We've known this for years about artists in residence. The same holds true for generalist teachers...
That's it just had to get it off my chest as we realign our programs.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Still Snowing

In Nebraska snow is still falling and I am wondering about friendships, projects and relationships. In a word back to our networks that become so established they are an integral part of who we are. As a type I found out that I like working in teams. But that is not enough, I like working in teams over long periods of time figuring out everybody's strengths, contributions. But maybe more than anything it is about growing our thinking together.
When I look at my work I have worked with individuals and schools districts over a long period of time.
With Kathy Wilson I have worked for 12 years now, Nancy and Monique- close to decade, the Nebraska Reading First crew- seven. I like this kind of work. It is close, almost intimate, it allows everyone to be engaged in different ways at different time points. And most of all it has space for growth and change over time. This IS professional development, the kind where everyone develops. In this work we are all participants, researchers, evaluators, teachers, developers.
For example, in my last visit to California (great again), one of the kindergarten teachers approached to talk about assessments. She said (I hope I will not misrepresent here) that she as a teacher had her own way of measuring student growth but last year she stopped and instead relied on our project measurement and was dissappointed to see little growth. She hypothesized that the problem was that our assessment required active vocabulary, students had to show kinds of lines without a directive prompt, she felt (justifiably) that vocabulary acquisition could also be assessed passively by asking student to produce through a prompt, e.g. "can you draw a jagged line?". I agreed that there is merit for that approach and then we followed up a discussion about levels of precision within a study and what to do next. This is a great example of a teacher thinking as a researcher and the researcher/evaluator getting a much better idea about classroom needs and perspectives.
Monique wrote in an email recently "You two [Guy and Nancy] have impacted my thinking about education so much in the last ten years." it is more than I deserve but in reality it is a two way street- Monique has impacted my thinking just as much (if not more).
 The link to art integration is clear- real integration can only emerge from sustained engagement, thinking AND socialization. It is just as much about relationships as it about achievement.

Monday, January 4, 2010

A new year

As fresh snow is settling on our frozen Nebraska streets I set to write my first blog of the year.The blog this year is set to take a somewhat new direction.
First I would like to keep others engaged in writing on the blog as we make our way through the project and our growing understandings. Thus, thank you to Qizhen, Katie, Nancy and Monique. Each contributor  added a dimension and insight.
I actually do not know if anyone else is happening by so if you do just drop a comment about the things you care about or wonder.
As for the blog for this coming year. I intend on using it first to accompany our data analysis efforts (this is where Qizhen will help) to uncover patterns and wonder about their significance before we come to a polished product- a thinking space if you will.

The second use is as a writing exercises in an efforts to increase my productivity. Finally, it is a way to communicate with an audience... even if that is limited to a few.

Beth Olshansky sent me her book: The Power of Pictures: Creating Pathways to Literacy Through Art.
Beth was part of our first grant and helped kick off our thinking but after a few years of joint work we found ourselves working in different directions. In a way I am eager to see if despite the different paths we end up with similar conclusions. A book is always a complex undertaking but from the skimming I have already done the book shows a promising potential for some of the classes we teach here at UNL. This may actually warrant a review for Education Review- we'll see.