Living the Vision: A Seminar in Art Education for Research and Curriculum Development, 1965 to 2016

Read Diket
William Carey University, USA

Citation: Diket, R. (2019). Living the vision: A seminar in art education for research and curriculum development, 1965 to 2016. Transdisciplinary Inquiry, Practice, and Possibilities in Art Education. University Park, PA: The Pennsylvania State University Libraries Open Publishing. DOI: 10.26209/arted50-05

Abstract: Participants in The Penn State Seminar (Mattil, 1966), argued resoundedly for a new intellectual plateau for the field. They approached the self-study of art education as a field by each considering issues of philosophy, empirical claims, and curricular merit. Personal experience can affirm, or disconfirm, the infusion of art education ideas into general use. This paper posits that ideas that are talked about in professional conferences, distributed as textbooks, and worked into curricular formats at the state and district level do come to fruition in the educational experiences of learners. This review of materials that informed the field from 1965 to 2016, indicates how important exposure to national and international ideas and texts were to the author in a personal search for a higher plateau in teaching and learning, and were lived as a personal version of the vision for art in education.

Keywords: Penn State Seminar, social philosophy of education, art curriculum guides, National Assessment of Educational Progress, scientific evidence for art learning

Publication of A Seminar in Art Education for Research and Curriculum Development (Mattil, 1966), proceedings from the 1965 Penn State Seminar, documented the “lived experience” of important contributors in the development of art education as a focused field of study. An aesthetic construct of art history, art criticism and studio constituted primary sources of subject area content (see Hausman, 1966, for discussion of visual signals that are critical to thought). Learners were appraised developmentally and sociologically through learning theory and psychology within a politico-cultural drama (i.e., Rosenburg, 1966), and the effectiveness of the curriculum was a primary measure in research endeavors (importantly, Woodruff, 1966, p. 259, advised an attitude of “calm honesty, reasoned criticalness, humility, and openness” within a synthesizing process). Seminar participants considered the philosophical basis of the burgeoning field of art education, its empirical claims, and sought documentation of curriculum practices of merit. The very approach to self-study of the art education field demanded creativity and collaboration, and occasioned some disagreement among contributors. Taken as a whole, the Seminar participants argued resoundingly for a new intellectual plateau for the field.

This paper injects my personal experiences in school and as a university educator/researcher. The occasion of the 2016 conference The Penn State Seminar @50 marked the fiftieth year that I have been an art teacher. In reviewing materials that informed the field over this period, I came to see how important exposure to national and international ideas and texts were to me as I constantly searched for a higher plateau in teaching and learning, and lived a personal version of the vision for art in education.

A Brief (and Personal) History of Visual Art Education in America

The tragedy of World War II devastated Europe and killed over 50 million people, but among those who fought to save human life, monuments and art were Americans like Yale art historian Fred Hartt, who recognized that art represents humankind’s endeavors to encapsulate experience, doubtless bound in time and subject to destruction in times of war. Millions of American soldiers fought on the ground in Europe, many risked their lives to save irreplaceable cultural heritage, carried on deep responsibilities in our homeland, and upon reentering a postwar world became intent on healing society and making changes in the old order. Among these visionaries were art educators who articulated new purposes and priorities for the study of art in school.

I was born in the mid-forties, in Oakridge, TN, and grew up amongst cultural ideas fostered in the aftermath of devastation and reconstruction—notably, freedom and creativity. Many things I learned without formal texts. When I first studied Renaissance Art as a freshman in college, I kept a notebook of quick sketches drawn from slides to enable me to identify major cultural icons. Even though Hartt’s History of the Italian Renaissance was published in 1969, I was in graduate school in the mid-1980s before I bought and read the third edition with its engaging preface that discussed how Italy was humanized, despite the need for defense and because of an intellectual command of the essentials of civilization. In Saving Italy, by Robert Edsel (2013), I recognized the passions of individuals who keep “monuments” intact.

Ideas flow readily in various conduits of society. Following its organization after World War II, the National Art Education Association’s 1949-1959 Yearbooks expressed an early focus toward “freedom and democracy” as fundamental values and ideals of education. In 1965, the ideas were reconsidered and synthesized with new data and firm ideologies by Penn State Seminar participants. That same year, E. Eisner and D. Ecker (1966) published Readings in Art Education, a text that provided an overview of streams of influence in art education. Broudy (1966) in a “Case for Art Education” provides an argument for art education that has a purpose beyond what individuals in a culture might obtain on their own, in particular access not found in ordinary transactions with popular art.

NAEA was founded in 1947, with Edwin Ziegfeld as the first president. In 1949, NAEA published the first NAEA Yearbook, which evolved over the decade as editions until 1959, and the advent of Studies in Art Education. The publications suggest that the problems of uniting as a national organization revolved around philosophical rather than organizational issues, and stemmed from basic priorities evident among art educators and industrial drawing teachers concerning the application of skills, the production of products, and media.

Ideas from Europe entered into mainstream art education in America after the war. Victor Lowenfeld published Creative and Mental Growth in 1947, after his escape from Germany. My neighborhood school in Mississippi was infused with international ideas that evidenced a deep appreciation for the art making of children. Boyd School emphasized creative design, conveyed an understanding of children’s cognitive responses to images, and its library provided glimpses of an extended art world of paintings, architecture, sculpture, and social experiences all conveyed through the power of photography and words. In 1953, Edwin Ziegfeld published Education & Art: A Symposium, an important UNESCO publication. International cooperation was important in a post war quest for world peace. Herbert Read founded InSEA in 1953. Though I was in middle adulthood before I read books by Herbert Read, his influence was evident in my early schooling, particularly in the increased attention to children’s art and the understanding of the psychology necessary to engage children with an aesthetic and esthetic bent of mind.

In 1955, Manuel Barkan published A Foundation for Art Education, and Frederick Logan published Growth of Art in American Schools. The NAEA Yearbooks continued visionary rhetoric, emphasizing freedom and democracy as the ideals of art education. Notably, the 1953 NAEA Yearbook was titled Art and Human Values. Ernest Ziegfeld (1953) wrote on “Art and Creative Action in a Democratic Society” that development of the individual had little meaning if not “related to a social philosophy, a set of social values” (p. 119). The combination of creativity with socially positive action was predicated on the democratic philosophy wherein “each individual has the capacity and the will to relate himself creatively to his environment.” Ziegfeld specified that creative action was independent action, motivated by the individual’s intelligence values, and experiential patterns. The quality of each individual’s impact on society depends upon sensitivity to the world, how knowledge is organized, and the freedom to develop relationships from internalized values. Creativity is deemed a social matter.

In 1965, the very year I graduated a year early from the University of Mississippi, Penn State hosted a 10-day seminar for research and curriculum development in art education. The following year, the papers of that seminar were published in proceedings, commonly referred to as the Red Book. Penn State’s seminar remains a major milestone in art education research. Several authors discussed curriculum issues. Manuel Barken (1966) remarked that he had a personal difficulty with logical outlines, its capitals, arabics, upper and lower case designations. He used formal writing to develop his ideas, and thus was three quarters of the way into the paper before he chose to focus on “why curriculum development in art education has been too ambiguous and to halting for current requirements” Barkan noted problems inherent in curriculum. Then, Barkan referred to its nature as a meeting ground for institutions and students; he wrote about the vague basis for decisions in the curricular presentation, exacerbated by lack of evidence for ambitious predictions; and reminded readers that knowledge and beliefs functioned in different orders. Further, Barkan distinguished between research and curriculum practice. Barkan noted that an NEA study showed that only about one-quarter of teachers in art classrooms had any help from an art specialist, and sixty percent of elementary schools required the regular classroom teacher to teach art. Only 38.5% of elementary teachers used a curriculum guide. The school in which I did my student teaching (a junior high setting) had no designated curriculum for the art teacher to follow, but its two teachers were well versed in the practices of the day and open to innovation in problematic classes such as the 7th grade arts rotation. Students in a small rotation class I taught in the Mississippi Delta town had homes with no plumbing, and were often hungry. Much of what we studied together centered on their ability and potential to become educated individuals, and with others more advantaged made aware, to change those circumstances.

Barkan (1966) questioned whether art curriculum should be so uninformed or varied, but he stopped short of suggesting a national curriculum. For high school, the curricular emphasis then was preparation for a career in art. Guides were used in 57% of secondary schools according to the NEA study and that was the case at Murrah High School in Jackson, Mississippi, where I taught my first year. Barkan contended that the art educator ought to anchor curriculum in theory guided by artists, aestheticians, art historians, and critics. He argued against skepticism derived from adapting only the artists’ views. He opened a discussion of operational issues: what to teach and to what ends; who to teach and in what order; what means to use; and how to evaluate the outcomes of teaching. Finally, Barkan reminded teachers of the differences between subject-centered and problem-centered teaching. While I did not know specifically of Barkan’s ideas at the time, I was thinking through similar decisions in my high school position, gathering a vertical file on art and artists for use in teaching, making sure that my students had extensive media experiences that were problem based, teaching aesthetics after school, and already evaluating evidence of student learning. I was influenced by June King McFee (1961), who looked at individual differences and the how the general culture influenced children’s growth in art. McFee emphasized the role of questioning.

In 1974 I took two graduate courses at the University of Southern Mississippi—a painting and a research class. I recall that the emphasis of the research in art course was on quantification of artistic response and accuracy in computing numeric data. I took my time with the computation, double checking every data entry, using a scientific calculator that had printout capability. Ironically, my computation of four lengthy data sets into means and standard deviations and as simple statistical tests became the standard to which the other students’ work was compared. As it turns out, the professor’s manual calculating machine was rounding off in such a way that rendered it useless against the accuracy of the electronic calculator. Though I did not know it, the quantification of art data, preferred tools and technological advances, and how to decode data patterns would figure heavily in my subsequent research life at the university level.

And, it was in mid-decade of the 1970s that the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) began testing visual art. Laura Chapman was one of the original team members for the first two NAEPs and active in surveying national testing trends; after four decades, she still informs the field. When NAEP first tested art, with ECS (Education Commission of the States) administering the program, it was a research program funded by grants from Carnegie, Ford, the Fund for the Advancement of Education, and the U. S. Office of Education. Goals were set, and procedures for interpretation were an integral part of the studies. In subsequent meetings, Sydney Marland decided that NAEP would operate under contract, not as a grant. The contract required several management procedures including budgeting and accounting, assessment products, and cost effectiveness with survey design, data collection, analysis, reporting, and dissemination. In 1978, the year second NAEP for the visual arts was tested, ECS was required to submit their proposal and answer some hard questions about the value of NAEP as a national incentive. In 1983, the Educational Testing Service won the contract, introducing psychometric and statistical innovations that were new answers to historical challenges. As statistical examination of arts programming decreased to a trickle in art education as a field, the data from NAEP offered and will continue to offer the largest focused data collection of what students knew about art and what they were able to do with that battery of experiences and understandings. Visual Art would have designated NAEPs in 1997, 2008, and 2016, with conceptual frameworks that included communicating critical awareness, understanding expression, capturing memory in artistic form, managing design, and (included in 1997) spatial experience.

The eighties were instrumental in broaching new theories and amalgamations of theories that included cognitive science, anthropology, social science, and scientific evidence from new technologies such as PET and MRI. Howard Gardner (1983), in Frames of Mind, relied on this stream of information to develop a theory of multiple intelligences. While his frames for intelligences have become widely accepted by teachers in art education, his theory underwent scrutiny from social scientists for its lack of intersession in social change. In response, Gardner later collaborated with David Henry Feldman and Mihaly Csikzentmihaly to suggest avenues by which creativity, expression, and social concerns might be directed toward societal goals. In 2004, Gardner authored Changing Minds; the art and science of changing our own and other people’s minds. On page 135, Gardner spells it out in a bald way: “The first challenge to educators is to socialize youngsters into the school setting. This is mind changing at the most basic level: helping children to progress from learning through observation to learning through formal tuition…. Once a child has gotten the ‘school idea,’ she can learn about objects and events in a setting remote from their actual location and time of occurrence.” School becomes a means of becoming literate, for acquiring modes of thinking, and representational redescription. Redescription can be narrative, quantitative, logical, existential, aesthetic, hands-on, cooperative or social.

Beyond Creating; The Place for Art in America’s Schools, published in 1985, postured art as language and as a discipline. Published by the Getty, with an introduction by Elliot Eisner, discipline-based art education was based on the conviction that “ideas and values communicated through art are an essential part of every child’s education” (forward, i). I was completing the master’s program at the University of Southern Mississippi, and the ideas of Beyond and related publications greatly influenced the ways that I thought then and subsequently about visual thinking.

A pattern of theory making, published in the early years of a decade, followed by models for practice which are subsequently studied through research incentives to the end the decade was clearly evident—a constant shape shifting of sorts. Moreover, the tail of research extends for at least fifteen years past the decade of major influence. By 1989 Efland presented, in his “History of Art Education as Criticism: On the Use of the Past,” a theory of paradigm shifts based on Kuhn’s Structure of Scientific Revolutions first published in 1962. Efland suggests that two avenues were then open for intellectual work, but first educators have to see what the past can do to help us see the depth of our present problem. He posed two possible futures: confluence, a blending of conflicting trends that might be validated through testing in educational practice; or, the emergence of a post-structural shift with an emphasis on accountability. Efland maintained that art education pays a high price for its cyclical patterns, because jettison of the past takes place as the field embraces new visions.

Arthur Efland (1992) in the Penn State 1989 history of the field reviews the creative self-expression movement and its “virulent anti-intellectualism” (p. 1) and engages with discipline-oriented art education as twenty-five years into that movement. Efland states that movements have predictable features. All movements have their genesis and inevitably meet their end, either because of the reforms they initiated were admitted into the canon of practice or were excluded by it. Further, a paradigm can be maintained in practice, while a new movement is in ascendance. I read this publication when in graduate school at the University of Georgia and personally chose the path of confluence. My dissertation tested outcomes in creativity and cognition following art appreciation and art criticism study at a camp for gifted eighth graders. Looking back, I took several academic risks in keeping creativity in the equation, and in testing a gifted population. However, the literature was sound and these foci would emerge again in “new” ways. I searched for and drew my own explanatory models which bridged fields of study, and this practice kept me abreast of emerging literature in cognition, gifted and talented education, neuroscience and creativity.

From the 1990s, evidence of paradigm shifting can be discerned toward visual literacy, cultural literacy, and then social justice as a major imperative. As Efland projected, the 1994 standards for visual art largely reflect discipline-based curricula incentives, and NAEP tested where art education was in that cusp. NAEP Arts 2008 tests teachers’ use of 1990s visual arts standards, but the question blocks were not redesigned to capture systemic changes posed in the first decade of a new century that embraced literacy and social empowerment incentives in schools. Thus, the mid 1990s art standards are best reflected in the performance of students studying with art specialist, as shown by NAEP 2008 (Diket, Xu, & Brewer, 2014; Burton, 2016; also see, Burton, 2016). My single author publications show increasing concern with how students learn in artistic ways (for example, Diket, 2003; Diket, 2005; Diket, 2009)

NAEP Arts conducted a longitudinal study of the visual arts that concluded in March, 2016. That data enables further examination of the 1994 Standards, the long tail of curricular assessment. What it is not expected to show are the current trends in art teaching that might be related to the 2014 Visual Arts Core Standards. As can be seen with the NAEPs beginning in 1997 (see Jones & Olkin, 2004), the assessment period lags well into what can only be seen as a significant paradigm change that engages students with external as well as internal social issues, and with the world writ large. There remains that elephant in the room, the overlap of assessment of where the field has been with new curricular protocols, for example the 2014 voluntary art standards, that may be entering visual arts practice.

With new expectations for the field impacting teachers engaging with 2014 voluntary art standards (see, the alignment of the Penn State focus factors to societal needs of today suggests value in examining the lived past and possible future of art education in schooling. The standards present a matrix of cognitive and affectively derived modes for creating, presenting, responding, and connecting. The end goal appears to center on the betterment of society. Critics of the new standards maintain that designing backward from a value may not be the best approach. Though not counter to child development, the language of the standards seems to serve an adult purpose. This paper suggests that the new standards attempt to promote an unfulfilled vision of art education, voiced after WWII. The standards are voluntary goals; the means to implement goals drawing upon seventy years of publications and exemplary practices in art education.

The newest version of national arts standards in 2014 treats visual arts and media arts as philosophically differentiated curricula. NAEA does not promote a singular art education philosophy, or impose one on its membership; rather, its conferences and publications serve as platforms for theoretical approaches, philosophical applications, and practical concepts for teaching. As NAEA develops, affiliate groups within NAEA emerge to represent various concerns and focus on special interests.

In summer of 2017, a group of NAEP Arts researchers formed for the purpose of conducting a longitudinal study of visual and reading text based literacies from the perspective of art education. As project officer, I see the longitudinal study as flowing directly into my university teaching and leadership as art chair. The NAEP work will also be contributing to the literature of art education because at the same time I will be working with NAEA to update its history.

Why study the history of art education in America, and how is that personal? Edwin Ziegfeld’s article in Human Values and Art (1953) cautions that educating an individual has little meaning for society unless that education reveals conflicting ideologies embraced in Western democracy and by totalitarian organizations. From that plateau, creative action can be implemented by intelligence, clear values, and new patterns of exploration through which an individual uses prior knowledge of art, sensitivity to patterns, to discern possible futures. With these creatively-laden caveats, and a deep understanding of the world, an individual can respond sensitively to events, ever mindful of both personal values and human values of an associated society. “Art, when understood in its fullest sense, is the creative synthesis of values” (Ziegfeld, 1953, p. 121). To be in confluence with the human values of art education in America, those of us who engage in teaching art must embrace history, vision, and future at a personal level.


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Read Diket

Dr. Read Montgomery Diket holds the Sarah Gillespie Endowed Chair for research at William Carey University. Her Ph.D. from the University of Georgia, Athens, combines psychology, art criticism, and art education. She is membership chair of the NAEA Distinguished Fellows. She has received numerous national grants, served on editorial boards, reviewed and presented nationally and internationally, and published widely in the arts, assessment, and in education. She received the Manual Barken Memorial Award for Distinguished Research in 2003 and the NAEA Higher Education Art Educator of the Year. She has served as president of the NAEA Women’s Caucus; AERA Brain, Education, and Neuroscience; AERA Arts and Learning; and the NAEA Seminar for Research in Art Education. Diket has contributed to the international strand of research investigating leadership and contextual aesthetics in the twenty-first century. Her leadership of the NAEP Arts Consortium began in 1999, generating a publication strand for secondary analysis of arts data. Recent publications include research about the arts in neuroscience, investigation of data visualization, and articles and book chapters about arts leadership and ideologies in education.