The Art of Assemblage: A Narrative Description of High School Art Teachers as Curriculum Makers



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Background: Discourse in art education research positions teachers as navigators of contradictory pedagogical philosophies resulting in ostensible binaries: skill-building vs. meaning-making, connoisseurship vs. cultural literacy, formalist principles vs. postmodern principles, etc. The Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills (TEKS) is a policy document intended to help Texas teachers make these decisions. However, art teachers bring their passionate attachments to the TEKS, producing unique iterations of curriculum as a result. Purpose: This narrative inquiry of teachers' lived experiences developing their curriculum for Art I seeks to answer two questions: How do the teachers in my study navigate the varied and competing discourses in art education while developing the day-to-day curriculum for use in their classrooms? And, in what ways do the teachers in my study make use of the TEKS in developing their classroom curriculum? Underpinned by rhizomatic analysis of how their stories travel across/through/toward the TEKS, this study describes the teachers' linkages to the various discourses—especially those seemingly at odds—in art education and the TEKS and discerns how these linkages guide the assemblage of their daily curriculum. Methods: Data was gathered from teacher-participants who represent a purposeful sample of five high school Art I teachers from school districts in Texas whose teaching is guided by the High School Level 1 Art TEKS. No two teacher-participants, including the researcher, teach in the same school district. Due to constraints imposed by the Covid-19 pandemic, the teachers participated in a semi-structured interview (1 hour) and one focus group discussion (1 hour) using video conferencing. The one-on-one interviews explored stories of how each participant came to teach Art I and why. The focus group, guided by the selection of a classroom artifact (a slide presentation of the lesson or a student's completed work), shared their most effective Art I lessons. Participant checks of the data were conducted through email. Coding was mostly manual but was supported by qualitative data analysis software. Coding focused on identifying components that guided teachers' curriculum decisions and mapping them across the TEKS. Results: Teacher-participants' narratives reveal consideration of seven curriculum components: teacher, student, context, purpose, subject matter, activities, and outcomes. In addition, teacher-participants' passionate attachments formed the basis of their curriculum decisions, the TEKS being a secondary consideration. A study of the narratives revealed associative thinking by the teacher-participants and their attempts to gain acceptance of their lessons' propositional content from their peers. Conclusions: Art teachers have much autonomy in their curricular choices but seek validation of those choices from other art educators. The TEKS's breadth allows for coverage of all the crucial points of art education (including the incompatible dichotomies apparent in the literature) and multiple access points for teachers. Those seeking to engender change in art education would be better served establishing new understandings among art educators rather than mandating change via policy or entirely disaffecting their current values or practices.



art education, curriculum decisions, rhizomatic