Watercolor in Context: Exploring Social Justice Issues Through Art



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Background: Research denotes that many of America’s educational inequities are rooted in issues of gender, social class, and race. Due to demographic changes in the nation’s school population, pre-service educators are likely to teach diverse student populations and may feel unprepared for addressing these inequities in their classrooms. Although art methods courses for pre-service generalists are an oft-overlooked aspect of both postsecondary art education and elementary education teacher preparation, these courses offer a prime opportunity to explore art as a mode of meaning making. Purpose: The purpose of this study is threefold; (a) investigating the researcher’s identity construction as a social justice teacher educator; (b) examining the researcher’s teaching; and (c) exploring course assignments responding to the challenge of stereotypes during a social justice unit, in an art methods course taught by the researcher. This study addresses the gap in art education literature, regarding social justice issues incorporated into art methods courses. Methods: Narrative inquiry’s three dimensional space approach i.e., experiences of time, personal/social, and place was utilized to restory the researcher’s reflective journal and archival data of pre-service teachers’ written reflections and art work. Using qualitative data analysis procedures, three months of instructor journaling and 47 student reflections were restoryed, analyzed and coded. Results: Three salient themes denoting doctoral liminality and novice teacher educator positionality emerged from the researcher’s reflective journal: uncertainty, breakthrough and growth. Moreover, de-identified pre-service teacher written texts and art works based on social justice topics, demonstrated improved awareness regarding class and racial assumptions. Lastly, from the final course reflections, categories of future pedagogy, art as communication, self-awareness, and eye opening emerged. Conclusion: This inquiry suggests that social justice can be a viable component of art methods courses; enhancing self-awareness, but requiring risk-taking on the part both the instructor and students.



Teacher education, Social justice, Art education, Pre-service teachers, Social class, Race, Issues based art education, Art methods courses for pre-service generalists, Narrative inquiry, Commonplaces, Critical race theory, Doctoral liminality, Identity construction, Self-study