By Sara Wilson McKay and Amy Pfeiler-Wunder,
posted on May 10, 2022
As former classroom art educators and current preparers of preservice art educators, we see the art room as a place alive with curiosity. We see this in the myriad of ways learners approach making through their selection and use of a range of materials, techniques, and subjects. As members of the NAEA Research Commission, we are excited to share examples of research in classrooms in this issue devoted to curiosity. By sharing their stories, these teachers are contributing to the field with new ideas and ways of knowing about learning, curriculum, and pedagogy.
Sara Wilson McKay (left) and Amy Pfeiler-Wunder (right).
Learners may experiment with tools and techniques to understand how materials “speak” to each other or pose questions to spark their artistic endeavors. The learner often wonders, “How does this idea in my head translate into a visual art form?” Whether the lesson is teacher-directed, a form of choice-based learning, or steeped in learner-director inquiry, curiosity emerges in the what and why of making and creating.
Teachers are also inherently curious as artists, curriculum creators, and reflective practitioners. Their curiosity as artists fuels the process of making in the art room. At the heart of their work, they often make pedagogical adjustments in response to their learners through ongoing cycles of reflection and action. They gather information to learn about new ideas in the field or to advocate for the visual arts.
Art educators also explore ideas to discover more about teaching practices, such as seeking new curricular or assessment approaches. Teachers “live the questions” in their classrooms through a continual cycle of questioning, implementing change, observing the impact on their learners, reflecting on the process, and tweaking their teaching to adjust to their learners. Results from two national surveys illuminate that K–12 teachers’ most prominent use of research is to change and improve practice.
Curiosity Sparks Research
In this issue, several authors speak to how curiosity sparks research in their art room. At the elementary level, after teaching face-to-face, online, and in hybrid modalities, an art teacher gathers information on the flipped classroom to consider the most effective approaches for young learners.
At the middle-school level, a teacher explores how sharing the work of diverse contemporary artists influences students’ response and art-making.
At the high-school level, an art teacher explores sketchbook prompts alongside his students as a way to germinate the seeds of multiple ideas, asking questions about how teachers maintain a studio practice while fostering students’ individual identities as practicing artists.
In the area of advocacy, a muralist and K–12 teacher shares how learning about people, place, and the stories of a community becomes the catalyst for collaborative community-based murals that mark time while connecting to the past and envisioning the future.
As members of the NAEA Research Commission, we are excited to share examples of research in classrooms in this issue devoted to curiosity. By sharing their stories, these teachers are contributing to the field with new ideas and ways of knowing about learning, curriculum, and pedagogy.
We would like to extend thanks to Research Commissioners Jennifer Brockerman and Kristi Oliver for their contributions to this editorial.
Sara Wilson McKay is associate professor of art education and graduate program director, Virginia Commonwealth University, and past chair of the NAEA Research Commission. SWilsonMcKay@VCU.edu
Amy Pfeiler-Wunder is a professor of art education and graduate coordinator of the master’s in art education program, Department of Art Education, Kutztown University, and chair of the NAEA Research Commission. Wunder@Kutztown.edu
Art teachers spark curiosity through lessons that encourage material exploration, play, and reflection. Young students create flower petal prints inspired by Andy Warhol, elementary students collaborate to tell stories through installation and photography, middle-school students reconsider material choices and embrace a curriculum that encourages play, high-school students create reflective artworks based on visual journaling exercises, and more.