My Teaching Philosophy
Patty Bode (2018)
The role of art and design education is to radicalize the reading of the world. “Radicalization, nourished by a critical spirit, is always creative,” Paulo Freire explained (2000, p. 19). Art and design education can implement such radicalization in a web of contemporary practices and “culturally sustaining pedagogies” (Paris, 2012, pp. 1-3). This web is visible in the interlacing of knowledge exchanged among teachers and students to make us more fully human and participatory in diverse and inclusive learning communities. Herein lies the vascular flow of teacher-student curiosity, research and action entangled with creative practices and material/visual culture.
Art and design education from both its historical and contemporary, reconceptualized perspectives is a tenacious reminder that we cannot leave the marginalized, the vulnerable and the most neglected of our students languishing while taking no action toward social change. Simultaneously, contemporary theory with its focus on questioning boundaries and disarming grand narratives reminds educators and communities of practice that identities and cultural constructs are fluid and porous and that relationships to knowledge and truth are unstable. In this way theory and practice oxygenate teaching and learning in art and design education.
Given these insights, teacher preparation programs of study need to be constantly reconsidered and revised within the sociocultural contexts of its communities of practice. Some past practices in the field of art and design education have ensured a modernist stronghold on much of current pedagogy by asserting a framework of art historical knowledge with limited perspectives that draw boundaries around a single art world. Reframing art and design education as a netted fabric of theory and practice that reconceives perspectives on student and teacher identity and knowledge constructions within multiple artworlds keeps it vital, relevant and inclusive to question: What counts as art? Who counts as artists? What counts as knowledge?
These multiple perspectives spawn engaged praxis that address diversity and inclusivity as fundamental to a learning community. For example, first grade students investigate the original meaning of an ancient sculpture from South Asia, and compare it to contemporary sculptures they see in their city or town in the United States while reflecting on the role of enduring material forms in a community, and how such sculptures help them read their world. Teen poets develop video expressions of their spoken words and combine that video with interviews of elders in their families and neighborhoods to reflect on a spectrum of ways of reading their world. Seventh grade painters document the sociopolitical context and plight of homeless people in their neighborhoods in collaboration with those who live without homes, to produce murals to exhibit in town halls, public libraries and courthouses, calling attention to the disparities in society and motivating government officials to respond through accessible design. After-school programs visit a shopping mall and examine how the design of the buildings, the displays and the signs prey on children’s concepts of consumerism. They design an alternative marketplace that emphasizes community responsibility.
These examples and many more demonstrate the ways in which educators of art and design show true solidarity with students who may be striving to read their world and inviting others to read their worlds. Art and design education holds a unique opportunity to make struggles visible and to offer opportunities for praxis to expand inclusivity in learning communities. I have written elsewhere about theories and practices that address diversity and inclusivity within the sociopolitical context of multicultural education in the following five contemporary issues in school life of youth: (1) caring relationships, hope and healing; (2) teacher expectations and asset-based pedagogy; (3) communities addressing out-of-school factors; (4) discipline disparities and restorative justice; (5) youth identities within school structures (Nieto & Bode, 2018). These five themes (and the body of work in that book) uncover multiple perspectives on diversity and inclusivity as fundamental to learning communities by rejecting the reification of race and affiliation groups as single lens on diversity. While it remains salient, and necessary, to expand understanding of race/racisms, gender/sexisms, LGBTQ/heterosexims and all identity groups/oppressions in communities of practice, a widened view on the intersectional arteries and veins of human condition, highlights the complexity of diversity and the requirement for layered, multidimensional approaches to teaching and learning.
This reframing has major implications for the composition of art and design education programs within the structure of higher education. It is a visioning and revisioning of the field that calls for much more than integrated coursework and active fieldwork, although those activities will be valuable. It calls for a commitment to forwarding the role of art and design as a construction site of critical knowledge and social activism to advance education as becoming more fully human (Freire, 2000). With the evidence of visual forms pervading cultural discourses, and the growing populace who are constructing knowledge based on image-saturated media more so than print-based experiences, the study of art and design becomes a matter of critical citizenship and social justice.
Therefore art and design education exists within systems of various other stimuli such as sound, text, tactile material and digital/virtual experiences. Navigation of these visual worlds, messages, multiple truths and narratives requires opportunities to think and dialogue in spaces that are a collage of student voice, teacher voice and community voice. Students are calling out for art teachers who jump borders of racialized discourses, cross curriculum constraints and resist bureaucratic expectations to create art making communities that vividly narrate the youth voices who people those communities. The teachers are struggling with competing languages from academic and popular discourse while reflecting on and activating anti-racist, anti-oppressive critical pedagogy in their classrooms. If the role of the teacher of art and design is to radicalize the reading of the world, what might be a vision for a revolutionary teacher preparation?
Art and Design Education creates intertwining branches of critical global citizenship and contemporary contexts that can bring tangible, recognizable motivation for change among communities. Models of practice can be studied through ethnographic sketches and collages to provide inspiration and practical implementation for teachers to question and reconceptualize classroom community and identity through a conscientious curriculum. The un/common language of material/visual culture is spoken through teacher-student curiosity, research and action. It is demonstrated in teacher-care and patience, resulting in communities of spontaneous laughter and simultaneous struggle. Art and design education can lead teachers in a dialectical interplay with teaching, learning and creative practices.
This philosophical stance leads me to continually question: How can the role of the art and design education create a circulatory system of transformative citizenship (Banks, 2017) and creative practice that could bring tangible, recognizable solidarity and empathy in communities? How might the educators of art and design nourish a critical spirit in their students – and art students inspire their teachers - to view their global world as more interconnected and ultimately more changeable? How can art and design education radicalize the reading of the world?
Banks, J. A (2017). Failed Citizenship and Transformative Civic Education. Educational Researcher, 46(47) pp. 366-377.
Freire, P. (2000). Pedagogy of the Oppressed. (M. B. Ramos, Trans.). New York: Continuum.
Nieto, S. & Bode, P. (2018). The Sociopolitical Context of Multicultural Education, 7th ed. New York: Pearson.
Paris, D. (2012). Culturally sustaining pedagogy: A needed change in stance, terminology, and practice. Educational Researcher, 41(3), 93-97.