Encyclopedia of Teacher Education

Living Edition
| Editors: Michael A. Peters

Art and Teacher Education

  • Carlos EscañoEmail author
Living reference work entry
DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/978-981-13-1179-6_181-1


Teacher education in the field of arts varies in perception, organization, connection with the society, and different educational systems. Consequently, it also escapes any attempts at definition. In mid-twentieth century, the art educator and philosopher Herbert Read visited numerous British schools to observe work being done in art classes. He found out that the best results were not correlated with a particular teaching system or teachers’ academic background: some of the best works were found in schools where there was no art teacher as such! This illustrates abovementioned difficulties and resides in the very nature of the art. There is a long history of unresolved discussions about nature of art, its cognitive status, and its value in human affairs, and art teachers live these uncertainties on daily basis (Efland 1995). The arts, unlike the sciences, are an ill-structured domain. Based on Rand J. Spiro, Arthur Efland (1993) argues that ill-structured and well-structured terms are descriptive rather than evaluative. Describing the sciences as well-structured does not imply that they are superior to less structured domains such as the arts, but that instruction in these domains should be different.

Teaching of art is closely linked to the way that the object of study is learned. To understand an artistic fact, one must approach it from different perspectives. Learning about arts is multidirectional. It addresses development of skills needed to create artistic forms, development of skills required for aesthetic perception, and the ability to understand art as a cultural phenomenon. Learning about arts involves paying attention to ways in which one learns to create visual forms of an aesthetic and expressive nature, paying attention to ways of seeing visual forms, and paying attention to mechanisms for producing an understanding of these forms (Eisner 1972).

These dimensions indicate that the teacher education in the arts also requires sensitive and complex multifactorial work. This fine complexity can be detected even in the historical development of the terminology that refers to the area of knowledge, which evolves from the idea of art education to the notion of arts education. The differences between notions may seem subtle, but they open a deeper debate on their political and educational connotations that inevitably influences teacher education. Arts education is therefore seen as a broader and more inclusive discipline reaching beyond the exercise of the visual arts (despite these differences, in this entry art education and arts education are used interchangeably). Thus, teacher training includes not only the foundations of theoretical and practical knowledge of the arts, attending to this rich complexity, but also the study of existing artistic educational models, curricular perspectives, and various pedagogies and methodologies.

The first step to responsible and relevant arts teacher training is to understand the importance of the arts for the formation of the individual in our society. Scientific literature supports the necessary role of the arts in our societies (Eisner 1972). Art education contributes to improvement of learners’ psychological, emotional, and social capacities. However, for as long as the arts are seen as nonessential, it matters little how well or ill they are taught – especially when, as it often happens, they are not taught at all (Efland 1993).

The second step to responsible and relevant arts teacher training implies answering the following questions: What do arts teachers need to know about their respective subject in order to teach it well? What does that teacher need to know about pedagogy to teach well? Are there specific identifiable characteristics generally possessed by successful teachers of arts? Should we transform preparation of future teachers, and if so, in what ways? (Efland 1993). Approaching these questions, formulated by Arthur Efland, requires examination of different perspectives to arts education that facilitate a deeper understanding of the formative event.

Approaches to Art Education

Planning art education implies structuring the field in a relatively objective sense (Arañó 2005) which clearly informs about its instructive and practical purposes. It also implies establishing connections, similarities, and differences with other disciplines in the context of general education and alignment with a broad cultural perspective. In other words, planning art education involves establishing epistemological consciousness and knowledge base in the context of general knowledge. The ultimate goal is that learners should acquire artistic culture: systematized artistic content and main concepts, procedures, and techniques proper to the discipline. The chosen approaches to organization, planning, and management then result in different models and perspectives. This aligns with the importance of theories and philosophies of art in determining the character of art education. According to Efland (1995) (based on the scheme used by both Encyclopedia Britannica and Meyer Howard Abrams), the aesthetic tradition offers a classification of aesthetic theories divided into four main groups: mimetic, pragmatic, expressive, and formalist theories. These approaches or models are simultaneously theoretical possibilities and historical realities: teachers implement their practices based on different ideas about the nature of art (Efland 1995) (See Table 1). Furthermore, they exhibit a conceptual correlation between aesthetic theories, learning theories, and ideological frameworks. Arthur Efland (1995) explains these correlations as follows:
Table 1

Models of relationship between aesthetic theories, learning theories, and ideological frameworks (Efland 1995: 29)

Aesthetic theory

Learning theory

Implied ideology


Art is imitation


Learning is by imitation

Traditional morality: social control


Art is instrumental

Learning is instrumental

Social reconstruction


Art is self-expression


Learning is emotional growth

Personal liberation


Art is formal order


Learning is concept attainment

Technocratic control by experts

The mimetic-behavioral model arrives from a union of mimetic aesthetics and behavioral learning concepts. Within this approach, learning is understood as a fact that happens through changes in behavior – art is understood as imitation, and learning is produced by imitation. Art teachers subscribing to the mimetic-behavioral model believe that learning art is imitating the behavior of others. Therefore, learning is subject to control of various stimuli provided by teaching situation. The mimetic-behavioral model implies that student behavior is determined by teacher and culture.

The pragmatic-social reconstruction model is built on connections between pragmatic aesthetics and the view to education as an instrument for social reconstruction. Here, art and education have instrumental value, and learning involves a process of knowledge construction through encounters with the environment. Art teachers associated with a pragmatic view of art maintain an instrumental view of learning: all knowledge is an experience that allows individuals to adapt to a changing environment. Learning is a permanent intellectual reconstruction, as new knowledge will change the understanding of the world.

The expressive-psychoanalytic model involves two connected fields: expressive aesthetics, where art is a product of artistic imagination, and person-centered education, where knowledge is a personal construct validated by the learner. Imagination develops possible constructions, comprehensions, and perceptions, favoring a vision of the mind as the initiator of learning activities. Art teachers who focus on creative self-expression encourage learners to express own desires, and the task of teaching is to free the learner from inhibitions.

The formalist-cognitive model is derived from connections between formalist aesthetics and the view to learning as acquisition of cognitive structures. Under a formalist perspective, artistic objects acquire such a status of art by virtue of the organization of structural components such as color, composition, form, etc., regardless of their ethical or social implications. The definition of formalist approach and cognitive psychology has in common the idea of structure. Thus, arts teacher working in this perspective is likely to embrace a cognitive view of learning where cognitive structures are formed using concepts, principles, criteria, and vocabulary.

Subject Matter and Pedagogy

Efland’s (1995) models provide theoretical background for defining the role of arts teacher education. Each model implicates different types of practices that follow articulation of different curricular discourses. Such models serve as conceptual frameworks for pedagogical action in schools and as filters for the answers to the specific questions posed above by Efland, which serve as a guide to articulate the keys to knowledge of artistic matter and its teaching implementation.

What do arts teachers need to know about their respective subject in order to teach it well? (Efland 1993: 107)

Arts are comprised of a series of specific domains of knowledge and practice, and learning about these domains requires effort and commitment (Efland 1993). However, teacher’s prior knowledge of subject matter influences the character of daily instruction from technical solutions to social, political, and gender issues. This body of knowledge is closely related to adopted model of arts education. According to professional recommendations in contemporary arts education, prospective arts teachers need to study a range of contents in art, including history of arts (with a multicultural approach and a diverse gender perspective), aesthetics, art criticism, and a variety of modes of art production (Day 1993).

What does that teacher need to know about pedagogy to teach well? (Efland 1993: 107)

The arts are an ill-structured domain, and therefore instruction should emphasize learning as a case-by-case phenomenon rather than learning through grand generalizations. However, learning goes beyond acquisition of a knowledge base, so advanced students are those who have also acquired strategies for obtaining new knowledge and dispositions conducive to research (Efland 1993). In order to achieve this objective, arts teachers must be able to develop artistic production techniques, raise discussions about aesthetics, lead cooperative group work, offer techniques for art criticism, and facilitate research methods for studies related to the arts (history, production, criticism, or aesthetics). Arts teachers also need to develop different sets of teaching methods. They should seek to teach expressively, aesthetically, and with the same attention to detail that is required for any form of art. All these questions should be adapted to different levels of complexity, ability, and maturity of learners (Day 1993).

Are there specific identifiable characteristics generally possessed by successful teachers of arts? (Efland 1993: 107)

Michael Day (1993) points out three characteristics worth developing in arts teachers. First, they need recognition that art is not an exclusive domain of either the masculine gender or northwestern culture, as might be assumed from the study of many texts in art history. Students have the right to know exemplary women artists, critics, historians, and aesthetes and contributions by many peoples and cultures of the world. Second, teachers who are enthusiastic about art are permanently learning about the world of the arts. Art should be a relevant part of teachers’ academic and personal life. Learner interest can be sparked only by an intellectually, creatively, and aesthetically living individual. Third, arts teachers require a commitment to teaching as a calling, rather than using art education to make a living, while they pursue the call of “higher” career as an artist.

Contemporary Challenges for Art Teachers

Contemporary challenges facing arts teachers are conditioned by our globalized, interconnected, and multicultural context. Thus, possible changes in education of arts teachers will attend to the way in which art educators face their own context with its demands and political conditions. More generally, educational programs (although mainly in secondary and higher education) in their globalizing policy orientation are very closely related to the principle of competition, generating a conceptual framework that is articulated through teacher training in terms of employability, profitability, and production. On a global scale and since the end of the twentieth century, with the rise of neoliberal policies, higher education has undergone important changes in its objectives, structure, financing, and adaptation to the job changes brought about by the Internet. By extension, and in order to adapt to this change in the programming of such studies, pre-university teaching is situated in the same line of redefinition (as was then the controversial 2001 US NCLB, No Child Left Behind Act, which was later replaced in 2015 by ESSA, Every Student Succeeds Act). A clear example of these situation and conceptual framework in higher education has been the European Bologna process, a process in the twenty-first century that involves the countries of a whole continent with the aim of guaranteeing a common framework of quality standards in European universities.

In response to immediate challenges in the formation of the artistic educator, this entry briefly analyzes one contemporary manifesto elaborated in 2018 by InSEA (International Society for Education Through Art) (INSEA 2018). InSEA is a nongovernmental organization related to UNESCO. The manifesto provides an updated definition of arts education. Linking rights and future challenges, it proposes a different conceptual framework that transcends the limits of productivity and defines arts education as a space for personal, collective, and social change and improvement.

The manifesto advocates education through art that inspires knowledge, appreciation, and creation of culture. It embraces culture as a promoter of social justice and participation in contemporary societies and points to the role of visual literacy as an essential skill. According to the manifesto, visual literacy foments understanding of visual communication and the ability to critically analyze and create images. The manifesto links basic human rights to contemporary challenges to the achievement of a formation congruent with their times. It underlines the role of culture as a fundamental right to access. This strengthens the idea that all learners, regardless of age, nationality, or background, should have the right and access to education in the visual arts. In relation to this fundamental right, an important challenge is announced: all students have the right to artistic education that connects them deeply with their cultural history. Thus, educational programs and curricular models should prepare citizens with flexible intelligences as well as creative verbal and nonverbal communication skills.

Contemporary art teacher education should acknowledge that the arts open up possibilities and opportunities for students to discover and understand themselves, their creativity, their ethics, their societies, and their cultures, encouraging confidence and self-esteem. This discovery is always reciprocal: arts education fosters intercultural understanding and empathic commitment to cultural diversity. Furthermore, consistent teacher training should embrace that arts education develops a set of literacies and aesthetic dispositions, adapted to contemporaneity. As a developmental process, arts education should be systematic and should be provided over years.

Finally, and unavoidably, arts education takes on yet another challenge of our times: ways of integrating such challenges into concrete educational spaces and programs. Eisner (1972) presents three types or models of historical curricular programs that have served as vehicles for the development of abovementioned educational models. The first model of curricular programs is based on the idea of workshop practice. Learning is developed from practical work. This curricular program is oriented to the productive dimension of the arts, where students use artistic means for creation. The second model of curricular programs is oriented to creative design. This model is also productive but entails a more functional and less self-expressive bias. The third curricular program entails a humanistic approach, which gives more priority to learners’ focus on art as a social instrument.

Since the end of the twentieth century, the basic ideas on the praxis of arts education have been linked to the three approaches proposed by Eisner. These ideas take the form of specific curricular proposals (see Table 2), which are the immediate references for teachers of the arts of our times and its challenges.
Table 2

Recent curricular models of arts education

Recent curricular models of arts education


Principal representatives


Kettering project (Late 1960s)

Elliot Eisner

A curricular experience based on the production, critique, and history of the arts

Chapman’s curricular Model (late 1970s)

Laura Chapman

A program that connects three fields of action: creating art, looking at art, and living with art

Arts Propel, acronym derives from PRO (from PROduction), P (from Perception), E (from Examination), and L (from Learning)

(The 1980s)

Howard Gardner

A model with origins in the Project Zero (in 1967) linked to Nelson Goodman. Based on production, perception, and reflection

DBAE (discipline-based art education) (The 1980s)

J. Paul Getty Trust

The curriculum has to be oriented to four disciplines:

 Artistic production

 Artistic criticism

 History of art


Post-modern conception of art education (The 1990s and the beginning of the twenty-first century)

Arthur Efland, Kerry Freedman Patricia Stuhr

A curriculum aimed at understanding the social context, structured in a heterogeneous way, from multiple stories, designed to attend multiple artistic forms, focused on cultural issues of identity, diversity, gender, and commitment to interdisciplinarity

These recent curricular references to arts education are based on holistic training, contributing to the development of critical and creative thinking skills. They are proposals that constitute the basis for the education of contemporary arts education teachers in the twenty-first century. A formation that goes beyond the instrumental and productive, which assumes art as a tool for the development of skills that improve learning not only in artistic subject but in other disciplines and dimensions.


This entry describes basic concepts in art teacher training and their correlations. The basic concepts are interrelated with the nature of the arts, as a domain of knowledge which is structured differently from the structuring of scientific knowledge. The arts constitute a relevant dimension for the development of a person’s psychological, emotional, and social capacities and their interrelationships with the community. Diverse aesthetic theories define different relationships between the artistic fact, the subject, and the society and, consequently, determine different approaches to teaching and learning. These approaches are conceptual frameworks that function as filters for the implementation of coherent responses to the questions that today’s art teachers need to answer about their subject matter and good pedagogy, curriculum design, and, finally, the challenges for art teachers. Thus, from these answers it can be inferred that the preparation of art teachers is a crucial problem. In the hands of the art teacher is the basis of a society’s relationship with its culture. Optimal cultural development transcends the productive approach to education, achieving more just, diverse, and inclusive contemporary societies.



  1. Arañó, J. C. (2005). Estructura del conocimiento artístico. In R. Marín (Ed.), Investigación en Educación Artística (pp. 19–42). Granada: Universidad de Granada.Google Scholar
  2. Day, M. D. (1993). Preparing teachers of art for tomorrow’s schools. Bulletin of the Council for Research in Music Education, 31(117), 126–135.Google Scholar
  3. Efland, A. D. (1993). Teaching and learning the arts in the future. Bulletin of the Council for Research in Music Education, 31(117), 107–121.Google Scholar
  4. Efland, A. D. (1995). Change in the conceptions of art teaching. In R. W. Neperud & R. W. Neperud (Eds.), Context, content, and community in art education. Beyond postmodernism (pp. 25–40). New York: Teachers College Press.Google Scholar
  5. Eisner, E. W. (1972). Educating artistic vision. New York: Macmillan.Google Scholar
  6. INSEA. (2018). The InSEA Manifesto. Obtenido de. http://www.insea.org/InSEA-Manifesto

Copyright information

© Springer Nature Singapore Pte Ltd. 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Art EducationUniversity of SevillaSevillaSpain

Section editors and affiliations

  • Petar Jandrić
    • 1
  • Patrick Carmichael
  1. 1.Department of Informatics and ComputingZagreb University of Applied SciencesZagrebCroatia