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The need for “imagine”

Many of this semester’s authors have argued for a paradigm shift in art education. None of them offered concrete examples of what this new way of teaching and learning would look like for our youngest students. • Anderson states that despite the fact that the current practice of art criticism involves deconstruction and recontextualization, “children do not have that cultural base. The reason they are in school is to acquire it. Before they can deconstruct and recontextualize cultural information, they need to construct it, contextualize it, and integrate its meanings” (Anderson, 1993, p. 201). • “Evidence of a postmodern approach is more prevalent in the scholarly literature than in actual practice in the classroom, since formalist theories and practices that characterized the modernist period are still the most popular approach to teaching art.” (Wolcott, 1996, p. 73).

• After describing a course called The Visual Society, Hicks makes the following statement in a footnote, "It was very successful. Content and methodologies are effective at all levels down to third grade" (Hicks, 2001, p. 10)

For my final project, I investigated the literature to make sense of the proposed paradigm shift (specifically related to postmodernism) with the hopes of uncovering implications for elementary art educators. In the rest of this document, I attempt to communicate my findings in a way that is useful for the elementary art educator.

Contents The need for “imagine” What is postmodern? Implications for the classroom Examples for K-2

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imagine What is “Postmodern?” Postmodernity is a period of time that is difficult to define because, in many ways, it is defined by what it is not. It is a transitory time. We hear it used to describe lots of things related to our lives as art teachers, including curriculum, art, pedagogy, and the culture in which we live. Postmodern theorists “deconstruct” some of the long-held assumptions of modernity. Art Education in Modernity


of, relating to, or being an era after a modern one or of, relating to, or being any of various movements in reaction to modernism that are typically characterized by a return to traditional materials and forms (as in architecture) or by ironic self-reference and absurdity (as in literature), or finally of, relating to, or being a theory that involves a radical reappraisal of modern assumptions about culture, identity, history, or language. postmodernism

culture? pedagogy?



Lowenfeld and Dewey are names frequently cited in the literature that describes art education in modernity. The modern assumptions that are being called into question by postmodernity include:

• a “hands-off” mentality for parents and teachers • the artist as creative genius • the child as having the potential for creative self-actualization • art transcends real life and can be an end in itself • art involves aesthetic sensing • anyone sufficiently sensitive and experiences will perceive aesthetic quality (Pearse, 1992, p. 250).

In modernity, art was enjoyed and purchased by the elite, and there was a strong disdain for popular art of any form. The canonization of certain works meant that large groups of artists were marginalized and unrepresented. The esteemed artworks were believe to have inherent value and meaning. The interpretation of this meaning was the job of art critics. Critics of these modernist assumptions promote changes to art education that reflect the deconstruction of these assumptions. However, some (see Neperud, 1995) argue that deconstructing the assumptions does not provide any real sense of what to do instead. The term “reconstructionist” has been given to those who seek to redesign art education. The Visual Culture promoters (e.g. Duncum, Freedman) are considered reconstructionist because they are proposing a new “center”--new sets of assumptions. Others, called the “reformers” by Clark (1996) believe that the modern and postmodern approaches can be melded together into a new approach.


Classroom Implications K-2 If we consider how postmodernism might change our teaching (pedagogy), we must recognize that the change is partially due to a change in what we teach (curriculum). POSTMODERN IMPLICATIONS: • content less likely to be accepted as directly given by experts • a knowledge more apt to be socially constructed by teachers and students • content is historically and culturally situated • willingness to accept experiences with art as a legitimate source of information • singular focus on museum and gallery fine art supplemented by culturally diverse creations of “outsiders” • traditional basic design and drawing disciplines are no longer regarded as the sole prerequisites for creative development • studio-dominated art activities have been supplemented • focus on the meaning of art has replaced structural, formalist studies (Neperud, 1995)

Boughton (2004) argues that the “end” of art education is having students able to critically analyze a variety of aspects of art and to understand social meanings of artworks. At first, it was difficult for me to consider how to have K-2 students engaged in critical discussions about society. However, it became clear that teaching for a “Critical Media Literacy” can be cultivated in the early grades. This is something that many of the authors promote: a critical investigation of images. I believe that the crux of a postmodern elementary art program could be helping students to see the contexts in which images of all kinds are created and are viewed. Challenging students to think about how others might respond also helps students construct a less ego-centric self.



Curricular Ideas for the K-2 classroom based on ideas presented from sources at the bottom of this page. Have students watch a commercial and identify the intended audience. Discuss how the commercial would have to change to appeal to different audiences. Have students identify a commercial that is geared towards a different audience. Have students create commercials and act them out in class that appeal to a specific audience.

Have students bring a toy to school. Engage students in a discussion that exposes them to toys from history and various cultures. (Help students see themselves as part of a larger tradition). Have students draw their toy and write about its function. Have students create new toys that would serve a different purpose.

Ask students to think of a place that they would like to have their artwork exhibited. Have students create work, considering the intended exhibition space. Have students brainstorm and engage in a discussion about how they would get access and gain necessary permissions to exhibit this location. If possible, help students pursue these exhibition spaces.

Anderson, T. (1993). Defining and Structuring Art Criticism for Education. Studies in Art Education. (34)3, 199-208. Boughton (2004). The Problem of Seduction: Assessing Visual Culture. Studies in Art Education. (45)3, 265-269. Clark, R. (1996). Art Education Issues in Postmodernist Pedagogy. Reston, VA: National Art Education Association. Duncum, P. (1997). Art Education For New Times. Studies in Art Education. (38)2, 69-79. Fehr, D. (1993). Promise and Paradox: Art Education in the Postmodern Era. Studies in Art Education. (35)4. 209-217. Hicks, J. (2001). How Do You Cure A Sick Horse? Art Education. (54)2, 6-10. Kellner, D. (1988). Reading Images Critically: Towards a Postmodern Pedagogy. Journal of Education. (170)3, 31-52. Neperud, R., ed. (1995). Context, Content and Community In Art Education: Beyond Postmodernism. New York: Teachers College Press. Pearse, H. (1992). Beyond Paradigms: Art Education Theory and Practice in a Postparadigmatic World. Studies in Art Education. (33)4. 244-252. Taylor, M. (2005). Postmodern Pedagogy: Teaching and Learning with Generation NeXt. MCLI forum. Spring 2005, 4-8. Wolcott, A. (1996). Is What You See What You Get? A Postmodern Approach to Understanding Works of Art. Studies in Art Education. (37)2, 69-79.

Postmodern Art Education for K-2  

This is a document I created for an art education course during which I explored postmodern art education at the primary grades.

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