Creating art, creating selves : negotiating professional and social identities in preservice teacher education
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This critical ethnographic collective case study examined the process of becoming a teacher in the context of visual art education. This longitudinal study was grounded in larger educational concerns regarding the preparation of teachers for socially and culturally diverse U.S. public schools. This framing of teacher learning went beyond traditional dichotomies in educational research that maintain an artificial boundary between learning to teach content and learning to teach all students effectively and equitably. In order to re-integrate the study of teacher learning, this research foregrounds the transactional relationship between a preservice art teacher’s social locations (e.g., race, class, sex-gender, language) and how s/he makes sense of what it means to be an “art teacher.” Specifically, the study asked (a) how preservice art teachers negotiated their emerging art teacher identities in a university-based teacher education program, (b) how their social positions were implicated in that process, and (c) how their teacher identities were meditated by cultural narratives, artifacts, and practices. This approach eschewed simplistic and reductive analyses of teacher identities in order to attain a nuanced understanding of the multiple, sometimes contradictory social processes involved in becoming a teacher. This collective case study centered six preservice art teachers with varied racial, class, gender, and sexual identities, all of whom attended the same undergraduate teacher education program in the southwestern U.S. Social practice theory of identity, and critical curriculum and cultural theory were employed in constructing a multi-leveled relational analysis of the commonalities and divergences in participants’ self-understandings over time. Findings showed historical patterns of institutionalized racism, as well as complex class and sex-gendered meanings of art. These inequitable norms were reproduced in ways distinctive to the asocial and apolitical “common sense” knowledge that was mobilized within the world of art teacher education. Some participants experienced alienation and marginalization based on their social positioning in relation to the world of art education. The findings also illuminated the polyvalent nature of identity through the coexistence of hegemonic identities as well as counter-hegemonic agency. Implications and possibilities for generating more critical, equity-oriented teacher education and art education research, practice, and policy are considered.