Relationships Among Elementary Generalist Teachers’ Experiences, Beliefs, and Practices in Visual Arts Education

Research output: ThesisDoctoral Thesis


Elementary teachers are increasingly expected to provide visual arts instruction to their students, but many lack the necessary preparation. The arts are now Core Subjects in the California Education Code and the Board of Education adopted content standards in the arts, yet most California universities do not require arts training in their multiple subject credential programs. Many teachers were not exposed to the arts in their own K-12 education due to cutbacks in the 1970s and the lack of arts requirements for college admission. The study examined relationships among the experiences, beliefs, and visual arts instruction of elementary generalists. The methodology included a survey of 131 teachers (K-5) that addressed their personal, academic, and professional experiences with the visual arts and their beliefs about the visual arts in education, careers, and society. Follow-up interviews were conducted with 12 teachers who represented the wide range of experiences, beliefs, and practices reflected in the surveys. Statistical and content analyses were applied to the survey and interview data. Teachers’ art experiences had weak associations with overall visual arts instruction. However, their beliefs had a moderate association with overall visual arts instruction, and those beliefs were found to have positive associations with experiences that were tied to specific instructional practices in art. The interviews generated themes regarding instruction, assessment, standardized tests, district support, and the level of experience needed to include the visual arts in the curriculum. Four conclusions were drawn: 1) personal art appreciation and production can create a foundation of beliefs, subject matter knowledge, and self-confidence that are associated with higher levels of visual arts instruction; 2) undergraduate visual arts coursework is associated with sequential,
independent art instruction, the sharing of best practices with colleagues, and an increased ability to see connections between the arts and other core subjects; 3) teacher education and professional development in visual arts have positive associations with sequential, integrated art instruction and the sharing of best practices; 4) discrete constellations of experiences and practices are linked to specific beliefs that correlate with higher levels of art instruction. Implications for theory, future research, and practice are also presented.
Original languageAmerican English
Awarding Institution
  • School of Education
  • Mitchell, Matthew, Advisor, External person
StatePublished - 2001


  • elementary education
  • teacher education
  • arts integration


  • Arts and Humanities
  • Education

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