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Creating a visual arts curriculum: the Wilmette process.

Last year as part of the Focus series, SchoolArts reviewed art curricula from a large school district (Virginia Beach, Virginia), a state (Ohio) and a nation (Japan). The first Curriculum Profile of this year looks at what a small school system can do in the area of curriculum development if it has a forward looking administration, a supportive school board and a professional cadre of art teachers. Wilmette, Illinois Public School District 39 consists of four elementary schools, K-5, and a junior high school for grades six, seven and eight.

The process of selecting subject areas within a school system that are in need of review is usually the responsibility of a curriculum review committee comprised of faculty and administration. State Boards of Education often mandate curriculum writing and review as part of their state goals for education. Ideally, the decision should be initiated by the teaching staff. These are the professional educators who best understand the strengths and weaknesses of a curriculum. It has been my experience that administration and boards of education react in a positive manner when a written plan for curriculum improvement is presented for consideration.

Curriculum writing can be a creative process by which an art department can bring about revisions in scheduling, planning time, purchasing procedures, facilities and class size. The most important benefit of curriculum writing may be the opportunity to provide an art component that is in partnership with the general education curriculum.

Initiating the writing process

First and foremost is the commitment of the art staff. Once the department has agreed on the need and advantages of developing a curriculum, the next step is to develop a written, long range plan for presentation to the department chair, the curriculum coordinator, and the Assistant Superintendent of Instruction.

This plan may include:

* a written statement regarding the educational need for a new curriculum. This statement should address all grade levels within the district.

* an outline of the time required to complete each phase of the writing. Do not underestimate the time needed. A two or three year timeline is advisable for a K-8 curriculum.

Curriculum writing procedures

Review. Review current art curriculum to determine strengths and areas in need of improvement.

Input. Seek input from a variety of sources. Most state education agencies have an art education consultant on staff. One of his or her key responsibilities is to assist local school districts in curriculum development. Additional sources of input can be other professionals in the field, administrators, classroom teachers and the community. This is also an opportunity to recommend that the district hire an art education consultant to evaluate the curriculum and art program objectively. The art consultant can be a constructive ally of the art staff in supporting needed revisions in the program.

Research/Study. Research current literature and study exemplary curriculum materials from other districts and publishing companies. Determine the most effective format for writing the curriculum.

Prioritize. Decide the grade levels or courses in need of immediate attention. Develop a one, three or five-year plan that will result in a written curriculum for all programs.

Revise/Write/Select. Revise and/or write curriculum incorporating guidelines and goals of the state board of education. Develop and/or select resource and instructional material to accompany the new curriculum.

Contents of an art curriculum

The task of developing a visual arts curriculum is one of adapting content such as painting, drawing, photography, ceramics and printmaking to fit the student. Student needs define the level of and strategy required for instruction. The local community furnishes the value structure within which the art curriculum functions.

The content of an art curriculum generally contains the following information:

Rationale. A statement of the fundamental reasons for teaching art education.

Philosophy. A personal statement of beliefs by the art staff describing the significant characteristics of art education and its applicability to general education.

District Goals. A general statement of results or achievements expected as a result of a visual arts learning experience.

State Goals. State goals should be in agreement with district goals.

Learning Objectives. Specific statements of expected learning outcomes acquired by the student as a result of teaching strategies.

Learning Activities. A short description of studio activities in which the student will participate.

Assessment. A statement of guidelines describing the process used to evaluate the student's artistic products and creative growth.

Processes. A description of the application of materials, tools and equipment used in studio production.

Vocabulary. A sequential list of art terms students will learn as they progress through the art program.

Art History/Cultural History. These learnings may be part of specific studio activities or offered as a separate area of study.

Integration. A progressive curriculum should address the area of integration. A program for the meaningful integration of art into the general curriculum allows opportunities to brainstorm with other subject areas.

Model Lessons. A model lesson should be designed for each of the art areas.

Results of curriculum writing

The results are your rewards for the work that curriculum writing requires. Some of those rewards might be:

* the development of a unified art staff that understands the scope and sequence of the entire art learning process and respects each other's expertise.

* an art person as chairman of the art department; completion of the curriculum might include a request to allow the staff to name a member as chairman for the district, if one is not already in place.

* development of inservice programs that encourage staff professional growth.

* a request for funding to present the curriculum at state or national conventions. If feasible, a presentation should also be made at a meeting of the local school board.

There is one result of writing a visual arts curriculum that can be guaranteed. It is a professional learning experience that will enhance the understanding of art education, and sensitize faculty to the value of art instruction.

Betty J. Doherty is Chairman, Visual Arts Department, Wilmette, Illinois Public Schools.
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Title Annotation:Focus: Curriculum Profile; Wilmette, Illinois Public School District
Author:Doherty, Betty J.
Publication:School Arts
Date:Nov 1, 1990
Words:993
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