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ARE6049: History of Teaching Art

Independent Project
Casey N. Smith
The Evolution of Discipline-Based Art Education
Discipline-Based Art Education, otherwise known as DBAE, came about during a time
when reform was being made in general education. It has evolved over the decades and has made
several revisions and permutations. While it is not really seen as a teaching concept for today’s
art education classrooms it can be found in the methods and ideas of what is being used.
Discipline-Based Art Education can be viewed as the foundation of today’s art education.
During the early 1980’s educators, policy makers, researchers and curriculum creators
realized there was something missing from the art education that students were receiving in
schools. Dwaine Greer mentions the idea of Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi in his article,
“Developments in Discipline-Based Art Education (DBAE): From Art Education toward Arts
Education” in that, “extraordinary development takes place in areas valued by society” (1993, p.
94). The issue being that American society did not seem to value art education enough to include
it in general education. Also in another of Greer’s articles, “A Structure of Discipline Concepts
for DBAE” he mentions his belief that there had been a lacking in the, “means to derive
objectives for art education in the same way as is done in other subjects” (1987, p. 232).
Administrators and the general public did not place value on the importance of art education and
one reason for this was because the curriculum and teaching methods looked so different from
other subjects such as science, English and math courses. It was believed that there needed to be
a curriculum that was structured sequentially and hierarchically that would be taught district
wide paralleling the type of structure used in general education. It was also believed that,
“student achievement and program effectiveness should be formally and systematically assessed
and evaluated” (Delacruz & Dunn, 1995, p. 47). This was also a parallel to general education
courses that conduct standardized testing and evaluations.
The Getty Center for Education in the Arts took on the project of researching and
creating a new concept for art education. With influences from Harry Broudy, Dwaine Greer,
Elliot Eisner and many others in the field of art education the concept of Discipline-Based Art
Education had formed. Four disciplines of art were deemed necessary in art education;
aesthetics, art history, critique, and art production. Dwaine Greer broke down the four disciplines
to make them easy for educators to understand and implement.
Aesthetics consisted of the experiencing of a work of art, the nature of the work, the
intent of the work and the value of the work. Students would learn to appreciate works of art.
Students would also learn to distinguish the nature of a work of art, whether it represents
something real or is symbolic of something. They would learn to determine and discuss the intent
the artist had when making the work of art. And finally learning the aspects of judging work and
what makes one piece more valuable than another.
Art history consisted of the where, when and by whom a piece of art was created. It
included iconography, the symbols represented in the work and what they mean. Art history also
included the history of the work itself and the purpose of the piece. Students would learn the
history of the actual piece of work as well as the time period when it was made. They would,
“describe and discuss works of art in ways that resemble the work of critics” (Greer, 1987, p.
231). Greer also stated that the, “excitement at discovering new ideas about art and
understanding that any work is part of the larger stream of man’s imagery can make art history
come alive” (Greer, 1987, p. 231).
Critique consisted of the subject matter, the content of the work, the meaning of that
content and finally the justification for the works value. Students would identify the objects
depicted in the work as subject matter. They would distinguish the significance of the subject
matter as content and the meaning behind that significance. Learning that art can be a symbol or
metaphor and how to interpret them was a large part of critique. And finally learning the
different justifications that critics make in assigning value to work such as the works place in
history, the formal grounds of technique and the skills required to create the work, or the artist’s
desire and accomplishment in creating a particular emotional experience or response from the
Art production consisted of originality, technique, craftsmanship and process. Students
would be required to create original works of art instead of just replicating historical pieces.
Students would, “acquire an increasing range of technical knowledge and skill as they proceed
through a discipline-based program” (Greer, 1987, p. 232). They would also develop a desire to
master skills in particular mediums that would result in well-made pieces demonstrating high
standards of craftsmanship. They would learn to recognize, assess and problem solve issues that
arise when creating art. Advocates of Discipline-Based Art Education believed that through the
inclusion of these four disciplines in a structured sequentially and hierarchically curriculum
would not only become an accepted course but would also prove the benefits of art education in
The Getty Center held conferences and seminars dedicated to debating and reviewing the
ideas of Discipline-Based Art Education. These conferences and seminars were not exclusive to
researchers, policy makers, and curriculum creators however. They also included educators who
made large contributions and suggestions for how Discipline-Based Art Education would work
in the classroom. In 1989 critics became worried about the limited artists and art works that were
being included in the Discipline-Based Art Education curriculums. Some criticized that
Discipline-Based Art Education would be a, “forerunner of a national curriculum and that, by the
very nature of the theory, discipline-based art education was both Eurocentric and male
chauvinist” (Greer, 1993, p. 93). Others were concerned about the, “need to expand and clarify
relationships between discipline-based art education and multicultural education” (Greer, 1993,
p. 94). Multiculturalism was a growing movement at the time especially in the field of education.
General education educators and policy makers were trying to incorporate more of a presence of
cultures differing from the average Caucasian male culture. Because of these concerns and
movements The Getty Center brought about the inclusion of multicultural frameworks as well as
female and minority artists and works of art into Discipline-Based Art Education.
There was a struggle in the implementation of Discipline-Based Art Education in schools.
This was due to the differing ideas of educators. Advocates of Discipline-Based Art Education
had to defend the concept against the other concepts that were being developed at the same time.
Up until that point art education had primarily focused on creating art and many educators were
not receptive to including the disciplines of aesthetics, critique, and art history into their
curriculums. They believed that the art in art education was being taken out of the classroom. In
“The Evolution of Discipline-Based Art Education” Elizabeth Delacruz and Phillip Dunn discuss
how some educators thought that the, “addition of academic content to the already crowded art
curriculum was unacceptable” (1996, p. 70). Because of this art educators were adapting the
Discipline-Based Art Education concept to the needs of their classroom and therefore there were
many versions of Discipline-Based Art Education being taught leaving holes in the curriculum
from district to district. Advocates for Discipline-Based Art Education began reminding
educators that creating a ‘balance’ between the four disciplines did not necessarily mean equal
time among the four disciplines. They suggested that art production could still be the dominate
feature of their classrooms as long as the other four areas were being effectively integrated into
their curriculums and lesson plans. Advocates believed that by incorporating aesthetics, art
history and critique into the already art production filled curriculum that students would be able
to, “respond to and make judgements about the properties and qualities that exist in visual forms”
(Dobbs, 1992, p. 9). Students would also acquire knowledge about how artists contribute to their
society and culture as well as understand how people justify their judgments concerning pieces
of art work.
Another snag they were facing in implementing Discipline-Based Art Education into
schools was the lack of education the teachers had in the disciplines of aesthetics, critique, and
art history. Maurice Sevigny discusses in his article, “Discipline-Based Art Education and
Teacher Education” how teachers were able to, “understand the curricular concepts of DBAE but
are less sure of the connections to pedagogical theory that would realize the successful teaching
implementation of these curricula concepts” (1987, p. 107). Educators lacked the knowledge and
training in aesthetics, art history, and critique and thus were not able to effectively incorporate
those ideas into their classrooms. This led to a reform in teacher education. The Getty Center
began offering training courses and seminars for educators to help bridge the gap in art education
knowledge needed to implement Discipline-Based Art Education in schools. Dwaine Greer
stated what, “DBAE brought to the forefront within the field, resulted in a rash of activities”
(1993, p. 94). There were revisions to textbooks and textbook series. New teaching methods and
curriculums were being developed to assist teachers incorporating aesthetics, critique and art
history along with their art production lessons. It gave authors a chance to include more
historical references in textbooks and curricula as well as develop timelines, games, and even
narratives to make learning more engaging for the students. In 1992 the Getty Center realized the
need for a practical guide on how to implement Discipline-Based Art Education thus Stephen
Mark Dobbs even created, “The DBAE Handbook: An Overview of Discipline-Based Art
Education” that was to be used to help assist, “art specialists and supervisors, classroom teachers,
teacher educators, museum educators, and school administrators to understand and implement
DBAE” (1992, p. 1). The handbook was intended to provide a, “succinct, straight-forward
explication of the fundamental concepts and practices that characterize this multifaceted
approach to teaching children how to create, understand, and appreciate works of art” (1992, p.
1). The handbook was an exemplary tool for educators to use.
Also until the Discipline-Based Art Education concept art education had mainly focused
on artists. Curriculum was based on teaching students how to become professional artists, this of
course left out a great deal of other career opportunities within the art world. Author Karen
Hamblen discusses this issue in her article, “Rethinking Roles: Art Education, Sexism, and
DBAE”. She believed that art education was not providing students with a well-rounded
education in the arts. She states, “When ‘being good’ in art means being technically facile with
art media, students who are able to understand and appreciate art in a more conceptual manner
find little to recommend enrollment in an art class” (1988, p. 46). Discipline-Based Art
Education provided students a chance to learn about other careers such as museum curators, art
criticist, art brokers, and many more occupational opportunities that did not deal with the direct
hands on making of art. It opened up a new world of art to students who might have otherwise
never considered taking an art course. Hamblen also thought that the four disciplines should be
expanded on so much that they become their own courses. This however would only take place
at the college level though.
As Discipline-Based Art Education became more and more integrated into schools
educators found that art education was becoming more accepted as part of general education.
Dwaine Greer reported that educators who participated in Discipline-Based Art Education,
“reported new levels of support from their administrators and school boards as the benefits to
children became apparent” (1993, p. 96). Students were demonstrating a new depth of
knowledge about art which their work was reflecting. They were also, “able to write about art
with increased skill” (1993, p. 96). These were areas that administrators and school boards really
cared about since these were areas that could be easily assessed and evaluated. Other benefits
such as an increase in critical and analytical thinking skills, problem solving, self-reliance, and
self-expression were not seen as important to administrators and school boards.
Discipline-Based Art Education was creating an environment where teachers were given
the opportunity to, “rethink, re-evaluate, and re-assert their fundamental beliefs about teaching,
learning, and the nature and value of art” (Delacruz & Dunn, 1995, p. 49). Delacruz and Dunn
also stated that Discipline-Based Art Education, “provided a level of discussion and debate that
has energized and invigorated thinking and scholarship in art education” (1996, p. 79).
Scholarships in aesthetics and critique, while few and far between, were beginning to gain
recognition and popularity among the many scholarships already being given to students for art
work. Discipline-Based Art Education had been associated with the “excellence-in-education”
movement, a movement created to improve the quality and status of education in America. The
intent of “excellence-in-education” was to improve Americas, “academic status and economic
competitiveness in the global marketplace” (Delacruz & Dunn, 1996, p. 71). Discipline-Based
Art Education was considered to be art educations contribution in the “excellence-in-education”
As the benefits of Discipline-Based Art Education became more apparent other art forms
such as music, dance and theatre began assessing their curricula to include areas of history,
critique and aesthetics related to their art fields. Through the use of Discipline-Based Art
Education the Florida Institute for Art Education expanded the fundamentals to create CHAT
(comprehensive holistic assessment task). CHAT was more of an interdisciplinary curriculum
concept where lessons were related to content from social science, language arts, history, music,
science, and math. However, the four main disciplines of aesthetics, critique, art history, and art
production were still seen as the foundational necessities.
While many concepts, theories, and methods are prevalent in art education in the 21st
century Discipline-Based Art Education still pervades in art education. It is just hard to see.
Susan Spero wrote in her article, “Using Discipline-Based Art Education Art Personal
Perspective” that the Discipline-Based Art Education concept, “provides a useful, flexible
structure that organizes thinking and provides effective parameters for discussing art work”
(Spero, 1992, para 1). We still find all four disciplines; aesthetics, critique, art history, and art
production in the art classrooms of today they just are not often taught separately. Spero also
stated that, “It would be a mistake, for the sake of purity alone, to isolate the disciplines while
teaching with a work of art” (Spero, 1992, para 11). In today’s art classroom educators
incorporate all four disciplines into a single lesson plan or unit plan.
Educators incorporate the aesthetics discipline by using “Enduring Ideas” which are
themes, topics or issues such as; identity, heroes, change, and ancestry. These ideas provide a
relevance of art in the students’ lives. Educators also ask the students “essential questions” such
as, “What is art? How does art influence our view of the world?” which are questions used to
stimulate inquiry concerning the student’s culture and society. These questions do not have
definitive answers and are meant to encourage thought provoking questions and ideas. Students
discuss their experiences with works of art and discuss the relationships between art and society
and cultural issues.
Critique is incorporated into classrooms by instructing students to describe, analyze and
interpret particular works of art. They will learn to identify if a piece is a realistic representation
of an object or imaginary. Students also learn to recognize moods, symbols and metaphors within
the art works as they search for a deeper significance concerning the subject matter. Students are
required to provide evidence for their opinions about a piece of work explaining why and how
they formed their opinions on the work. These can range from providing context about the time
period during which the work was created to explaining the purpose or function of the work of
art. Educators are able to use “essential questions” to help guide the student’s inquiry in art work.
The discipline of art history is included into art education curriculums by having students
discover where, when, and by whom an art work was made by. They learn about the events and
social issues during the time period it was created and discuss how the events or issues of the
time period may have influenced the artist and art work. Students are also exposed to art work
from different cultures within their society and across the world. They learn to recognize
similarities and differences in works from other cultures and how those works are valued with in
that culture. Educators are able to use “essential questions” during discussions to help guide the
student’s study of art work.
Art production has always been the main focus of art education and still is today in most
art education classrooms especially in kindergarten through the twelfth grade. Art production has
evolved though from simple replication of nature or famous works of art to producing
imaginative, innovative and self-expressive works of art. In today’s art classrooms art production
is not just the process of creating art it encourages discovery and inquiry into the students own
lives. Through the use of the student’s imagination and creativity they are directed to think about
the source of their inspiration as well as the choices and decisions they made during the process
of creating their art work. Educators are able to provide examples of professional artists work
and the inspirations and processes the artists used for creating the work. By discussing their own
inspiration and the inspiration of other artists students are able to recognize influences in their
environment and society and how those influences show up in art.
Discipline-Based Art Education has evolved from what it once was in the late 1980’s.
While it might not be taught in teacher education programs as a contemporary concept for art
education its fundamentals are seen in what is being used. Discipline-Based Art Education
provided art educators an environment for inquiry and questioning into their own beliefs in the
teaching of art as well as questioning the methods and concepts that are still being developed
today. When broken down to its basics of teaching aesthetics, critique, art history, and art
production you can find that in almost every art classroom across the United States of America.
It provided educators a concept for teaching that encouraged not only technique, skills, and
academic knowledge but also self-expression, inquiry into one’s own place in society, and
exposure to cultures differing from that of the students. Discipline-Based Art Education brought
about a reform in art education that continues today through ever changing ideas, research, and
knowledge of children.

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