Accessing High Quality Professional Development Part 2

NOTE: This is cross-posted with

This is the second of three posts describing obstacles that art educators may encounter when attempting to access high quality professional development that takes place outside their schools. In this post, I describe the obstacle of isolation.

Recently, an art teacher in Pennsylvania described her appreciation for professional development that allowed her to collaborate with other art teachers:
“It’s been really nice to interact with other art educators because in my situation, even though I work at three different school buildings, I don’t interact with any other art educators…It’s been great to share stories and experiences and things we’ve learned…it’s been really valuable to me.” (K. Spencer, personal communication, April 3, 2009)
Teachers value time where they get to work together (Clark, 2001; Birman et al., 2003) with colleagues who “have a shared set of ideas and a vocabulary that [allows] them to understand one another” (Lind, 2007, p. 8).

Although many reform efforts have attempted to dissolve the autonomous and isolated nature of teaching, teachers still describe their practice as lonely and isolated. This is especially true for elementary art teachers, who are likely to be working as the sole teacher in their discipline within their school setting (Barrett, 2006; Chapman, 2005).

The isolated reality of art teachers creates a logistical challenge to providing art teachers with content-specific professional development that is collaborative and school-based. Art teachers who attempt to overcome their isolation by attending professional development outside their school district run into the additional obstacles of distance and time. Further compounding problems with funding, 17% cite problems with professional development opportunities being “too far away” (Sabol, 2006). Thirty-four percent of teachers identified time as an obstacle to attending professional development activities. Art teachers attending professional development outside their districts often do so outside their normal school day when time for professional development is in competition with personal and family responsibilities.

In my next post, I will continue considering obstacles, and will look specifically at issues related power and trust.

-Leslie Gates

Barrett, J. R. (2006). Recasting Professional Development for Music Teachers in an Era of Reform. Arts Education Policy Review, 107(6), 19-28.
Birman, B., Desimone, L., Porter, A., & Garet, M. (2000). Designing professional development that works. Educational Leadership, 57(8), 28-33.
Chapman, L. H. (2005). Status of Elementary Art Education: 1997-2004. Studies in Art Education: A Journal of Issues and Research in Art Education, 46(2), 118-137.
Clark, C.M. (Ed.). (2001). Talking shop: Authentic conversation and teacher learning. New York: Teachers College Press.
Lind, V. (2007). High quality professional development: an investigation of the supports for and barriers to professional development in arts education. International Journal of Education & the Arts, 8(2).
Sabol, F. R. (2006). Professional Development in Art Education: A Study of Needs, Issues, and Concerns of Art Educators. National Art Education Association.