Obstacles Part 1

NOTE: This is cross-posted with naea.typepad.com

Every once in awhile, I get a postcard or brochure in the mail describing a summer artist residency program that promises time for serene art-making bliss and continuing education credit for teachers. As wonderful as it sounds, I have never been able to make this a reality. I imagine that I am not the only one who foregoes potentially transformative experiences due to a lack of time and money paired with things like family commitments. In this post, I describe some common obstacles to effective professional development for art educators: funding, isolation. Tomorrow’s post will cover issues of power and trust.

Sixty-one percent of art teachers attend professional development opportunities on weekends, after school, and during the summer (Sabol, 2006), and “art educators bear the major degrees of responsibility for pursuing their own professional development” (p. 48). Despite receiving some funding from their schools, 58% of art teachers reported that the support they receive to attend professional development experiences is inadequate. When asked about drawbacks to attending professional development opportunities, teachers’ most frequent response (35%) was that attending professional development was “too expensive.”

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). 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 (i.e., affordable). 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, both of which create the need for funding. Sabol (2006) reports that 17% percent of art educators cite problems with professional development opportunities being too far away, and 34% 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.

-Leslie Gates


-Birman, B., Desimone, L., Porter, A., & Garet, M. (2000). Designing professional development that works. Educational Leadership, 57(8), 28-33.
-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. Reston, VA: National Art Education Association.