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© Hilary J. Inwood, 2007

Advising the Arts built on the strengths of the arts education components of the initial teacher education program at OISE/UT by developing relationships between six arts-based associate teachers, our teacher candidates and our arts instructors. By establishing and strengthening these relationships, the expertise of arts-based associate teachers was better integrated into the initial teacher education experience through workshops and practica and internship placements. The project has increased awareness of arts education in the initial teacher education program and our partner schools, but also extended our teacher candidates’ learning in the arts by working with arts-based master teachers.

Project Coordinators

Hilary Inwood
Leslie Stewart Rose

Objectives of the Project

Research Partners

Vivian East, J.B.Tyrrell Senior Public School
Jackie Gaistman, Faywood ABC
Juliet Hess, Glen Shields School
Rayma Hill, Parkdale School
Diane Jamieson, Howard Junior School
Anne Werbitsky, Nelson Mandela Park Public School


Arts education plays an important role in elementary students’ learning by developing and deepening their literacy skills, creative problem solving, critical thinking abilities, and cultural knowledge (Goldberg, 2001; Eisner, 2002). Arts education, therefore, must be a fundamental part of the preservice experience to provide teacher candidates with the expertise they need to implement meaningful arts education in the future. Central to this successful implementation is the collaboration between initial teacher education instructors, associate teachers, and teacher candidates (Langdon, Weltzl-Fairchild & Haggar, 1997). This research project aimed at improving this collaboration in the OISE/UT program by developing relationships between six arts-based associate teachers, our teacher candidates and our arts instructors. By establishing and strengthening these relationships, the expertise of arts-based associate teachers was better integrated into the initial teacher education experience through talks, workshops, practica and internship placements. Our motivation was to take a step towards improving arts-based learning in the initial teacher education program, and to build a support network to continue to develop arts-based learning in our program in future years.


Stages of the Project

1. Advising the arts: The project began in September 2005 with a search for six arts-based teachers in our partner schools. Three elementary visual arts teachers volunteered to participate, as did three music teachers. The team completed a questionnaire about their previous experiences as associate teachers, and then participated in a focus group discussion on campus on the challenges of arts-based learning in the initial teacher education program. They agreed to lead workshops at a spring arts conference for our elementary candidates and assisted with its early planning stages.

2. Activating the arts: The team returned to campus in March 2006 to lead workshops alongside OISE/UT arts instructors at JumpstART: Activating Education Through the Arts, an arts education conference offered to 600 elementary teacher candidates. Energizing performances of Ghanese drumming and Canadian rock music from two elementary student groups celebrated their artistic learning and jumpstarted the day-long conference. Over thirty experiential workshops were offered in art, music, drama, dance, and creative movement, with instruction in discipline content and pedagogy to inspire our teacher candidates’ classroom practice. Candidates were invited to provide feedback informally and formally via a digital survey. The associate teacher team was also invited to complete a post-study questionnaire on their involvement in the research project.

3. Analyzing the arts: The study provided a rich set of data from the focus group, associate teacher questionnaires and student surveys. Data from the questionnaires and focus group were thematically analyzed; data from the student survey was quantitatively analyzed for correlations and statistical significance.

4. Advancing the arts: This research project brought immediate benefits to the initial teacher education program. The profile of arts-based learning in the program was raised, bringing awareness to the need to improve arts-based learning within the program. Teacher candidates were invigorated by their contact with the associate teacher team, OISE/UT instructors and artists during the conference, helping to increase their feelings of competence in arts-based teaching. Some of the associate teacher team took on teacher candidates for internship placements in the spring for the first time, and all have expressed a desire to participate more fully in the initial teacher education program as workshop leaders, guest speakers and research partners in future.


Data Collection and Analysis

Our data collection methods – a focus group interview, questionnaires for our research partners and teacher candidates and informal feedback allowed us to focus on four research questions:

Data from the Associate Teacher Team:

Three key strands of thinking emerged from the data collected from the associate teacher team.

1. Challenges of Arts-Based Practicum Placements - The first strand was an acknowledgement of the challenges of taking on teacher candidates for arts-based placements. The team recognized the benefits of taking on teacher candidates in practica; they found it to be “mutually beneficial” as they continued to learn about teaching through the process. However they also acknowledged that arts-based teaching positions are often itinerant or part-time in nature, making it difficult to commit to a full-time practicum placement in one school. Team members with full-time positions recognized that learning about the arts at the elementary level is often ad hoc, making it hard to promise a concentrated experience in arts education. Some of the team also saw shortcomings in the current system of becoming associates at OISE/UT as it relied on their principal’s recommendation. These teachers asked for a more direct means of becoming involved in practica, and for a stronger system of supports such as initial training on campus and ongoing professional development as mentors.

2. Continued collaborations - A second strand focusing on university-school collaborations was evident in the data. While their attitudes towards OISE/UT were positive or neutral at the outset, all of the teachers expressed a desire for more collaborations between their school boards and the initial teacher education program once the project had finished. Driven by a desire to exchange professional knowledge with university educators and teacher candidates, they wanted to play a greater role in teacher education beyond that of associate teacher; most felt that they had expertise and experience that could be shared through workshops, lectures or classroom visits.

3. Building Community - A desire for stronger professional learning communities was the third strand that came through clearly in the data. The associate team enjoyed the opportunity to meet others through their involvement in the conference and the research project, and expressed an interest in more opportunities to meet with other associate teachers in future. They saw this as a means of sharing ideas about mentoring and teaching, of acting as a curriculum and problem-solving resource, and as a way to continue their own professional learning. They did acknowledge time as the limiting factor in this however, and recognized the need for paid release time to participate. Some of the team noted that this type of project was a good first step and would willingly be involved again. One wrote: “Thank you for the opportunity to be part of the OISE arts conference. It was a fantastic experience…it really was a pleasure to be a part of the day! “


Data from Teacher Candidates:

Data collected via a digital survey from teacher candidates shed light on the value of the one-day arts conference and the state of arts-based learning in the program in general. Attitudinal data clearly showed that our candidates understood the importance of arts education in elementary classrooms, but lacked confidence in their ability to teach arts education. They requested that instruction time in arts education be increased, particularly in drama and dance. One student adamantly pointed out that “we need more! [The arts are] enjoyable, practical and can be integrated with any subject, and are extremely relevant for life, careers and so much more – so why not focus more on it at OISE?” ”

Satisfaction with the arts conference was high, reflected in both formal and informal feedback from teacher candidates. They appreciated its value and felt it was an effective means of learning about arts education as they could see the applicability of its concepts and strategies for classroom use. One student wrote: “I just wanted to say that I thought the two [workshops] that I attended were fantastic. Both artist-teachers were very well prepared and approachable. I definitely got some good resources to use in the classroom.” Most felt strongly that it should be offered again in future, but extended over two days and scheduled earlier in the year to allow for participation in more workshops. As one student commented: “I definitely think it should be repeated, but the problem is that a one day conference just isn’t enough. I’d love to have a full week where you are just saturated with art and art integration”. Many students indicated that the conference increased their self-confidence about teaching the arts, making it a valuable addition to the program.



This project has been instrumental in building relationships and beginning a dialogue around arts education and teacher education within three key stakeholder groups in the initial teacher education program. The first group, the associate teacher team, indicated a keen interest in becoming more involved in teacher education by hosting teacher candidates during practica and internships, as well as by contributing to classes on campus. Two of the associates also commented on the unintentional learning the project had on their students; they saw their involvement in performing at the arts conference as a remarkable learning experience. Of this one teacher wrote: “The kids had an absolute blast teaching adults. They were so excited about it and kept coming up with more things we could teach. They don’t get many opportunities like that to show what they know. Really, it was the students who ran the workshop. I know it will be something they will remember.”

Certainly the JumpstART conference offered a forum to share expertise and information, ask questions, and network with colleagues. Workshop leaders from both inside and outside the initial teacher education program indicated how they professionally benefited from preparing for and presenting at the conference. They enjoyed meeting our teacher candidates and felt they had had a positive effect on their development. This positive impression was apparent as some indicated a desire to become more involved in teacher education at OISE/UT in the future.

The second key group, the teacher-candidates, benefited from a day of arts enrichment, learning from and connecting with master arts educators. Through the conference, arts instruction time increased from 24 to 28 hours, and teacher-candidates voiced a strong recommendation for more arts education in the initial teacher education program through arts classes, integration in other subjects and in practica experiences. What remains unclear, however, is the effectiveness of a one-day conference versus more instruction hours in the regular arts classes or through integration; studies in future years may help to ascertain this.

As the third group, OISE instructors also felt the positive impact of this project. We extended our professional network, revisited our own curricula with the guidance of our peers, and took steps to generate a list of associate teachers in the arts to support practicum placements. We are also experiencing the effects of a new energy surrounding arts-based learning arising from the project that hopefully will fuel the program to continue to improve the arts-based learning experiences of our candidates and associate teachers in the coming years.


Implications for Teacher Education

For Associate Teachers:

  • Provide a wider range of mentorship support for new and existing associate teachers
  • Involving associate teachers in a variety of ways in initial teacher education beyond practica placements is mutually beneficial for the associate teachers and the teacher candidates
  • Investing time and resources in strengethening relationships with associate teachers reaps benefits for the teachers, for teacher candidates and university instructors

For teacher candidates:

  • Ensure that teacher candidates in the arts receive arts-based practica experiences
  • Consider creative ways to increase instruction time for arts education in the initial teacher education program to improve candidates’ confidence in teaching arts education


Next Steps and New Questions

As a result of this project, we are considering creative ways to continue to improve arts-based learning in the initial teacher education program. We are planning another arts conference for our students and have secured funding for an arts integration pilot project in 2006-07. We have expanded our list of arts-based associate teachers for practica and internship placements, and will take a more proactive role in promoting their use. And we hope to implement the next stage of this project by building a new set of relationships with associate teachers who run extracurricular arts clubs in the next academic year, allowing our students to participate in arts-based service learning projects to develop their teaching skills and contribute to the cultural life of their school communities. These undertakings are each driven by their own set of questions and challenges, but ultimately should result in noticeable enhancements to arts education in the initial teach education at OISE/UT.



We would like to thank the six teachers who collaborated with us on this project, the workshop leaders who generously gave their time to JumpstART, and the energy, risk-taking and artistic expression of our teacher-candidates, all of whom continue to inspire us in our ongoing learning in arts education.


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Eisner, E. (2002). The Arts and the Creation of Mind. New Haven: Yale University Press.

Goldberg, M. (2001). Arts and Learning. New York: Addison Wesley Longman.

Langdon, P., Weltzl-Fairchild, A., & Haggar, J. (1997). Co-operating teachers: concerns and issues. Canadian Review of Art Education, 24(1), 46-57.


About the Researchers:

Hilary Inwood is a Lecturer in art education at OISE/UT whose research focuses on visual arts education and developing ecological literacy through the arts.

Leslie Stewart is a Senior Lecturer at OISE/UT. Her teaching and research interests focus on arts education and on ways of preparing teachers to work in inner city contexts.



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