ENGAGING A SENSE OF SELF: PARTICIPATORY ACTION RESEARCH WITHIN A COURSE FOR MFA GRADUATE STUDENTS IN THE VISUAL ARTS by Barbara J. Bergstrom ________________________________ Copyright © Barbara J. Bergstrom 2014 A Dissertation Submitted to the Faculty of the SCHOOL OF ART In Partial Fulfillment of the Requirements For the Degree of DOCTOR OF PHILOSOPHY WITH A MAJOR IN ART HISTORY AND EDUCATION In the Graduate College THE UNIVERSITY OF ARIZONA 2014 2 THE UNIVERSITY OF ARIZONA GRADUATE COLLEGE As members of the Dissertation Committee, we certify that we have read the dissertation prepared by Barbara J. Bergstrom entitled “Engaging a sense of self: Participatory action research within a course for MFA graduate students in the visual arts” and recommend that it be accepted as fulfilling the dissertation requirement for the Degree of Doctor of Philosophy. ________________________________________________________________________ Lynn Beudert, Ph.D. 2/28/14 Professor ________________________________________________________________________ Elizabeth Garber, Ph.D., MFA 2/28/14 Professor ________________________________________________________________________ Ryan Shin, Ph.D. 2/28/14 Associate Professor Final approval and acceptance of this dissertation is contingent upon the candidate’s submission of the final copies of the dissertation to the Graduate College. I hereby certify that I have read this dissertation prepared under my direction and recommend that it be accepted as fulfilling the dissertation requirement. ________________________________________________________________________ Dissertation Director: Lynn Beudert, Ph.D. 2/28/14 Professor 3 STATEMENT BY AUTHOR This dissertation has been submitted in partial fulfillment of the requirement for an advanced degree at the University of Arizona and is deposited in the University Library to be made available to borrowers under the rules of the library. Brief quotations from this dissertation are allowable without permission, provided that an accurate acknowledgement of the source is made. Requests for permission for extended quotation from or reproduction of this manuscript in whole or in part may be granted by the copyright holder. Signed: _____________________________________ Barbara J. Bergstrom 4 ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS First, I choose to acknowledge Lynn Beudert Ph.D., as it is her unyielding dedication to the field of art and visual culture education that has continued to motivate my personal passion for and professional goal of completing this research study. Lynn, as you will retire within the same semester in which I will graduate, I want to express that to the absolute best of my ability, I will carry on your charge. Thank you for your gracious encouragement, relentless integrity, diplomatic questions, and unwavering compassion for, and commitment to every aspect of my Ph.D.; you have humbled my approach as I join my doctoral colleagues. Thank you, Elizabeth Garber Ph.D. for the many years of support and guidance you have provided me as both an MFA and a Ph.D. student. I am grateful to you in many ways. I also appreciate the direction of Jenny Lee Ph.D., Ryan Shin Ph.D., and Marissa McClure-Sweeny Ph.D. who have helped me to develop perspectives related to their areas of specialty within education. To “Annika,” “Jenna,” and “Nate”, thank you for sharing the depth of your persons and acting on your willingness to confront personal, professional, academic, even political issues with modest receptiveness. Your dedication to our colloquium series, and thus my research project, has instigated new motivations within me. I appreciate the commitment that each of you demonstrated to the experiences of this study and more importantly, to the devotion of earning your MFA degrees. I acknowledge that the experience of participating in the Graduate Student Writing Institute at the University of Arizona followed by weekly meetings with tutor, John Rabuck have made an impact on my writing that otherwise would never have happened. Thank you. As I thank Darden Bradshaw Ph.D., a dear friend, colleague, and writing partner, I am not sure how to express my appreciation. As someone who walked just a few steps before me while our dissertations materialized, Darden set the bar high, gave it to me straight, and provided chips and hugs along the way. The support and encouragement of my parents, John and Patricia Bergstrom have resided within the heart of each new endeavor upon which I have embarked. Thank you for the unconditional love you continue to give to me. I also offer thanks to Britt Bergstrom-O’Malley and Bill Bergstrom. Along with your families, you continue to provide occasions for all of us to share our laughter, research curiosities, and the inspirations that guide our futures. To Tim Walker, the quiet champion of my pursuits, I express heart-felt gratitude. Your presence within this process has been indispensable. I also appreciate the spirited support that I have received from my friends Kris Bettisworth, Elaine Weaver, Irene Defotis, John Aucott, and Miles Conrad. Finally, I wish to acknowledge my friend, Mary. I treasure the experiences we had together as MFA graduate students and the friendship we enjoy today. Please know that I am profoundly grateful for the artistic guidance and empathetic support that you continue to give to me on my creative journey. 5 DEDICATION Most sincerely, I dedicate this heart-felt project to current MFA students as well as those who have navigated the experiences of earning an MFA degree. I truly respect and genuinely champion your embrace of the unpredictable as well as the exceptionally rewarding journey of an artist. 6 TABLE OF CONTENTS LIST OF FIGURES…………………………………………………………….. 11 ABSTRACT…………………………………………………………………….. 13 CHAPTER ONE: INTRODUCTION…………………………………………... Rationale……………………………………………………………………. Research questions………………………………………………………….. Theoretical framework……………………………………………………… Overview of research methods……………………………………………… Definitions of terms………………………………………………………… Limitations of the study…………………………………………………….. Significance of the study……………………………………………………. Organization of the study…………………………………………………… 15 17 22 22 23 25 27 29 31 CHAPTER TWO: REVIEW OF THE LITERATURE………………………… Defining sense of self……………………………………………………….. Graduate student development……………………………………………… The process of re-socialization in graduate school……………………... Graduate students and self-authorship………………………………….. A student’s sense of fragmentation……………………………………... Related issues in studies on undergraduate students……………………. Seven vectors of good practice……………………………………... Theory of Involvement and life’s “big” questions………………….. MFA programs in the United States………………………………………... The awkward history of an esoteric degree…………………………….. Research studies and MFA visual arts programs…………………………… The Strategic National Arts Alumni Project……………………………. Graduate students in MFA visual arts programs……………………………. Graduate students as teaching assistants………………………………... Faculty members and graduate student development…………………... Graduate students and faculty members as professional models……….. Curricula and pedagogy within MFA visual arts programs………………… Requirements and recommendations of National Standards…………… Required and elective courses in professional practice…………………. Approaches to teaching in visual arts higher education…………………….. Teaching within action research………………………………………... Teaching and mindfulness……………………………………………… Signature, emergent, and reflexive pedagogies………………………… Context of the study………………………………………………………… My approach to this action research study………………………………….. The study: Educational participatory action research………………………. 32 32 34 35 36 37 38 39 40 41 42 52 54 57 58 61 62 64 65 69 70 70 73 75 80 83 85 7 CHAPTER THREE: METHODOLOGY………………………………………. Research questions………………………………………………………….. Chronology of events……………………………………………………….. Fall semester 2010……………………………………………………… Fall semester 2011…………………………………................................ Early spring semester 2012……………………………………………... Late spring semester 2012………………………………………………. Fall semester 2012……………………………………………………… Research design……………………………………………………………... Qualitative research……………………………………………………... Action research…………………………………………………………. Educational action research………………………………………… Living Educational Theory…………………………………………. Participatory action research………………………………………... Transformative Living Theory……………………………………… Data collection……………………………………………………………… Oral data………………………………………………………………… Written data……………………………………………………………... Visual data………………………………………………………………. Data analysis………………………………………………………………... Data collection charts…………………………………………………… Reflection worksheets…………………………………………………... Lists……………………………………………………………………... Limitations of action research………………………………………………. Ethical considerations and research concerns………………………………. Verification process………………………………………………………… 87 87 88 88 89 90 91 91 92 93 94 96 97 98 98 100 101 102 103 103 104 105 106 107 108 109 CHAPTER FOUR: PARTICIPANT PROFILES………………………………. Participants’ introductory profiles………………………………………….. Annika…………………………………………………………………... Jenna…………………………………………………………………….. Nate……………………………………………………………………... Barbara………………………………………………………………….. 110 110 110 114 117 121 CHAPTER FIVE: COLLOQUIUM SERIES PROFILE……………………….. Colloquium series…………………………………………………………... Preparation……………………………………………………………… Colloquium one, August 23, 2012……………………………………… Colloquium two, September 6, 2012…………………………………… Colloquium three, September 20, 2012………………………………… Colloquium four, October 4, 2012……………………………………… Colloquium five, October 18, 2012…………………………………….. Colloquium six, November 8, 2012…………………………………….. Colloquium seven, November 15, 2012………………………………… 123 123 124 126 129 133 135 137 140 141 8 Colloquium eight, November 29, 2012…………………………………. 143 My final reflection……………………………………………………… 145 CHAPTER SIX: DATA ANALYSIS…………………………………………... Research questions………………………………………………………….. Data display…………………………………………………………………. Research findings…………………………………………………………… Research sub-question one……………………………………………… Finding 1a: Differences in how the participants described themselves as individuals, students, and artists…………………….. The participants’ individual perceptions of themselves………… The participants’ perceptions of themselves as MFA students…. The participants’ perceptions of themselves as artists………….. Finding 1b: Similarities emerged in the participants’ descriptions of themselves in their roles as teachers………………... The challenges and stress related to the role of the TA………… Performing and feeling different………………………………... Finding 1c: The strongest similarities among the participants’ descriptions of themselves arose in the discussions related to their future roles as professionals in the field of the visual arts…….. Wanting to teach in higher education…………………………... Mixed messages about teaching visual arts in higher education.. Research sub-question two……………………………………………… Finding 2a: The informal image-making and writing exercises completed independently by the participants helped to foster introspective examinations of their experiences as MFA students including their personal and professional growth…………………... The participants’ responses to visual journal prompts and activities as reflexive pedagogy………………………………… The participants’ responses to written prompts and activities as reflexive pedagogy……………………………………………… Finding 2b: The informal group discussions fostered collaborative examinations of and reflections on their experiences as MFA students including their personal and professional growth…………. Discussions about issues related to communication……………. Issues related to managing relationships with others…………… Discussions of issues related to the topics of stress in their lives. Finding 2c: The oral, written, and visual activities we employed in our colloquium sessions informed the participants’ final project to design the “Ultimate MFA Course” (see Appendix N)………….. Research sub-question three…………………………………………….. Finding 3a: My role as a participant in the action research process helped to develop the empathy for an understanding I had of the MFA student participants…………………………………………… 146 146 147 148 148 149 149 150 152 155 156 158 159 160 160 162 163 163 175 180 181 183 184 188 191 192 9 My affinities with each of the individual participants………….. My role as a participant within our collective experiences and curiosities ………………………………………………………. Finding 3b: Some of the issues that were addressed in the readings, research, and class activities of two courses that I took during my doctoral studies influenced the ideas that I had developed in the process of designing the colloquium series…………………………. Influences from a course about teaching in higher education and becoming a professional educator………………………….. A course that helped to connect practice with purpose…………. Finding 3c: Feedback from the colloquium series, “Issues of Relevance and Character in the Fine Arts” provided ideas for me to consider as I aim to continue developing other courses of a similar nature………………………………………………………... 193 CHAPTER SEVEN: DISCUSSION AND IMPLICATIONS………………….. Discussion of themes……………………………………………………….. The complicated insight gained from exploring oneself as an MFA student ………………………………………………………………….. The complex relationships encountered by the participants……………. The MFA students’ relationships with their own “selves”…………. Ways the participants understood themselves as students of the Profession…………………………………………………………… The complex links between the participants and their professors….. Relationships with peers: The MFA participants’ words and Actions……………………………………………………………… The participants coming to terms with perceptions of themselves as artists……………………………………………………………... The participants’ vague sense of place in the future as professionals. The fulfillment concerning my own sense of self………………………. Looking back and acknowledging additional reflections…………………... Awakenings of interest for the next colloquium series…………………. The small group as intense and open-hearted…………………………... Implications of the research study………………………………………….. Conversations about the self……………………………………………. Required coursework related to the development of the self…………… Who should teach such coursework?........................................................ Listening to and hearing the voices of MFA graduate students………… Engaging MFA students in writing……………………………………... Examining and fostering relationships between MFA graduate students. Enhanced perspectives for MFA faculty members……………………... Action research in visual arts higher education classrooms……………. Opportunities for art and visual culture educators……………………… Possibilities for future research……………………………………………... 211 215 196 198 199 202 205 216 218 218 219 222 225 229 231 235 238 238 241 243 243 245 246 247 247 248 249 252 252 253 10 Conclusion………………………………………………………………….. 255 Appendix A: INSITUTIONAL REVIEW BOARD APPROVAL……………... 256 Appendix B: INFORMATIONAL FLIERS……………………………………. 257 Appendix C: INSTITUTIONAL REVIEW BOARD CONSENT FORM……... 259 Appendix D: INTRODUCTORY SURVEY…………………………………… 264 Appendix E: EXIT SURVEY…………………………………………………... 266 Appendix F: REFLECTION WORKSHEET…………………………………... 269 Appendix G: COMPLETED DATA CHART ONE……………………………. 270 Appendix H: COMPLETED DATA CHART TWO…………………………… 294 Appendix I: COMPLETED DATA CHART THREE………………………….. 299 Appendix J: ARE 695a SYLLABUS…………………………………………… 301 Appendix K: OPTIONAL READING LIST…………………………………… 305 Appendix L: LIST OF QUESTIONS…………………………………………… 307 Appendix M: ORIGINAL DATA COLLECTION CHART…………………… 308 Appendix N: “ULTIMATE MFA COURSE”………………………………….. 310 Appendix O: WRITTEN DATA MATRIX…………………………………….. 315 REFERENCES………………………………………………………………….. 319 11 LIST OF FIGURES Figure 1: Action research cycles…………………………………………….. 95 Figure 2: A photographic diptych, Annika 2012……………………………. 112 Figure 3: A triptych of acrylic paintings, Jenna 2012……………………….. 116 Figure 4: Bronze-cast coffee mugs, Nate 2012……………………………… 119 Figure 5: Just a thought, Barbara 2008……………………………………… 122 Figure 6: The classroom setting for the colloquium series………………….. 124 Figure 7: An artistic autobiography, Nate 2012……………………………... 131 Figure 8: Data Chart One……………………………………………………. 148 Figure 9: Self-controlled, Barbara 2005……………………………………... 155 Figure 10: Data Chart Two………………………………………………….. 162 Figure 11: (Re)sources for inspiration and motivation, Nate 2012………….. 164 Figure 12: A drawing of the riverbed, Annika 2012………………………… 166 Figure 13: The voices in her head, Jenna 2012……………………………… 167 Figure 14: A child’s pose, Nate 2012………………………………………... 168 Figure 15: A digital “sketch” of an installation, Nate 2012…………………. 170 Figure 16: His artist self and teacher self, Nate 2012………………………... 172 Figure 17: Her artist self and teacher self, Jenna 2012……………………… 173 Figure 18: Her artist self and teacher self, Annika 2012…………………….. 175 Figure 19: The letter to her artist self, Jenna 2012…………………………... 178 Figure 20: A reflection on smoking tobacco and finding focus, Nate 2012…. 178 Figure 21: Data Chart Three…………………………………………………. 192 12 Figure 22: A Tribute to Time, Barbara 2002………………………………… 195 13 ABSTRACT The purpose of this research study aimed to critically examine personal and professional issues related to a small group of visual arts MFA graduate students and myself as we participated in a semester-long course entitled, “Issues of Relevance and Character in the Fine Arts,” at a large public university in the United States. In the form of a colloquium series, the course aimed to explore a graduate student’s developing sense of self and its impact on the different roles he or she often embodies while pursuing an MFA in a School of Art. These roles include those of an individual, a student, an artist, a teaching assistant, and a future professional in the field of the visual arts. Employing a participatory action research methodology, I was also a participant in the study. I regularly documented the oral, written, and visual data that emerged from the participants’ considerations of their immediate circumstances both inside and outside the School of Art as well as their interactions with the reflexive pedagogies utilized in the colloquium sessions. This dissertation also reviewed research studies conducted on graduate student development, students in visual arts MFA programs, the historical development of the MFA degree, as well as faculty members in MFA programs and their curricular and pedagogical practices. Findings indicated the following: First, strong convictions seemed to be intrinsic to the participants’ pursuit of their MFA degrees. They appeared eager to learn about becoming a professional in the field, and each participant expressed interest in teaching the visual arts as instructors in higher education. Second, participating in a course such as “Issues of Relevance and Character in the Fine Arts,” seemed to offer the participants a 14 receptive and reflective platform to convey the voices of the “characters” they embodied as MFA students. For example, the participants appeared to clarify intra- and interpersonal priorities, educational goals and artistic aspirations. Their personal and professional development was influenced by the complex relationships they shared with others in their MFA programs. The MFA participants grappled with the connections and disconnections that appeared to exist between their professors, peers, and themselves. A third theme addressed the impact of my participation within the study. With an established background in both teaching and taking courses in the studio arts and Art and Visual Culture Education, the findings suggest that I was able to empathize with the three other participants on several fronts. Fourth, the findings also address the curricular and pedagogical strengths and limitations of the course. The implications of this research study suggest the need for (a) more action research studies of MFA graduate students, as the methodology seemed to enhance the reflexive and exploratory nature of self-inquiry; (b) a series of required courses within MFA curricula that help graduates to systematically reflect upon their roles as graduate students in terms of their immediate goals, as well as their aspirations for the future; (c) research and professional development opportunities for faculty members so that they might become more aware of the ways that their MFA curricula and instructional practices influence a graduate student's sense of self both positively and negatively; and (d) research on how art and visual culture educators can be involved in assisting MFA graduate students and faculty members develop new perspectives related to their instructional and mentoring practices. 15 CHAPTER ONE: INTRODUCTION Mary and I chuckle now as we recall the satisfying high five we raucously exchanged while sporting graduation gowns several years ago. We had each effectively rounded out an academic accomplishment that reflected our passion for creating and looking at thought-provoking art. Completing three years of intense academic and artistic training, exhibiting thesis projects that represented our individual accomplishments, and passing our “orals,” the final critique among a committee of university professors, Mary and I had each earned the terminal degree in the visual arts, a Master’s of Fine Arts (MFA). Inspired to move forward with our lives, we resigned from regular introspective peer-driven discussions, routine engagement with our creative work, and the camaraderie we shared in our university studios. With nearly perfect grade point averages, we left our academic artistic community and understood that with our degrees, we were armed to approach the elusive, theoretical, conceptual, yet now slightly less mysterious professional world of the visual arts beyond the campus. There would be no more fractured days of darting between classes, working as a teaching assistant (TA) for undergraduates, catching a required evening lecture, and then consuming a bag of microwave popcorn before we returned to our studios. Finished with school, we planned to go forward by submitting our artwork to the biennials at noteworthy museums, speaking at professional conferences, teaching in higher education, and going into the business of selling our art. With tassels dancing at our cheeks, the entire class that graduated with us from the School of Art seemed confident, bursting with enthusiasm, 16 and ready to unleash well-versed creative energies. We understood that our diplomas indicated, and even verified, that we were artists. Recently, I called Mary. We assembled stories of isolation, rejection, self-doubt, and little studio progress. Now, in the real world, we were exhausted and broke, not to mention spiritually bereft. We sarcastically talked about our fellow MFA graduates’ “successes” as brutally as we condemned our own. Chuck was teaching at a high school. Mike was working in construction. And Nina had signed on as a visiting artist for one year at a university on the opposite coast. Along with our peers, Mary and I were deeply disillusioned and felt that we were not living the lives that we had strived for as visual arts graduate students. We reflected on the lives our former studio instructors modeled and recalled the implicit understanding that MFA students would often become MFA instructors. We hushed the frustrations that, in time and despite our thoughtful intentions, were replaced with resentment. The phone calls that followed included disheartened and reflective questions: What had we become? How had the experience of earning an MFA degree so elegantly framed our naïve expectations? At this point, as was typical among my peers, I was a master’s-level visual arts graduate unprepared for the artless living of contemporary American life. We shared what appeared to be a prevalent sensation of disconnect between a life motivated by scholarly and creative investigation and life in general. I guessed at what I had missed, screwed up, not taken seriously, or done wrong during my years in art school. I was distressed that most of my colleagues and I, with terminal degrees in hand, experienced the uncomfortable and discouraging reality of being formally educated artists struggling 17 to become relevant “authentic” artists. My questions continued: Why was I becoming less motivated to make art? What, exactly, do art students want to gain from an MFA program? What, if anything, had the program promised us when we applied to the program? I wondered if I had been sold a “bill of goods?” Given the pride I once had for having been accepted into one of our country’s competitive graduate studio art programs, why did reflecting on having earned an MFA haunt my inner purpose? I felt defeated. I wondered about the mission statements of schools for the visual arts. I wanted to know if the curricular design of MFA programs actively considered helping students grow as creative citizens of the world? I wondered in what ways, specifically, were the graduates of MFA programs trained to walk into the contemporary world with a sense of purpose and a relevant education? Questioning a distorted sense of self, I wondered, what is the artist in me good for? The purpose for this research study was to address these questions and explore what led Mary, myself, and my peers to grapple with unsatisfied lives after graduation. I began to investigate issues related to understanding student self-awareness in higher education, the curricula and pedagogies of MFA programs in the visual arts, and the personal and professional circumstances of those who earned an MFA degree. Rationale MFA students in the visual arts on university and college campuses around the United States find themselves graduating into uncertain living circumstances and vaguely defined career choices. College graduates, “enter the unfamiliar world outside education 18 with concerns that center around establishing careers, developing meaningful relationships, being able to manage lives of their own, eventually establishing families, and being satisfied and happy” (Magolda, 2001, p. 36). As Magola (2001) has noted, students leave higher education “with an initial awareness [for having] to make their own decisions, but without internal mechanisms to do so” (p. 36). I was no exception to Magolda’s (2001) premise. At the time I earned my MFA degree, several factors contributed to my ongoing sense of self-doubt. I did not own my home or a car, nor did I possess a responsible amount of financial savings. My material possessions included two cats and many cumbersome yet meaningful sculptures that I had made as part of defining my sense of self as a graduate student. Living nearly two thousand miles from relatives, these pieces of art were “family” and I could not have been more proud. I had converted a garage space into an art studio and pursued opportunities to show and sell my artwork professionally. Sporadically, during the following five years, I had exhibited artwork around the country between jobs in advertising and retail, sold handmade greeting cards, and had numerous part-time college-level teaching positions as an adjunct instructor. Throughout this time, extended correspondence with friends and colleagues from around the country illuminated how the circumstances of my isolated life, which included unpredictable wages and scarce studio time, aligned with theirs. This was not right. I knew it was unacceptable that a handful of degrees earned from my years of study within higher education afforded a life disconnected from each of my former institutions’ distinct missions. As I began to read the literature, it seemed as 19 the Dean of the Yale Law School, Anthony Kronman (2007) had expressed in his book, Education’s End, that the “true purpose of education has been lost, namely, a deep exploration concerning the meaning of life” (p. 8). Who was I? What did it mean to be an artist, a greeting card maker, or worse, a four-time college graduate asking such a question? Motivated to change this widespread condition for MFA graduates, I returned to higher education to study art and visual culture education. In order to do so, I was again embedded in what had become a familiar cycle of taking on more part-time jobs to financially support earning another degree. Regardless, I was keenly motivated to apply my renewed curiosities about issues related to the practices of art making, teaching and learning in visual arts programs in higher education, and ways to best support the personal and professional futures of MFA graduate students. I was inspired to explore how “currently, there is a large gap between educators’ expectations of their students and the students’ own expectations for success” (McGuire & Williams, 2002, as cited in Brancato, 2003, p. 60). As a doctoral student, my goal has been to examine the personal and professional development that occurs amid the experiences of earning an MFA degree in the visual arts at colleges and universities in the United States. My examination has included looking at how MFA students develop a sense of self in graduate school, in conjunction with exploring the relevance of MFA curricula to the living situations of those who have graduated from MFA programs. My investigations are not only informed by a range of arts education studies (Efland, 1990; Egan, 2005; Eisner, 2002) and research on MFA art programs (Daichendt, 2012: Elkins, 2001; 20 Ritchie, 1966: Singerman 1999), but also by the literature on teaching within higher education (Beudert, 2006; Madoff, 2009; Palmer, Zajonc, & Scribner, 2010; Shulman, 2005). During this pursuit, I noted the parallels between how I engaged my values and beliefs directly when creating works of art and when I wrestled with, identified, and attempted to clarify my individual sense of self. For example, I practiced art making simultaneously with considerable introspection that critically considered the “statement” with which I aimed to visually communicate. In a similar fashion, I considered my personal values and strengths as I aimed to professionally employ myself as a teacher and as a citizen of the world. My doctoral minor, higher education, informed my examination of “how our values shape our everyday lives as students, teachers, and leaders in the higher education context” (Lee, 2011, p. 1). In a course, taught by Dr. Lee entitled, “Values, Consciousness, and Professional Practice,” students evaluated higher education’s impact on issues of identity and character (Astin, 1993; Chickering & Reisser, 1993), intellectual growth, relating to others, defining values (Greene, 1995; Palmer, Zajonc & Scribner, 2010), seriously navigating career choices (Daichendt, 2010; Pascarella & Terenzini, 1991), and anticipating a quality of life after college (Bok, 2006; Kessler, 2000). The pedagogical activities in the “values” course included practices related to understanding emotional intelligence (Goldman, 2006; Gradle, 2011), writing reflectively (Cameron, 1992; Tolle, 2005) and exploring different types of meditation (Kabot-Zinn, 2006; Tolle, 2005). I began to realize that I wanted to critically study these strategies, as 21 they were similar to the ones that I applied as an MFA student in order to seek my artistic voice and professional purpose, and an understanding of the impact of self-awareness. The experience of and reflections on taking this course contributed to the impetus for this research study. I designed a course intended for MFA graduate students in the visual arts entitled, “Issues of Relevance and Character in the Fine Arts.” The curricula and pedagogies I included addressed issues related to the personal and professional lives of those in pursuit of the terminal MFA degree. I believed that “[n]ot only students, but also college faculty and administrators, must take a leap of faith in truly questioning their own beliefs and values” (Lee, 2012, p. 6) and hoped to help MFA graduate students practice reflexive actions, examine individual convictions, and maximize their experiences in graduate school both inter-personally and as future professionals. In general, this research study allowed me to conduct my course and to gather data within an MFA program. The class members (the study’s participants and I) would explore the educational experiences that impact the participants’ personal and professional development, in terms of their sense of self, while earning the degree. As “each formal discovery was a self-discovery” (Singerman, 1999, p. 119), this research study aimed to clarify both implied and inferred purposes of, and intentions for earning an MFA degree in the visual arts today and, more specifically, help future MFA students, once clad in their graduation gowns and tassels, leave graduate school with a sense of purpose and an education relevant to contemporary life. 22 Research questions The question that guided this research study was: How do the experiences related to personal and professional development within an MFA visual arts program influence a graduate student’s individual sense of self? In order to address this overarching research question, I posed the following subquestions: 1. How do MFA students within a course that addresses the curricula and pedagogies of their graduate programs and their experiences as MFA students describe themselves as individuals, students, artists, teachers, and future professionals in the field of the visual arts? 2. How does participating in the course allow MFA students to examine and reflect upon their personal and professional growth as well as their graduate experiences? 3. How does my role as the teacher-researcher-artist of the course enable MFA students to critically examine and reflect upon their experiences and their developing sense of self as MFA students? Theoretical framework The participants in this research study comprised three MFA graduate students and myself as we collaborated within a course entitled, “Issues of Relevance and Character in the Fine Arts.” The research utilized educational and participatory action research methodologies (Basten, 2012; Blair, 2010; Burgess, 2006; Kemmis & McTaggert, 2000; McNiff & Whitehead, 2011; Pine, 2009; Vozzo, 2011), which 23 progressed along a spiral-like and cyclical path as the study progressed. The data collected, which comprised participants’ actions, reflections, and responses, were analyzed through a theoretical framework that combined concepts relating to two educational theories: the first was Jack Mezirow’s (Mezirow & Taylor, 2009) Transformative Learning Theory, which considers the ways one’s future actions are a result of revised interpretations of one’s experience. The second was Jack Whitehead’s (1989) Living Educational Theory that draws on findings from the participants’ involvement with their own educational experiences. The participants in the study were challenged to analyze how their beliefs, values, and knowledge are interconnected and to investigate, “[h]abits of thought… to understand the deep meaning, root causes, social context, ideology, and personal consequences of any action, event, object, process, organization, [or] experience” (Shor, 1992, p. 29). During the 15-week study, the emergent and ongoing data we collected conveyed transformations in the process of creating, re-creating, and living one’s own theories. Overview of research methods Action research is often used as a form of qualitative inquiry (Creswell, 2009). According to Krauss (2005), “qualitative research and qualitative data analysis, in particular, have the power to be transformative learning tools through the ability to generate new levels and forms of meaning, which can in turn transform perspectives and actions” (pp. 273-274). The combined theories of Transformative Learning Theory 24 (Mezirow, 2009) and Educational Living Theory (Whitehead, 1989) can offer a research framework in which personal and professional experiences could be interpreted and reinterpreted collaboratively in this study. Teacher-researchers who use educational action research methods build rapport to develop open, student-centered, and supportive relationships with their research participants. This approach encourages the participants to relax and be more inclined to offer their full participation in a study (Blair, 2010). Participatory action research (PAR) methods situate the study’s participants, including the teacher-researcher, as a single team of investigators that emphasizes the inherent and beneficial nature of ongoing collaborative change. It should be noted that according to Hutzel, “Ideally, PAR methods, from the generation of research questions to analysis of data, involve collaboration. In practice, however, collaboration does not necessarily happen at every phase of the research process” (Buffington & McKay, 2013, p. 266). As McTaggart (1997) suggested, participatory action research methods include authentic or “real” participation and the relevancy of “worthy” actions. In addition, the iterative and collaborative process of educational participatory action research can allow for thorough interpretations of theories and practice that, when combined, ultimately reveal new knowledge (Schratz, 1992). For this study, the MFA student participants and myself “lived,” scrutinized, and transformed our individual perspectives. We planned, practiced, and re-evaluated issues related to curricular and pedagogical aspects of their MFA programs and personal and professional development, in conjunction with reflexive strategies for exploring concepts 25 of one’s developing sense of self. As Pine (2009) has suggested, “The educational action research paradigm empowers the participants to take charge of their classroom, to improve teaching, and to advance student learning” (p. 79). By the end of this study, three types of data had been collected that included various oral, written, and visual artifacts, such as audio-recordings, surveys, teaching plans and reflections, visual journal entries, artist statements, reading responses, digital images of selected artworks, and evidence of electronic correspondence. Collected at regular intervals, each individual datum was thematically categorized in relation to each participant. Definitions of terms For the purposes of clarity and this research, the following definitions are provided in order to offer further understanding of relevant terms. Sense of self The phrase, sense of self, references the concepts that relate to one’s individual perspectives with regard to one’s self and/or one’s own being. It is a phrase that is not universally defined within the literature (Palmer, 2004). 26 Pedagogy This term refers to an activity or series of teaching activities that were designed, implemented, and practiced by the teacher-researcher-artist and MFA student participants within the context of this research study. Educational action research The nature of this research method engages teacher-researchers who build rapport to develop open, student-centered, and supportive relationships with their students, who are also research participants. These participants are encouraged to relax and be inclined to offer their full participation in a study (Blair, 2010). Educational action research “empowers the participants to take charge of their classroom, to improve teaching, and to advance student learning” (Pine, 2009, p. 79). Participatory action research Participatory action research methods situate the study’s participants, including the teacher-researcher, as a single team of investigators. Emphasizing ongoing change, the iterative and collaborative process of educational participatory action research can allow for thorough interpretations of theories and practices that, when combined, ultimately reveal new knowledge (McTaggart, 1997; Schratz, 1992). Participatory action research addresses “knowledge within a team context to create innovation and transformation as collective action” (Burgess, 2006, p. 422). 27 MFA student Referenced often throughout this dissertation, the term MFA student refers to a graduate student who is pursuing a master’s-level fine arts art degree in the university’s School of Art's studio visual arts program. Studio art faculty This group of instructors includes the tenure-eligible and tenured faculty members who teach visual arts studio courses in the MFA program at the university’s School of Art. Limitations of the study As is typical of qualitative research, findings from this study were not generalizable as three MFA visual arts graduate students and myself represented one School of Art at a single university. None of the study’s participants came from other disciplines in the College of Fine Arts, such as theater, dance, music, and creative writing. The three MFA student participants were of the same ethnicity (white) and in their late 20’s and early 30’s. Potentially they did not represent a well-rounded sample of the types of individuals who attend graduate school in the visual arts. The participants also volunteered to participate in this study, as they were interested in exploring the issues that were advertised in the course description and flyer. Over the duration of the study, the findings revealed that the students participated fully in the course. Because this 28 population was specifically defined, the study may lack external validity (McNiff & Whitehead, 2011). My own background as an MFA student may have been a limitation. My input was influenced by years of experience as a visual artist, as a student in higher education, and as an instructor of the visual arts. I had earned my MFA degree seven years prior to this research study that took place at the same university. At the time of this study, I was a well-practiced, professionally trained art educator facilitating research that purposefully focused on the curricular plans and pedagogical practices of instructors (often, not trained as educators) in an MFA program. The objectivity that was required of me was challenged given my various levels of experience. On a similar note, another limitation in this study may include the degree of subjectivity that is innate to findings of qualitative action research. Action research engages “living theory” (Murray, 2012; Whitehead, 1989; Whitehead & McNiff, 2006), and only I, as the teacher-researcher-artist, decided what data would substantiate the findings. The challenge of withholding my motivation to activate changes in MFA program curricula provides a strong example of the ways methods of action research are “not a value free process” (Reason, as cited in Pine, 2009, p. 75). Another limitation to this study is that my research primarily focused on an MFA graduate student's sense of self. Given this focus, I may have overlooked other research aspects that emerged within the context of this study. Finally, issues related to time may have influenced this study in some ways. Having designed the course that was approved by the Division of Art and Visual Culture 29 Education several months prior to the study, I came to understand the lengthy and complex process of implementing new curriculum at the university. Given the scheduling circumstances, I was obliged to offer the course as a colloquium series and use an art education (ARE) course prefix rather than list it as an “ART” prefix. This necessitated that MFA students had to register for a one-credit course outside their MFA program; thus this may have discouraged students enrolling in the course, a rare “elective” opportunity for them. In the end, however, once these limitations have been considered, they do not overshadow the importance of this study. Significance of the study Action research is infrequently used as a method of researching issues in higher education today. Moreover, there has been little systematic research carried out within visual arts graduate programs. This study aimed to counter this lack of knowledge by exploring the complex experiences encountered as MFA students learn and begin to teach undergraduates while they participate in an MFA program. By using a participatory action research framework, this study not only explored graduate students’ involvement within their MFA studies, but it also demonstrated how participatory action research can be a viable research approach within visual arts higher education. This study is important because it examines the development of a sense of self in graduate visual arts students. This research has been informed by the literature on college student development and issues of student identity and character within higher education (Chickering & Reisser, 1993; Lee, 2011). This literature base, along with information 30 related to student affairs, has seldom been considered when examining MFA visual arts programs. Not only are various concepts of a student’s sense of self explored in this study, but more practical issues are addressed as well. For example, the study examines how to investigate the “voices” of the undergraduate students in the foundations courses in which MFA students teach. This entails the TAs having a consideration for, and the knowledge of undergraduates’ personal values and beliefs as well as professional goals. This study also documents the various relationships that make an impact on an MFA student’s academic experiences, the types of professional development courses that support those approaching the field of the visual arts, and exercises that activate the integration of an MFA student’s theories and/or philosophies with his or her creative practices. This study also addresses pedagogical and curricular decision making in MFA programs as well as documents teaching practices in higher education. Few studies exist not only about how faculty members model teaching within colleges and universities but also within visual arts higher education (Beudert, 2006). This study has considered the complexity of the pedagogical and curricular decisions made in MFA programs. As the field recognizes that “applications to US-based MFA programs are at a record high” (Beck et al., 2009), it is important to examine the courses that MFA students are required to take. However, as current discussions about curricula are taking place within the field, the colloquium series at the center of this study created a platform for participants to critically examine and question existing curricula as well as propose changes for the future. 31 Organization of the study The purpose of this first chapter has been to provide the context, research questions, and research framework that underlie this study. Chapter Two offers a review of literature that relates to the impact of a developing sense of self on students in higher education, the historical and contemporary circumstances surrounding visual arts MFA programs, and selected curricular and pedagogical approaches within the visual arts. Chapter Three describes the research methodologies employed in this study, including the data collection methods and how the data were analyzed. Chapter Four presents a series of profiles of the participants in the study. Chapter Five describes the curriculum and pedagogy of the colloquium series. Chapter Six presents the data analysis and its subsequent findings. In Chapter Seven, I discuss my findings and their implications for graduate students and faculty members in MFA programs, as well as for the field of art and visual culture education. I also offer several suggestions for future research. 32 CHAPTER TWO: REVIEW OF THE LITERATURE This research study focused on an understudied cohort: graduate students in MFA visual arts programs in the United States. A lack of research exists relating to the curricular content of MFA programs as well as those who inhabit the programs, in particular students and faculty members. This chapter presents the backdrop for my collaborative and reflexive action research study that has aimed to elicit new knowledge about the ways an MFA student’s sense of self is influenced by his or her personal and professional development. Defining sense of self Arthur Chickering, an expert in the field of educational leadership and policy, opened his collaborative text entitled, Encouraging Authenticity and Spirituality in Higher Education by stating, "Although American higher education can justifiably take pride in its capacity to develop the student’s ability to manipulate the material world through its programs in science, medicine, technology, and commerce, it has paid relatively little attention to the student’s “inner” development – the sphere of values and beliefs, emotional maturity, moral development, spirituality, and self-understanding” (Chickering, Dalton & Stamm, 2006, p. vii). Issues that relate to concepts of “self” and having a “sense of self” are central to this research study. During their years in higher education, young adults refine personal aspirations that help them “develop those habits of mind and character that will enable 33 them to desire and pursue worthy goals” (Ryan & Bohin, 1999, p. 102). Attempting to define “sense of self,” Parker Palmer (2004) wrote: Philosophers haggle about what to call this core of our humanity… Thomas Merton called it true self. Buddhists call it original nature or big self. Quakers call it the inner teacher or the outer light. Hasidic Jews call it a spark of the divine. Humanists call it identity and integrity. In popular parlance, people often call it soul. (p. 33) Palmer (2004) contended that mere efforts to determine one single definition of a sense of self indicates that society is, at least, attempting not to diminish humanity in terms of biology, social constructs, or raw material. Ultimately, as part of his personal scholarship, Palmer (2004) asserted that, “A strong community helps people develop a sense of true self, for only in community can the self exercise and fulfill its nature: giving and taking, listening and speaking, being and doing. But when community unravels and we lose touch with one another, the self atrophies and we lose touch with ourselves as well” (p. 39). Louise Parsons who has studied visual practices in art education claimed, “We are continually remaking our sense of self, our ‘I’, in relation to refusing and revising established codes. The construction of new music, new art, new forms of writing overlap with new constructions of self” (Parsons, 1999, p. 152). Researcher Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi (1993) has claimed that one's “self is more in the nature of a figment of the imagination, something we create to account for the multiplicity of impressions, emotions, thoughts, and feelings that the brain records in consciousness” (p. 216). He has argued that one’s self is partly defined by moments of 34 “flow,” or sensations of being “in the zone” and embodies an unconscious engagement with fulfillment where, “Every action, movement, and thought follows inevitably from the previous one…. Your whole being is involved” (Geirland, 1996, p. 57). Csikszentmihalyi identified a personality trait that he called “work orientation.” It is characterized by “achievement, endurance, cognitive structure, order, play, and low impulsivity,” and this orientation can be a predictor of a student’s achievement of his or her long-term goals (Csikszentmihalyi, 1993). Reflecting back to Palmer's work (2004), “When we are rooted in true self, we can act in ways that are life-giving for us and all whose lives we touch. Whatever we do to care for true self is, in the long run, a gift to the world” (p. 39). In the following sections the importance of acknowledging notions of a student’s sense of self are inextricably interwoven within the literature on student development in higher education. Graduate student development According to the literature, “Students, especially nontraditional students, are increasingly demanding that education be more relevant to their personal lives and professional goals. They want to know that value has been added to their lives as a direct result of their educational experiences” (Brancato, 2003, p. 60). The American Council on Education (ACE) stated as early as 1937 that, “educators must guide the ‘whole student’ to reach his or her full potential and contribute to society’s betterment… the personal and professional development of students is a worthy and noble goal” (as cited in Evans et al., 2012, p. 8). The ACE revised its statement in 1949 stating that faculty, 35 administrators, and student personnel workers were to encourage the development of students and recognize their “individual differences in backgrounds, abilities, interests, and goals” (as cited in Evans et al., 2012, p. 9). My research interests pertain to issues related specifically to the personal and professional development of graduate students in MFA visual arts programs; however, the literature is limited. The following literature introduces issues relating to graduate student development in various disciplines outside the visual arts, as “graduate training may be distinguished from earlier education because of its goal of professionalization” (Egan, 1989, p. 201). The process of re-socialization in graduate school Egan’s 1989 unpublished dissertation entitled, Graduate School and the Self: A Theoretical View of Some Negative Effects of Professional Socialization, examines the identity transformations of graduate students and their readiness as academic professionals upon leaving their programs. She examined the settings of graduate programs and their intended outcomes as she investigated “changes in students’ selfimages, attitudes, and thinking processes” (p. 201). Egan questioned the re-socialization or the “process designed to ensure that [graduate students] adopt a new, predefined professional self” (p. 204) required of graduate students as well as the suitability of current social structures in graduate education. As these students let go of former identity and intellectual perspectives for the acquisition of new characteristics, Egan noted graduate students’ feelings about the “constant pressure to perform, to do more” and their 36 “guilt over time spent away from studies” (p. 204). The graduate students in her study believed that they were expected to act independently, yet comply with the innately subordinate environment of higher education. As a result, inner conflicts emerged within the students. Egan concluded that enduring the intensity of graduate school in an atmosphere which fostered self-doubt left graduate students to believe their challenges most often stemmed from personal inadequacies (Egan, 1989). Graduate students and self-authorship Baxter-Magolda (2008) found that college environments often do not create the conditions necessary for developing what she calls, self-authorship. This can be defined as “the internal capacity to define one’s belief, identity, and social relations” (Magolda, 2008, p. 269). Employing “constructive-developmental pedagogy” or simulations and real-life projects that emphasized inviting the self to be a central component of knowledge construction, Baxter-Magolda conducted a longitudinal study that started with 101 students at Miami University, Oxford, Ohio and ended with 39 college student participants; 17 of whom were graduate students (Magolda, 2001). Baxter-Magolda's study began in 1986 when each participant entered college and lasted for 14 years. She followed the participants through their years in college and as they moved through their twenties and thirties. Each one was interviewed once a year, at which point BaxterMagolda gathered data related to the ontological issues encompassing individual realities that change over time. The three questions that took precedence in the regular exchanges 37 between Baxter-Magolda and her participants included: “How do I know?’ ‘Who am I?’ and ‘How do I want to construct relationships with others?” (Magolda, 2001, p. 15). Essentially, Baxter-Magolda documented the epistemological aspects of their human development experiences in college, and after college, by observing the participants’ “sense of themselves and their relationships with others” (Magolda, 2001, p. 343). She assessed the participants’ choices related to values exploration and their selfdetermined paths to “enter the unfamiliar world outside education with concerns that center around establishing careers, developing meaningful relationships, being able to manage their lives on their own… and being satisfied and happy” (Magolda, 2008 as cited in Evans et. al., 2010, p. 184). She observed which participants grew through selfdirection and which participants grew because of their understanding of what she called “individually tailored nuances” or individual experiential knowledge building. These subjective learning circumstances revealed findings of cognitive and intellectual development (King & Kitchener, 1994). Magolda found that students and graduates often struggled with challenges for which they were ill prepared. She found that the epistemological development of her participants was tightly intertwined with the development of their sense of self and relationships with others. She concluded that, “self is central to knowledge construction” (Magolda, 2001, p. 436). A student’s sense of fragmentation Though his focus is not that of examining graduate students, sociologist Parker Palmer, whose studies are rooted in adult development, examined the factors in higher 38 education that can lead to a student’s sense of “fragmentation” (2004; 2010). Palmer (2004) claimed that, “Wholeness does not mean perfection: it means embracing brokenness as an integral part of life… As adults, we must achieve complex integration that spans the contradictions between inner and outer reality” (p. 21). Today, he continues to promote this concept of humanness through engaging curriculum, pedagogy, and student assessment. Palmer (2004) has written about the circumstances that affect college students and how, as a result of their environment, these circumstances reflect ever-changing, morphing, and sometimes volatile positions of responsibility throughout any given day, month, and year. His theory of education has posited that students acquire knowledge from the traditional practices of education, yet their actual existence is separate from this knowledge; thus obtaining this knowledge becomes “an end in itself.” According to Palmer (2004), “As the outer world becomes more demanding – and today it presses in on children at an obscenely early age – we stop… entering the world of the soul. And the closer we get to adulthood, the more we stifle the imagination that a journey requires” (p. 15). Related issues in studies on undergraduate students Here I acknowledge the research of two scholars, Arthur Chickering and Alexander Astin, who currently address issues related to concepts of self within undergraduates. Often referenced within the discipline of Student Affairs, both Chickering and Astin have explored notions of identity, student development, and 39 professional goals. These scholars have addressed complicated issues that often reflect the diverse growth occurring within college students themselves, and “student affairs professionals appear to have the strongest and most consistent voice in the academy articulating concern for the human growth and development of students” (Evans et al., 2010, p. 20). Seven vectors of good practice. Arthur Chickering has conducted many positivist studies engaging Psychosocial Developmental Theory that assists in identifying a college student’s ability to develop competence, manage his or her emotions, and strengthen connections between vocational and recreational interests. Chickering and Reisser (1993) defined “self” in terms of “genetic predispositions, family norms, cultural traditions, and experiences as a member of a majority or minority ethnic group” (p. 188) and have claimed that identity establishment is at the “core” of student development. Chickering’s book, Education and Identity, was originally published in 1969 and became a “must have” for professionals in the field of student affairs. The book described a set of seven vectors (or principles) related to understanding college student development. Each vector aimed to reach college students “where they live [and]… connects significantly with concerns of central importance” (p. 3). Together, the vectors represented “major highways for journeying toward individualization” (Chickering & Reisser, 1993, p. 35). By 1993, new studies in identity development led Arthur Chickering, together with Lisa Reisser, to revise and update the seven developmental vectors. The updated principles examine college student identity in terms of the following qualities: developing 40 competence, managing emotions, moving through autonomy toward interdependence, developing mature interpersonal relationships, establishing identity, developing purpose, and developing integrity (Chickering & Reisser, 1993). Chickering and Reisser's research is viewed as important for faculty members as they interact with their students. For example, the researchers have encouraged ideas such as the importance of establishing student-faculty contact both in and outside of class, addressing concepts that are collaborative and social, not competitive and isolated, and providing opportunities for college students to “talk about what they are learning, write reflectively about it, relate it to past experiences, and apply it to their daily lives” (Chickering & Ehrmann, 1996). Chickering and Reisser aimed to serve faculty members in higher education by offering strategies to organize student programs that would systematically enhance student development. Theory of Involvement and life’s “big” questions. Astin’s (1984) Theory of Involvement acknowledges “the amount of physical and psychological energy that the student devotes to the academic experience” (p. 297). Within it, he postulated that students’ experiences occur along a continuum and that their involvement can be quantitative (i.e. measurements of time) and qualitative (i.e. measurements of attention) (Astin, 1984, 1993; Evans et al., 2010). His studies have focused on facilitating student development rather than exploring student development, as he has contended that teachers need to offer specific opportunities and create programs for students to become involved in their educational environments both inside and outside of classrooms. Astin 41 has measured, in degrees of increased student involvement, the effectiveness of these activities, programs, and policies. The research conducted at the Higher Education Research Institute (HERI) at The University of California Los Angeles (UCLA) has included studies that relate to interdisciplinary issues and policies in higher education. Astin, as founder of the Institute, has conducted multiple studies that consider spirituality and students’ quests for the answers to life’s “big questions.” The results of Astin’s 2001 study entitled, “National Study of College Students’ Search for Meaning and Purpose” were added to a national database on student and faculty attitudes toward meaning and purpose, and have prompted the development of new curricula in higher education. In general, the findings in his research indicated that students grow the most when actively engaged with “inner work” of self-reflection, contemplation, or meditation (A. Astin, H. Astin, & Lindholm, 2007). MFA programs in the United States The intriguing story of the Masters of Fine Arts degree in the United States is crowded with transformations that are as unique, indefinite, and perplexing as the nature of art itself. Documentation of, and research studies on the MFA degree, its history and influence are rare, yet rich. They reveal an account of one of the most mysterious disciplines within higher education that, to this day, resides in the somewhat dim interpretations of a subjective, yet ardently popular academic structure (Daichendt, 2010, 2012; Lackney, 1999; Morrisroe & Roland, 2008; Singerman, 1999). I approached the 42 review of the following literature with an understanding that “[MFA programs] still occupy a somewhat awkward place within the structure of the modern university” (Stinson, 2013, p. 1). The awkward history of an esoteric degree The formal training of artists on college and university campuses in the United States began late in the 19th century (Efland, 1990). George Comfort, a professor at Syracuse University and John Weir, Director of the School of Fine Arts at Yale University, were among the first academics to recognize the importance of incorporating the education of studio artists into academia and the role of professional art schools (Ritchie, 1966). Also, the American Industrial Revolution had intensely impacted the practices of and rationalizations for professional art training in private schools, colleges, and public universities. At this time in history, most studio-oriented courses were situated in teacher education programs that were beginning to address the country’s need for training teachers to educate the growing workforce in the United States (Efland, 1990). Liberal arts schools maintained their stance, however, by offering studio art courses only as adjunct to art history courses; thus, keeping any media specialization in the studio arts at bay. Liberal arts studies emphasized student development and continued to support the holistic values gained from a broad education in the areas of philosophy, humanistic science, natural science, history, and literature. Students graduated from these institutions having gained not only a professional skill, but also a whole body of knowledge or a “unified understanding called insight” (Singerman, 1999, p. 15). 43 Early in the twentieth century, visual art programs in higher education faced new challenges. One of these challenges was to balance the need for skilled and trained craftsmen (who could continue to address the demands and influences of changing times) with a more philosophical concern for whether art could be taught in the first place. In 1912 when the College Art Association (CAA) was established, its comprehensive purpose was “to promote art interests in all divisions of American colleges and universities” (Ball, 2011, p. 19). The association debated the purpose, content, and intentions for earning an art degree in higher education until well into the twentieth century. Acknowledging the discipline of art history and its research, the utilitarian significance of studio practice and the contribution of the visual arts to the development of liberal culture, Harvard University created division leaders for each arts-based program on its campus. This was the earliest effort to place all arts-related disciplines within the boundaries of a single university. Harvard awarded its first art history doctoral degree in 1913 (Singerman, 1999). In the 1920s, different approaches to studio art education emerged. For example, as one art professor used standards for which he or she determined good art or bad art, another instructor, a skilled craftsman, taught students how to make beautiful things. The curricula at university art schools, technical schools, and liberal arts schools evolved slowly. During this time, professors at Yale University took great pride in their ability to create artists who went out into the world and made paintings and sculptures for commissions. The other kind of artist – the one less inclined to create artwork to satisfy 44 the requests of individual patrons – was considered by visual arts education professors to be one of those who entered the world with less promise for a lucrative life. In a similar vein, R. L. Duffus, a surveyor for the Carnegie Foundation in the 1920s, claimed that a person who chose to go to art school sought a certain kind of life, not a career. In his book, The American Renaissance (1928), he suggested that, “The majority [of art students] will drop out in a year or two. Art is not for them. For those who remain the struggle will be long and desperate” (p. 49). Duffus positioned himself on the “side” arguing that art could not be taught. In 1937, when the American Council on Education (ACE) asserted that personal and professional development was a worthy goal, traditional academic institutions were extending faculty positions to practicing painters, sculptors, printmakers, and craftsmen (Singerman, 1999, p. 15). Additionally, academic courses were added to the list of requirements for earning a bachelors degree in painting, as the Bachelor of Fine Arts (BFA) was deemed the terminal degree in the studio arts (Ritchie, 1966). In order to encourage students' artistic development through the engagement of academic curricula, various assessment tools were implemented to evaluate students’ abilities and examine their concerns. With the influx of students going into higher education after World War II, the CAA (1946) called for standards to regulate the training of teachers in higher education in the visual arts. A similar call from the CAA, earlier in the century, had failed to materialize such standards. During the 1940s, the University of Iowa's Lester Longman made dramatic changes to the university’s visual arts programs when he created one, “Art” department to 45 encompass the entire discipline by including courses in art history, art studio practice, as well as the curricula he had developed for the "teaching of artistic theory, criticism, and aesthetics" (Singerman, 1999, p. 198). Hired from Princeton University to head the studio arts at the University of Iowa, Longman had created and fulfilled a new role: that of the artist-teacher. Longman taught studio classes in the graphic and plastic arts and aimed to bring together all arts from their adoptive disciplines across the campus, including home economics, education, and architecture into the new Art Department at the University of Iowa. According to Singerman (1999), Longman “saved art history from the grasp of archeology and the classics” (p. 199). Longman went on to institute the BFA and the MFA degrees at the University of Iowa, since he believed that, sequentially, the two degrees provided a path that led directly to the profession of the artist. His initiatives inspired other universities and colleges within the United States to recognize the relationship between personal and professional aspects of student development in the visual arts. His vision largely promoted a new profession for artists - the profession of the visual arts teacher. At this juncture in higher education, an artist “could instruct undergraduates in the practice of art as it exemplifies ‘problems pertaining to esthetics, theory and the philosophy of art’” (CAA, 1946, as cited in Singerman, 1999). According to Allen Weller in a 1959 article for the College Art Journal, the Midwest College Art Conference had passed a resolution confirming that the best market for MFA graduates included formally acknowledging the MFA as “the terminal degree for teachers of studio art courses” (Singerman, 1999, p. 188). After considering this 46 endorsement, the CAA adopted the recommendation one year later, and it became an official rule in 1966; thus, taking the “terminal” distinction away from the BFA. The MFA degree was to be, “used as a guarantee of a high level of professional competence in the visual arts… [and] a certifiable level of technical proficiency” (Singerman, 1999, p. 190). It should be noted that, at this time, members of the CAA did not consider that a studio-art based Ph.D. was an appropriate degree in the visual arts as it would be “wasteful of talent to spend time on getting a degree beyond the Master’s at the expense of one’s development as an artist” (Ritchie, 1966, p. 83). As thousands of World War II veterans gained admission to colleges and universities under the “Servicemen’s Readjustment Act of 1944,” informally known as the GI Bill, liberal arts colleges included studio art activities in their art history courses despite some administrators' ongoing philosophical concerns about the educational objectives of specialized professional art schools. Nonetheless, faculty members at liberal arts institutions began to change their perspectives about art and teaching given that the number of students who were “professionally” dedicated to the visual arts had grown immensely and the expansion of corresponding studio art programs in American colleges and universities had been dramatic. The discipline of studio art had finally broken through the restraints of academic skepticism and its growth encountered general enthusiasm. By the 1960s, enrollment in undergraduate studio art programs across the country totaled approximately 43,115 students (Lackney, 1999; Ritchie, 1966; Singerman, 1999). In 1940, only 11 institutions (with 60 candidates) offered studio art 47 graduate programs; however by 1978, 118 institutions offered accredited MFA degree programs (Singerman, 1999). The fervor and popularity of graduate studio art education existed in contrast to the reflections of Raymond Parker, a veteran studio art instructor. As a graduate from the University of Iowa who earned his MFA in 1948, Parker wrote an article for the College Art Journal (1953) about MFA programs. He noted the following: [The faculty members] accept the responsibility of developing skills useful to commercial and applied arts. They stand behind the education they offer as relevant to art history, art appreciation, and the cultivated man. They produce art teachers and patrons. But the popular Masters of Fine Arts degree reflects a dilemma… since art escapes the formulation of standards and methods. (p. 29) Writing in the College Art Journal, Steppat (1951) claimed that, “all one can teach are techniques… artistry is completely a matter of endowment and self-induced personal growth” (p. 385). That same year, an instructor from Bard College argued that, “All but the most elementary techniques are fundamentally not teachable” (Hirsch, as cited in Singerman, 1999, p. 38). The perceptions of the “man-as-artist” in the 1950’s included his liberal education and notable masculinity (Singerman, 1999, p. 39). This issue of defining what it meant to be a professional was addressed at a roundtable discussion at the New York School1 in the early 1950’s. According to Singerman (1999), artist Ad Reinhardt defined a professional artist as “one who 1 The New York School most often refers to a group of innovative American painters in the 1940s and 1950s, also known as the Abstract Expressionists (West, 1996). 48 considered art a way to make a living.” Willem de Kooning rebutted, “You can’t call yourself ‘professional’ unless you have a license, such as an architect has.” Barnett Newman simply added, “‘Professional’ for me means ‘serious’” (Singerman, 1999, p. 189). In 1957 when Sputnick was launched and money was poured into higher education in an effort to compete with the Soviet Union, all disciplines benefitted, as the entire educational system was perceived to be in need of improvement. “America became education crazy” (Neher, 2010, p. 5). According to Ritchie’s 1966 report to the CAA, visual arts programs were embraced by college and university administrations in response to the growing public appeals for teaching the arts. It was not unusual for a faculty member in a school of art to be provided research grants, benevolent teaching schedules, financial contributions for exhibitions and, though rare, a nearby studio space and art supplies (Ritchie, 1966). Despite this, instructors in the studio arts were generally not paid salaries comparable to their colleagues in other university and college departments (National Association of Schools of Art, 1964-1965). It should also be noted that at this point in the twentieth century, disciplines in human behavior, including psychology and sociology, were well advanced and fostered a desire to better understand the demographics of college students. Attention given to the importance of the “self” made an impact on higher education in the 1960s as institutions hired human development specialists to care for students’ welfare and created the Council of Student Personnel Association (Winston, Miller, & Prince, 1979). New instruments were designed to measure student development (Evans et al., 2012; Pace, 1984; Winston, 49 Miller, & Prince 1979) and descriptive theories emerged in terms of students’ cognitive skills, intellectual capacities, and learning styles (Chickering & Reisser, 1993; Josselson, 1996; Merriam, Caffarella & Baumgartner, 2007; Widick, Knefelkamp & Parker, 1975). On some campuses in the 1960s, art making was perceived to be less important than discussions about art and its history in more academically structured courses However, on other campuses, life as an art student was considered empowering as students in the fine arts enjoyed opportunities for scholarship support, access to creative research resources, and participated in cultural activities (Ritchie, 1966). CAA Assistant Director and a former dean of an arts technical school, Norman Rice, argued in 1963 that it was possible to create, “an environment that is conducive to the development of artists spiritually, intellectually, and technically…where students can discover themselves and accomplish initial artistic growth.” However, Rice ultimately clarified his comment about the art school environment with this explanation: “I did not say [conducive] ‘to become artists’” (as cited in Singerman, p. 21). Rice’s claim advanced the decades-old philosophical debate between whether or not schools could “make” an artist. Some studio art faculty members in the 1960s found themselves on college and university campuses having recognized that such circumstances might not reflect the “best” environment for artists, yet they “couldn’t define what that would be” (Ritchie, 1966, p. 57). Faculty members were more likely to stay in their artist-teacher positions as the academic environment sustained their interests, productivity, and inspiration. Some believed that teaching in urban institutions was advantageous to their visual arts careers (Ritchie, 1966). In his 1966 CAA report, Ritchie concluded that those studio art faculty 50 members, who had the desire to teach and had the skills to do so, could make themselves at home on a campus "rather effortlessly.” However, by the end of the 1960s the validity of the artist-teacher label had begun to fade. The title had come to indicate a person who was not fully an artist or a teacher (Daichendt, 2010; Elkins, 2001; Ritchie, 1966). What it meant to be an artist remained unclear on into the 1970s. Fluxus2 artist, Allan Kaprow, claimed that an artist was the professional “man of the world,” yet American minimalist3 artist, Dan Flavin argued that art making was a “mature decision for intelligent individuals with a prerequisite of sound personality and construed education” (p. 164). Sociologist Judith Adler (1979) added to the debate by stating that, “the college and university milieu jars with the mores of the bohemian subculture in which many artists still participate” (p. 17). When the art market “exploded during the Regan era,” the title of ‘Artist’ became represent a glamorous profession and successful artists appeared in Vogue as well as in Artforum. For many, the allure of the MFA degree was the "lure of fame and fortune” (Neher, 2010, pp. 122-123). Art historian Howard Risatti wrote in 1991 that, “at the very heart of the problem of educating the artist lies in the difficulty of defining what it means to be an artist today” (as cited in Singerman 1999, p. 3). According to Daichendt (2010), “Artists throughout history have redefined themselves; a 19th century artist was very different from the artist of the 1950s and now the 21st century” (p. 64). And finally 2 Fluxus is a group of artists in the United States that were most active in the 1960s. They “assumed an anarchist stance by objective to the professionalization of the art market” (West, 1996, p. 439). 3 Minimalism is a movement in art history that became prominent in the 1960s as a reaction against Abstract Expressionism. “Minimalism… [introduced] into the domain of art an increasingly wide and eclectic category of objects that cannot be easily differentiated from objects in the non-art world” (West, 1996, p. 663). 51 today’s “artist-researchers in the MFA program are invested in becoming part of the contemporary art landscape that art historians of the future will study” (Leousis, 2013, p. 137). Americans continue to try to define the “artist-teacher.” As Neher (2010) noted, “At Pratt, for example, a course titled ‘Painting’ is not a hands-on studio course that addresses issues of perception and technique, but rather a weekly three-hour ‘talk’ seminar on any subject of the professor’s choosing” (p. 122). A recent article published in Art in America (2007) entitled, “Art Schools: A Group Crit,” brought together the opinions of 13 educators from several art schools, colleges, and universities in the United States including Howard Singerman, Leslie KingHammond, Dave Hickey, James Elkins, and Robert Storr. They had been asked to address their ideas regarding the “issues of today’s booming art schools” (p. 99). The many topics they addressed in this article encircled what skills an artist should acquire in school, what role might the art market play in a student’s education, what new vocabulary will comprise the post-modern generation of artists, and in what ways might art schools address issues related to, as James Elkins claimed, “The studio art Ph.D. is coming and there’s no way to stop it” (p. 108). He surmised: U.S. institutions have the opportunity to rethink the [Ph.D.] degree, and make it into something truly interesting… [an] arrangement [that] is an exemplary use of a university. The juxtaposition of painting and chemistry, or sculpture and anthropology, is genuinely interdisciplinary because neither the supervisors nor the student know what shape the interaction might take. (p. 109). Research studies and MFA visual arts programs 52 In this section, I discuss research studies that have focused on MFA programs and MFA students. Actual and systematic research conducted on specific MFA visual arts programs has been rare, although several scholars and artists have contributed to debates about what MFA programs should comprise and look like. For example, James Daichendt (2010) has written about the scholarship of being an artist as well as the ways in which required writing activities could have a positive impact within programs. James Elkins (2011) has published many books about artists, art schools, and art teaching. He has also addressed the ideas related to the development of an arts-practice based Ph.D. in the United States. Howard Singerman (1999), who was an important source of information for the history of the MFA degree, was originally inspired to do his research given his own experience of earning an MFA degree in sculpture. Steven Henry Madoff (2009) has pulled together the voices of various contemporary artists and art educators as they addressed new ideas and suggestions for art schools today. This section closes with the literature about the quantitative study entitled the “Strategic National Arts Alumni Project” or SNAAP, as it annually assesses the lives of the alumni of fine arts programs. James Daichendt (2012), a professor of art at Azusa Pacific University, discussed the state of art education in higher education and aimed to bring attention to the importance of writing as it accompanies art making by the “artist scholar.” He suggested that, in general, there is room for MFA students in the United States to improve their writing skills in order to better understand how writing contributes to the professionalization of a discipline. In his investigations into “the place of scholarship” in the studio arts, he forwarded that writing, as a tool for thinking, is also a way of thinking. 53 He has suggested that the acts of art making are in line with the acts of writing; essentially they are promising partners in an artist’s practice of inquiry as they are “two distinct types of thinking” (p. 88). Like the introspection that emerges in a critique, Daichendt argued that writing can be “pragmatically” used to improve on one’s art making. As the Chair of Art History, Theory and Criticism at the School of The Art Institute of Chicago, James Elkins is known for his provocative writing. He addresses such questions as, “What do courses on visual studies teach?” within his publications with titles including, Why Art Cannot be Taught (2001), What Happened to Art Criticism? (2003), and Is Art History Global? (2010). His research has brought to the field's attention seemingly basic questions. However, he also demonstrated that he understands that no one will likely agree on any answer. For Elkins, it has been important to focus on and highlight these complicated issues even as, most often in doing so, they become more complicated. In his discussions about studio art degrees at the postsecondary level, Howard Singerman has ultimately promoted that being an artist is about building and acquiring an identity, and that the position involves “a serious commitment to a way of being” (Singerman as cited in Pearse, 2012, p. 187). Inspired by his personal experience of earning an MFA degree, Singerman published the book, Art Subjects in 1999 within which he has taken a comprehensive look at contemporary MFA programs in the United States. He has thematically addressed many aspects of the degree, including its origin as a teacher’s and a woman’s degree, the expansion of visual arts programs in higher 54 education after World War II, and the effects that the “art stars” (p. 189) of the 20th century have had on higher education in the visual arts. His research has been guided, in part, by the questions: “What is a professional [in the visual arts] and why is the university the place to be one?” (p. 189). Singerman also discussed how becoming an artist is “intensely psychological” (p. 130) given “the cruelty of the crit,” and how it has been “necessarily psychologized and personalized” (p. 211). The critique, according to Singerman, often confronts the person rather than the artwork or artistic technique. Intending to enhance the experiences and purpose of earning the MFA degree today, Steve Madoff, a senior critic at Yale University’s School of Art edited, Art School (Propositions for the 21st Century) (2009), which is comprised of written essays from, and interview transcripts of prominent artist-teachers as they reflected on their experiences in art school. Acknowledging the various types of pedagogical practices employed by the teachers in their former art schools, these artists offered ideas on new initiatives for visual arts programs in the 21st century. Some of the “voices” that Madoff pulled together to discuss the “pressures, challenges, risks, and opportunities” for artists and art educators in the future, include Ann Hamilton, Mike Kelley, Marina Abramović, and John Baldessari. The Strategic National Arts Alumni Project The researchers involved with a series of recent studies, the Strategic National Arts Alumni Project or SNAAP, have hoped to make an impact on perceptions that concern fine arts programs within higher education in the United States. “SNAAP is 55 dedicated both to providing confidential alumni data to participating institutions as well as to looking at some of the major issues facing the arts school of the 21st century” (SNAAP, 2013, p. 6). The project's mission has been, in part, “to investigate the educational experiences and career paths of arts graduates nationally” (p. 2). A news release from Indiana University, where the survey is based, announced that SNAAP had received a national award for arts research and quoted Sarah Cunningham, the Arts Education Director at the National Endowment for the Arts in 2009. It said, “SNAAP results will allow us to see how high-quality, deep training in the arts guides professional careers of creative American citizens.” (Retrieved from http://education.indiana.edu/news/2009-11-16-01.html). The survey continues to be developed at the Center for Postsecondary Research and Center for Survey Research at Indiana University in cooperation with scholars from the Curb Center for Art, Enterprise, and Public Policy at Vanderbilt University, and has surveyed more than 80,000 arts graduates on-line annually since 2008 (SNAAP, 2013, p. 10). The survey has included questions related to former art students’ participation with their institution’s educational resources while enrolled as a student. It has inquired about the history of and income from full-time and part-time work in occupations associated with the arts, as well as the level of engagement they have had as alumni with the training they received while in art school. Researchers hope that the responses to such questions can serve as “an invaluable tool for institutions in their ongoing quest for good and meaningful data for evaluating relevant school-based outcomes… [and provide] a system 56 that arts training institutions, policy makers, and arts graduates value and use” (pp. 2627). The report on the findings from the first two surveys were combined and focused on myths related to arts alumni. For example, a common view of the lives of art school graduates is that few make a living doing art and that opportunities to do so are limited (SNAAP, 2010). One report noted that: [I]n large part, [arts alumni] have found meaningful employment, are satisfied with their lives, work in diverse settings, and are glad that they went to arts school… These reports also reveal ways in which arts alumni feel their institutions could have improved their experiences – for instance, by offering entrepreneurial and financial training and by expanding their career-related services. (SNAAP, 2013, p. 10) The SNAAP researchers also reported that, “Arts training in postsecondary education exists within a complex ecology of pathways and opportunities… [A]cross all social groups, alumni show high levels of overall satisfaction with their experience studying the arts” (p. 24). As accountability demands in the field of higher education strengthen, SNAAP has considered reporting future findings through the lens of the wage gap between men and women as well as issues related to students developing “creative identities” that are sustained throughout their lifetimes (p. 26). Other scholars that have examined the Project’s findings have researched ways “… many artistic aspirants who do not work within the arts still incorporate artistic elements within their diverse careers and often engage in art avocationally” (Lindemann, 57 2013, 465). Lindemann (2013) claimed that there are “compelling reasons” to study the “alternative ways” (p. 465) artists are putting together creative careers. Elizabeth Lingo from NexusWorks and Steven Tepper (2013), the Research Director of SNAAP argued that: [A]rtists need to be masters of navigating across historically disparate domains, for example, specializations and generalist skills, autonomy and social engagement, the economy’s periphery and the core, precarious employment and self-directed entrepreneurialism, and large metro centers and regional art markets. (p. 337) Graduate students in MFA visual arts programs Some scholars and administrators have argued that there are too many artists graduating with the MFA degree at the present time. According to Grant (2011), Michael Aurbach, a sculpture professor and past president of the CAA, said that, “The problem is we are producing far too many MFA graduates for the number of existing jobs” (Artist MFAs Find Teaching Jobs in New Venues section, para. 2). He elaborated further that, as the result of this circumstance, artists seemed to be exploring new educational venues such as art museums, community colleges, and private schools. Potential reasons for why artists attend graduate schools may include a desire to focus on improving their artwork or to obtain high-level feedback and mentoring from established artists. Limited literature on this issue suggests that there appears to be no real consensus about why graduate students pursue the visual arts MFA degree. However, the 58 existent literature, though sparse, has addressed issues related to MFA students and teaching. For example, according to Daniel Grant (2011), a regular contributor on the arts for The Chronicle of Higher Education, many artists "want the degree so that they can be candidates for teaching jobs at the college level” (Helping Fine Artists Become Fine Teachers section, para. 2). Joe Girandola, Director of the MFA program at the University of the Arts in Philadelphia, concurred with Grant’s statement: “I’d say most, if not all, of our MFA students are thinking about teaching at some college, and they know that it’s almost impossible to get hired without the degree” (Helping Fine Artists Become Fine Teachers section, para. 3). Graduate students as teaching assistants Despite what Morrisroe and Roland (2008) reported that, "The general assumption among university art faculty is that students come to MFA programs to hone their artistic skills, and teaching assignments or assistantships are often seen as simply a way to provide financial support to graduate students while they work in their studio” (p. 87), many MFA graduate students have pursued teaching assistant opportunities in the art schools they attended. For example, Michael Hardesty, coordinator of the MFA program at The Ohio State University, has stated his beliefs on why artists apply to his program. Grant (2011) disclosed that, according to Hardesty, “The primary focus of [MFA students’] time at OSU is their development as artists” yet approximately 90 percent of the MFA students want to be TAs while earning their degrees" (Helping Fine Artists Become Fine Teachers section, para. 5). 59 I have uncovered no research studies about why MFA graduate students like to be TAs; but it makes sense that both teaching aspirations and financial concerns may figure into their already complex world of earning a graduate education. I found one study, however, that occurred in 2011 at the University of Virginia and addressed graduate student TAs within the fields of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM fields). Though not conducted in the field of the visual arts, this study’s findings put forward two potential advantages that gradate students who have worked as TAs might gain. I propose that these same advantages could be true of MFA graduate student TAs. According to Breene (2011), David Feldon, an assistant professor at University of Virginia’s Curry School of Education, studied more than 140 master’s and doctoral students from three universities, some of whom worked as TAs and some of whom did not. He determined that “students spending time both teaching and researching outperformed the research-only colleagues” (U.VA Study Reveals Grad Students’ Work is Better When Teaching and Research are Part of the Mix section, para. 9). He suggested two possible explanations for his findings, which included “practice makes you better… The more they worked with their students on [various] challenges… the more they practiced their own research skills,” and, “students who explain how they perform the skills they are trying to learn tend to learn more quickly and develop better skills” (para. 10-11). Returning back to issues within the field of the visual arts, I discovered that issues related to preparing MFA students as studio art instructors have been recurring concerns at regional and national conferences, such as those held by the CAA, Foundations in Art: 60 Theory and Education (FATE), and the Society for Photographic Education (Morrisroe & Roland, 2008). The ways in which teaching assistants are prepared appears to vary across institutions. For example, there are no teacher training opportunities at some institutions compared to a year of mandatory teacher training coursework at others. Additionally, according to Grant (2011), Howard Quednau of the Minneapolis College of Art and Design has suggested that MFA student TAs sometimes lack confidence in expressing themselves in words and are not proficient enough in the subjects they are expected to teach. He pointed out that, “Some… MFA students need to get [their own] remedial help” (Artist MFAs Find Teaching Jobs in New Venues section, para. 17). Subsequently, new courses related to studio teaching have emerged in selected art schools and departments across the country. For example, the University of Florida added an elective course to its curricula entitled, “Teaching Art in Higher Education” in 1998, which was taught by an art education professor. Its premise was that of teaching graduate students about pedagogy and the basic principles and practices of teaching or the “nuts and bolts” of university teaching (Morriroe & Roland, 2008, p. 89). Eventually, topics of theory, academic freedom, and academic responsibility became part of the curriculum for the course as well. When this became a required course for entering MFA students in 2003, the University of Florida added a position titled, Foundations Coordinator. This faculty member was responsible for supervising graduate TAs, hosting regular group meetings to discuss experiences related to MFA students’ teaching, and examining the quality of the undergraduate student work as a means of assessing the TAs' teaching abilities (Morrisroe & Roland, 2008). 61 At the University of the Arts in Philadelphia, faculty members have designed and taught a course called, “In the Classroom.” The Maryland Institute College of Art has developed a two-year program that has led to a Certificate in College Teaching in Art. Other approaches have included required summer courses for incoming MFA students hired as TAs as well as mandatory attendance at teaching workshops (i.e. designing courses, writing syllabi, developing studio projects, etc.) during MFA students’ first twosemesters as teaching assistants. The Ohio State University has required MFA students employed as TAs to take a one-semester seminar course for credit called, “Teaching in the Studio Classroom,” while they shadow a full-time studio art professor. According to Grant (2011), The School of the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston, where full-time faculty members provide nearly all MFA classroom instruction, has allowed MFA students, upon the completion of their degrees, to teach two courses at the school as postgraduate teaching fellows (Helping Fine Artists Become Fine Teachers section, para. 13). Faculty members and graduate student development David Brooks (2001) has reminded us that, “For the sake of the students, educators must help the academy to recognize the value of the whole person concept and the theory that contributes to students’ growth and change” (p. 21). There is limited research on how such concepts and theories are viewed within MFA visual arts education; however, Salazar's (2013) research has aimed to examine how art faculty members view their students and teaching. She has suggested that one of the primary goals of art school professors has been “to help students construct a life around art, 62 conceptualize personal definitions for happiness and success, and develop confidence” (p. 253). Her research also aligns with the CAA's “Standards and Guidelines” (2008), which state that, “Each student deserves the staff’s careful consideration of individual needs and conscientious direction in planning an appropriate course of study” (Studio Curriculum section, para. 11). Salazar (2013) has also suggested that, “studio instructors who discuss curriculum and pedagogy with colleagues might become more aware of pedagogical choices, question curricular assumptions, and expand pedagogical possibilities” (p. 254). Her research concluded that in order for art schools to meaningfully meet their goal to develop “the person” in their studio art students, “careful thought must be given to crafting curricula and pedagogy relevant to citizens of the 21st century” (pp. 255-256). “The emphasis on doing is not simply about being able to produce a skilled performance, but is about understanding what it means to be a skilled performer” (Shreeve, Sims, & Trowler, 2009, p. 128). Salazar (2013) suggested that, “well-crafted curricula will not be enough: artist-teachers must be able to integrate their studio expertise and curricular content with the creative inclinations of their students” (p. 256). Graduate students and faculty members as professional models As we have seen, once a visual arts graduate student is decorated with an MFA degree, he or she is often already in the process of pursuing employment within one of the limited number of open studio art faculty positions in higher education. Even as many MFA graduates seem to aspire to such positions, the literature relating to these issues in 63 visual arts teaching in higher education has tended to discourage making the assumption that recipients of the MFA degree are capable of meaningfully leading a classroom of visual arts students. It has been argued that such an assumption can be misleading, and even harmful to the maintenance and longevity of the field. For most of these graduates, their “teacher” training consisted of the experiences they had while working as a TA for undergraduates and the observations they made of the ways faculty members modeled the profession. MFA graduate students may also observe conflicting matters related to how a studio art faculty member is promoted. For example, the CAA (2008) has asserted that faculty members' successes in MFA programs have depended “primarily” on their teaching abilities, despite the fact that many MFA instructors have not been trained as teachers. On the other hand, Robert Sommer's (1999) research on the role that a studio art program has at a research university contradicts this claim. He said that, even though "faculty in studio art are neither recruited nor trained to teach lecture courses… promotions and merit increases are based primarily on creative work and secondarily on teaching” (pp. 42-43). In general, “Teaching to a high level of learning is often a struggle, because [university] educators are frequently not knowledgeable about a variety of teaching strategies” (Smith & Geis, 1996, p. 5). Specifically, literature related to teaching at high levels of visual arts programs suggest that potential challenges to studio art educators exist as they are often not trained as pedagogues (Anker et al., 2007; Daichendt, 2010; 64 Elkins 2001). According to Barrett (1988), “…students may well teach as they have been taught…” (p. 27). This circumstance impacts the ways instructors model the profession. “The way we teach will shape how professionals behave – in a society so dependent on the quality of its professionals, that is no small matter” (Shulman, 2005, p. 59). Elliot Eisner (2002) has written that, “the aims of any field are not determined solely by its subject matter; they are also determined by… teachers who decide what is important to teach” (p. 70). Salazar (2013) wrote in her article about art making in the 21st century that, “by engaging students as equals and sharing stories from their lives, teachers model what it means to be practicing artists and ‘real’ people” (p. 252). Ultimately, as Singerman (1999) has pointed out, “Teaching does not come without metaphysics. It is not offered, nor is it heard, outside an ensemble of representations, values, and beliefs woven in and out of course assignments, studio critiques, and modeled roles” (p. 5). Atkins, Brinko, Butts, Claxton, and Hubbard (2001) have forwarded that, "Educators need to… engage in professional development activities that promote among them a renewed sense of accountability, innovation, and connection to the organization’s missions and goals while also promoting professional and personal growth (as cited in Brancato, 2003, p. 60). Curricula and pedagogy within MFA visual arts programs According to Saul Ostrow of the Cleveland Art Institute, “the fact that graduate programs have not significantly changed structurally or pedagogically is a concern for 65 many of us involved in the question of how artists are to be educated” (Anker et al., 2007, p. 106). He also recognized, however, that today’s programs are confronted with what he called “the corporatization of education,” and thus, arts institutions are challenged to “balance their commitment to addressing evolving cultural standards with the institutional tendency to see those solutions that are most readily marketable” (p. 106). Requirements and recommendations of National Standards The National Association for Schools of Art and Design (NASAD) was established in 1944 and continues to determine the standards required of the nation’s graduate and undergraduate visual art programs and oversees the peer review process that determines an art school’s accreditation. As an organization, NASAD has developed a core set of National Standards that art schools or departments of art must meet in order to be represented among schools with the highest levels of teaching and curricula within visual arts higher education. An art school’s accreditation places its visual arts program in the top 50 percent of programs at the nation’s more than 600 art schools (NASAD, 2008). Miller, Bender, and Schuh have written about the accreditation process and the ways NASAD has determined whether or not schools or departments in the visual arts are doing what they claim to be doing. Flexibility does exist within the standards as each school can define its own purpose and determine its curricular requirements. For example, the NASAD Handbook (2000) indicates that: Each institution is responsible for developing and defining the specific purposes of its overall graduate program in art and/or design, and of each graduate degree 66 program it offers… [including] requirements for such areas studio research, scholarship, and preparation for teaching in terms of (a) the specialization, (b) support for the specialization, and (c) breadth of competence. (p. 124) NASAD recommends that, “students should be encouraged to acquire the professional development skills necessary to advance themselves according to their area of specialization and their own career objectives” (p. 126). It has also recognized that, “Many of those who are in graduate degree programs in art and design are or will be engaged in art and design teaching of some type during the course of their professional careers” (p. 126). Therefore, “Institutions are strongly encouraged to give attention to the preparation of graduate students as teachers… [and] should include an introduction to the pedagogy of subject matter considered fundamental to curricula for undergraduate art and design majors” (NASAD, 2000, p. 126). These recommendations, along with those of CAA, indicate that studio art faculty members should play key roles in designing and developing MFA programs. Established in 1912, the CAA recently celebrated its 100th anniversary and reflected on its long, diverse, multi-faceted history. One of the most significant contributions the Association has made to the field of the visual arts came about in 1977 when the Association deemed the MFA degree as the terminal degree in the field of studio visual arts. The CAA standards for the MFA, in part, demand "the highest level of professional competency in the visual arts and contemporary practices” (as cited in Morrisroe & Roland, 2008, p. 88). It is the Association’s high level of standards that place the MFA degree as equivalent to other terminal degrees, such as the Ph.D. or Ed.D. 67 Today, the CAA retains a comprehensive purpose: “to promote art interests in all divisions of American colleges and universities” (Ball, 2011, p.19). Some people within the field contend that both NASAD’s and CAA’s definitions of what the visual arts comprise have become so open-ended that the needs of visual arts education are also open-ended and less accurately defined than they should be. For example, the CAA Standards and Guidelines for MFA programs were updated in 2008 to suggest that MFA curricula address verbal, written, and conceptual skills. The standards in the 2007-2008 NASAD Handbook indicate that earning an MFA degree requires “writing and speaking skills to communicate clearly and effectively to the art and/or design communities, the public and in formal or informal teaching situations” (NASAD, 2008). The professional organization, Foundations in Art: Theory and Education (FATE), was established in 1978. Though the organization does not dictate specific standards, its biennial conferences around the country have concentrated on defining and understanding issues related to foundations-level studio art programs in higher education. FATE has also published scholarship related to issues of art school faculty members and students. In particular, two articles published in FATE in Review, address visual arts students and the benefits of learning quality writing skills; a topic that relates strongly to the intentions of the written activities is this study. It has been argued that writing helps students to learn better and more deeply. Students can actively understand and better retain knowledge, what Earl Tai (2005) from Parsons, The New School for Design has called “writing to learn” (p. 35). In his article, 68 “Writing in the Art and Design Curriculum,” he argued for the integration of writing into postsecondary visual arts programs. Tai (2005) suggested that writing is a tool to be used in processing information and knowledge as it can “stabilize” ideas as well as integrate visual and written language that allows visual arts students to access broader knowledge. Tai also stated that new writing exercises that are introduced with the visual arts curriculum would differ considerably from the familiar written project brief and artist statement. Instead, writing would take on a new form and occur within the process and aid brainstorming and concept development, annotated sketching, and production journaling (p. 37). In the article “Bridging the Gap between Art and Writing,” Calvert (2010), an MFA student at Portland State University, developed a series of case studies that addressed the significance of writing activities in art school. She discussed several writing activities that were supportive of students becoming better informed with regard to their practice and ideas. For example, students in Calvert’s study wrote about the descriptions of their artistic processes, the feedback they received from critique sessions, and their own perceptions of the strengths and weaknesses of their projects. Additional sets of writings included three different written proposals the students prepared before beginning a project. In each project, they considered different themes including critical studies of the self, political ideologies, and the project in terms of its formal elements and principles. Before the critique, students also prepared a written final statement to accompany their project, and after the critique, students wrote in response to the prompts they received during the review from peers. This practice represented the belief that, 69 “Making art may be thought of as a kind of ‘conversational learning’” (Bamberger & Schön, 1983 as cited in James, 1996, p. 151). The process of this critical evaluation and therefore, the understanding of what happens in each of the phases of making an artwork, deepened the connection that students had with their individual pieces and required them to articulate different approaches to the same work, regardless of whether or not they used them as they revisited their processes. Required and elective courses in professional practice The curricula for most MFA programs are related to exploring studio art concepts and earning specific credit units in the area of art history. Distinct to a small number of art schools, some MFA students have the opportunity to take specific courses in pedagogy in order to learn about teaching in higher education. This group of art schools includes the University of West Virginia, the University of Illinois Chicago, and the University of North Texas. Various programs have offered visual arts students advice about jobs; however as Grant (1998) has argued: Information about jobs is not enough. Art programs also need to maintain current listing of upcoming art competitions, exhibition opportunities, affordable studio and living space… deadlines for grants and fellowships… offer occasional workshops or seminars that focus on particular aspects of the business of being an artist, such as laws affecting artists’ intellectual property or ways to find dealers and collectors. (Fine-Arts Programs School Teach Career Skills, Not Just Technique section, para. 8). 70 As more schools develop courses that address professional practices in the field of the visual arts, including those similar to “In the Classroom” at the University of the Arts, “Teaching in the Studio Classroom” at the Ohio State University, and “Teaching Art in Higher Education” at the University of Florida, it seems that MFA students will have more opportunities to gain practical knowledge about the art world as well as knowledge related to the work and lifestyle of an artist-teacher. Approaches to teaching in visual arts higher education As I address issues related to teaching approaches in the visual arts, I begin this section with a discussion about action research, the methodology I employed for this study. Though I elaborate on the methodology in the next chapter, here, I bring attention to the few researchers who have successfully used action research in the field of art and visual culture education. I also bring attention to the ways that notions of mindfulness within teaching have been considered within higher education and visual arts education. Teaching within action research Given that most faculty members have not been professionally trained to teach, it is probable that they have never engaged with action research as such research often focuses on a teacher’s awareness of their practices as teachers. Additionally, it is likely that instructors in higher education possess professional priorities related to maintaining a research program in their own disciplines that often overshadow those in teaching (Zuber-Skerritt, 1992). 71 Using artistic action research encourages all teachers to deeply consider the philosophies and rationales that underscore the choices they make about curricula (Mason, 2005). Taking part in an action research project requires its participants to assume self-reflexive and self-critical positions as they share decision-making that pertains to their teaching practices. “Inquiry into our own practice centers us… in a real place and time with real persons, begs our questions and possibilities, makes us responsible for what we believe and do. When done well, teaching as inquiry provokes our most aesthetic, pedagogical sensibilities. It helps us to envision and craft ourselves and our work” (May, 1994, p. 124). In these ways, it seems that action research could be beneficial for faculty members in higher education, especially if they are motivated by a desire for social change and improvements in learning, teaching, and curriculum. With continued interaction between practice, theory, and change, action research allows for the revelation of new knowledge through the analysis of one’s own educational or artistic practices (Brydon & Miller, 2003; Burgess, 2006; McTaggart, 1997; Reason & Bradbury, 2001). The methodology has been advocated and utilized within art and visual culture education programs (Mason, 2005; May, 1993). For example, to help pre-service and practicing art teachers, to reflect on the choices they make within their practices more objectively (May, 1993), Lynn Beudert and Elizabeth Garber (2013) have reported on how art and visual culture education graduate students at the University of Arizona have conducted various qualitative research studies that have involved action research methodologies. Beudert and Garber have addressed the ways that their graduate students' 72 research not only allowed for the exploration of important research topics in the field, but also for personal inquiries into the very nature and relevance of their graduate students’ pedagogical and artistic practices. “Treating one’s [art] classroom as a site for inquiry is eye-opening and career-altering for many” (Hutchings, 2010, p. 66). Essentially, the teacher-researcher is a participant of or an insider for the study itself. May (1994) has suggested that the methodology of action research can help art educators address the following questions: How do we help both novice and experienced teachers experience ‘the familiar’ or ‘obvious’ in more provocative and critical ways? If engaged in action research projects, what are some meaningful, creative ways in which teachers can express, represent, and share what they have learned or are learning? As art teacher educators, should we ever intervene or suggest a different direction, particularly if a teacher’s practice flies against our understanding of ‘best’ practice and personal ethics or if it seriously diminishes the quality of youngsters’ experiences in art?” (p. 122) Bresler (1994) noted that employing action research involves the teacher’s ability to empathize and recreate the experiences of others within oneself: "The researcher is not seen as separate from the researched" (p. 2). As a form of qualitative research, the methodology fosters empathetic understanding that has been defined as including the voices of many with care and insight. Bresler (2006) has described it this way: “Both art and qualitative research in the search for empathic understanding involve mediating back and forth between the personal and the public” (p. 53). When employing empathic 73 understanding and paying attention to the “space surrounding the art experience” (Bresler, 2006, p. 54), qualitative action research can offer significant value to visual arts education. Teaching and mindfulness The research of Jenny Lee, the instructor of the course I discussed in Chapter One, has addressed issues related to mindfulness and teaching, and she has published an article about the class that I took in 2011. Enthused about addressing the ways education seems to neglect the inner lives of students in higher education, she wrote that, “The aims of the education course were to help students understand ways that spirituality, consciousness, and mindfulness can inform current educational issues… the course required students to investigate their core beliefs and values and then to examine the relationship between their values and their professional practices” (Lee, 2012, p. 2). She quoted Astin (2007) who stated that, “While experience no doubt plays a central role in shaping our beliefs, what many of us fail to realize is that beliefs play a role in shaping your experience” (p. 37 as cited in Lee, 2012, p. 4). Lee proposed that faculty members, especially those who facilitate a course about consciousness and mindfulness, must first address their own assumptions and values in order to meaningfully “embrace inner as well as outer transformation for ourselves and our students” (p. 2). During the course, I noted that characteristics of action research seemed to emerge as she pointed out how important honesty and accountability were to the role of the teacher. She noted that, “She or he should be a fellow participant in the 74 course as she or he leads it… and share common ground that honors diverse thinking but also allows individuals to safely explore their own inner issues…[with] a shared commitment to improving educational conditions served as the starting place for collective self-introspection” (p. 4). Recognizing the complex problems in higher education today, Lee invited students, faculty members, and administrators to serve as facilitators of the process that begins to appraise the motivations that guide our visions for the future. “It is only through immersing ourselves in problems that we can come up with creative solutions. Effective organizations embrace problems rather than avoid or ignore them” (May, 1994, p. 144). Rita Irwin suggested that contemporary education has come to emphasize the roles a person has in his or her life, for example, roles of parent, teacher, and artist, more so than the soul that resides at the heart of our interconnected selves, and that of students. She has argued that, “An education of the soul is an education filled with feeling completely alive… experiencing joy, compassion, mindfulness, and a sense of awe for what mystery that abounds” (Irwin, 2007, p. 1401). She noted further that, “With increasing demands being made on educators, parents, and those assisting with the education of our youth and our communities… people are longing for more meaning in their lives and in their educational pursuits” (Huebner, 1999 as cited in Irwin, p. 1401). As Irwin's research endorses the claim that students remember things more deeply when they are mindfully engaged, she recalled that: “Mindfulness for curriculum means learning how to focus and grasping meanings that are important for the individual” (Iannone, 1999, p. 3 as cited in Irwin, 2007, p. 1401). She continued, “Our presence and 75 our encounters with others and our selves become a curriculum [as]… artists and arts educators have the opportunity to open the cracks or gaps in their own learning and in so doing lead the way for others” (Irwin, 2007, pp. 1402-1403). Specific research investigations by Beudert (2006) have addressed the ways that pre-service art teachers can benefit from practicing introspective pedagogy in order “to understand how their own biographies, teaching philosophies, and viewpoints give shape to how they teach and who they are as pedagogues” (p. 76). As creating art is often practiced simultaneously with personal introspection, how MFA students view their own art making and teaching can be valuable and constructive in the development of their sense of self. Signature, emergent, and reflexive pedagogies Despite the fact that little attention has been paid to the pedagogical theory and methodology used within studio art courses in higher education (Pearce, 2012), what follows is literature that explains three types of pedagogy that are relevant to this research study. The study’s participants engaged in several different activities during the colloquium series that reflected activities with which they might engage as professionals in the visual arts. The term, “signature pedagogies" was defined by Lee Shulman (2005), scholar and then President of the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching. Shulman (2005) defined signature pedagogies as “types of teaching that organize the fundamental ways in which future practitioners are educated for the new professions” (p. 52). 76 The routine of pedagogical practice can “cushion the burden of higher learning… transforming the impossible into the merely difficult” (Shulman, 2005, p. 56). In his article, “Signature Pedagogies in the Professions,” Shulman explained the benefits of the routine practice of various pedagogies, and how they are of service to training professionals. The nature of repetition helps trainees to internalize practices so they “think with them" rather than “about” them (p. 57). He noted that if the use of signature pedagogies becomes a habit in the classroom, they can influence students' values and characters as “visibility and accountability inevitably raise the emotional stakes of the pedagogical encounter… [inviting] both excitement and anxiety” (p. 57). Klebesadel and Kornetsky (2009) suggested that educated artists need to have the ability to communicate, and therefore they considered the classroom critique, or the ‘crit,’ to be a signature pedagogy in the visual arts. Though it is believed to be an essential evaluation process, the critique is “messy, often subjective, highly personal, and as an outgrowth of the more traditional master-teacher model… hierarchical” (Gurung, Chick, & Haynie, 2009, p. 108). Klebesadel and Kornetsky also forwarded that, “Critique is a signature pedagogy for studio art because it teaches core disciplinary understandings of how the visual arts and artists function in society… [and] persistent effort over time and learning to use reflection and self-criticism to advance artwork are necessary abilities” (p. 111). As they develop within the field, “visual art students learn to accept, expect, and even seek [constructive criticism]” (p. 112). Barrett (1988) has also discussed ways of conducting critiques in visual arts classrooms; however, he has not addressed it using the term, signature pedagogy. Art 77 educators often consider critique in terms of “a procedure of interpretation as a procedure of building arguments on the basis of evidence in and around the artwork, and they claim that interpretations are open to counter-arguments” (p. 26). Barrett claimed that even as student work often comprised the exclusive set of objects being addressed during a visual arts critique, critique can help visual arts students to meet “broader goals of developing a critical social awareness” (p. 26). For example, this is evident when critique discussions include historical and contemporary artworks as well as artifacts of contemporary visual culture including advertising, television, and other non-art design-heavy objects. According to Barrett’s 1988 study on studio art professors, critique was “explicitly singled out as the most important aspect of their teaching” (p. 24). He has written that, “Those professors who expressed difficulty in achieving their stated goal of engaging students in dialogue about artworks might enjoy great success if they were more aware of the standard trilogy of description, interpretation, and evaluation as critical procedures” (p. 27). According to Blair (2006), who did a study about the feedback that studio art students gain from large critique sessions, “The crit allows the student an opportunity to practice and develop presentations skills and a verbal articulation of their thoughts to an audience” (p. 83). Blair (2006) addressed the ways that visual arts students are affected by the environment of large critique sessions and questioned, “How does this crucial aspect of a students’ learning experience map onto their understanding of the professional world?” (Davies & Reid, 2000 as cited in Blair, 2006, p. 92). Both Barrett and Blair 78 encourage further research on this unique educational practice that takes place within visual art classrooms. Since the nature of a classroom is social, emergent pedagogy aims to promote interactions within a group of participants as they learn about each other, and it is the second pedagogy I present that is important in my research study. The use of emergent pedagogy entails open-ended exploration and trust between collaborative members of a group who understand that what their peers contribute will be worthwhile. “A group that engages in significant interactions increases everyone’s learning opportunities” (Dalke, Cassidy, Grobstein, & Blank, 2007, p. 126). According to Dalke et al. (2007), “the emergent approach facilitates both independent and collaborative thinking” (p. 126). Emergent pedagogy requires that participants be open to “the uncontrollable” and consists of two central themes: “how we often act based on intuitive feelings, without knowing exactly what they are or what will follow from them; and how a very small local intervention can make a big difference in the classroom” (p. 118). Dalke et al. (2007) have also suggested that, “In short, the emergence perspective offers potential framework and theoretical support for a rethinking of pedagogy that begins, not with a concept of pre-planned structure… but… the interaction of autonomous elements [that] can lead to a productive self-organizing structure” (p. 114). When engaging in emergent pedagogy, Dalke et al., (2007) have argued that students and/or participants must believe that “their interactions with others will be better than what would have occurred without them” (p. 122). The participants become “creative shapers” of their own lives, which in turn, gives them a “voice” in their immediate reform of a topic or practice. “Learning objectives of 79 an emergent approach have less to do with content than with process, growth, and development” (Dalke et al., 2007, p. 125). They are prompted, "to take responsibility for their own education and the education of those around them (p. 128). Reflexive pedagogies comprise the third type of pedagogy I present and offer participants opportunities for in-depth consideration, debate, and reconsideration. For as McKenna (1999) has pointed out, “The goal of teaching perhaps should [be] to encourage [students] to engage with complex ideas” (p. 76). The concepts of reflexive pedagogy help to build participants' self-awareness. As a teacher and researcher interested in private self-expression and public communication, Bolton (1989) stated that the use of reflexive pedagogies can support visual arts instructors as they “broaden the skill-based and product-focused curriculum to enable pupils to become more critically aware and sensitive to their own work and that of others through more contemplative and reflective approaches to art making” (as cited in Bresler, 1994, p. 14). “The difference between reflexive conversation in action research and other forms of reflective conversation within practical situations is that it is systematic. It is this that merits the process of reflection being called a form of research” (James, 1999 as cited in Mason, 2005, p. 574). The pedagogical practices that I employed within my research study included many reflective exercises comprising image making, oral exchanges, and written responses. Boud, Keogh, and Walker, (1985) have described reflection as "those intellectual and affective activities in which individuals engage to explore their experiences in order to lead to new understandings and appreciation” (as cited in Boud, 80 2001, p. 10). As McKenna suggested, “I want students to have some sense that what they see as reality is always changing and evolving” (p. 77). Context of the study During the three-year plan of study that is required of MFA students within the School of Art, students must earn A’s or B’s in at least 60 units of university credit, including 30 units in an area of concentration, 12 units in art history (however, since the time of this study, the required units of credit in art history have changed to nine), and 18 units of graduate level credit in elective courses “taken outside the area of concentration, to support scholarly and professional development” (http://art.arizona.edu/students/programs-of-study/2d-studies/graduate-studies). At the time of this research study, the courses that were open to students and addressed topics related to professional development included two undergraduate courses entitled, “Gallery Management” and “Career Development for Visual Arts.” The graduate-level course that focused on the professional development of visual artists, art and visual culture educators, and art historians was offered through the Division of Art and Visual Culture Education. The course was titled, “Visual Arts Teaching in Higher Education.” This biennial course primarily focused on issues related to the process of becoming a faculty member in higher education. There were other benchmarks in the MFA program at the School of Art that were mandatory for the MFA students in this study. The following expectations were required to be accomplished chronologically and included passing a “First year MFA graduate 81 semester review” and a second year “MFA candidacy review” as well as passing an oral examination that was conducted by visual arts professors in conjunction with the student’s individual thesis exhibition artwork at the end of the MFA student's final semester. The succinct mission statement of the School of Art of this study reads (in part) as follows: “The School of Art … challenges students to think, research, produce and teach art critically with an awareness of historical context as well as contemporary practices.” The statement continues with, “Our goal is to provide the practical training they will need to be successful as arts professionals” (School of Art Mission Statement, 2011, p. 7). The statement does reflect genuine commitment on the part of the school to its students in terms of gaining a relevant education in the visual arts. At intervals of seven years, an Academic Program Review (APR) takes place within all the various disciplinary programs at the university. Separate from, but aligned with the School of Art’s NASAD evaluations and goals, the APR procedures at the School of Art have addressed on-going and specific goals that relate to Art History, Art and Visual Culture Education, and each visual arts studio medium taught within the School of Art. The final APR report not only highlights what has been accomplished over the past seven years, but also puts forth the goals that have been set for the next seven years. In 2011, the most recent report opened with the following statements: “[T]he review committee is impressed by the quality of the faculty’s scholarly and creative accomplishments and dedication to student learning… The graduate students also 82 commented that it was often the faculty that appealed them most when they chose to attend the school… [and] overall, the [First Year Experience] program is widely supported by the graduate students for the opportunities to learn to teach…” (p. 8). The APR’s external review committee made recommendations for meeting the needs of the School of Art’s MFA students. For the most part, their responses were not different from the general needs already presented in this literature review. They included “more options for interdisciplinary projects, both within the larger College of Fine Arts and the entire university community” (p. 9). Referencing “holes” in the graduate curriculum, one student was quoted in the report for having asked that there be “more professional practice courses to help them transition from student to artist [as]… current courses were ‘spotty’ or taken too late in the student's career” (p. 12). The report also addressed the School of Art’s collegial environment and the positive relationships between the Dean of the College of Fine Arts, the School of Art's Director, and the School of Art's faculty and staff members. In general, the faculty members were pleased with their working environment, and they “strongly expressed their readiness and need for open conversation across divisional ‘silos’ in an interdisciplinary, philosophical, and conceptual rethinking of the overall curriculum” (p. 9). Regarding issues related to curriculum, other input from faculty included the following responses: “Several [studio art] faculty said that the overall curriculum needs to be examined… and perhaps some revisions would be timely… A number of faculty, undergraduate, and graduate students agreed that the ‘menu’ of courses offered needs to 83 be considered and new, expanded, and updated courses added” (p. 2). Noting a lack of professional development courses, faculty members in the Division of Art and Visual Culture Education and Art History expressed specific “concern for their [students’] overall preparedness for entering into the creative work force and suggested that formal professional development coursework would be a welcomed addition to the program” (p. 9). My approach to this action research study “We cannot pursue happiness, rather, it is something that ‘ensues’ from the pursuit of a worthy goal outside of ourselves” (Unknown). To briefly recall the order of events relevant to my role in this research study, I believed my sense of self was transformed dramatically just after having graduated with my MFA degree. I was motivated to challenge, develop, and share my artist “self” with the world at large. Self as defined by Thornton (2013) stated that, “the word ‘self’ is used to represent the singular, individual and holistic identity” (p. 24). He added, “an individual ‘self’ is considered to have a number of identities, both personal and professional in nature, which contribute to the deeper sense of self” (p. 24). “The word ‘roles’ is used simply to denote more superficial social identifications that are not necessarily deeply personal, but which may impact on deeper personal identities and consequently the self” (p. 24). “Education could be seen as a powerful influence on identities and the self, and represents at least in part the culture and practices society wishes to impose on individuals” (p. 26). 84 In time, however, the facets of my life amid “real world” settings swiftly stifled my motivations for art making and nearly paralyzed my fragile identity as a professional in any field. After returning to the university to pursue my doctorate, a course that I had taken in the College of Education called, “Values, Consciousness, and Professional Practice” with Dr. Jennie Lee (2011) comprised part of the impetus for this study. In the course, Dr. Lee asked her students consider the following questions: Why am I interested in pursuing a graduate degree in this field? What kind of changes would I like to make? What drives my efforts? What are my beliefs about those I serve? Where do my beliefs originate? What is possible, impossible and why? All too often, higher education scholars and administrators are too quick to prescribe blanket solutions to higher educations’ many complex problems (while teaching students to do the same) without space to collectively examine their vision for the future and to critically question what drives that vision. (p. 6) Attempting to answer these questions, I began the process of making this research study a reality. I took to heart Dr. Lee’s claim that, “Any attempt to improve educational conditions must begin with oneself” (p. 6). So, I began to learn about and model the depth of investigation necessary for my own personal discoveries within Art and Visual Culture Education in order to study and support the needs of MFA students within the 21st Century. 85 The study: Educational participatory action research I agree with Daichendt (2010) when he suggested that teaching is an “aesthetic process” and arguably made up of “components similar to the production of art” (p. 67). In the beginning, I exercised the relationships I had at the university, having sustained quality rapport with the students, faculty members, and administrators involved in the School of Art. My multiple personal and professional affiliations with the school served me well as the process of gaining permission to access and manage this research study unfolded. According to Thornton (2013), “I believe that action research, a mode of research in which individuals or intimate groups of professionals aim to directly improve their practice and consequentially the service or value they offer to others, is ever present in the practices of the dual professional… teacher-researcher” (p. 128). My past experiences were very similar to those of this study’s participants as I was one example of a life lived beyond earning an MFA degree from this university. In 2002, at the start of my MFA education, I had expectations for the program that matched those of Annika, Jenna, and Nate, the three MFA students who had consented to participate in my research study. I wanted to prevent the circumstances Neher (2010) referenced when he wrote, “If art world success remains elusive after a few years of toil, many [art school graduates] grow discouraged and give up. And many of those who give up still must pay off that student debt, which has to be a bitter reminder of a poor degree choice” (p. 118). 86 I believed that I was “that certain kind of teacher” with a personality apt for leading MFA students in personal and professional reflective discoveries that would be personally sensitive and professionally pragmatic. Butterwick & Lawrence (as cited in Mezirow & Taylor, 2009, p. 177) have noted in support of transformative learning, a theoretical framework I introduce in the next chapter, that, “Who is speaking and who is listening are key questions that need to be carefully considered before engaging with these kinds of [reflective] activities” (p. 43). I demonstrated early on in the course I taught that I held great respect for the participants and their pursuit of their MFA degrees. “When students trust teachers, they cross new intellectual terrain with a tread that is firm and confident” (Brookfield, 1990, p. 454). I made clear my belief that whether rare, life changing, or good-humored, the choices we make as independent students in higher education have the potential to be profound. Based on the literature in this review, I was inspired to complete this research study. Supportive construction of a sense of self can impact studio art graduates’ participation within the world beyond their higher education. Given the context of today’s higher education and the work of artists, art educators, and researchers in the field, this study encompassed a close look at the significance of documenting and understanding contemporary MFA visual arts graduates’ lives. In Chapter Three, I explain the methodology used in this research study, and how I collected and analyzed the data. 87 CHAPTER THREE: METHODOLOGY In Chapter Two, I reviewed literature relevant to the background and context of this research study. In this chapter, I restate my research questions, describe the chronology of events that led up to the establishment of the study, and explain the criteria for participation in the study. I also describe the theoretical framework of the research, which is situated within the paradigms of qualitative educational participatory action research. I then present a review of the data collection methods that I employed and the processes of my data analysis. In closing this chapter, I identify the limitations of this study, ethical considerations, and the verification process that substantiated the study’s findings. Research questions The question that guided this research study is as follows: How do the experiences related to personal and professional development within an MFA visual arts program influence a graduate student’s individual sense of self? In order to address this overarching research question, I posed the following subquestions: 4. How do MFA students within a course that addresses the curricula and pedagogies of their graduate programs and their experiences as MFA students describe themselves as individuals, students, artists, teachers, and future professionals in the field of the visual arts? 88 5. How does participating in the course allow MFA students to examine and reflect upon their personal and professional growth as well as their graduate experiences? 6. How does my role as the teacher-researcher-artist of the course enable MFA students to critically examine and reflect upon their experiences and their developing sense of self as MFA students? Chronology of the events As briefly mentioned in Chapter One, this study emerged from personal reflection, inquiry into the literature, and negotiation within the research site. The following chronological narrative describes the events leading up to the beginning of the fall 2012 semester in which I taught the course. Fall semester 2010 I formally presented the ideas for my research within a yearly course required of all doctoral students and attended by the faculty members of the Division of Art and Visual Culture Education. This occasion was my first opportunity to collect critical feedback and field questions about my research interests concerning the lives of MFA graduate students. After my presentation, the questions and comments invigorated me and added to the momentum of my research. 89 Fall semester 2011 I was fortunate to be able to present my work again the following year. My research interests had evolved into wanting to help MFA graduate students develop personally and professionally. In my presentation, I introduced the syllabus I had designed for a course that I hoped to teach students in the university’s MFA program. I explained the pedagogical strategies I had incorporated in order to help students strengthen their writing skills, communicate with different audiences, pursue professional funding opportunities, and engage in critical examinations of their individual interests, goals, and creative ambitions. Once more, I responded to feedback from my peers and the faculty members. I was both supported and challenged by ideas that helped me to edit the syllabus and consider additional topics for research. During this fall semester, I had also taken a course entitled, “Values, Consciousness, and Professional Practice.” Designed and taught by Dr. Jenny Lee, a faculty member in the university’s Center for the Study of Higher Education in the College of Education, the course encouraged both electronic and in-class discussions among the students that addressed the ways our personal values overlapped with our professional goals. We also participated in short meditation sessions and conducted oneon-one interviews with class members to assess the inward-focused curriculum of the course. Throughout the semester in Dr. Lee’s class, I regularly recalled my experiences of being in art school. I realized that as an MFA student, I had participated in meditative activities and how my own sense of self had been revealed in my artwork and within 90 critiques. I also recognized that other graduate students’ personal values and beliefs were disclosed within group critiques. Having drawn these parallels between my experiences in Dr. Lee’s course with my experiences in art school, I revisited my MFA course syllabus. I revised my goals and objectives in order that the MFA students might examine their personal values and beliefs in relation to their professional goals, which might include both teaching and art making. Early spring semester 2012 The dissertation proposal I had submitted explained the idea for a research study that placed my redesigned syllabus at its heart. Entitled, “Issues of Relevance and Character in the Fine Arts,” the course was intended to investigate the relationships between the professional development of graduate students within an MFA visual arts program and their developing sense of self. I chose not to put the term "sense of self" in the course title rather I used the word “character” to reference the roles (characters) graduate students assume in art school, such as graduate student, artist, teacher, and future professional. After passing my comprehensive examination and gaining approval from the Division of Art and Visual Culture Education to move forward with my research study, I met with various studio art faculty members in the School of Art. I had established relationships with many of them during my time in the MFA program, and I wanted to gain their input about the potential of such a course within the School of Art. We talked about ways that my course curriculum would complement existing MFA curricula. 91 Late spring semester 2012 After meeting with the studio faculty members, I refined the intricacies of my proposed course. The course would meet for eight bi-weekly sessions on Thursday mornings for one hour and fifty minutes during the fall 2012 semester. Participants in the course would earn one unit of credit and would be assessed on a pass/fail basis. I chose to limit the course to 10 participants. Given the complexity of forwarding a new course through the university's administrative system, I chose to offer the course under an existing course number, which was a designated colloquium taught within the Division of Art and Visual Culture Education. At the same time I sought approval from the university’s Institutional Review Board to conduct research on this course (Appendix A). Given a delayed response from the Institutional Review Board, I was not able to advertise the course until late into the semester. To recruit graduate student participants I posted informative fliers (Appendix B) in the School of Art’s buildings and the Laboratory for Graduate Study in the Studio Arts. I also visited two graduate-level visual arts studio classes and announced the course on various university listservs. Fall semester 2012 Criteria for participating in the course required that class members were to be current full-time graduate students in the visual arts and were registered for this one-time, one-credit colloquium series. Participation in the study was voluntary; however, the course was also open to graduate students who did not want to participate in the study. 92 Those participants who consented to participate were asked to sign the universityapproved Institutional Review Board research study consent form (Appendix C). The four graduate students who attended the first colloquium session agreed to participate. One of the participants, however, did not attend after the first session as it conflicted with another course that she wished to take on the campus. The remaining three participants were enrolled in their second or third year of the three-year MFA program. The participants and myself then met every other Thursday morning during the semester in a familiar space, the classroom in the Graduate Laboratory. Research design At the heart of this study was the graduate-level colloquium series that I designed and facilitated. Within it, I aimed to provide MFA students with a platform to collaboratively engage in a process of self-discovery. The stated objectives of the colloquium series implied my goals of having each participant engage with an on-going critical examination of his or her individual sense of self and a consideration of the ways an MFA student develops personally and professionally. The teaching strategies planned for initiating these activities aimed to encourage the participants to talk about, write about, and visually express their assumptions, beliefs, practices, and values that related to their developing sense of self and to the potential of their future professional roles. As the teacher-researcher-artist of the colloquium series, I utilized an action research framework. Bogden and Biklen (1992) have written that action research with people allows them to “understand themselves better, increases their awareness of problems, and raises 93 commitment. To know the facts first-hand is to have one’s consciousness raised and dedication increased about particular issues” (p. 227). I hoped that the semester-long experience would empower the participants with fresh awareness for who they are as individuals, students, artists, teachers, and future professionals in the visual arts. Qualitative research According to Creswell (1998) qualitative research involves participatory and selfreflexive inquiry. It presumes that the learner actively constructs meaning as he or she encounters previously unexplored realities. Often, qualitative research is based on the assumption that interacting individuals construct reality in order to understand a particular social situation, event, role, group, or interaction. This form of research is particularly appropriate for determining how individuals develop over time (Evans et al., 2010; Merriam & Simpson, 2000). The researcher, when conducting qualitative research, keeps up with the study as it constantly evolves and changes. This requires that he or she write “long passages” (Creswell, 1998, p. 17), including quotes from the participants that represent the participants' different perspectives and so substantiate the study’s claims. Creswell (1998) also stated that the researcher must “engage in the complex, time-consuming process of data analysis, the ambitious task of sorting through large amounts of data and reducing them to a few themes or categories” (p. 16). Qualitative research takes place within the natural setting of the field and can generate multiple artifacts in words, images, or both. The researcher is key to the gradual, 94 emergent, theoretical, and interpretive data collection processes (Creswell 1998; Merriam & Simpson, 2000; Patton, 2002). He or she emphasizes the process of inquiry that is focused on the participants’ transformed perspectives; this illustrates what Krauss (2005) wrote when he said: “People impose order on the world perceived in an effort to construct meaning… the resulting knowledge is idiosyncratic and is purposefully constructed (p. 760)… Qualitative research has the unique goal of facilitating the meaning-making process” (p.763). As the teacher-researcher-artist in this study, I provided a “platform for life’s experiences” (Astin, 2007) and was immersed in the real lives and immediate experiences of the participants. Action research The action research paradigm is rooted in social justice and positions the researcher as a participant who facilitates a study’s collaborative interpretations of various examinations, questions, problem-solving, and theorizing (Merriam & Simpson, 2000; Pine, 2009; Schratz, 1992). “Action research can serve as an organizing strategy to get people involved and active around particular issues” (Bogdan & Biklen, 1992, p. 228). Primarily, the researcher makes possible ongoing dialogue and reflective analysis among the study’s participants (Mason, 2005; Schön, 1983) that “enables you to live your questions” (Battaglia, 1995 as cited in Pine, 2009, p. 175). Action research is learning by doing, and “full involvement in the social system being studied [is] an advantage” (Flinders & Mills, 1993, p. 96). According to Altrichter, Posch, & Somekh (1996), “it is characterized by a continuing effort to closely interlink, relate, and confront action and 95 reflection, to reflect upon one’s conscious and unconscious doing in order to develop one’s actions, and to act reflectively in order to develop one’s knowledge” (p. 6). Kemmis and McTaggart (2000) asserted that the emergent nature of action research features a spiral of self-reflective cycles that plan a change, activate the change, observe the consequences of the change, and reflect on the process prompting a new plan. “[Action research] allows people to understand themselves better, as it increases their awareness of problems, and raises commitment” (Bogdan & Biklen, 1992, p. 227). “The action research spiral is evident in the work of both artists and teachers as they plan, experiment, reflect, and act again” (Räsänen, 2005, p. 13 as cited in Mason, 2005, p. 565). Figure 1 illustrates the cyclical nature of action research. Figure 1: Action research cycles. In this study, I wanted to understand the ways in which personal and professional development occurs within graduate students in MFA programs and how the processes affect the students’ perceptions of self. Therefore, employing action research 96 methodologies allowed me to do so and contributed to my analysis and recommendations. The methodology is also “characterized by both group consensus concerning the values underlying the processes being investigated and the absence of a distinction between the practice being researched and the process of researching it” (Elliot, 1985, p. 239). Findings are immediately applicable to the participants’ practices, as “the language of action research (e.g., emancipation, participation, collaboration, actions, change, dialogue) reflects moral and political values” (Pine, 2009, p. 75). The practical approach of action research was appropriate given my intentions for this group of MFA students and myself. Action research aims to change a situation and has the potential to inform curricular theories that contribute to pedagogical practice and social improvement (Elliot, 1991; Somekh, 2008; Noffke, 2009). Aspects of both educational action research and participatory action research were involved in this research study. Educational action research. When the research participants are in a position to interpret and reflect on the potential resolutions to their educational inquiries, “The collaborative nature of the [educational] action research paradigm empowers the participants to take charge of their classroom, to improve teaching, and to advance student learning” (Pine, 2009, p. 79). Within educational action research, teacherresearchers build rapport to develop open, student-centered, supportive relationships and to relax the participants making them more inclined to offer full answers (Blair, 2010). “Ultimately, the informal discourse exchanged between teachers and students engaging in educational action research studies can reveal positive change, or “new knowledge,” 97 regarding the implementation of relevant curricular design and meaningful pedagogical transformation” (p. 355). Schön (1983) said that, “when someone reflects-in-action, he becomes a researcher in the practice context. He…constructs a new theory of the unique case” (p. 57). Stephen Corey at Teachers College, Columbia University, proposed that, “teachers should be equal partners in ‘cooperative action research’ and play a major role in the design of classroom research and in the collection and interpretation of data” (Corey as cited in Pine, 2009, p. 41). Living Educational Theory. Relevant to the social purpose of action research, Jack Whitehead’s Living Educational Theory addresses the contexts of “living” dialogue. Whitehead has posited that, “I… believe that [education] needs a theory which can adequately describe and explain the educational development of individuals” (1989, p. 51). Another aim of action research has been that of improving practice, for as Whitehead and McNiff (2011) claimed, “action research has always been understood as people taking action to improve their personal and social situations” (p. 14). They argued further that doing so “should be seen as a living form of theory… as people think about what they need to do differently in relation to others… [and] understand work as a living process” (p. 37). Not considered a spectator, the researcher is encouraged to “find practical ways of living in the direction of their educational and social values” (p. 15). We are reminded that, “Educational action research is widely seen as a methodology for real-world social change” (p. 15) and aligns with Kincheloe’s (1991) emphasis on praxis, 98 the “inseparability of theory and practice – i.e., informed practice. We must understand theoretical notions in terms of their relationship to the lived world, not simply as objects of abstract contemplation” (p. 57). Participatory action research. Participatory action research is distinct from other action research methodologies because it comprises a single community of researchers fully involved and actively participating in the collaborative production of critical knowledge aimed at social transformation. This methodology situates a study’s participants as a single team; thus, employing participatory action research within this study situated the MFA student participants and myself as a single group of research investigators. Methods within this paradigm integrate social investigation, educational work, and action (Hall, 1981; Kemmis & Wilkinson, 1998; Whitehead, Taket, & Smith, 2003), and use “knowledge within a team context to create innovation and transformation as collective action” (Burgess, 2006, p. 422). “The results of this research are immediately applied to a concrete situation with the goal of… improving the lives of people” (Pine, 2009, p. 54). According to Atweh (1998), “It is emancipatory, helping people to ‘recover, and unshackle themselves from, the constraints of irrational, unproductive, unjust, and unsatisfying social structures which limit their self development and self determination’” (p. 24 as cited in Pine, 2009, p. 53). Transformative Learning Theory. Another theoretical framework underscoring this research is that of Transformative Learning Theory. This theory has its origins in 99 Jack Mezirow’s research from the 1970’s on women who participated in college reentry programs, after having previously been subservient to men both personally and professionally. A college education or a “means to achieve” elicited major changes in the women’s lives. “These women had returned to learning in a period marked by the growing force of the women’s movement” (Newman, 2010, p. 39). According to Mezirow and Taylor (2009), Transformative Living Theory is a reconstructive theory that “seeks to establish a general, abstract, and idealized model that explains the generic structure, dimensions, and dynamics of the [adult] learning process” (p. 21). This act of transformative learning has been defined as: “[T]he process of using a prior interpretation to construe a new or revised interpretation of the meaning of one’s experience… that transforms problematic frames of reference [or, structures of assumptions and expectations,] to make them more inclusive, discriminating, reflective, open, and emotionally able to change. (Mezirow & Taylor, 2009, p. 22) Adult education scholars Butterwick and Lawrence (2007) claimed that transformative learning could occur through the arts as they offer various ways to communicate life stories and connect to others. By inviting students to write poems, take photos, and participate in popular theater that “deeply involves specific communities in identifying issues of concern” (Lawrence, 2008, p. 65; Prentki & Selman, 2000, p. 8 as cited in Mezirow, 2009, p. 36), the narratives of their lives emerged. “The outcomes of [artistic] engagements are often surprisingly profound… As facilitators of these kinds of 100 activities, we need to be ready for the unexpected and be open to feedback from participants” (Laurence & Butterwick, 2009 as cited in Mezirow, 2009, pp. 35; 44). As in participatory action research, the role of working as a single research team encourages dialogue and problem-based learning (Mesirow & Taylor, 2009). Therefore, following the principles of transformative learning theory, the participants and I not only worked together as a collaborative team, but we also considered and reflected on the complexities that make up MFA students' experiences. For as Mezirow and Taylor (2009) have written: The most personally significant transformations involve a critique of premises regarding the world and one’s self. A transformative learning experience requires that the learner make an informed and reflective decision to act or not. This decision may result in immediate action or delayed action, caused by situational constraints, or lack of information on how to act, or a reasoned reaffirmation of an existing pattern of action. (p. 22) Data collection Within action research, according to Creswell (2009), “The data collection steps include setting the boundaries for the study, collecting information… as well as establishing the protocol for recording information” (p. 178). In this study, audio recordings, written or printed documents, and visual materials were the three main categories of data types that were collected throughout the semester. Unique to action research, data collection is ongoing, iterative, and informed by the questions that emerge 101 from those researchers conducting the study. In the following section, I describe the methods and materials I used in order to routinely collect data for this study. Oral data After the MFA students consented to participate in this research study, digital audio-recordings were carried out at each of the colloquium sessions. Within these recordings, the intricacies of the participants’ verbal exchanges were captured, including variations in the tones of their voices as well as any emphasis they placed on certain words, phrases, and other audible expressions. Upon listening to the individual recordings at a later time, I was able to examine and provide a detailed account of nearly 16 hours of dialogue. My choice to record the conversations from each colloquium sessions was important because it allowed me, as a co-participant, to carry out the eye contact inherent in establishing rapport and trust with students in a classroom. Additionally, I anticipated that my actions of taking notes would not allow me time to record precise statements in their entirety; moreover, taking notes could interrupt my participation within the flow of our interactions. Perhaps just as important was my knowledge (as the researcher) that every comment was being documented. Because of this, I was able to be fully present emotionally, cognitively, and physically in all of my exchanges with the participants. As I listened to the recordings, I employed “thick description [as] the vehicle for communicating a holistic picture of the experiences” (Creswell, 2009, p. 200). 102 Written data To establish the base from which an evolution of self could begin, I asked the participants to fill out an Introductory Survey (see Appendix D). In doing so, the participants shared demographic information, described the artists that inspired their work, listed goals for their futures, and articulated what the term “sense of self” meant to them. Other written data artifacts that I collected during the semester included artist statements, book reviews, personal letters as well as electronic correspondence generated by the participants through email and the discussion blogs on the university’s D2L site. At the conclusion of the semester, I collected feedback from the participants in an Exit Survey (see Appendix E) that I asked them to fill out anonymously. Within this survey, they indicated how meaningful and/or effective the course activities had been, including our group conversations, one-on-one studio visits, various visual journal entries, and discussions about issues related to their teaching experiences. The final question asked the MFA participants to explain how the experience of having participated in the colloquium series contributed to their sense of self. Additional written artifacts were those unique to my participation in this study. They included the pre-plans for each colloquium session, revised plans for each colloquium session, and eight Reflective Worksheets (see Appendix F). I had created the worksheets and planned to use them as a means of reflecting on each colloquium session. They allowed me to routinely answer the same set of reflective questions throughout the semester. There was ample space at the end of the worksheet to record my additional thoughts. I also contributed field notes and various personal memos that recorded my 103 spontaneous observations, ideas, and feelings that were triggered both inside and outside the colloquium sessions. Visual data As the MFA graduate students participants in this study were visual artists, it was important to this study to collect visual artifacts. According to Cameron (1992), “When we work at our art, we dip into the well of our experience and scoop out images.” She claimed that art is “a language of felt experience” (p. 21). The visual data methods for this study included making digital photographs. The first four images documented the one work of art that each of the four of us used to introduce ourselves at the first colloquium session. Several less formal visual artifacts comprised scanned images of various visual journal entries. I also collected the fliers that announced the exhibitions in which all three of the MFA student participants took part during the semester as well as digital images of those actual exhibition spaces. At our last colloquium session, each of the participants shared one work of art created during the semester of this study that represented their individual growth over the semester. Digital photographs of these works that made up the last group of visual data were also collected. Data analysis Multiple components comprised the on-going data analysis of this study. Given the various data collection methods, I needed to develop an efficient way to organize the oral, written, and visual materials in order to be able to report on the processes related to 104 the analyses of the data. I applied what Creswell (2009) termed phenomenological research analysis. This analysis is focused on “significant statements, the generation of meaning units, and the development of what Moustakas (as cited in Creswell, 2009) calls an essence description” (p. 184). I designed a series of charts on which I recorded data in relation to each research sub-question, the reflection worksheets that I filled out at the conclusion of each colloquium session, and the lists that helped me keep track of the many topics that spontaneously emerged during the study. Data collection charts Creswell (1998) argued that he visualized the collection of data, "as a series of interrelated activities aimed at gathering good information to answer emerging research questions” (p. 110). In order to organize the various concepts that fueled this study’s data analysis, I first created three data summary charts related to each of the three research sub-questions. Creswell (1998) has described this structure as a matrix that conveys “the depth and multiple forms of data collection, thus suggesting the complexity… … in an information-rich case study [and] might serve the inquirer equally well in all traditions of inquiry” (p. 123). During the course of the study, I constantly adjusted each chart to reflect the themes that emerged as I collected and analyzed data throughout the semester. In Chapter Six the reader will see the charts (i.e., Data Charts One, Two and Three) without their content. The final completed charts, which reflect the systematic organization of all the study's themes, can be found in Appendix G, Appendix H, and Appendix I. 105 I listened to the audio recordings of the colloquium series curious about “What is this about?” (Creswell, 2009, p. 186), and I took notes related to emerging themes and entered data based on the participants’ orally expressed thoughts and group discussions onto the data summary charts. This form of data collection provided me with a sense of each participant as an individual contributor within the study as well as the contributions of the group as a whole. When I listened to the recordings for a second time, I heard the recordings in ways that generated new revelations for me. I wrote additional notes, thoughts, and ideas in the margins of my materials and made new lists, which were organized according to the distinct characteristics of the individual participants. My notes from listening and re-listening to the audio recordings pointed to what Greene and Caracelli (1997) have noted as “Particularity, rather than generalizability is the hallmark of qualitative research” (as cited in Creswell, 2009, p. 193). These important revelations, which determined the valuable differences between these individuals, allowed me to establish in-depth and authentic narratives about the participants, which were imperative to the analysis and interpretation of the data. Reflection worksheets At the conclusion of each colloquium session, I sat alone in order to quietly complete a reflection worksheet that I had designed before the colloquium series started. The prompts on this worksheet helped me to recall similar aspects of each colloquium session (e.g., the classroom environment, the individual demeanor of each participant and myself, elaborations of previously completed electronic discussions, a willingness to 106 collaborate) and provided a comparable framework with which to pinpoint the participants’ transformations from session to session. The worksheets also helped me to track the directions in which this action research study took the participants and myself. The original set of research questions I had proposed for this study were also listed on the worksheet. I wanted to be reminded to read the research questions at least once every other week in order to keep the big picture of this overall study in my mind. The blank space at the end of the reflection worksheet provided a large space in which I could articulate any final thoughts I had regarding each specific colloquium session. Lists A familiar habit to me, I kept several running lists throughout the semester-long study that captured ideas and additional topics that could contribute to some aspect of the colloquium series. Most of the lists were shared with the participants at the end of our study because they proved to be informative and inspiring as well as a potential future resource for them. The lists varied considerably (e.g., reading lists, quips of art school jargon, critique strategies to use with undergraduate students, and so forth). I also made lists as reminders to myself. They included ideas for the long term such as additional research studies as well as ideas for the short term, including the visuals related to specific colloquium topics that I could use to enrich our discussions. Analyzing the data in these ways assisted in my interpretations and understandings of larger meanings and allowed me to efficiently determine the interrelationships between the data I had collected. 107 Limitations of action research The limitations in this action research study represented those typical within a qualitative research design. Though I ultimately hope to contribute to MFA program curricula in general, the findings from this study represent a small group of participants that represented one university program; it was the same program in which I also earned my MFA degree seven years prior. In addition, I was the one who decided whether what the participants did or said contributed to the findings. As Henstrand (1993) has stated, I “acknowledged that the only truth I can claim in the study… is my own” (p. 95). Essentially, using action research methodology is “not a value free process” (Reason, as cited in Pine, 2009, p. 75) as “it is only through authentic collaboration and critical dialogue among the participants in an action research study that the integrity of the action research process can be maintained” (Pine, 2009, p. 78). Furthermore, according to Bresler (2006), “It is impossible to estimate the transformational (catalytic) potential of the studies or the degree to which they empower the teacher practitioners to develop and change their teaching or curricula in the long term” (p. 574). According to McNiff and Whitehead (2011), “It is important that you do not present your work as a finished product, which you now expect others to apply to their practice" (p. 172). Rather it is important to explain how "you have learned from the experience and what they could also learn… with and from you” (p. 172). 108 Ethical considerations and research concerns The proposal for this study was approved by the university’s Institutional Research Board (see Appendix A) and thus affirmed the actions taken with regard to respecting the rights, needs, values, and desires of the participants involved in this study. Informed consent forms (see Appendix C) were offered to and signed by students as they agreed to participate in this research study. Observing and documenting participants, who were asked to share potentially sensitive information about their lives, could be viewed as invasive. Bresler (2007) has put it this way, “immersion in the field; close observation of others’ behavior in private and semiprivate settings; uncovering personal beliefs, thoughts, and feelings – can also cause pain and harm” (p. 63). To help avoid causing pain and harm, electronic data materials were encrypted, names were removed from written materials, images from the study were never made public, and pseudonyms replaced the names of all participants in this study other than myself. As Bresler (2007) has reminded the research community, “Research ethics… involves caring for individual participants and for the setting, portraying them with complexity and dignity… on multiple levels – intellectual, affective, and ethical” (p. 65). This research site, a classroom in the same building as the participants’ art studios, was well removed from the activity of the School of Art. It was a site that was unobtrusive to others in the MFA program. 109 Verification process As a means to substantiate findings of this study, different verification processes needed to be conducted. Linking validity and one’s moral purposes in the world is important (Feldman, 2003). According to McNiff and Whitehead (2011), “Validity refers to testing and establishing the truth-value of a claim, or its trustworthiness” (p. 161). During the study and my data collection, I paid specific attention to qualitative validity, accuracy, and reliability in order to ensure trustworthiness, authenticity, and credibility (Creswell, 2009). Giving coherency to the findings, the strategy of triangulation connected the study’s data collection and data analysis with information gained from observations, electronic correspondence, audio recordings, visual journal entries, and open-ended survey questions. For example, I met with the participants individually to verify my descriptions of their individual participant profiles and I have emailed and offered in person, sections of this dissertation document. Given that “researchers need to provide an accurate account of the information” (Creswell, 2009, p. 91), I had the participants comment on sections of my research. The reader will gain a perspective about what actually happened in the study opposed to what should have happened given the thick descriptions of prolonged engagement with the participants are evident in the forthcoming chapters as well as direct quotes from the copious notes I had taken while listening and re-listening to each colloquium audio recording. In the next chapter, I present a series of profiles of the study’s participants. 110 CHAPTER FOUR: PARTICIPANT PROFILES In this chapter, I introduce the four research participants in this study, the MFA graduate students who voluntarily consented to participate in the research study and myself. Following the tradition of action research, I was a contributing participant in my roles as teacher, researcher, and artist. Pseudonyms (Annika, Jenna, and Nate) are used in place of the participants’ real names. Participant introductory profiles Each profile includes some of the participant’s demographic data and his or her responses to the Introductory Survey questions (see Appendix D), in conjunction with other data collected over the semester. The profiles reflect the participants’ backgrounds, personal and professional goals and choices of artistic media and sources of creative inspiration. In addition, the profiles include each participant’s specific response to one of the Introductory Survey (see Appendix D) questions: “What does sense of self mean to you?” All of the participants’ responses on the survey were submitted to me before August 23rd, the day before our first colloquium session when each of us introduced ourselves accompanied by one piece of artwork. Annika At the time of this study, Annika was a full-time second-year graduate student from Virginia who entered the MFA program in the fall semester 2011 to study photography. On the initial survey, Annika indicated that she was between 27 and 31 111 years of age. She was single and spoke about how she came from a supportive family. She shared how her father believed that earning an MFA is the “best degree you can get” and the most “honorable thing” you can do with your life (8/23/12). Some of the reasons for her choice of going to art school involved seeking out the “core of who I am, what I believe in,” and “what I am going to [visually] say” as an artist. She explained that, “I’m learning to be a better artist, and part of that is knowing myself better” (8/23/12). Part of why Annika wanted to study art was because, “I don’t feel able to do jobs that I consider meaningless” (8/23/12). Annika’s professional goals consisted of learning about the different aspects of a career in the visual arts such as working in art galleries, writing grants, and “potentially” teaching in higher education. At this point in Annika’s threeyear MFA program, she had had some teaching experience, having taught one foundations-level photography class during the previous semester as a teaching assistant. As Annika introduced herself to the class, she described her artwork that addressed issues related to family history and how memories, often connected with specific places, are handed down generationally (see Figure 2). 112 Figure 2: A photographic diptych, Annika 2012. Her artistic medium of choice had recently progressed from photography to working and experimenting with video, performance, and sculpture. Though unsure of where her new experiences would lead her, she was pleased and motivated by the opportunity to expand on her discoveries. During the semester of our colloquium series, she performed new works at “InFuse,” an on-going reading and lecture series that was organized for and by visual arts and creative writing graduate students at the university. At the beginning of the study, Annika reported that she had given up friends, dating, downtime, as well as cleaning the house and yard because she currently had different priorities. As an artist and a student, she created and obeyed strict schedules of work time in her studio. She admitted that she had often carefully considered what “counts” as work. She alleged that, “Sometimes I’ll go to Goodwill or write an art history 113 paper, but I know that if I am not regimented about [my schedule]… I won’t work” (9/6/12). With a self-condemning giggle, she added that she sometimes unwinds by watching “silly” television or movies. Playfully, Annika often referenced lively inspirations she received from watching various TedTalks; further, she acknowledged gaining motivation from studying the artistic works of Alec Soth, Bill Viola, and Robert and Shana Park Harrison. With a commitment to her new medium of video and performance art during this semester, Annika attended a weekly dance class on the mornings before each colloquium session, actively sought out opportunities to show her work, and participated in a group exhibition at the university. Part way through the semester, Annika traveled to a professional photography conference, and while there, she was offered a curatorial opportunity. Ultimately, she served as a contributing curator for a photography exhibition of works by MFA visual arts students from our university and two additional major Southwestern universities. Annika believed that the process of earning an MFA at the university was “stressful and… difficult” and accompanied by a great deal of pressure. For her, the American educational system, as a whole, was often “narrow, especially for young kids that take standardized tests” (9/20/12). She believed that this perspective had been confirmed after she read Paulo Freire’s book, Pedagogy of the Oppressed (1989). She noted that, “education should really come from the students.” She spoke about her undergraduate BFA experience at Evergreen State College, which employed an alternative assessment model for art students. This was a model that Annika thought was 114 not only personally relevant to individual students, but also more meaningful and helped students to reflect on their artistic purposes. At Evergreen, courses were pass-fail and final grades comprised of a collaboratively determined “e-val,” or written evaluation, which was negotiated between individual professors and individual students. Annika responded to the initial survey question (what does sense of self mean to you?) by answering “having a sense of self was similar to knowing who you are and having personal confidence” (8/23/12). Having once heard that MFA programs can “kill” your creativity, she registered for the colloquium series to “gain a better understanding of the MFA process and get other people’s viewpoints on it” (8/23/12). Sometimes she found herself asking why she was pursuing the MFA degree, questioning whether the process of earning the degree was really helping her art practice, and wondering how it might hinder her art making. In general, Annika appeared to believe that our seminar-like course could provide a space in which she could talk about the issues of being an MFA student. Jenna Jenna was a full-time second-year graduate student from California. She began the MFA program in the area of drawing and painting in the fall semester 2011. Jenna was between 27 and 31 years old. She expressed gratitude for her mother, an infinite “fan,” who had “held a candle for her” along her artistic path. Jenna reflected on how there was a “shift in my relationship” with her husband when she decided that she was going to commit to making art. She told him that he could either “come along or not 115 come along” on her journey to art school and being an artist. Supportive of Jenna’s path, her husband often helped her to simplify written explanations of her artwork. Jenna also admitted, “I don’t hang out with people. I used to be social and I try not to do that anymore” (8/23/12). She believed that art was something you did on your own, and she credited her mother as the reason she was continuing to endure all the challenges of art school. Jenna’s BFA experiences at the University of California Santa Cruz were not unlike those Annika experienced within her BFA program. Instead of receiving traditional letter grades, Jenna was provided with written formal evaluations from her professors each semester. She articulated that once she had earned her MFA, she hoped to be a professional studio art instructor in higher education so she could “teach collegeaged students the skills needed to help them further their artistic and technical abilities” (8/23/12). During the semester of this research study, Jenna was a TA for an undergraduate studio art class in sculpture foundations. She believed that, “It’s a good thing to teach and be taught at the same time” (8/23/12). This way, she could teach her students the constructive and meaningful things that she was learning as a student herself. Jenna’s artistic specialty was acrylic painting. She described her works as “landscapes” where she would engage color, shapes, and patterns to reflect a “sense of place,” memories, and memory of place. When she was painting in her studio, Jenna became part of a process that was intensely seeking to figure out “how multiple memories of a particular site might be portrayed in one image.” She worked to meaningfully reconcile and visually illustrate how a person can have multiple feelings and memories 116 about one particular place. Jenna introduced herself along side a triptych she had recently completed (see Figure 3). Figure 3: A triptych of acrylic paintings, Jenna 2012. When our semester started, Jenna was reading the book A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius by Dave Eggers (2000). She also noted that she found creative inspiration in the artworks of Lucian Freud, Alex Karversky, and Dan Bayles. She, like Annika, had critically considered what “counts” as work and had concluded that reading art history, taking pictures, and paying attention to the aesthetics of a brief walk were legitimate contributions to the process of growing as a visual artist. She indicated that she had signed up for the colloquium series because she was a practitioner of self-reflection and meditation. To her, the colloquium series, with its emphasis on examining personal character within a seminar-like environment, seemed to resemble courses that she felt she missed from her undergraduate degree program. Jenna preferred small introspective courses that were focused on talking and analyzing what she was doing and why. She thought that bigger and less personal classroom settings felt 117 “messy.” She admitted to having wondered, “What am I doing for the world?” (8/23/12); thus she anticipated that our colloquium series might be a safe place to critically examine informal written and oral perspectives regarding the complexities of art, and of a life as an artist. One of Jenna’s priorities was to improve the way she “talked” about her work. During the semester of the colloquium series, Jenna participated in an art exhibition at the community’s botanical gardens and in the same group show as Annika. She also helped to organize an informal group critique of the video works of other MFA students. In addition, she participated in family events including hosting her husband’s family over the Thanksgiving weekend. In her response to the initial survey question, Jenna wrote about how “a sense of self” could be considered similar to a person’s deep feelings or soul. She elaborated further by stating that her sense of self consists of “who she thinks she is, the story she tells herself about who she is, and who she wants to be” (8/23/12). Nate Nate was a full-time third-year student from New Mexico who entered the MFA program in 3-D studies during fall semester 2010. He was also between 27 and 31 years of age and had earned his BFA at the University of Tulsa. Nate was married at the time of the study, and his wife was also a graduate student at the university. Given that Nate and his wife both studied and worked on the campus, they were supportive and cognizant of each other’s schedules and different academic obligations. As he was reading Walden by Henry David Thoreau (1939), Nate was eager to share other books that were of interest to 118 him, such as The Monkeywrench Gang (1975) by Edward Abbey, Sirens of Titan (1959) by Kurt Vonnegut, and Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance by Robert Pirsig (1974). He found inspiration in the artworks by Andy Goldsworthy, Bruce Goff, and Mark Dion. Nate explained that he would engage whatever materials he believed were appropriate to the concept or idea of each of his individual artworks. He admitted, “I fear that when I’m talking to someone [about my art]… it’s too complex, I’ll lose them” (8/23/12). Engaging with this complexity, he introduced himself to class members and invited us to guess the specific social-political concerns that related to coffee consumption that he had represented in each of his three bonze-cast coffee mugs, two of which are depicted in Figure 4. Nate described his past work as having dealt with ways in which people interact with the natural world “sometimes directly but most powerfully, through the things we consume” (8/23/12). He had studied issues related to overconsumption in the United States. His primary artistic goal was to bring about an awareness for the “disconnect between the things we buy and use and the places that they come from” (8/23/12). 119 Figure 4: Bronze-cast coffee mugs, Nate 2012. Nate expressed how he thought the university’s three-year MFA program model was very strong. He explained that he had found that the first and second years in the program exposed MFA students to different and important ideas. He stated, however, that he had felt a sense of relief as he started his final year knowing he would have more opportunities to act artistically on his own including completing unfinished works from earlier in his program. The lack of sufficient time to balance the responsibilities and expectations of being both a graduate student and a TA was the main reason for why some of his art works were incomplete. He said that sometimes he simply needed to “sit” with his works of art for a while, and that, “criticism of a work one year ends up being awesome to you later” (8/23/12). During the semester of this research study, Nate’s artwork was in a two-person exhibition on the campus. He also openly discussed the issues he was encountering with the development of his final thesis exhibition project. He had started a Facebook page 120 entitled, “Art Show Share,” intending that his MFA peers could recommend mediaappropriate shows to one another. Nate indicated his frustration with some of his MFA student peers whom he believed had one reason to earn an MFA degree. He guessed that they “just want the piece of paper to get a job teaching [in the studio arts in higher education]” (8/23/12). He considered this practice a means of “watering down” the MFA degree itself and believed it devalued what his MFA degree was going to mean. Nate followed what he called a “hit-or-miss” schedule for his studio work. He claimed that he needed a whole day to be truly productive in his studio and explained the way he found “little things” to do on the partial days in his studio. During the semester of the colloquium series, Nate was teaching one undergraduate 3-D foundations studio art class entitled, “Space,” a class he had taught twice before. Nate had revealed, “That’s one of the reasons I’m going to grad school, to be a teacher. I really enjoy the process of teaching as it is very much intertwined with my art-making” (9/6/12). During our semester, Nate also sought out posting for visual arts teaching positions in higher education and regularly approached his instructors for advice regarding job applications. Nate said that he registered for the colloquium course partly because he considered himself “self-reflexive, in general,” and partly because he was “skeptical of everything in a healthy way” (9/6/12). In the survey response Nate wrote that “selftheories are fluid” and defined sense of self as, “A series of thoughts, ideas, concepts that are either picked from other sources or created by you that you relate to, agree with, and live by. It also involves a healthy amount of confidence in the validity of these decisions 121 mixed with just a bit of skepticism that, well, you could be wrong” (8/23/13). Nate also felt that the course would expose him to topics that would “literally not occur to me” (8/23/12). Barbara In my roles as teacher, researcher, and artist, I was an active participant in this study. I am a native of the Midwest and had been living in the Southwest for nearly 12 years. I had been brought up in a family of teachers, many of whom were art enthusiasts and supported the creative aspirations in their communities. My life-partner is a photographer and employed at the same university in which this study took place. Prior to moving to the Southwest, I had spent eight years teaching in middle schools and high schools. I had earned a BFA degree at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago and held an MFA degree at the university in which this study took place. The semester that I facilitated the colloquium series, I was also teaching a contemporary art survey course and an Art and Visual Culture Education course for pre-service art educators. When it was my turn to introduce myself to the MFA participants, I explained how two different artists had inspired my early commitment to study the visual arts. 122 Figure 5: Just a Thought, Barbara 2008. I shared with the participants that the poetry written by spoken-word artist and punk singer, Henry Rollins, in conjunction with the works of Agnes Martin, who was known in part for her large color-field paintings, had peeked my curiosity many years ago. Considering the opposing extremes that I perceived between the nature of and inspiration for these different types of art triggered a new depth to my interests in studying the creative arts. I described this early artwork (see Figure 5) as one that reflects my personal efforts to control chaos. The participants seemed to agree with me that the process of art making, in our respective mediums, is a healthy reprieve from our multi-faceted and densely scheduled lives. In the next chapter, I explain the general structure of each colloquium session and the bi-weekly activities that took place within them. 123 CHAPTER FIVE: COLLOQUIUM SERIES PROFILE In this chapter, I present a narrative about the eight sessions that comprised the course, “Issues of Relevance and Character in the Fine Arts.” I discuss how the course progressed and transformed over the 15-week semester. The narrative is based primarily on my written pre-planned teaching notes, class memos, and follow-up Reflection Worksheets (see Appendix F), and notes taken from the audio recordings. This chapter concludes with highlights from the final reflection I wrote after the last colloquium session while sitting quietly and unaccompanied in our classroom, a space turned quiet and darkened by the semester’s closure. Colloquium series The course met every other week in a classroom at the Graduate Studio Art Laboratory building situated a couple blocks away from the School of Art’s main building. The six-year old studio laboratory building was an unhurried place where all the visual arts graduate students at the university were provided secure individual studio work spaces, access to a wood and a metal shop, and two large open areas for social gatherings, critiques, and small exhibitions. With space appropriate for 40 people, our classroom offered plenty of room to spread out our book bags, a scooter helmet, art supplies, a coffee machine (brought from home), snacks, and artworks made by class members. The four of us sat comfortably at two standard classroom tables that we had pushed together and took up one corner of the room (see Figure 6). 124 Figure 6: The classroom setting for the colloquium series. Preparation Two weeks before our first colloquium session, I emailed the Introductory Survey (see Appendix D) to the students who had officially registered for my course. Some questions on the survey were demographic in nature, others sought personal philosophical perspectives, and others were specifically intended to help me understand their individual artistic preferences such as their inspirational sources and media of specialty. Most informative were the responses from questions that asked the participants about their future goals, their understandings of what it means to have a “sense of self,” and their interpretations of specific pieces of literature and selected findings from another survey. For example, one question asked students to respond to a finding from the 2011 Strategic National Arts Alumni Project (SNAAP): “The findings from this study indicate 125 that arts training institutions must focus on preparing their graduates for a life of enterprise, self-employment and entrepreneurship” (SNAAP, 2011, p. 15). The MFA students’ answers to a total of 15 survey questions provided me with a small peek into the backgrounds of the future participants in this study. Keeping in mind the MFA students’ survey feedback, I solidified the plans for our first colloquium session. The teaching points and introductory handouts I had produced were extensive and dense. Teaching points on my notes for the day were denoted with bullet points, check marks, large print, bold print, parentheses, quotation marks, italics, blue ink, black ink, asterisks, arrows, and text boxes, as well as several headings including “announcements,” “optional readings,” and “purpose of the semester.” At the top of my teaching notes, I had listed my research sub-questions to help keep me focused. What followed on the page was a list of teaching supplies that had been edited several times and a colorful list of discussion prompts related to the colloquium series’ goals and objectives. I had prepared a blank copy of my original Data Collection Chart (see Appendix L) in the event that I wanted to “catch” and organize data right away. I wanted to begin building rapport with my new students immediately in the hope that they would eventually become participants in my study. To do so, I had written out a reminder on my teaching notes that read: “A conversation that begins with ideas is not as easy to relax into as one that begins with personal experiences. Instead of ‘what do you think of the topic?’ ask ‘Tell me a story about the topic.’ It’s unlikely a story can be wrong” (Palmer, Zajonc, & Scribner, 2010, p. 48). 126 Colloquium one, August 23, 2012 Because of overlapping teaching obligations the morning of the first colloquium, I walked briskly between the building where I taught an undergraduate contemporary art survey course and the classroom for my course. I was energized, excited, and acutely aware of the poignant character switch I was making along the way. I replaced the formal demeanor I used when lecturing to undergraduates with the casual persona I wanted to engage with my new class of MFA graduate students. I realized that I was nervous and my shoulders were tense as I traversed several blocks. My nervousness was exacerbated by the knowledge that my study had yet to receive IRB approval from the university administration. During my walk, I telephoned the IRB office and a staff member confirmed that I had permission to conduct my study. Upon my arrival at the studio laboratory building, the classroom was already set up for small group discussions because I had arranged the furniture early that morning when I first arrived on campus. The room was uncomfortably warm. A supervisor in the building remedied the lingering summer heat, and I turned on all the classroom lights to brighten the single-windowed classroom on this rare rainy day. The class members arrived and I introduced myself, read the course description from the course syllabus (see Appendix J), and left the students with my advisor, the study’s “third party” who further explained the nature of my study and collected signed consent forms. Several minutes later, the intricate plans I had designed for colloquium one commenced. As the class period progressed, I made notes in the margins. Next to one of my check marks, I wrote: “felt like this is too ‘study-like’.” Another note read “perhaps 127 too mushy; I already made that point.” I talked with students who were now participants in my study about the course and explained the written, oral, electronic, and visual exchanges that we could anticipate during the semester. I provided each participant with a new orange-colored 6” x 6” x ¾” sketchbook and described the sketchbooks as “visual journals” that we would employ to share ideas. I suggested that the journals be a place for the participants to keep a “bird’s-eye view on our semester” as well as for their reflective engagements that would take place during our action research journey. Though strangers at this point, I disclosed details about my background in the visual arts and my experiences as an art educator. Since I had recently been in their shoes, I shared how my three years as an MFA graduate student had been enlightening, intellectually stimulating, and empowering. I also wanted the participants to understand the legitimacy of my various roles as a teacher, researcher, artist, and participant within the colloquium series and research study. I suggested that we set ground rules that established confidential and respectful exchanges. My intentions were to set a tone for our semester that consisted of trust, confidence building, creative investigation, and respect for visual arts educators in higher education, visual arts students, and the MFA degree itself. Energy among our group escalated as we each took the time to introduce ourselves using one work of our own art to assist in doing so. The conversation continued as each of us shared what our art was about. I encouraged them to try to respond with an “elevator answer,” or a succinct explanation summarizing their work that would satisfy a stranger’s curiosity while riding between floors in an elevator. Our elaborate 128 introductions set off a discussion about why each of them had decided to pursue earning an MFA degree, and why each of the MFA students had chosen to register for the colloquium series. Given their responses, I added four books to the optional reading list (see Appendix K) including Thich Nhat Hanh’s (1976) The Miracle of Mindfulness. After such thoughtful opening conversations, referring to my bullet-pointed lists seemed tedious and almost obstructive. I was already looking forward to their assistance in planning future aspects of our class. I mentioned the optional readings list and issued the visual journal assignment that asked participants to create a visual educational autobiography or a visual artistic autobiography. The colloquium ended after I asked that they participate with the upcoming electronic discussion prompt: “Within the context of graduate studio art higher education, or MFA programs as you know them, please contribute to a definition or understanding of ‘the transformative power of true art education’” (Palmer, Zajonc, & Scribner, 2010, p. 57). After the participants had left the classroom, I made a note next to one of my prepared lists that read, “Completely forgot!” On my colloquium Reflection Worksheet (see Appendix F), I wrote about being grateful for having audio-recorded the colloquium session, as I had placed nothing into my data collection chart. I wrote out a reminder to concentrate on “character, consciousness, and sense of self.” More importantly, however, I wrote, “we established each of our ‘selves’ today… [and] now have a baseline to support going forward.” 129 Colloquium two, September 6, 2012 During the two weeks leading up to colloquium two, I started another set of lists; each one contained a header with the pseudonym I had chosen for each participant. Using numbers to indicate these individuals as I had originally intended felt cold as I already began to appreciate each individual as unique. After having arranged the classroom tables for small group discussion, I spread out three individual lists in order to note when ideas came to mind that seemed of likely interest to each individual participant. For example, I noted that Jenna might appreciate the subject matter of my old black and white photographs. Given Nate’s interest in science and specifically, Heisenberg’s Uncertainty Principle, I thought he might enjoy the 2004 film, What the Bleep do we Know? Each list grew as I found out more about the participants. I had reread my old reflection responses to the “Values, Consciousness, and Professional Practice” course. Inundated with thoughts, I considered asking the participants questions like, “where do you see yourself in five years?” and “who are your heroes?” I wondered about what they would write in a letter to their “artist” self and about how they took care of themselves physically each day. I added another book to our reading list, Integrative Learning and Action: A call to Wholeness by Susan Awbrey (2006). I had also wondered about practicing free writing as part of the discussion in the next colloquium session. In a separate memo, I wrote out questions that I thought would be appropriate to ask participants at the end of our semester, such as what topics they would find meaningful in a course of this nature. Inundated with pedagogical ideas that could carry 130 the course in myriad directions, I placed a “post-it” note in my class binder to remind me of the overall purpose for the decisions I was making. Listing the stages of action research, the note read, “planning, acting, observing, reflecting, revising.” The morning of colloquium two, I was running short on time and ended up parking my car in one of the university garages in order to arrive at my undergraduate survey course on time. I had to miss my usual and pleasurable daily walk to campus from a nearby neighborhood in which I had parked. As participants slowly filtered into the classroom, I hid my awkward nerves and fulfilled a self-imposed requirement to be outwardly friendly and offer up small talk. With high expectations for myself, and every aspect of this project, I was nervous and did not feel well enough prepared for the session. However, that changed immediately as engaging conversations commenced once again. As I had done for colloquium one, I listed my research questions at the top of my teaching notes and began our colloquium session with an extended conversation about our mutual enthusiasm for cats and other animals. Shortly, we moved on to address our D2L discussion question about “transformative education.” This D2L exchange had triggered questions about values and beliefs; however, it became clear during this session that participants preferred to address thought-provoking questions in person rather than doing so electronically. Going forward from this early point of our semester, our D2L electronic exchanges began to fade out. Colloquium two simmered with talk about the stress involved with leading critiques as a TA, as well as participating in critiques as a student. Our conversation 131 roamed from idea to idea within lively brainstorming. Wanting to experiment with my new pedagogical idea to employ free-writing within a class discussion with the participants, after several minutes, I broke the flow of conversation in order to have participants continue their brainstorming in writing. A sharp contrast to the energy in our oral participation, the room’s atmosphere soon lost its luster as words were silently going down on paper. During our next discussion, we looked at the participants’ brainstorming and looked at their visual educational or artistic autobiography. The following is the series of images that Nate shared to express his artistic autobiography (see Figure 7). Figure 7: An artistic autobiography, Nate 2012. At the end of the session, I asked the participants to submit their individual artist statements to our D2L drop box and to consider reading an excerpt I had posted from the text by Awbrey. The essay was written by Jon Kabot-Zinn (2006) and entitled, “Wherever You Go, There You are: Living Your Life as If It Really Matters.” 132 Additionally, the participants were asked to create a visual journal entry about what it is that specifically motivates their art making. It read: Think about your personal motivations. What drives your decisions and choices? Who inspires you? Where do most of your creative ideas come from? What upsets you? Why are you doing what you’re doing (or not doing)? What thoughts come to mind when you first wake up in the morning? Create a visual response for the following: A reflection about the (re)sources for your artistic research and/or creative motivation. (9/6/12) To close, I mentioned the on-line discussion prompt that asked them to help design the “Ultimate MFA Course.” My personal reflection about this session contained comments about how the stories accompanying the visual autobiographies were familiar and how they represented what I had once said or felt as an MFA student. I noted a curious thought about a question I wanted to ask the participants: “No, really, how are you going to place yourself out there [in the real world]? Meaningfully.” Off to the side, I noted that perhaps I was silently writing out this question so emphatically because, deep down, I wanted to know my answer to the same question. How was I going to put myself out there after I graduated? My brainstorming continued along with my reflection notes. I wanted to engage the participants in a constructive conversation about pedagogy at our next colloquium. I wanted to borrow their visual journals so that I could spend more time with their thoughtful entries. I wanted to begin a discussion having asked the participants what they 133 believed was the difference between an artist in the 21st century and an artist in the 21st century with an MFA degree. Colloquium three, September 20, 2012 My preplanned teaching notes were getting shorter. I seemed to have become more comfortable with the organic flow of conversation at each colloquium. Even though I continued to be delightfully nervous as each new session approached, I needed less support in terms of talking points and teacher notes. I had noted on my Reflection Worksheet, I had felt a degree of “confidence in my prepared activities today.” I continued to excuse the consistent adrenaline in my gut, acknowledging how profoundly I cared for every aspect involved with this research. On my way to the university that day, having packed up my coffee maker and different visuals to share, I realized that I had more ideas for discussions running through my mind than were possible to meaningfully explore and analyze during our short semester. More importantly, I was concerned by the participants’ reactions to a D2L prompt that I had put up on-line shortly after session two. I had asked them to start thinking about how they would design the “Ultimate MFA Course.” Each of the participants had emailed me about how difficult they found this activity. We started class with coffee, tea, and laughter while watching the People’s Choice Winner from the 2012 Walker Art Center Cat Film Festival, Henri. With our mutual appreciation for stories about animals, this video was a playful way to open another session of focused critical engagements. The opening discussion question asked 134 the participants what they had learned about themselves during the last two weeks. During this session, I heard about how they had met outside of class to look at one another’s work-in-progress. They had also offered to teach each other new things, such as how to make digital mock-ups and prepare a clean empty space to mount photographs for an upcoming candidacy review. Toward the end of the session I brought up the D2L prompt to design what they considered to be the “Ultimate MFA course.” I apologized for having issued the difficult prompt; however, when we began to explore the topic as a group, the participants energetically worked together to combine and develop ideas. So much so, that we did not finish the course design during class time. As a group, we decided that we would think about the course on our own and bring our ideas to the next colloquium. When I reflected on this session, I noted an idea that I wanted to conduct an informal survey with the participants about what we have talked about during our semester, and discuss what topics they believed would be valuable to cover during the rest of the semester. After we left the classroom near the end of colloquium session three, we had the once-in-a-life opportunity to watch a low-flying aircraft fly over our campus. It was carrying a retired Space Shuttle to its new home in Los Angeles. Though it meant cutting our colloquium session short, we wanted to watch this tribute to retired astronaut Mark Kelley and his wife, Gabrielle Giffords, the former Congresswoman who was gravely injured in a local shooting just over two years prior. 135 Colloquium four, October 4, 2012 The pre-planned notes that I typed up for colloquium four were a mere skeleton compared to those I had prepared for the first three sessions. I had decided to take a more spontaneous approach to addressing my teaching points. My notes comprised comments about helping students prepare for their upcoming university candidacy reviews, as well as visiting each of the participant’s classrooms while they were teaching their undergraduate classes. I had written down more ideas for our reading list including Egan’s (2005) An Imaginative Approach to Teaching and an excerpt from Chickering’s (2006) Encouraging Authenticity and Spirituality in Higher Education that I had read as part of my “values” course. On a brightly colored post-it note, I had recorded a reminder to ask the participants to look at the reading list and offer additional suggestions. During the session, the participants recommended an article by Harold Bloom (1973) entitled, “The Anxiety of Influence.” In one margin of my sheet of sporadic teaching notes, I had penciled in a reminder to re-read the original “rationale” that I had proposed for this study. In another margin, there was a list within which I had recorded what I believed to have been the most productive teaching strategies that I had engaged with the participants so far. The randomly placed post-it notes, reminders, ideas, and thoughts scattered throughout my teaching plans made for a confusing document to reference during the colloquium session. It should be noted, however, that despite this collection of “thoughts,” I still kept the list of action research steps - planning, acting, observing, reflecting, and revising - in a prominent place in my teaching notes. 136 At this point in the semester, we were addressing issues related to professional development and the participants’ roles as teaching assistants in the School of Art’s First Year Experience program. We looked at handouts related to how to create a professional teaching portfolio and critique ideas. We examined the goals and assessment measures that the participants had developed for the students in their courses. These discussions led to thinking about how to foster innovation in the classroom and how the MFA student participants could help their undergraduate students become empowered by their ideas and resourceful in their research and use of materials. On D2L, I had posted information of which we discussed relating to current visual arts related studies and initiatives happening at colleges and universities around the country. They included a 2011 study conducted through Vanderbilt University’s Curb Center for Art, Enterprise, and Public Policy that connected art making and issues related to personal happiness, and the research experiments carried in 2010 by ArtsEngine at The University of Michigan, in which visual arts practices had been integrated other campus disciplines. The exchanges this colloquium session enveloped provided the impetus for ongoing conversations, which gained momentum as the semester progressed and contributed to the cycles of action research. At times our colloquium talks took on a more personal nature. I recommended to all the participants that they gain as much as possible from the experience of earning their MFA degree, including relationships with their peers, their professors, their undergraduate students. And most importantly, I recommended that they should be as open as possible to the insights gained from examining their own selves. This 137 underscored that I was doing my best to model, the belief that knowing yourself is a prerequisite for one’s future choices. I was anxious to schedule individual studio visits to learn more about their individual bodies of work. In the meantime, I developed an activity for the participants that asked them to consider a potential conversation that might happen between their self and their artist self. I asked the participants to think about what they discuss with their artist self and then write a letter that would initiate this imaginary correspondence. The visual journal engagement I presented in colloquium session four was to choose one step of their individual artistic process and create an image in their visual journals that would illustrate an explanation that would help them to describe that unique step at our next colloquium session. Along with these mini-presentations, I suggested that the discussion topics for session five relate to ways to learn to communicate effectively with professors and other visual arts professionals. After colloquium four, I wrote out my reflections on the session just as I had done after the previous sessions. One of the questions on the Reflection Worksheet asked: “To what extent did participants influence today’s colloquium pedagogy?” For the fourth time, I responded “not very.” However, as the findings will indicate, nearly every class had been planned around the participants’ ideas, feedback, and questions. Colloquium five, October 18, 2012 I arrived at colloquium five having left my undergraduate contemporary art survey class to take its midterm exam under the supervision of two university-assigned 138 graders. I had pre-planned various activities for our colloquiums session and had written them in an abbreviated list. The opening questions prompting the day’s discussion asked: “In what ways has your sense of self changed since beginning the MFA program? And, what classroom or other academic experiences prompted those changes?” (10/18/12). We also shared our visual journal responses while explaining the steps we individually practiced as part of our personal art-making processes. We accomplished only half of the activities I had planned for the day’s session. They included using class time for participants to read one another’s letters to their artist selves and to share excerpts from the books they borrowed during two previous sessions, including On Longing by Susan Stewart (1984), On Creativity by David Bohm (2000), and Art and Fear by Bayles and Orland (1993). Instead we engaged in a sustained discussion about practicing communication skills, both written and oral, to help prepare Annika and Jenna for the critique component of their approaching candidacy reviews. I had also asked each participant to spend a few minutes writing about and briefly describing each of the other two participants’ artwork. While they did so, I read through each of their artist statements that I had collected through our course’s university D2L site, and circled what I perceived to be the most important terms, or buzzwords. We shared both the peer-reviews and the buzzword lists to determine what each participant had most powerfully emphasized in, or communicated through writing about their artwork. After this activity, we addressed a list of questions that I had drawn up in order to help the participants while developing artist statements (see Appendix K). Sometimes 139 stumped and sometimes accompanied by a giggle, the participants thoughtfully answered each of my questions in their visual journals and began to identify topics that might be appropriate to address in an artist statement. Ultimately, the intent of these pedagogical engagements in this session was to further develop their communication skills. In closing, I reminded participants about how, “Today’s [session had focused on] being able to talk clearly about your work and thinking through critique questions before you [meet with] your committee members” (10/18/12). I mentioned that we had only ten minutes left in our session and Annika responded, “Wow, that went by fast” (10/18/12). Her comment made me smile as I shared the options for the direction of our next colloquium session and brought up the still unfinished “Ultimate MFA Course” class project. We added a few curricular ideas that had emerged from the day’s activities, as we needed to round out the fictitious syllabus. Nate felt particularly strongly about having the “Ultimate MFA Course” require that students experiment with different materials. We laughed when he said, for example, “students would have to try using ‘sticks and sand’ or plaster if you’re a painter… In other words, you’re trying something new with your media” (10/18/12). Annika asked if it were possible for us to re-schedule our next colloquium date as it conflicted with her desire to attend a photography conference. As a group, we had decided that having all four of us present at each colloquium session was important; therefore we decided to wait three weeks instead of two before colloqium six. I closed the session by reading the seven traits of an artist that are taught in art school, yet almost always not written down as part of a lesson objective, according to the 140 article, “Art for our Sake, the traits that comprised perseverance, innovation, and skill acquisition” (Winner & Hetland, 2008). I noted on my Reflection Worksheet (see Appendix F) how I had been impressed with the participants’ commitment to attendance, dedication to on-going conversations, and respect and honesty amongst each other. I also made a note about my admiration for their camaraderie. Colloquium six, November 8, 2012 As usual, prior to this colloquium, I had considered many pedagogical activities while planning for our discussions. Our lists of ideas and interests had expanded greatly, and I was curious about the perspectives the participants might have had on the experiences of our course. I further wondered if our sessions were emotionally draining or if they found them meaningful. I wanted to know what was running through their heads as they walked out of our sessions as well as what they shared with peers, if anything, regarding what it was like to participate in the colloquium series. Looking back, one of the post-it notes stuck next to this session’s teaching plans indicated that, in fact, these questions were never asked out loud. When I arrived for this session, the classroom was freezing. I was already uncomfortable because three weeks had passed since our last session, and I felt disconnected from the participants. When I shared that fact, Nate said, “me too” and then he adjusted the room’s temperature by fiddling with a wire tool he had made to use when hacking into the university-secured controls in the thermostat box. Consequently, my opening question was an attempt to reconnect the curriculum of our colloquium series 141 with the participants’ lives. I asked, “In the last three weeks, what parts of this class, if any, came to mind for whatever reason?” During this session, we continued with the theme of communicating effectively about our artwork. We did an exercise in which each participant presented a description of their artwork to a different imaginary audience. We also discussed the assumptions the participants held about the MFA program at this university prior to their admittance. After this, we explored various ways to engage undergraduates during a critique as an instructional method in the art room, what Blair (2007) referred to as a form of “signature pedagogy” (Shulman, 2006; Gurung, Chick, & Haynie, 2009). We suggested ways in which to make critiques personally meaningful and professionally relevant. In addition, we briefly talked about issues related to grant writing and submitting work for exhibition proposals, art fairs, and museum shows. We addressed different strategies that we had learned in terms of pricing our artwork to sell. We also practiced answering potential interview questions using “layman’s” terms in order to practice our explanations for our artistic goals to the general public. Finally, I had coordinated individual studio visits with each of the participants. Colloquium seven, November 15, 2012 By now, I had amassed a huge pile of notes related to this research study, and each colloquium session proved to be as intense as the previous one. Colloquium seven began 30 minutes later than usual because I was also hosting a guest artist in my early morning survey course with undergraduate students. Routinely, I had prepared the 142 classroom well before our colloquium sessions began and organized our corner space for small group discussion. However, because of my commitment in the survey course, I had not done so this time. I opened this session by inviting the participants to make a list of “everything that needs to happen by the time the semester ends.” Then, I suggested that they make a second list that contained “everything you want to have happen before the semester ends” (11/8/12). We discussed the differences between our lists and reflected on how ideally, in a perfect world, our needs and wants would be the same. Other plans for the day’s session included sharing the letters the participants had written to their artist selves and exchanging professional suggestions for writing a studio art instructor’s teaching philosophy. We found ourselves in a discussion about the pedagogies that are often used within studio art classes and shared certain teaching strategies that might be successful when working within undergraduate visual art courses. The conversation extended into an evaluation of the strategies that the participants had determined to be most meaningful within their own experiences as a student. In the end, this conversation among the participants, one that hashed out reasons for various pedagogical successes and failures, was believed to be extremely informative and helpful. Annika asked that we spend additional time at our next colloquium session talking in depth about studio art pedagogies. Of course, I agreed. 143 The final visual journal activity for the semester was to create an image that illustrated their combined roles as an artist and as a teacher. I also said that we would finish designing the curriculum for the “Ultimate MFA Course” during our final session. After colloquium seven, I filled out my Reflection Worksheet observing, “I have noticed that when we talk about leading a classroom or working with studio art students in general, the participants are particularly passionate in their responses and anxious to share how they have handled different circumstances in their studio classrooms” (11/8/12). As my thoughts continued, I wrote down that I had had a particularly challenging time during this session, as I was very tired and unfocused. In the modest reflective writing I did do, I reprimanded myself, “this is an intense course and I would be smart to prepare with better sleep each time we meet” (11/8/12). I wrote out a reminder to myself regarding colloquium session eight. It suggested that I create an exit survey, which would ask the participants to provide feedback specific to the different activities we did as part of our class. I also wrote, “I have so many random thoughts, memos, and ideas, and I have struggled to convert them all into productive activities.” I packed up my day’s Reflection Worksheet exclaiming, “I’m astoundingly exhausted today.” Colloquium eight, November 29, 2012 My notes for colloquium eight were more detailed like those early in the semester. I had typed out several unanswered questions that emerged from having consolidated the comments that I had made on my Reflection Worksheets. It was indeed a struggle to 144 condense the semester’s countless notes, memos, and lists in order to decide what topics were the most inspiring and relevant to address on the last day of our course. Shortly after the participants arrived, I sent them out to their individual studios to select one work of art and bring it back to our classroom. The piece had to represent who they had become as a result of the experiences from all of their coursework during the 2012 fall semester. I asked that they take into account various academic, personal, professional, and artistic challenges. Soon, the participants returned with their artwork and we had a lively discussion. After reflecting on the participants’ artworks as well as the progress of our semester, we spent several minutes talking about pedagogy and our perceived responsibilities as studio art educators. We discussed more strategies that had been successful with the students in our individual classrooms as well as the pedagogies that worked well for the MFA student participants as students themselves. We revisited the collaborative syllabus for the “Ultimate MFA Course.” Given time restraints, we were unable to write out the completed course design on paper. To remedy this, I assured the participants that I would transcribe sections of our discussions and insert them into our syllabus template as they pertained to our course curriculum, pedagogies, and other “ultimate course” opportunities we had planned. As a group we finished our colloquium series with a frank, lively, honest, and motivating conversation about the course. I listened intensely as the participants shared what aspects of the course they were most grateful for, as well as took to heart what they believed could make the course stronger. I shared with them some of the ideas I had 145 noted in the event that I had the opportunity to teach the course again and asked them if they would recommend the course to their peers. The reflective and reciprocal discussion was extensive, and is described in more detail in Chapter Six. My final reflection “Sitting in this quiet room, the site of my colloquium series and dissertation research project, I shake my head. I hate to say goodbye to the energy of this experience. I have loved digging into what makes artists tick and reasons for why they make the choices that they do” (11/29/12). I recalled my experience of being an MFA student years ago more clearly and in doing so I better appreciated the multiple facets of those three formative years. I wrote, “Today, I reflect on how teaching this colloquium series has changed me… I have learned that [having an MFA degree] means a lot of things” and addressed the empty classroom as I said aloud: “Thanks for my MFA experiences of pain, escape, passion, goofiness, frustration, foul anger, desperation, satisfaction, and accomplishment.” I smiled to myself as I wrote “like the fruit of a screw-bean mesquite tree with multiple tendrils, quirky twists, and oddities, I have assembled into an interesting whole being comprised of input from many characters.” At the end of my written thoughts that day, I recorded how, “I love it here. I come to life in this space of indescribable potential” (11/29/12). This chapter has described the basic structure and context of the course, “Issues of Relevance and Character in the Fine Arts.” In the next chapter, I present the findings as well as analyze the findings of this study. 146 CHAPTER SIX: DATA ANALYSIS In the two previous chapters, I began to narrow down this study’s data and, in doing so, provided profiles of each of the participants and a description of the colloquium series, “Issues of Relevance and Character in the Fine Arts.” In this chapter, I describe the ways in which I organized and analyzed the data according to a series of categories (Creswell, 2009). I then present the findings from the study in relation to the three research sub-questions. Given the nature of action research, the findings are supported by data that I determined to be of value and representative of the participants’ contributions within the study (Bogdan & Biklen, 1992; Whitehead & McNiff, 2010). Research questions The question that guided this research study was: How do the experiences related to personal and professional development within an MFA visual arts program influence a graduate student’s individual sense of self? In order to address this overarching research question, I posed the following subquestions: 7. How do MFA students within a course that addresses the curricula and pedagogies of their graduate programs and their experiences as MFA students describe themselves as individuals, students, artists, teachers, and future professionals in the field of the visual arts? 8. How does participating in the course allow MFA students to examine and reflect upon their personal and professional growth as well as their graduate experiences? 147 9. How does my role as the teacher-researcher-artist of the course enable MFA students to critically examine and reflect upon their experiences and their developing sense of self as MFA students? Data display The oral, written, and visual data collected for this study were sorted on an ongoing basis and organized into three data summary charts. These comprehensive Completed Data Charts can be found in Appendix G, Appendix H, and Appendix I. In the section that follows, I have chosen to include the three data summary charts with no contents in order to illustrate how the data were categorized. Each chart represented data that I determined were associated with each of the three research sub-questions. The structure of these charts provided space for an orderly collection of rich and complex qualitative data (Carr & Kemmis, 1986; Creswell, 1998; Denzin & Lincoln, 2003; Guba & Lincoln, 1994). In each chart, the sub-question is positioned in the upper left corner. At the top of each of the columns, the names for the different categories of data (oral, written, and visual) are listed with their corresponding collection methods (e.g., surveys, artist statements, electronic communication). Specific groupings of information (e.g., small group reflections, educational experiences, my influence as the teacher-researcherartist) make up the horizontal rows in each chart. It should be noted that within all of the data charts, the colors selected to indicate each of the participants and corresponding data are consistent. 148 Research findings The subsequent sections of this chapter report on the findings that emerged from my analysis of the data. The findings are presented after I restate each of the three research sub-questions, and they comprise selected narratives, which include the voices of all or some of the participants. It should be noted that when I use the word participants, I am referring to the three MFA graduate student participants. In order to include my participation, I have chosen to write in the first person. Research sub-question one The first research sub-question asked, “How do MFA students within a course that addresses the curricula and pedagogies of their graduate programs and their experiences as MFA students describe themselves as individuals, students, artists, teachers, and future professionals in the field of the visual arts?” Data Chart One (see Figure 8) illustrates how the data were organized; please see Appendix G for Completed Data Chart One. MFA students in a course that addresses the curricula and pedagogies of their graduate programs and their experiences as MFA students describe themselves as: Annika Individual Student Oral (Audio-recordings of eight colloquium sessions) Written (Surveys, letters to self, reading responses, artist statements, electronic correspondence, lists) Visual (Visual journal entries, individual works of art, demeanor, site images) 149 Artist Teacher Future Professional in the Visual Arts Jenna Individual Student Artist Teacher Future Professional in the Visual Arts Nate Individual Student Artist Teacher Future Professional in the Visual Arts Barbara (Electronic correspondence, lists, memos, pre-colloquium plans, modified and postcolloquium plans, reflection worksheets) (Modeling/demeanor, demarcated course documents, my works of art, site images) Individual Student Artist Teacher Future Professional in the Visual Arts Figure 8: Data Chart One Finding 1a: Differences in how the participants described themselves as individuals, students, and artists. The participants’ individual perceptions of themselves. Jenna began the semester sharing that she sometimes wondered, “What am I doing for the world?” (8/23/12) and often wished to be selfish with the ways she spent her time. For example, after 150 Thanksgiving break, Jenna shared that her holiday weekend had been great because she “played” the role of host. She explained that doing so meant that she didn’t have to be social with her dinner guests and family members, including her in-laws. She reported, “they thought [that my role as the host] was great, but I was being selfish” (11/29/12). Ultimately, Jenna acknowledged that “growth is painful” (9/20/12) and by the end of several weeks of our semester, she claimed “the world is a much better place with art, and even if it wasn’t, this is what I want” (11/8/12). Nate began the semester believing that you have to “carry yourself [as one who is] prepared; be clear, genuine, and honest, not hiding a bunch of stuff” (9/6/12). He explained that getting to know a person in order to have a good conversation with that person can take a long time. He believed, “you have to communicate out in the real world as yourself” (9/6/12). Annika shared that she had lived differently several years prior to entering the MFA program. Not wanting to recall details from that time, she professed, “I’m going to art school to get to the core of who I am, what I believe in, and what I’m going to say” (9/6/12). At our second colloquium session, Annika noted, “I’ve really grown” as a person having endured the “stress and insanity” of her first year in the MFA program. She said that she was glad to have accomplished that year successfully. The participants’ perceptions of themselves as MFA students. Differences emerged from our discussions about the ways that the participants perceived themselves as graduate students in the visual arts. Annika had said that she became particularly 151 motivated after she realized that other students see what she sees. She also expressed appreciation for the community of artists, including peers and professors, who pushed her as an art student. For example, one professor challenged her to make artwork about being happy since her art regularly focused on themes of tragedy. Annika reflected, “I feel like the best part about being here [in school] is that I have so much time to devote to my work: I have people that push me and want me to succeed; it’s weird to think about not having that in the future” (9/20/12). Though she felt that studying within the MFA program put a lot of pressure on her, Annika reiterated her current priorities that favored completing her MFA degree unhurried. Wanting a different lifestyle than her previous career provided, Jenna had left a lucrative job in the sciences before becoming an art student. Though she and her husband had to relocate in order for her to do so, Jenna was motivated to become an MFA student because she wanted to talk about her work “in a more educated way [using] better vocabulary” (9/20/12). Having once been asked, “Why painting?” Jenna aimed to conduct research and learn about the history of painting. One of her goals as a student was to learn how to say something different from artists of the past. She said that she was pursuing the question: “What is new about me?” and she believed that “art is something that you do on your own” (9/6/12). Jenna admitted she had been waiting to change during her first year in the MFA program. She had hoped that she would somehow “wake up and be different” (9/6/12). At the start of her second year she had come to understand that, after experiencing the emotional and artistic challenges as a student, she wasn’t going to wake up and be 152 different. Understanding that “school is what you make of it,” Jenna willingly took on the responsibility of being a student as she believed that “an MFA student should, most importantly, walk out into the world with confidence” (10/18/12). Nate was motivated to earn the terminal MFA degree, in part, because doing so made him eligible for teaching positions in higher education. Given that his wife was also a graduate student who wanted to teach, Nate explained, “Our dream is to teach at the same university” (9/6/12). I told the participants that at the time I had started my MFA program in 2002, I had left a career in secondary art education. I explained to the participants, however, that although I wanted to study art in depth, I still considered myself to be a teacher. One of the significant reasons why I became an art student was so that I would acquire the MFA degree that allowed me to be considered for a teaching position in higher education. I disclosed to the participants that the years I spent in art school “were the best years of my life” (9/6/12). The participants’ perceptions of themselves as artists. When we talked about ways to describe ourselves as visual artists, Annika admitted that she had “no idea” where the inspiration for her artwork had come from. She said that this changed, however, when one of her professors encouraged her to think about the things for which she deeply cared. Annika described their one-on-one conversation and how it had helped her to better articulate the meanings within her artwork. 153 As our semester progressed, Annika believed that she was learning to “discover [meaning] for herself.” For example, she derived connections between what she practiced in her dance class and new ideas for her video work, and she began to recognize a relationship between the acts of trusting her intuition and the success she felt as an artist (10/18/12). For Annika, art had the “ability to bring me into the present” as it felt otherworldly, meditative, or “outside the scope of natural laws; not spiritual, but an elevated place outside reality” (9/20/12). Annika had started the practice of writing down statements about emerging new aspects of her artwork and art making. Each statement was followed by approximately 15 minutes of reflective writing about why she believed that the statement was valid. With new trust for her intuition, Annika noted that she was relieved to have come to understand that her art was more about questions than answers (11/15/12). Jenna would often cull the imagery for her paintings from her imagination. The act of sitting in various spaces while collecting these images was one source of her artistic inspiration, as was nature, growth, and knowledge. She explained how she would consider the pattern and colors of a space and think of ways to tie together several visual elements she had observed. She claimed the spaces where she collected these elements of art became “something I’m connected to, not just aesthetically” (8/23/12). As Jenna described the triptych of paintings she had with her at our first session, she explained it contained depictions of “places that I appreciated.” At mid semester, Jenna said she was making “tons of work” partly as a result of regularly walking by “something that I find intriguing,” capturing it in a photograph, and 154 inserting the “intrigue” into one of her paintings. She explained that she had become full of ideas and concepts for another body of work. At colloquium seven, Jenna shared a visual journal entry about a “jaded force” that she believed to be motivating her and she described it as though she was on the edge of something and “being hit!” Jenna also explained that new sources for inspiration had emerged as she paid close attention to color, urban sprawl, decay, feelings of renewal and “expressing my truth visually” (11/15/12). By late in our semester, Jenna claimed to be “painting to communicate, just as painting had communicated throughout history.” She believed, “It’s the best way to talk about complex issues” (11/15/12). When I referred to myself as an artist among the group of participants, I told them that trying to make sense of our complicated world motivated many of my creative projects, including my artists’ books of bound notes-to-self and my MFA thesis project, a never-ending desk where I would sit to take on the challenges of organizing my life as a teacher, a researcher, and an artist. (See Figure 9.) 155 Figure 9: Self-controlled, Barbara 2005. I explained how the pursuit of earning my Ph.D. was part of my continued efforts to give order to what I previously did not understand. Finding 1b: Similarities emerged in the participants’ descriptions of themselves in their roles as teachers. All three graduate participants had been employed as teaching assistants prior to our semester together. They had been provided with the School of Art Adjunct and TA Handbook, which they were expected to follow. Since the participants in this study had been or were assigned to teach foundations-level courses as part of the First Year Experience4 (FYE) program, they were given a second handbook that outlined specific foundational curricula. To help TAs prepare to teach, the FYE handbook comprised the curricula for each of its eight courses, a syllabus for each course, and a 4 The School of Art’s First Year Experience program comprised of a series of eight courses, which were often taught by MFA student TAs. Undergraduate students were required to complete these courses as part of the BFA program. 156 sample calendar for the TAs to reference when designing the schedule for their semester. The pedagogies they employed in their classrooms, however, varied despite the predetermined curricular expectations. During the semester of our colloquium series, the participants wanted to try to think like teachers and consider issues related to classroom environments, assessment strategies, and designing effective presentations. Our conversations evolved into reflecting on what the participants believed was most rewarding about being a teacher. Annika said that it “feels meaningful to inspire others.” Nate believed that acts of teaching and bringing about new awareness were “satisfying, open-minded, [and] empathetic.” Jenna concluded, “That’s rewarding… help[ing] students think through things that feel impossible” (11/15/12). As the participants listened to one another’s teaching stories and the challenges they had each faced in their classrooms, they began to prepare for various challenges that they found they had had in common. During the colloquium sessions, they not only brought up issues related to the experiences and anxieties that they had encountered in their teaching practice, but also related some of the ramifications of the pedagogical choices they had each made as instructors. The challenges and stress related to the role of the TA. All of the participants encountered the challenge of how to motivate students. Annika, for example, asked for advice about how to motivate students who saw themselves as 2-D majors, yet were required to complete a course (Space) in which they had to learn 3-D techniques. Jenna 157 acknowledged having had the same issue and responded to Annika, by noting that these types of students say things like, “why do I have to make this stupid sculpture?” (11/15/12). Nate had added that he sometimes dealt with unmotivated students by pretending to be excited about their work. Annika asked a follow-up question about what should one do “when a student’s work is just ‘God-awful’… How do you get students to think more deeply?” All of the participants had shared how leading a critique session was a source of stress. For example, Jenna had expressed how she found it difficult to talk about students’ work that she believed was poorly executed. She wanted to avoid indicating to any one of her students what she believed had been implied in her own critique sessions as an undergraduate student, that “you’re the worst artist ever.” She did not want her students’ feelings to be hurt as she had experienced as a BFA student; so she took careful effort in the choice of words she used with her students and made a point to not “humiliate a student whose artwork was just bad” (11/15/12). Jenna also disclosed that she felt badly when her students were stressed, when any student was absent from her class, and when she had to issue some of them the final semester letter grade, D. Nate found grading to be stressful as it was time consuming given that he took the process seriously and believed that “being upfront about the first project sets the bar for your grading” throughout the semester (11/29/12). Jenna said that her way of grading was time-consuming as well, and she also considered it to sometimes be an emotional experience. She had expressed that she found it difficult to balance the use of required teaching objectives with the subjective nature of assessing art. During the semester, all of 158 the participants had talked about how having assessed undergraduates prompted them to question the standards to which they held themselves accountable as students. Performing and feeling different. The participants disclosed ways that they felt different when working as TAs. Jenna had noted that teaching felt similar to doing a performance and that “performing” with enthusiasm influenced her exchanges with students as they would noticeably mimic her energy. Jenna said, “if I’m exhausted and crabby and I let it show… I’ve set that to be the tone [for the day]” and the “whole class period can [be ruined]” (11/29/12). Nate acknowledged that we often play “front stage” or “back stage” when interacting with the world. He compared the sensations of teaching in a classroom full of students to those of working with customers at “the front of the house” in a restaurant, opposed to working “the back of the house” in the kitchen (9/6/12). When Annika said that she “feels like somebody different when she’s teaching” (11/15/12), Nate and Jenna also noted that they could “see” and “hear” themselves while at work within their roles as teachers. Annika elaborated as she described how she “heard” her own principles and personal values emerge when she was speaking with her undergraduates. She told us that she had sometimes thought to herself, “Oh yeah, I actually believe that about art… maybe I should apply that” (11/29/12). Nate concurred and shared that he, too, could “hear himself giving advice to his students and then thinks to himself, “I should do that in my own class” Jenna taught the same things to her students that she learned in her own studio classes. She valued having the ability to 159 connect with students and treasured being a “part of someone else’s artistic process… guiding them.” She added, “as a teacher and as a student, I am asking questions and doing this intense thinking that doesn’t happen outside the situation” (9/20/12). Annika talked about how she liked the “idea of inspiring young people” as she believed that her life’s experiences could be valuable to students just as she had found inspiration in the experiences shared by her former studio art teachers. In general, all of the participants appeared to believe that teaching in the visual arts helped them to clarify their beliefs about art making and the practices of teaching. For all of the participants, teaching appeared to ignite new understandings of pedagogical issues related to visual arts education. The data suggest that pedagogical discussions that occurred during the colloquium sessions moved from a focus on the participants’ own experiences as students to a more critical awareness of their responsibilities as teachers. For example, Annika and Jenna expressed that they had learned that teaching provided them an opportunity to create what felt like a collaborative space for undergraduates to create and learn. Interacting one-on-one with students was important to Jenna, and she appreciated students who would “speak up” and share their minds with teachers. Finding 1c: The strongest similarities among the participants’ descriptions of themselves arose in the discussions related to their future roles as professionals in the field of the visual arts. 160 Wanting to teach in higher education. On the Introductory Survey (see Appendix D), the participants had written three things they anticipated would be part of their futures once they had graduated with their MFA degrees. All three of the participants expressed some degree of interest for teaching studio art. For example, Jenna had written that she would like to “teach college students the skills to further their artistic ideas and techniques.” One of Annika’s goals read: “to potentially teach” (8/17/12). Nate shared that he had planned to become a teacher for quite some time and, indicated on his Introductory Survey that, “I specifically want to teach in a supportive environment in a geographic area where students may not have much exposure to art” (8/17/12). He also added, “It matters to me where I’m living. I’d take a job somewhere that is not so great if [the place is where] I want to be. I think you are inspired by where you live” (11/8/12). Mixed messages about teaching visual arts in higher education. In colloquium session four, our conversation had focused on acquiring a position teaching studio art in higher education. Annika had said that her professors had not talked with her about pursuing teaching as a career. Nate and Jenna, however, conversed about the mixed support they had received from professors regarding finding a teaching job. Nate was reminded of how one of his professors told him, “most people don’t do that [during] their thesis year” (11/8/12). Jenna said, “I’m told that teaching isn’t realistic… [and that] there is so much competition, it’s unlikely.” Yet, as she continued talking, she also remarked that some of her teachers had said, “you’ll get something, just work hard” (11/8/12). 161 This conversation about finding work continued throughout colloquium session five, and I had become worried as Jenna began to express various concerns. She had many questions including: “Do I apply everywhere? Will I have time to make my art? What makes money? Will it be hard because I’m married? Is my husband going to go somewhere because of me, or will I go somewhere because of him? How are we going to work that out?” (10/4/12). Nate nodded in agreement. He then proceeded to discuss his difficulties of having to apply for teaching jobs by mid-December while his strongest piece, his thesis project, was not going to be complete until the month of April during the following semester. He wanted Annika and Jenna to understand that the process of submitting applications for teaching positions compared to a full-time job. Annika had expressed that she had wanted to go to Los Angeles or New York City right out of school and work any job, make her art, and apply for teaching positions at a later time. She was concerned, however, about how working a full-time job would likely leave her little time to make her experimental art. Jenna ended this conversation by sharing that one of her professors had encouraged her to understand that a future takes time. These findings, aligned with research sub-question one, have pointed out the differences between and similarities among the participants. The next set of findings is related to the experiences of having participated in this course. 162 Research sub-question two The second research sub-question asked: “How does participating in the course allow MFA students to examine and reflect upon their personal and professional growth as well as their graduate experiences?” Data Chart Two (see Figure 10) illustrates how the data were organized in relation to this research sub-question. Please see Appendix H for the Completed Data Chart Two. Participating in the course allows MFA students to examine and reflect upon: Oral (Audio-recordings of each colloquium session) Personal growth Annika Jenna Nate Barbara Professional growth Annika Jenna Nate Barbara Graduate experiences Annika Jenna Nate Barbara Figure 10: Data Chart Two. Written (Surveys, letters to self, reading responses, artist statements, electronic correspondence, lists, electronic correspondence, lists, memos, precolloquium plans, modified and postcolloquium plans, reflection worksheets) Visual (Visual journal entries, individual works of art, demeanor, site images, modeling, demarcated course documents, site images) 163 Finding 2a: The informal image-making and writing exercises completed independently by the participants helped to foster introspective examinations of their experiences as MFA students including their personal and professional growth. In this finding, I present examples of the participants’ responses to visual and written prompts, which the participants completed outside the colloquium itself. The participants would bring these visual and written artifacts to the various sessions where we would view and discuss them. During these discussions, ideas and meanings were transformed as the participants listened to their peers as they shared their written and visual work. The participants created artworks in their visual journals and submitted reading responses, personal letters, and artist statements. What follows are findings related to the visual and written data that the participants created independently of one another. The participants’ responses to visual journal prompts and activities as reflexive pedagogy. The participants created a series of images in their visual journals over the semester reflecting Boud’s (2001) premise that a journal provides “the place where the events and experiences are recorded and the forum by which they are processed and reformed… [working] as a way to make sense of the experiences… and build a foundation for new experiences that will provoke new meaning” (p. 11). One of the first visual journal entries asked that the participants reflect on their sources for inspiration and motivation. Nate was the first to share his entry, and stated that, “What motivates me is abstract.” He clarified what he meant by the term abstract by explaining how he was sometimes motivated by the ideas expressed in the media, such as 164 the various viewpoints that were communicated through CNN and Fox News. He added that he believed that the act of watching the news allowed people to learn about the different perspectives of other countries and to stay informed as well as be exposed to “news that you disagree with” (9/20/12). In contrast and having reflected on a very different set of sources, Nate shared the elaborate drawing in his visual journal and discussed the creative motivations he experienced from being among trees, reading art books, and camping in the woods. The participants admired his drawing and agreed that Nate was a quality draftsman (see Figure 11). Figure 11: (Re)sources for inspiration and motivation, Nate 2012. Unlike Nate, Annika decided to respond to this journal prompt by writing three pages about how she did not know the sources for her artistic inspiration and motivation. She later realized, however, that engaging in the very process of making her art, motivated her most intensely. She said “it’s like magic” and explained how it involved 165 the coalescence of several things in the universe including what she called, “other subconscious me’s” (9/20/12). By colloquium four, Annika shared that she had become more confident when following and “trusting of [her] own ideas, even if they’re stupid” (10/4/12). Like Annika, Jenna wrote a list of things that inspired and motivated her instead of creating an image. Her list of sources was extensive as it included trees, leaves, shadows, water, identification, memories, the way she lived, the way she changed, line, growth, brainstorming, and freedom of expression. On a different note, Jenna admitted, “I’m a worrier” and explained how her worries often motivated her first thing in the morning. She elaborated by sharing that she worried about her teeth as she was “paranoid about their health” and dreamed of them often (9/20/12). Referring back to her visual journal entry, Jenna ultimately discerned that when she attempted to identify what motivated her, she discovered that “Nothing else commands me in this way.” Another assignment that resulted in a meaningful exchange of ideas between the participants was the project that I have assigned to every student I teach. Each semester any student enrolled in one of my classes is asked to go somewhere or do something that they have never done before. To complete the assignment, my students submit an informal written reflection about the experience. When I introduced this exercise to Annika, Jenna, and Nate, I also asked that they create a visual response to their individual experiences. Later, at the next colloquium session, we talked about our experiences and the accompanying images, insights, and knowledge that were gained. I reiterated to the participants that the goal of this project that I designed, originally inspired by a 1999 New 166 Year’s resolution, has always been to distinctly “stretch” the gamut of my former students as well as the three MFA student participants. Annika chose to go to a place she had always wanted to go, a river park just north of the city. While experiencing the dried up quality of most rivers in Arizona at that time of year, she explained how the faint “fishy” smell, soft lighting, and peaceful quality of the mountains reminded her of being at the beach (see Figure 12). She enjoyed how this space in the riverbed had “nothing behind it,” or was void of any agenda related to the familiar hassles of living in the city. She considered this opportunity a respite from the life she lived at the university and appreciated having explored a space about which she had long been curious (10/4/12). Figure 12: A drawing of the riverbed, Annika 2012. 167 Jenna had chosen to purchase a new tool, a projector to help her map out the compositions of her paintings before applying paint on her large canvases. She had been encouraged to use a projector before, but had believed that using a projector to help her draw was cheating and compared it to the ways painters used the camera obscura5 in the 16th century. However, to Jenna’s relief, projecting overlapping shapes and images as she composed her next painting did not leave her feeling as if she had cheated. Referring to her visual journal response, Jenna explained that she had discovered that using her projector was a new way of helping her to record the “voices in my head” (10/4/12). (See Figure 13.) Figure 13: The voices in her head, Jenna 2012. 5 Camera obscura is a “black box with a hole in one side to concentrate light and cast the shadow of an object onto a screen, so it can be traced” (Bulfinch, 1996). 168 Nate attended a group yoga class for the first time having shared that doing so would exercise his principle that understood “our presence on the ground is important” (10/4/12). He reported on his experience and described his realization that doing yoga in unison with others was “creepy;” he compared it to “reciting things in church.” For his visual journal entry, Nate drew a human figure in the “child’s” yoga pose (see Figure 14) and recalled that the sensation he felt from doing the pose was, in fact, relaxing to him. He said that he had sat in the corner of the classroom and kept his eyes closed for most of the yoga session. Figure 14: A child’s pose, Nate 2012. To his delight, however, Nate had thought of a new idea for a project. He said that the experience of attending the class inspired him to construct a book within which he would record each of his various thoughts. This included writing about “all kinds of things and how they interrelate to each other and cross-reference them along the way” (10/4/12). 169 Nate was glad to have had the experience of attending the group yoga class; however, he also made it clear he was not anxious to attend the class again. At the conclusion of colloquium session four, Jenna offered to accompany Nate to a different yoga class in the event that he might change his mind about group yoga. This offer from Jenna prompted an extended conversation among the participants as they left the classroom that day. Walking out, they exchanged their perceptions about the physical consciousness brought about when practicing pilates and yoga. Jenna and Annika described both of the exercises as calming and energizing. I packed up my things and wrote a note to remind myself to consider using yoga-like exercises as a new type of reflexive pedagogy in my next colloquium series course. I wanted to explore the ways yoga and pilates might initiate new consciousness in people, specifically artists. Another visual journal entry activity involved the participants in both writing and image making. During colloquium session four, the participants were asked to critically consider their artistic processes and to write out a list that contained the specific steps that they regularly used in their processes of art making. Then, outside of the colloquium session, the participants visually articulated one step that they believed was unique to their individual process. At colloquium session five, each of the participants used their latest visual journal entry to enhance a brief description of their distinct step in the creative process. Nate was challenged by this exercise and shared that since he did not know others’ processes, it was hard for him to discern what step of his process was unique. In the end, however, Nate contributed to the discussion by showing us how he used his 170 computer to “sketch” various images. Working with a designer who made coffee shop posters, Nate created several digital drawings and sketches of his ideas for new sculptural pieces or installation projects (see Figure 15). Despite the many hours required to complete each digital drawing, Nate was grateful to know how to design what he had considered a “huge project that would cost thousands of dollars; [so the] two days of building a scale model is worth it” (10/18/12). Comfortable in my relationship with Nate, I replied, “it’s you, Nate” intending to imply that employing such efficiency in his preparation and construction of his artwork fit with the didactic intent behind some of his pieces. Referring back to Nate’s digital images, Jenna had commented, “That’s really smart” and had prompted a new conversation about options for ways the participants might win money to finance large works of art; a subject we addressed in colloquium session six, when we discussed professional practices. Figure 15: A digital “sketch” for an installation, Nate 2012. 171 Annika talked about how many of the individual steps in her art making process included reflexive action. The image she made in her visual journal included clean, black, graphic lines combined with softer, relaxed, gray lines. Part of her image contained a faded photograph, and she explained, “it’s there, but not totally there” (10/18/12). Annika said that the art making step that her drawing had represented was part of the process she was developing in her video work, “trusting [my] intuitive process and what I need to do” (10/18/12). Jenna shared a numbered list of short phrases that comprised the basic process for her art making. The steps included simple things such as getting coffee and preparing fresh water cups. She explained that the most important step in her process, however, was when she stopped painting in order to stand back and look at her pieces. She talked about a certain chair in her studio that she moved around regularly. She would sit down and observe her work from different angles and note the progress that was taking place in her paintings. She explained, “There is a different process in the doing and the looking.” She said, “Like meditating, it feels ritualistic” (10/14/12). The colors of the clothes Jenna wore mattered to her; she put on certain jewelry pieces when she anticipated that her day contained a challenge. Jenna needed the music playing in her headphones to maintain a specific decibel level such that she could not hear anything else while at work in her studio. With admiration for Jenna’s rigorous disciplined approach to her art making, Nate admitted that he was not good at practicing rituals despite how much be believed doing so would feel satisfying and help him to create more work. Annika, on the other hand, 172 shared an appreciation for Jenna’s approach and said that she was going to try to ritualize her practice too. The last visual journal entry of the colloquium series invited the participants to create images that represented the intersection of their teacher self and their artist self. I asked them to consider how the two roles might overlap or fight with one another, and asked that they visually portray that relationship. When we discussed the final visual journal entries, Nate contributed first. He said that despite having not finished his drawing of a Venn diagram he believed that having to consider a combination of his roles as a teacher and as an artist had been important (see Figure 16). Figure 16: His artist self and teacher self, Nate 2012. Regarding Nate’s image, Jenna expressed, “I got it” and told Nate that he did not need to explain his drawing. Nate also disclosed, “I want [the shapes] to overlap more than they 173 do because I find myself not following my own advice when I’m teaching occasionally. But, a lot of things happen where they overlap, a lot comes out of where they [overlap].” I encouraged Nate to elaborate, and he said, “I don’t always think through my own work in the same way that I ask my students to do” (11/29/12). Jenna spoke up and suggested that Nate try making lists as he thought through his work as well as ask his students to do so. Jenna claimed that this practice often helped her to work with her students and weed out the clichés that sometimes appeared in the works of BFA art students. Reflecting on her last visual journal entry, Jenna read a list of words and phrases that described the concepts that she used in her paintings that also described the ways she thinks about her teaching. The list included terms such as critical thinker, image-maker, communicator, hard worker, motivator, in the moment, and equal say (11/4/12). Her image was made up of little shapes that repeated over the page (see Figure 17). Figure 17: Her artist self and teacher self, Jenna 2012. 174 Jenna said, “I [felt that] one level [of shapes] was the artistic process that needs to merge with other levels… Being a painting teacher… I’m constantly having to articulate things that I hadn’t thought about” (11/29/12). Sometimes, after evaluating her students’ work, Jenna returned to her own artwork and re/considered the methods she used for artistic assessment. “Thinking and considering the rules helps me figure out my own belief system about art and making art” (11/29/12). She said that when she reflected on the feedback that she offered her students, she would think to herself, “that’s what I must believe, right? If I was evaluating my own work, would I say that it needs more detail or better craftsmanship?” Then, she added facetiously, “We’ll see after I’ve been teaching for 20 years if I still think that.” The focal point of Annika’s image that combined her roles as a teacher and as an artist contained a black diagonal line that visually “cut” the page into two separate spaces. She explained that the arrows pointing in different directions on one side of the line represented her art making process and the multiple ways she arrived upon new ideas (see Figure 18). 175 Figure 18: Her artist self and teacher self, Annika, 2012. The other half of her image represented her role as an instructor. She explained that “I have to be more direct in terms of how I guide students,” then added, “I’m not sure how [the roles] overlap. I want to instill in students the organic process of what they are trying to do [while] making art versus that it all has to fit into a certain [formula]” (11/29/12). The participants’ responses to written prompts and activities as reflexive pedagogy. Early in the semester, I encouraged the participants to write a short review about one of the books they had borrowed from me. I suggested that they do so in relation to how the reading might influence their artist selves. Two weeks later, they asked if they could have more time with their books because they found relief having discovered that others (the authors) thought the same way that they thought. Annika revealed, “It was great to know that others can say what you feel” (10/18/12). 176 Annika had borrowed the book, Art and Fear: Observations on the Perils (and Rewards) of Artmaking (1993), and referenced the passage, “The seeds of the next artwork are embedded in the flaws of the current” (Bayles & Orland, 1993, p. 57). She said it was a particularly fitting book to have looked at, “while getting ready for candidacy and having a lot of anxieties and fear come up about my work and needing to defend it” (10/16/12). When Jenna introduced the participants to the book she borrowed, On Longing: Narratives of the Miniature, the Gigantic, the Souvenir, the Collection (Stewart, 1984), she articulated her appreciation for the “[b]eautiful passages that I feel connect to my work… I think I need to buy, my own copy of this book… [Stewart’s] ability to describe landscape, longing, blindness for place and the narrative we place ourselves in, is something I am trying to communicate in my work and she does it so eloquently” (10/17/12). Nate had borrowed the book titled, On Creativity (1998), that had been written by 19th century physicist, David Bohm. He described how “the book talks about the act of creativity and the quest of true creativity, how it’s a process and it’s satisfying.” Nate agreed with Bohm’s claim, that “Artists and scientists are doing the same thing” (10/18/12). Showing his enthusiasm about ways art and science overlap, Nate talked further about finding inspiration from studying physics, reading about Einstein, and attempting to grasp the idea that “space itself is bending.” He indicated that the book he had borrowed “hit the spot” (10/18/12). The book-review activity helped the participants to make connections between texts of contemporary or historical theory and the personal and artistic characteristics of 177 themselves. This discussion led smoothly into the second written prompt that asked the participants to compose a letter that they might “send” from their individual self to their artist self. I encouraged them to, “say whatever you want to say [while] playing with the idea of writing to yourself” (10/18/12), as well as submit them to the D2L dropbox. I was able to read the letters before our next colloquium session before we discussed them as a group. The participants each admitted to having been challenged by the process of writing a letter to their artist self. Nate explained, “it’s hard to separate those aspects of myself… my authentic self is my artist self” (11/15/12). Annika claimed that writing to herself was “weird.” She had become frustrated with doing so because she had done this kind of activity before and did not want to be reminded of that time in her life. In the end, Annika realized that writing the letter actually helped her to sort out from where her inspiration might come from, which helped her to further realize, “I wish I had control of it” (11/15/12). At the following session, Jenna shared an additional letter she had written: the response back to her individual self from her artist self. In it, she discussed her recent realizations about new sources for her artistic ideas. She explained that, “Before, [what inspired me] was nature, growth, and knowledge. This time it was colors, my bike, smells, urban sprawl, and decay.” Jenna’s artist self had written, “you are a maker and no one can take that away… what do I do if I’m [to be] a good partner? How do I apply paint?” (11/15/12). In her own words, Jenna’s letter implied that her artist self needed reassurance and asked her to take the time needed to accept that things were okay (see Figure 19). 178 Figure 19: The letter to her artist self, Jenna 2012. Also challenged by writing the return letter from his artist self, Nate told us about his ritual-like practice of smoking a tobacco pipe to help him to focus his thoughts (see Figure 20). Figure 20: A reflection on smoking tobacco and finding focus, Nate 2012. 179 His letter suggested that he would create much more artwork if he were to be diligent with his studio time. He also indicated that he had thought about this issue before and that it bothered him. I assured Nate that this act of pointing out his nagging frustration was constructive as part of the purpose of this exercise was to reflect upon one’s perceptions of his or her artist self. In colloquium four, Jenna had asked for suggestions about her artist statement. Realizing how important these statements were, we focused on some of the challenges of writing. The participants practiced articulating their thoughts about art by writing descriptions of one another’s artwork as if writing a review or a press release. For example, Nate wrote what he believed Jenna’s artwork was about. Then, he wrote another explanation for Annika’s work. Jenna did the same for Nate and Annika, and Annika for Jenna and Nate. We discussed how this exercise could help them learn how others respond to, or interpret their work. Before the participants read aloud one another’s interpretations, I took a few minutes to share a list of “buzzwords,” the words that seemed to be the most defining, in their artist statement. Nate’s words included metaphor, consumption, economy, plastic, ignore, and ‘nothing is lost when nothing is obtained.’ Jenna’s words included place, mapping, traces of interpretation, architecture, human frailty, tension, and implied narrative; and Annika’s included generations, post-memory, traumatic, omen, grandfather, futile. Finally, the participants read aloud the descriptions they had written and were glad to discover that for the most part, we had interpreted one another’s artwork correctly. Nate complimented Annika’s writing saying that it was “gallery caliber” and 180 contained a professional combination of formal and conceptual aspects. Reflecting on what Nate and Annika had read, Jenna said that this exercise “was helpful in this [colloquial] environment, having peers say it rather than teachers, there’s more trust between peers” (10/18/12). She added that their interpretations had her “thinking about what I’m hiding behind the buildings” she paints (10/18/12). The participants believed that writing reviews of one another’s artwork was very informative. We added the exercise to the design of the “Ultimate MFA Course,” which was still in progress at this time. Ultimately, our writing activities helped prepare Jenna and Annika for their upcoming candidacy reviews and Nate for his next committee meeting about his thesis project. On her way out of the classroom, Annika reiterated what Jenna had said, that having heard the ways Nate, Jenna, and I interpreted her work and having to write out her thoughts about others’ art were really helpful. Finding 2b: The informal group discussions fostered collaborative examinations of and reflections on their experiences as MFA students including their personal and professional growth. The platform for each colloquium session had offered a confidential space for the group of participants to talk openly. They were able to share their personal perspectives and listen to and reflect upon collective perspectives of the group. In this section, I present four discussion topics that frequently emerged and were ongoing during our colloquium sessions. 181 Discussions about issues related to communication. Around mid-semester, our conversations addressed issues related to being able to clearly and expressively talk about our work. As a group, we recognized that our discussions not only allowed us to focus on specific topics, but they also provided us opportunities to practice and reflect on our communication skills. Given that we had seemed to develop a trusting and confidential space in which to express our views, the participants felt comfortable speaking expressively, clarifying ideas, and giving one another constructive feedback. The discussions also offered the participants a chance to talk about important questions before having to formally respond to them in front of their professors and peers. I said, “There will always be hard questions, but [after today] you will have thought some of them through” (10/18/12). Jenna felt that the contributions she made to the discussions in her art history classes were “messy” (9/6/12). As I mentioned in Chapter Five, we had addressed issues related to communication skills and practiced talking about the meanings of artwork before different types of (pretend) audiences. For example, each participant was given a different imaginary group of people to whom they would describe their artwork without using any prepared visuals. For a few minutes, the participants prepared their descriptions. The challenge was to clearly communicate the importance of various artistic concepts and use language that was appropriate to one of the following audiences: a room full of sixth graders, a large group of older adults in a retirement community, or those attending a meeting of the School of Art’s advisory board (the group of individuals that determined the recipients of scholarships from the College of Fine Arts). Nate said, 182 having worked with little kids before, he went into what he considered to be teacher mode as well as used videos to explain his work. He emphasized that sixth graders today were likely to have their own I-phones: therefore, he chose to use videos to communicate with them. Nate told Annika that she was lucky to be speaking to an educated audience. As Annika pretended to address the Advisory Board members, she used formal words similar to those in her artist statement. When Jenna talked with people in an imaginary retirement community, she used her normal voice but talked more slowly. Given the participants’ interests in communicating to others in writing, we talked about communicating our teaching ideas in a philosophy statement. Nate shared a sample of one he had recently written in preparation for numerous applications for teaching positions. After Nate read excerpts from his statement, we discussed how to write about our teaching beliefs and how we viewed undergraduate students. Other communication issues we addressed included ideas and examples about the ways we presented ourselves as teachers and artists. We talked about the different metaphors that we might give to the practices of teaching and or learning. How could we explain our concepts of art making to others, especially to students or the members of a search committee? How do we convey the objectives of our lessons to our students? And, how do we assess the work of visual arts students and inform them about the ways their work has been graded? Addressing these questions prompted more discussions about how to convey our ideas within artist statements, grant applications, and professional talks at galleries and in schools. 183 Issues related to managing relationships with others. We had established early in the semester that the participants’ choice to attend art school was a priority for each of them. This meant making some adjustments in their lives and asking their spouses to relocate. As I have already addressed, Jenna had to manage “a shift in my relationship” with her husband given the choice she had made to become a graduate student. She had also expressed appreciation for the encouragement her mother offered Jenna during her tough times as a graduate student. When Nate explained that he would be “a much better artist” if he was not married, he also claimed “I want to spend time with my wife” (9/6/12). As he was applying for teaching jobs he was also contemplating the fact that “my wife’s in school for two more years, it’s going to be wild” (10/4/12). The data had indicated that the participants’ relationships with their family members helped them in their academic and artistic progress, yet at the same time obligated them to consider the needs of their respective partners. In the profiles in Chapter Four, I have addressed how Annika and Jenna talked specifically about not socializing with others (9/6/12). Jenna put it this way: “There are only so many hours, I don’t hang out with people. I used to be really social and I try not to do that anymore” (9/6/12). I could relate to these decisions of Jenna’s and Annika’s as I had sometimes considered being social a waste of time when I was an MFA graduate student. During one colloquium session, I shared a story about how I had recently felt horrible when an old friend recently thanked me for joining her for dinner one evening, as she knew that I was protective about the ways that I spend my time. 184 This conversation expanded into talk about how we had sometimes heard people around us expressing (often with a tone of regret) a previous desire to become an art student. Jenna shared, “I have people around me saying, ‘Wait, I want to do what I want to do with my life. Why am I not doing what I want to do?” The four of us talked about our processes for making choices and “doing what we want to do.” Our conversation triggered a memory about a poem that my brother had once sent to me. I then emailed the participants the poem that read as follows: A master in the art of living draws not sharp distinction between his work and his play, his labor and his leisure, his mind and his body, his education and his recreation. He hardly knows which is which. He simply pursues his vision of excellence through whatever he is doing and leaves others to determine whether he is working or playing. To himself, he always seems to be doing both. (unknown) Discussions of issues related to the topics of stress in their lives. Early on in the colloquium series, I posed the following question: “How do you reflect on stress?” I clarified the question by asking, “Looking back at it now, how have you survived it?” (9/6/12). Jenna responded immediately and said that she thought about stress all the time, because, “That’s the kind of person I am.” She indicated that her first semester had been stressful because she did not believe that she should be in art school. She disclosed that she, “was miserable and didn’t have the language to talk about stuff.” Jenna’s sense of anxiety seemed to become evident during our discussion at colloquium session four. She 185 appeared particularly anxious about her upcoming candidacy review and unleashed a barrage of questions. These questions related to the quality and quantity of her work. She appeared flustered and her questions reflected a lack of understanding of what her professors expected of her in terms of her artwork and herself. She expressed concern that her professors would ask the following questions: Where does your work “fit in the history of painting?” and “what does my painting facilitate?” In addition to these questions, she also repeated her own question “I wonder what is new about me?” I told Jenna that I thought she was being very demanding as she placed such great pressures upon herself. She responded, “Yes, I’m my own worst critic” (10/4/12). After Jenna had exhausted her questions, she thanked us for listening at length. She then remarked how she acknowledged that her sense of stress was related to the upcoming candidacy review, as well as to the fact that she still felt unable to answer questions about where she wanted to go with her artwork (10/4/12). Annika felt as if she had to perform a certain way to please her professors in order to earn an A or a B grade in their classes. Referencing the rigid grading structure at the university, Annika had disclosed, “I find it really stressful and frustrating… there is a lot of pressure that I find difficult.” She disclosed that she had often thought about how the process of earning an MFA degree “can be really stressful. There are so many aspects about it that I want to question. Why am I doing this? Is it really helping my practice?” (8/23/12). After Jenna arrived at colloquium session six having passed her candidacy review, she shared that she felt less nervous and stressed especially because the Director of the 186 School of Art “thinks I’m great.” Jenna said that the writing exercises we had done in our sessions, including constructing various lists, writing letters, and critically engaging with artist statements and teaching philosophies, had helped her at the review. In particular, she was grateful for having reviewed the book, On Longing, because she read excerpts from it during her review in order to help her communicate with her professors. Jenna had informed us that she had set aside several academic obligations to prepare for the review, and now she felt that she needed to catch up with everything. Jenna said that she planned to do so while keeping in mind a new expectation she had made for herself: “being on” in order to “work hard all the time” (11/8/12). Other stressful issues for the participants emerged from various sources. Both Annika and Jenna disclosed that they kept track, if only mentally, of what counts as doing work as an art student. They talked about feeling guilty if they were using their time in some way outside of their studios (e.g. when considering their occasions of looking at and researching historic paintings on her computer or going for a walk and taking pictures). They confirmed however, that indeed, such activities mattered as they contributed richness to their artwork as well as their experiences in art school (9/20/12). All of the participants had shared that their experiences with critiques had caused them a great deal of stress. This topic surfaced in our discussions throughout the semester. The participants noted that in the classes they had taken, most of the professors at the School of Art used critiques that employed large group conversation and small group sharing. 187 The data suggested that Jenna experienced different levels of stress within a critique session depending on the ways the professors facilitated that critique. For example, Jenna had explained that, “I’ll work harder for a harsh teacher; they make me more determined. Before, that wasn’t the case, but now, I’ve created a buffer. I feel more prepared to take more criticism” (9/6/12). Jenna had become accustomed to experiencing intense critiques and realized that when her critiques did not feel intense, she thought that she had not produced good work. She explained, “At my [first year] review the professors sat in their chairs and didn’t get up or say much.” She spoke about how she questioned their attitude by thinking, “What? I’ve done so much work. Aren’t you going to talk about it?” (9/6/12). Jenna explained, however, that she realized afterwards that this group of professors comprised reserved, nurturing, and quiet people. Somewhat thrown off and used to the brash personalities of the professors in her division, Jenna had concluded that, “Interpretations of critique situations depend on the student and the environment a students wants to be in” (9/6/12). Annika shared an experience about a one-on-one critique that upset her deeply. One of her professors had visited Annika’s studio during her first year and “tore all my work down… [and said] my work was like undergraduate work” (9/6/12). When that same professor visited her studio a semester later, Annika disclosed: “At first, I was hesitant to answer her questions… but then, [the professor] said, ‘we’re just talking… no judgment.’ I thought, ‘What? Really? You made me cry!’” Nate had jumped into the conversation by declaring that, “I think that that’s a lot of theater that is not necessary. I don’t think it’s productive” (9/6/12). 188 At colloquium session seven, Annika had shared that she had passed her candidacy critique, yet “the experience itself was very intense” (11/15/12) given the mixed messages she received from her professors. Her committee members looked at her photographs and said such things as “this isn’t interesting” and “this has been done before.” One professor confronted Annika with the question, “are you turning into a documentary photographer?” In contrast, however, another professor told her, “I think you’re going to have a really good year next year.” Her committee complimented her willingness to take risks and pushed her to pursue her video work. The participants shared other ways to lead critiques given our discussions about how they could be stressful not only for us, but also for our undergraduate students. For example, Annika explained one way she kept students from becoming overly upset during the critiques she facilitated. Based on the approaches to critiques that her undergraduate professors had modeled, she said that she always tried to say something positive about every work before offering more critical suggestions. Annika disclosed that she had struggled in the past and wanted her undergraduates to know that she too made mistakes that can become evident during a critique. After a short pause, Annika had claimed that, “this kind of consideration was not practiced by graduate level professors at all” (11/15/12). Finding 2c: The oral, written, and visual activities we employed in our colloquium sessions informed the participants’ final project to design the “Ultimate MFA Course” (see Appendix N). As noted in chapter five, one of the components of the 189 colloquium series was to develop a course that was intended for MFA students and design its syllabus. The course the participants created aimed to address what Nate had termed, the nuts and bolts that are important to earning the degree and to approach the processes of “digging into your self.” The data indicated that the participants were initially hesitant to think about this course, given that they felt that it would be a huge yet intricate project. However, once we began to discuss the possibilities for the course as a group, the participants expressed their desire to help other MFA students learn about many of the issues that had been discussed during our colloquium sessions. The findings that follow reflect the patterns of this action research study as we planned not only the curricular components that the participants wanted to include in the “Ultimate MFA Course,” but also the reflective dialogue and decision making processes that took place as we progressively and collaboratively developed the course. The participants suggested that one of the assignments in the ultimate course should be focused on how to help graduate students to learn new skills. For example, Nate believed that MFA students would benefit from knowing how to set up a studio space for taking professional pictures of their artwork as well as the work of their undergraduate students. The participants agreed that having such skills would be helpful as they designed professional websites, submitted their artwork to galleries, or needed images of their students’ artwork in order to apply for teaching positions. Nate had also liked the idea of having MFA students create what he called an “impossible art piece.” His idea was to experiment with impractical concepts; for example, the works might be ridiculously heavy or unable to be removed from the 190 location within which it was constructed. He indicated that this kind of assignment would challenge graduates to work with unfamiliar materials, not unlike the colloquium assignment in which the participants were asked to experience something or go somewhere that was unfamiliar to them. The participants had decided that the reading assignments for the “Ultimate MFA Course” would be determined by the students. Expanding this idea, Annika had recommended that the students provide one another with summaries of the books they had read. Nate, Jenna, and Annika decided that the discussions about the readings might center on the ways a student could visually represent an idea from their readings. In terms of assessing artworks during critique sessions, Nate insisted that the MFA students’ works must be completed before doing so. Whereas Jenna had a different viewpoint and suggested that critique sessions could be more helpful if they included works that were in-progress. Jenna had proposed this because she believed that it would allow students to be held accountable for working consistently and keeping regular studio hours. Annika had become really motivated by this project of designing a new course and said, “We should present this idea to our professors. We should present it at a faculty meeting… Would that be an appropriate thing to do?” (10/4/12). She continued to say that, “it would be awesome to have this be your MFA experience.” Jenna concurred by saying that she would “like to have every class programmed like this.” Nate emphasized that the new class would offer “broad experiences and focus on self-reflection and artistic 191 practice” (9/20/12). As he fervently expressed his ideas about the course, he suddenly burst out saying, “Son of a bitch, I wanna teach this class” (9/20/12). Discussions about the objectives and student learning outcomes for the ultimate course appeared to lead to considerable reflection on the part of the participants. For example, Annika had advocated that the foci of the course should be on research and selfreflexivity, and Jenna recommended that the course activities would allow the development of an MFA student’s confidence. The data suggested, and the aforementioned narrative has indicated, that this project gave the participants a place to constructively discuss and reflect upon curricular and pedagogical practices that they believed were missing from their individual MFA programs as well as those that would enrich the current curricula in their programs. See Appendix M for all that comprised the “Ultimate MFA Course.” Research sub-question three The third research sub-question asked: “How does my role as the teacherresearcher-artist of the course enable MFA students to critically examine and reflect upon their experiences and their developing sense of self as MFA students?” Data Chart Three (see Figure 21) illustrates how the data were organized in relation to this research subquestion. Please see Appendix I for Completed Data Chart Three. 192 My role as the teacherresearcher-artist enabled the MFA students to critically examine and reflect upon: Oral Written (Audio-recordings of each colloquium session) (Surveys, letters to self, reading responses, artist statements, electronic correspondence, lists, electronic correspondence, lists, memos, pre-colloquium plans, modified and postcolloquium plans, reflection worksheets) Visual (Visual journal entries, individual works of art, demeanor, site images, modeling, demarcated course documents, site images) Teacher Their experiences as MFA students. Their developing sense of self. Researcher Their experiences as MFA students. Their developing sense of self. Artist Their experiences as MFA students. Their developing sense of self. Figure 21: Data Chart Three. Finding 3a: My role as a participant in the action research process helped to develop the empathy for an understanding I had of the MFA student participants. Throughout the semester, I often noted that I could “see myself” reflected in the participants’ stories as they shared their various experiences. As I followed the expanding data collection and continued to participate with the colloquium sessions’ activities alongside the participants, I began to realize that the empathy that I had felt for Annika, Jenna, and Nate continued to grow over the semester. I noticed the similarities between 193 their stories and experiences and my own as a former MFA student. For example, as a graduate student I had been driven, idealistic, and unconcerned about my social life, and I was also older than most of the others in my program. Not unlike Annika, Jenna, and Nate, I also perceived that my peers might have seen me as someone devoted to her work and committed to earning her degree. As I paid attention to their comments in class discussions as well as during our one-on-one studio visits, I found myself relating to each of them as a former MFA student more so than an instructor. Because I believed that I had been in their shoes, I found that I had developed different affinities for the participants as individuals. In the following excerpts, I examine my participation in this study in relation to Annika, Jenna, and Nate as individuals as well as a collective group of four. My affinities with each of the individual participants. During the colloquium series, the MFA student participants and I often practiced what we called free writing before answering the discussion questions that opened our bi-weekly sessions. Early in the semester, I learned that Annika and I had both read the book The Artist’s Way (1998), within which we had been introduced to the practice of writing morning pages.6 This type of writing was much like free writing and Annika had claimed, “For me, it’s calming… [and] nice to get all the words down on the page... Before I get up, I [write] all my thoughts down” (9/6/12). I had responded that, “writing about certain reservations or desires helps me to ‘get revved’ for the day” (10/18/12). By discussing the importance of 6 “Morning pages” is a writing exercise, also called “brain drain,” that is defined as “three pages of longhand writing, strictly stream-of-consciousness” (Cameron, 1992, p. 9), to be completed immediately after awaking in the morning. “Think of morning pages as meditation” (p. 13). 194 informal writing approaches, we realized how we both used it as a means of reflecting on not only the challenges in our lives, but also as a means of coming to know ourselves better. I observed the various lists that Jenna made in her visual journal and it seemed that we both had found that the practice of making lists and capturing spontaneous thoughts on scraps of paper provided us with opportunities to record our art making ideas. These lists allowed us to return to and refine thought provoking topics. Given this observation, I felt an immediate affinity with Jenna and her ways of organizing various aspects of her life. During our discussions, she confided that she needed to write everything down. For example, when I shared one of my book art pieces, within which I had sorted the notes I had written to myself during the previous year, Jenna had exclaimed to the whole group, “I totally do this.” We had all laughed in response. Jenna later asked me about what I did with my expended day planners having noticed how often I attend to planning and how full the pages become each week. I told her that I felt obligated to keep them because they seemed to me to be a sort of diary that validated my life. I also shared that I had come to rely so heavily on my lists and schedules, that they had the power to influence my demeanor and the relationships I had with others. It seemed that Jenna organized her time, priorities, and obligations in ways that were similar to mine. As the data indicated, Nate discussed how he challenged himself to use different types of media with each new project he started. He talked about how he anticipated using various media, including metalwork, ceramics, video, book-making, and watercolor 195 painting. Throughout the colloquium series, Nate had continually expressed how the concepts behind an art piece were essential to art making and that the materials he used needed to relate to the message expressed by the works in some way. Hearing about and seeing Nate’s artwork, I became conscious of how I had approached my artwork in similar ways. I shared with the participants how I believed that the concept behind a work of my art was really important, and that the media I used to create it should match my artistic intent. Therefore, I also sought out opportunities to learn about different and unfamiliar media either in classes or on my own in order to reveal and strengthen the messages I wanted to express through my artwork. Not unlike Nate’s work that was rooted in various concepts, an example of mine is presented here (see Figure 22). For this work entitled, A Tribute to Time, I had cut and forged gingko leaf shapes from cold-rolled steel and left their surfaces untreated so that the metal would eventually rust and disintegrate. I believed that this process of deterioration would represent the slow passing of time. Figure 22: A Tribute to Time, Barbara 2002. 196 Our common interests in concepts and media seemed to provide a connection between the ways that Nate and I approached and viewed creating art. This rapport seemed to have led Nate to invite me to his studio, a second time, in order to more closely consider the idea behind his thesis project. My role as a participant within our collective experiences and curiosities. The overall experiences that Annika, Jenna, and Nate seemed to experience resembled many of those that I had faced along with my former MFA peers. Under this heading, the findings I address represent my unique contributions as a participant in the study. I was able to share how I understood the ongoing questions, concerns, and topics that Annika, Jenna, and Nate brought up over the semester, and how I could contribute to ongoing conversations and stories that resurfaced and evolved from one discussion to the next. Some examples of these stories are stated in the following paragraphs. The data indicated that we all seemed to grapple with being pressed for time, so the four of us talked about ways that we might hold ourselves more accountable to the rigid schedules we had designed for ourselves. As I came to understand the demands that were placed on Annika, Jenna, and Nate as graduate students, I encouraged discussion and brainstormed with them about how to address our mutual concerns related to time. This seemed to help Jenna and Annika come to terms with the issue I have previously mentioned, that of deciding what counted toward the progress of their individual artistic journeys as well as handling their feelings of guilt during the times they were not working on their art. 197 At times, I spoke about what the various parts of my MFA journey had entailed. For example, during a discussion about preparing to make a living after graduate school, the four of us wondered about how profitable selling our art pieces out in the ‘real’ world would be and struggled with the idea of working as teachers to supplement the income we earned from making and selling our artwork. Contributing to this topic, I shared my recollection of being conflicted when I was an MFA graduate student. I disclosed how I felt that “I had to decide if I [would continue] to make major conceptually-based works of art [to submit to] competitive museum biennials or employ my skills of making beautiful objects such as ceramic mugs, for those that shop at craft fairs, just so I had money in my pocket” (10/4/12). In addition, I remarked to the group how as a graduate student, I did not believe that it was possible to do both. I had soon observed that Annika, Jenna, and Nate were silent when I made the comment that “making ceramic mugs to sell would have made me miserable. I would be sacrificing the authentic artist in me to produce objects of little significance for someone else. That is something you confront as an artist” (10/4/12). Jenna eventually spoke up and agreed by responding, “Yeah… When I make objects it’s different from making a painting.” Nate reported that he did not work well without structure and that he had liked the orderliness of the university’s semester system. I concurred by saying, “I appreciate the rhythm of the academic calendar” (11/29/12). The data suggest that such comments led into discussion related to why we all had wanted to teach at the university or college level at some point in our lives. 198 Given the journey that I had taken to try and reach this goal, we talked in general terms about what teaching in higher education might entail. I then shared results from the 2011 SNAAP Final Report, which indicated that over 80 percent of masters-level graduate students in arts related fields worked as educators at some point in their careers. As a group, we agreed that there were potential benefits of having a job that followed an academic calendar. For example, some of our discussions focused on the advantages of having the summertime to make art and sabbatical opportunities for research. I also shared with the participants that I believed that the occupation of teaching in higher education was particularly fitting for an artist because of the gamut of resources that would be available within a college or university (i.e. facilities, equipment, museum collections, libraries). Jenna had said in response, “I love that idea.” I was also pleased to share with the MFA student participants the feelings of satisfaction, excitement, and adventure that I had experienced as I had worked with studio art students and other learners. In particular, I talked about how I felt invigorated by the opportunities I had had to teach undergraduate non-art majors about a variety of contemporary issues that seemed to inspire today’s artists including identity, time, place, the body, spirituality, and science (Robertson & McDaniel, 2013). Finding 3b: Some of the issues that were addressed in the readings, research, and class activities of two courses that I took during my doctoral studies influenced the ideas that I had developed in the process of designing the colloquium series. As mentioned earlier in this study, some of the curricular and pedagogical aspects of my 199 course, “Issues of Relevance and Character in the Visual Arts,” were informed by courses that I had taken as a doctoral student. The experiences that I had had within two specific courses including, “Teaching Visual Arts in Higher Education” (Beudert, 2011), and “Values, Consciousness, and Professional Practice” (Lee, 2012), encouraged me to mentally project various aspects of my personal self and my professional self into the real world, and thus informed a larger perspective I might take on the importance of developing an integrated sense of self. I reflected on these experiences as I developed my own ideas for curricula and pedagogies for a course that addressed the personal and professional development of MFA students. I was able to create what I believed to be important experiences that would help graduate students in the visual arts acknowledge the potential significance of empowering one’s sense of self through the process of examining their individual convictions and maximizing their experiences in graduate school both inter-personally and as future professionals. What follows are the explanations for some of the experiences I had had within two classes that had influenced the process of planning the course for this action research study. Influences from a course about teaching in higher education and becoming a professional educator. I had planned that the course I would offer to MFA graduate students would contain no more than 10 students, and as in Dr. Beudert’s course, it would be conducted in ways similar to those of a seminar course at the university. I had anticipated that this class format would allow for a strong sense of rapport to emerge 200 early in the semester as well as allow all of the voices within this action research study to be heard. During the semester of the colloquium series when we addressed issues that related to becoming a professional in the field of the visual arts, I read excerpts from some of the articles we covered in Dr. Beudert’s class. They helped me to present various issues within higher education of which the study’s participants may not have been aware. For example, the topics included issues related to the socialization of faculty, how college teachers prepare to teach, and gender issues and accountability in higher education. I expanded on these topics in the colloquium series sessions as I presented the work of additional scholars who addressed related issues and the ways that such issues might influence today’s MFA students, in particular. These scholars comprised many that I previously have reviewed in the literature, including Singerman (1999), Elkins (2001), Storr (2007), and Daichandt (2012). Elaborating on the complexities that we had discussed which existed within teaching and learning in higher education with Dr. Beudert, I discussed the needs that are specific to visual art students in higher education, the ways politics can effect change within MFA programs, and becoming a reflective art educator. I then decided to lead pedagogical activities during the colloquium sessions that included respectively, writing about the affects of critical feedback on their undergraduate studio art students, discussing ways to present new curricular ideas to the School of Art’s administrators, and creating imagery that represented each participant’s perceptions of how their teacher self overlapped with their artist self. 201 The textbook we used in Dr. Beudert’s course entitled, Tools for Teaching by Barbara Davis (2009) was particularly helpful when Annika, Jenna, Nate and I collaboratively designed the syllabus for the “Ultimate MFA Course” (see Appendix M). We referenced the research in this book to help us learn ways to assess student artwork, facilitate various class discussion strategies, and strengthen MFA students’ writing skills. As we worked during several colloquium sessions to put together a curriculum and complete the syllabus for this new course, we had decided to include an opportunity for MFA students to learn how to set up a studio space in order to professionally photograph their own visual artworks. Other ideas the MFA student participants added to the ultimate course emerged from my asking the participants to visually respond to the ways their artist selves were informed by an unfamiliar experience (a visual journal prompt), to write about the most meaningful pedagogy that they had encountered as an art student (a D2L discussion topic), and to express what they believed to be the most important point to teach and make sure students had learned as a student within an MFA program (a written reflection and in-class discussion topic). We became well immersed in the cycles of action research as the approaches to these activities led us to practice additional exercises, such as making lists of the steps we practiced in our art making and articulating the answer to the question, how do you grade art? In Dr. Beudert’s course, we learned about professionalism within the communities in higher education and wrote teaching philosophies to include in our final project, a completed professional teaching portfolio. These investigations and practices inspired me as I designed aspects of the colloquium series. Since I wanted to address the specific 202 language that was used in professional documents, such as teaching philosophies, artists’ statements, and cover letters for job applications, I facilitated discussions with the participants that helped us to define what it meant to each of us to be a teacher in the visual arts. I also directed an in-class written activity that helped us discover the most important vocabulary words in our artist statement, and managed a blog space for the participants to correspond about the goals they held for undergraduate studio art students. It should be noted that by examining certain professional issues that were relevant to teaching within the visual arts in higher education, the two MFA students in this course with Dr. Beudert had each successfully secured a studio art faculty job at a major university. Next, I address the influences of Dr. Lee’s course on the ways I approached developing the colloquium series sessions. A course that helped to connect practice and purpose. As in Dr. Beudert’s class, I studied various topics in Dr. Lee’s class that I believed would also be relevant to MFA graduate students. As stated on her syllabus, these topics included intuition and emotion, consciousness, integration, stress, awareness, mindfulness, and spirituality in higher education (Lee, 2011). Some of the ways that Dr. Lee encouraged her students to correspond with one another during the semester included employing the university’s D2L site as well as facilitating various in-class small group discussion activities. For use during the colloquium series, I expanded on these methods for communicating, and Annika, Jenna, Nate, and myself corresponded with one another through short in-class writing exercises that we read aloud, sharing and explaining imagery we had created in 203 our visual journals, conducting one-on-one meetings between each participant and myself in their individual studio spaces, and engaging in bi-weekly (both oral and written) selfreflections. The readings that students were assigned in Dr. Lee’s class broadly addressed issues related to values, beliefs, and personal and professional motivations of students in higher education. Having always believed that the process of art making pulls at an individual artist’s values, beliefs, and personal motivations, I became particularly interested in the scholars Dr. Lee introduced to our class (also reviewed in the literature) including Astin (2007), Palmer (2004), Chickering (2010), and Kabat-Zinn (1991). I read more and shared relevant excerpts from these readings with the MFA student participants during the colloquium sessions. I expanded on the topics and presented the work of additional scholars including Anker et al. (2007), Beudert (2006), Csikszentmihalyi (1993), and Salazar (2013), all of whom have addressed similar issues in higher education in relation to visual arts students. In Dr. Lee’s class, we had had several large and small group discussions that related to the integration of our personal values and the ways that they fit into the professional trajectory of our studies in higher education. Wanting to address similar topics with the participants during the colloquium series, I facilitated discussions within which they aligned the reasons that they chose to become MFA students and the professional development experiences that they had in their courses. We also talked about ways that our individual artistic voices were expressed through our visual work, written statements, and interactions with undergraduate students. 204 When we reflected upon the ways that stress accompanied studying at the graduate-level in Dr. Lee’s class, our conversations influenced ideas I shared with the participants. We addressed alleviating stress by brainstorming innovative critique techniques to practice with undergraduates, writing reflections that contained lists of both academic and artistic obligations, and sharing the ways we tried to effectively use our limited time. By revealing the different ways each of us dealt with different challenges, the participants and I gained new perspectives that we could consider going forward as future challenges emerged. Often, we ended these interactions by having brainstormed all that we had learned from and been empowered by, while overcoming what had once felt like insurmountable ordeals. Inspired in part by a reading from Parker Palmer’s work that Dr. Lee had assigned, I had asked the MFA participants to tell stories about the different relationships in their lives. They shared the connections they felt with specific professors that seemed to support their progress, undergraduates who inspired them to want to become teachers, peers who also endured the competitive atmosphere of studying to be a visual artist, and the family members who involved their lives outside of the participants’ experiences on campus. As one of us expressed a specific appreciation or frustration, another expression emerged from a different participant. Thus our conversations throughout the semester often seemed to organically lead precisely into the next. When we talked about the potential within relationships that each one of us could have with our individual selves (Tolle, 2005), I chose to lead a two-part activity that aimed to help the participants 205 integrate two of the roles they had embodied by writing a letter to his or her artist self, which was followed up by a return letter to his or her individual self. Because of the experiences I had had within both of these classes, I was more aware and mindful of my own experiences in relation to personal and professional development as a graduate student. These perspectives and understandings with regard to my own journey had deepened, as I had found myself drawing more parallels between my professional objectives for being an art educator and the broad personal intentions that motivated my art making. During the colloquium series, I told the participants that I had come to believe that teachers and artists do similar work. I explained that they both employ personal values and beliefs in their aims to communicate something meaningful to their respective audiences. In the end, these two courses had uniquely contributed to the merit I had already placed on the integration of one’s practice in the professional world with one’s personal motivations for being. Finding 3c: Feedback from the colloquium series, “Issues of Relevance and Character in the Fine Arts” provided ideas for me to consider as I aim to continue developing other courses of a similar nature. This last finding reflects the insights and understandings I gained from the participants in this study at the conclusion of the colloquium series. These participants, none of whom missed one of our colloquium sessions, specified the aspects of our semester that they had most enjoyed, found meaningful, and been challenged by. Reflecting on all the experiences from our semester together, they openly offered their concerns (in writing and through discussion) about 206 what they believed might have been missing from our course as well as their opinions about the relevance of other course topics that I had considered including in the colloquium series. In this section, I also present the recommendations that the participants and I discussed with regard to the structure of a course of this nature, the activities that might be more effective if they were practiced repeatedly throughout a semester, and the characteristics of the activities we believed were worthy of further development. In closing this section, I mention some of the final comments that the participants offered which included the connections they made with their MFA program experiences and a developing sense of self. Within the feedback I received on the Exit Survey (see Appendix E), the participants indicated that they found the various conversations we shared throughout each of our colloquium sessions to be the most valuable aspect of our course. They added that opening each of our colloquium sessions with a group discussion in response to a different reflective prompt was an engaging and meaningful way to begin our interactions with one another. Other activities that they found particularly meaningful included our writing activities in which we interpreted one another’s artwork and then listened as each participant read their interpretations aloud. They also gained valuable insight from the activity within which each participant wrote an outline of the steps in his or her art making process and then visually illustrated one of those steps to assist in explaining it to the group. Jenna had said that the opening prompts as well as other writings we had practiced, “helped me come closer to who I am. I learned to discuss issues in my own head” (11/29/12). 207 On the other hand, Jenna shared that she was greatly challenged by the visual journal prompt to create a visual representation of the combination of her teacher self and her artist self. Similarly, Nate indicated that the most difficult activity for him was writing a letter to his artist self. He wrote, “I felt that this considered a separation… [that] was forced and unproductive. My artist self is my self, is my student self, is my teacher self, is my husband self, is my musician self… etc” (12/6/12). All of the participants indicated that interacting with one another during our semester through the process of “blogging” was not engaging. Instead, they all preferred to conduct our discussions in person. Jenna pointed out her concern about the fact that, “There is very little teacher training… I’ve been thinking about taking classes in the teaching program to learn to be a better teacher” (11/29/12). Though Nate thought that the required practicum for MFA student TAs in the School of Art’s First Year Program was helpful, Annika insisted, “but we didn’t [learn] any pedagogy or look at articles.” She added, “it would be nice if we were able to talk about [issues related to teaching]” (11/29/12) as well as conduct more formalized discussions about pedagogy and about what it means to be a good teacher of the visual arts. I pointed out that we did not address the ways that each of us took care of ourselves physically, nurtured ourselves emotionally, or considered the role that spirituality played in our lives. I had wondered if they thought such topics might be added to a course like ours in the future. Nate articulated that discussing the ways we take care of ourselves was not necessary at the graduate level in education. Annika concurred and 208 replied, “To me, that starts to bleed into therapy but, ‘how do we manage [taking care of ourselves physically, emotionally, or spiritually] is a valid topic. There is a fine line between talking about ourselves and our work and therapy” (Annika, 11/29/12). As we thought about how a course of this nature might be structured in the future, the participants exchanged their different considerations for how self-reflexive exercises fit into a course about pedagogy. They believed that it was important to learn about “concrete professional things” despite how doing so seemed different from reflexive actions. Jenna suggested that the self-reflexive activities might become a meaningful part of MFA students’ studio courses. She also suggested that the colloquium series become a three-part course made up of professional development, self-reflexive and writing intensive exercises, and issues related to teaching “broken into sections [by the month]” (11/29/12). The participants indicated two pedagogical activities which they wished we had practiced more often. They included the writing exercises we did that aimed to develop their artist statements and teaching philosophies, and the one-on-one studio visits I conducted with each participant. Overall, all three of the MFA student participants indicated that they wished we had met as a group every week as was indicated in Nate’s reflection, “I enjoyed our time together” (12/6/12). In the end, the participants offered recommendations that included spending more time discussing the course readings and practicing writing exercises such as one in response to a critique session. The participants recommended that more time be spent 209 learning about effective ways to work with undergraduates and about what makes a good studio art teacher. Ideas for different visual journal entries included ones in which class members would create and share images that represented their “frustrated artist self,” and another one that visually interpreted the physical sensations of being in a specific place that they found to be invigorating. The participants also offered ideas for experiential occasions such as going on a group field trip, doing an art exhibition together, and making a larger work of art based on the participants’ experience of taking this course. Annika added that making a work of art in response to one of our reflexive exercises would help students to “integrate self-reflection and art-making” (12/6/12). Jenna encouraged that the next colloquium series employ a similar classroom environment and added, “this is really comfortable for me. The calm environment works for me” (10/18/12). The participants recommended that the MFA students in the next course regularly engage in writing exercises both informal, like our letters and lists, as well as formal such as teaching philosophies, artist statements, and professional artist resumes. They also mutually expressed that it would be professionally beneficial for MFA students to be required to submit their artwork to at least five shows or galleries per semester. Annika concluded, “Yes, this should be a part of our plan of study, part of the MFA program” (11/29/12). Finally, when I asked the participants what they believed might help to connect the experiences of earning an MFA degree with its influence on a student’s sense of self, Nate wrote: 210 I think that a [pursuing an] MFA gives one the opportunity to establish a specific sense of self more than any other degree… you get to choose what you care about… The MFA program encourages you to figure out exactly what that is, explore it more meaningfully, and be able to articulate it. (12/6/12) Annika wrote: [Earning an MFA degree] forces you to know who you are and what you care about through caring about your work and standing behind it. I believe it’s important to know who you are and to grow in order to effectively communicate through art. In that way, the MFA does help evolve your sense of self. (12/6/12) To sum up the semester, some of the responses I received from the participants that were specific to the colloquium series itself included: “It offers a more pointed opportunity for personal reflection than most classes,” and “It helped to integrate personal reflection into my art practice and helped me to examine the ways I work and how they relate to my teaching,” and “Thanks, Barbara! You should convince the school to start a course about teaching art for MFA students. I think one is very much needed” (12/6/12). In the next chapter, I discuss various implications from this study’s findings. 211 CHAPTER SEVEN: DISCUSSION AND IMPLICATIONS In this final chapter, I explain the immediate and wider-reaching implications of this research study. This discussion focuses on how the findings align with my overall research question and sub-questions; my interpretations of the study’s findings in the form of a series of themes; specific questions that emerged during the analysis of the data; new possibilities and directions for future research, along with the personal reflections I noted regarding my own experiences, insights, and transformations as both the facilitator of, and a participant in this educational participatory action research study. Those persons most likely to find relevant interest in the findings from this study include visual arts students and instructors in MFA programs in the United States, art educators within the field of art and visual culture education, and action researchers like myself within higher education. Thus, throughout the following discussion, how this research study might impact each of these groups of people provides the context for my narrative. The context for this study was the semester-long course I designed that offered one elective unit of university credit to its participants and comprised a series of colloquium sessions that I facilitated as a teacher, a researcher, and an artist. The question that guided this research study was: How do the experiences related to personal and professional development within an MFA visual arts program influence a graduate student’s individual sense of self? In order to address this overarching research question, I posed the following subquestions: 212 10. How do MFA students within a course that addresses the curricula and pedagogies of their graduate programs and their experiences as MFA students describe themselves as individuals, students, artists, teachers, and future professionals in the field of the visual arts? 11. How does participating in the course allow MFA students to examine and reflect upon their personal and professional growth as well as their graduate experiences? 12. How does my role as the teacher-researcher-artist of the course enable MFA students to critically examine and reflect upon their experiences and their developing sense of self as MFA students? Findings from research sub-question one revealed how each of the MFA student participants described her or him self with confidence in terms of her or his "character" as an individual, graduate student, and/or artist. By discussing and refining what is meant by "a sense of self" during our semester through the use and practice of multiple reflexive pedagogies, the participants began to realize that they had similar perceptions regarding their positions as teachers, a character role within which they were fairly new. When asked to describe themselves as future professionals in the field of the visual arts, the participants were tentative and disclosed a mutual lack of understanding about what lay ahead for them after graduating from their graduate programs. These uncertainties and lack of understandings surfaced during reflective pedagogical activities in which we critically analyzed our initial motivations for having become MFA students, articulated the “voice” we hoped our artwork expressed, discovered the impact that the practice of 213 teaching made in our lives, and disclosed the expectations we held for ourselves, the MFA programs within the School of Art, and our futures. Research sub-question two inquired into and addressed the impact of participating in the colloquium series, “Issues of Relevance and Character in the Fine Arts.” Several findings suggested that the course’s reflexive pedagogy, when practiced autonomously followed by discussing the activities among the participants, cultivated revealing discoveries within the participants that related to the experiences of their MFA programs and the complex circumstances that accompany earning the MFA degree. What may account for these findings is how the participants spent time inside and outside of our colloquium sessions writing, image-making, and talking about topics such as the benefits of the three-year structure of the university’s MFA programs as well as the MFA student participants’ desire for training to become studio art instructors (Madoff, 2009). Also, the cyclical nature of the action research methodology appeared to allow for the ongoing responses that participants had regarding the issues and concerns they deemed to be most valuable to investigate and consider during each colloquium session. Acting, reacting, and responding to various class activities (Pine, 2009; Somekh, 2008; Whitehead, 1989) revealed the most meaningfully transformed pedagogical practices of our sessions and why the participants believed that these practices should be placed within the syllabus for our collaboratively designed “Ultimate MFA Course.” Participating in each colloquium session was important enough to each of the participants that none of them missed one session. As I had mentioned when a scheduling conflict did arise, as a group, we coordinated another meeting date. The findings appear 214 to indicate that the meaning and usefulness the participants had found in our small seminar-like sessions were motivating, and in the end, they had requested that we do more writing exercises, turn one of their visual journal entries into a larger work of art, and learn more about pedagogical approaches to working with undergraduates. The nature of the bi-weekly sessions (i.e. cordial, private, receptive) contributed to the degree of trust the participants developed and enjoyed with one another while determining issues related to their personal and professional development. The rapport within our small group was established early in the semester and provided a colloquium environment in which the participants felt comfortable expressing their concerns and ideas, which in turn led them to not only evaluate their own graduate experiences, but also each experience’s potential relevance to other MFA graduate students. Research sub-question three probed and examined my role in this study. As the teacher-researcher-artist who facilitated the colloquium series, I believe that the empathy I contained and expressed toward the participants was critical to the flow of our conversations. Given my own personal and professional background, the findings seemed to indicate that I had gained an understanding of many of the relationships that often materialized between MFA students and their professors, and how they greatly impacted students’ perceptions of their experiences within their programs. The findings also suggest that reflecting back to two courses I had taken as a doctoral student provided inspiration for some of the colloquium series’ curriculum. One course, in particular, “awakened” me to the connections that I had begun to draw between understanding one’s sense of self and the acts of creating visually self-expressive artwork. 215 The insight I gained from the experiences of this research study helped me to see each of the participant's experiences differently and clarified a need for respecting the complex relationships that emerged from the analysis of the data. As I interpreted findings, I found that my background as a teacher, a researcher, and as an artist helped to enable me to facilitate personal and professional inquiry with a small group. My approach was informed further by my own experiences of earning an MFA degree at the same university, the value I put on practices of mindfulness and self-reflection in higher education, and my understandings of the influential role of being an art educator. My approach was also guided by my desire and capacity to conduct action research with the MFA student participants. This form of research allowed me to document emergent curricular and pedagogical developments within the colloquium series as well as to convey to the participants the impact of the personal and professional living circumstances that Mary, my former MFA student colleague, and I encountered shortly after we graduated with our MFA degrees. In the future, I hope to have the opportunity to implement aspects of the colloquium series into existing MFA programs and perhaps contribute to the curriculum development of various programs in the visual arts. Discussion of Themes A number of themes emerged from my analysis of the findings and revealed many intricacies and complexities regarding the educational and artistic experiences of the participants as they progressed toward earning their MFA degrees. As revealed in 216 Chapter Six, participating in the colloquium series helped the MFA student participants to begin to clarify aspects of their inter-personal priorities, educational goals, and artistic aspirations. It was their relationships with others surrounding their educational circumstances, however, that substantially influenced intra-personal issues related to selfconfidence, their degree of flexibility toward and consideration of the recommendations they received about artistic materials and concepts, the affects of the competitive nature of the field of visual arts, and their handle on the confusion that seemed innate to learning about what it meant to be a professional in the field of the visual arts. Going forward in this final chapter and based on my understandings and interpretations of these prominent and complex relationships, I hope to reveal what I believe to be the importance of the study’s findings. The complicated insight gained from exploring oneself as an MFA student The participants recognized the challenges of performing a study about their individual selves and concepts of mindfulness. For example, Annika had commented that, “There is a fine line between talking about ourselves as artists and doing self-reflexive work and [conducting] therapy… to me, [talking about how we take care of ourselves physically and emotionally] starts to bleed into therapeutic things.” Nate had concurred claiming his belief that, at the graduate level, talking about the ways we “take care of ourselves” was not necessary. As the one who had shared that she wished to forget a time in her life that had included several years of therapy, Annika eventually concluded, 217 “However, discussing ways we manage [taking care of ourselves] is an important and valid topic” (11/29/12). The data inferred that I believed this to be true as well. Annika had expressed that part of her intention for going to art school was to learn how to be a better artist, uncover what she believed in, and become more articulate through artistic imagery. She had considered that doing so would take getting to the “core” of who she was and had explained that, to her, art school “confronts you with all these things about yourself and that’s the difficult part about it” (9/6/12). Jenna had mentioned that, “How I paint is how I think” (10/4/12). She had discovered that she was painting to communicate just as painting had done throughout its history. She appeared to believe that her paintings had moods and that it was important to her for others to be able to discern those moods. Jenna had enjoyed studying the paintings in art history as she was pursuing the answer to her question, “What is new about me?” These investigations and realizations appeared to help Jenna acknowledge that the growth she had made was sometimes painful. She had expressed how she wished that she had the forte to be selfish with her time, avoid thinking that she should “be good,” and attend less to others as doing so seemed to impose on her painting practice. Given the diverse perceptions that I have just revealed, the participants in this study seemed open to the momentum of ongoing actions of reflecting, reacting, and responding to the topics not only in the colloquium series, but also to participating in this research study. The participants divulged, both intentionally and unintentionally, the impact of the relationships that existed within and between their “characters” as students, artists, teachers, and future professionals in the visual arts. Our recurrent and candid 218 conversations exposed many nuances that underscored the complicated and entwined nature of these relationships between the participants’ “characters” and the others who surrounded their educational circumstances. The complex relationships encountered by the participants It is probable that the professors within the School of Art likely considered and referred to the MFA participants in this study as “students” within their classes. On the other hand, many of the undergraduate students within the School of Art probably considered these MFA graduate students to be "teachers," as they taught them in their roles as TAs. In addition, their peers in the MFA programs may have deemed the three participants to be fellow artists; and according to the literature, it was possible that few persons within the School of Art, including the MFA student participants themselves, regarded Jenna, Nate, and Annika as future professionals in earnest (Elkins, 2011; Daichendt, 2010; Singerman, 1999). What follows are discussions regarding the farreaching impact of these peculiar relationships as they relate to each participant’s sense of self. The MFA students’ relationships with their own “selves”. Each of the graduate student participants reflected on their first year in the MFA program as being stressful yet particularly informative. I recall the comment Annika made as she had first begun her second year, “Wow I’ve really grown” from the “stress and insanity” of being a first-year graduate student. She had also given the impression that she was beginning to connect the 219 significance of her interests in dance with her new video work, which she had been pleased to explore after setting aside most of her photographic practices. Nate had explained his belief that the MFA program’s third year was the best. He believed that he would be able to work more autonomously than he had in the previous two years. This thought seemed to be reflected in his comment: “Seeing progress takes literal time. You have to sit with works sometimes and don’t have answers right now just because you’re a student in art school” (9/6/12). He had been glad to have an opportunity to revisit unfinished works and seek out such answers. Nate had anticipated graduating into the real world and claimed, “getting to that point with yourself where you can make a strong first good impression… is not easy” (9/6/12). As addressed in Chapter Six, after realizing that she was not going to “wake up and be different,” Jenna had reflected back to her first year seeing it “as okay” because its occasion got her to her second year and “more prepared to take criticism.” She had seemed to come to understand that what results from a critique session, “depends on the student,” and that art school, in general, is “what you made of it because some [students] come in, just do the work, and graduate with an MFA” (9/6/12). Ways the participants understood themselves as students of the profession. Annika, Jenna, and Nate had previously earned the professional degree of the Bachelor of Fine Arts. Their choices to return to art school at the graduate level for an additional professional degree, the MFA, were telling as they revealed a certain degree of 220 competence and confidence in each of them. I said, after all, “we believe in our artistic voices, pushing them, and being professionals on the other end” (10/4/12). As suggested earlier, addressing issues related to the topic of caring about ourselves could be considered similar to undergoing therapy and was believed by some to not be relevant to students at the graduate level. Because of this, I had wondered if the participants believed that they had passed a need to do such “basic” investigations; after all they had grasped the accomplishment of having advanced to pursue a terminal degree. Perhaps, because they had already experienced certain developments while earning their undergraduate degrees, the participants perceived that talking about concepts of self was, “now considered a somewhat pathetic phenomenon and consigned to adolescence” (Anker et al., 2007, p. 104). As the semester progressed, the participants had begun to realize that some topics that they believed were important appeared to be missing in their programs’ curricula. These topics included issues that they believed related to many professional necessities for today’s contemporary artist, such as learning how to construct a professional website, being trained as a teacher (learning pedagogy, reading current articles, and talking about how others deal with certain challenges), developing writing skills, learning the significance of and how to professionally document personal artwork and the work of their students, creating submissions to galleries in pursuit of their representation, developing a professional portfolio for the “real world,” and being introduced to the “nuts and bolts,” the entrepreneurial skills and the business skills involved with being an artist. 221 Having minimal, if any, say in the School of Art's curricular planning for its MFA programs, the participants’ collaborative experience of designing the “Ultimate MFA Course,” appeared to allow for their “voices” to be heard. Many findings reveal the participants’ excitement and enthusiasm for having designed the course as they articulated what we believed was important in the professional and artistic development of MFA students. This project had seemed to inspire the participants so much so that Annika had asked if we could meet with the Director of the School of Art with our syllabus and curriculum. As I mentioned, she had suggested that we might present it at one of the School of Art’s faculty meetings. Nate had commented on how he hoped to be able to teach a course like this someday. As the semester progressed, I had also realized that it was vital that MFA students needed to have quality writing skills (Calvert, 2010; Daichendt, 2010; Tai, 2006). The participants had appreciated our writing activities encouraging them to informally make lists, interpret each other's artwork, or write about circumstances that made them feel uncomfortable and/or motivated. These assignments had been very influential on them, so much so that a “writing intensive” part to our “Ultimate MFA Course” had been considered and modified. The participants had wanted to be able to write quality and meaningful artist statements and teaching philosophies. For example, Jenna and Nate had each asked me for help with those two types of professional statements, specifically. Jenna had reflected that, “even writing in her science classes helped her to come closer to who she is” (11/29/12). 222 The complex links between the participants and their professors. Though tacit, one of the most impactful links between the MFA student participants and their professors was through the ways the participants viewed how their professors modeled their roles as professional faculty members. Proprietors of their classrooms and curricula, professors within the School of Art had modeled behaviors of teaching. The MFA participants noted that they had observed and interacted with various different teaching approaches, which often involved class critiques and one-on-one discussions at meetings (often over cups of coffee). Each of the participants had acknowledged the experiences of how they had been the recipients of validating or cutting comments in a formal review (Blair, 2006; Singerman, 1999). Observing the teaching practices of professors in their BFA and MFA programs, together with their experiences working as TAs at the university, appeared to comprise the participants' "teacher-training." Likely untrained instructors themselves, the professors at the university “taught” the MFA participants ways to teach the studio arts in higher education (Beck et al., 2009). Having gained insight into the personal and professional lives of their own visual arts instructors, all three MFA student participants seemed to have a clearer understanding for what it means to teach. I recall the story that Annika shared about how, once in a critique session, a professor made her cry. When the same professor later returned to Annika’s studio, she had resisted conversing with the professor. It had felt stressful for Annika to have to re-embark on a relationship with a teacher who had previously hurt her feelings. While in her role as a TA however, Annika had also been challenged with being both honest and encouraging to one of her own students whose 223 artwork had not met her expectations. Additionally, Jenna had shared that one of her professors told her that she “wasn’t going to make it.” Considering it a challenge, Jenna had claimed that harsh criticism made her work harder. During this discussion Nate added that he believed that this comment the professor had made had been intended to scare Jenna. This thoughtful gesture of Nate’s seemed to reveal a general concern he seemed to have for Jenna and Annika as he had also anticipated that Annika and Jenna would hear similar comments again in the future. The point of discussing the circumstances that Annika and Jenna experienced with their professors is how they illustrate the ways in which a professor addresses his or her individual students can make long-lasting impacts on that individual, especially when made in front of that student and his or her peers during a studio critique. The participants' experiences suggest that going to art school and enduring intense relationships with their professors can be an emotional endeavor, adding to the intensity they enjoy while making meaningful art as part of a process of self-expression. As mentioned in Chapter Six, a couple of times during our colloquium series Jenna and Nate had conversed about the dissimilar messages they had received from various professors outside of their classes regarding the profession of teaching in the studio arts. As reflected in the data, Jenna had been told that if she worked hard, her chances of finding a job would be better. Another professor had indicated, however, that it was not realistic for Jenna (or any MFA student) to anticipate being a professor right after graduating. 224 Nate had also recalled the mixed message he received from the professor who had helped him write the teaching philosophy he would include in his job application packets. This professor had made recommendations for using specific language to indicate Nate’s flexibility regarding his beliefs about teaching art. For example, having been told that he was sometimes “artistically aggressive,” Nate had also been advised to change the sentence he wrote: “Art can be anything” to read as, “Art can be versatile.” Nate had reflected on this by saying, “I have to be sensitive to people that will think differently from me” (10/4/12). At a later point, upon hearing that this professor had claimed that most MFA students don’t pursue teaching positions right out of school, Nate had wondered to himself, “then, what do I do?” and had sarcastically referred to himself as doomed to “just wandering around for a couple of years” (11/15/12). Annika had endured another type of mixed message from professors at the end of her formal candidacy review. The professors in her division had encouraged her to consider making work that was “happy” as her work up until this point had reflected subjects related to tragedy. At colloquium session seven, Annika had reported with disappointment that, “[A professor on her committee] had said, ‘I think you’re going to have a really good year next year’ and they complimented me about being willing to take risks. But, I am irritated that [I’m] being pushed in another direction… [another professor asked me] ‘what are you turning into, a documentary photographer?’” (11/15/12). Annika had added that ironically, this question came from a professor who claimed to be “so excited” about her work a year ago. It should be noted that as Jenna listened to Annika’s story, she had wondered if a student who was considered to be a “documentary 225 photographer” in Annika’s division was the same as when, in her division, a student was considered to be an “illustrator?” My interpretation of these comments suggest that neither of these positions was a positive one for the participant or the participant’s work. A more optimistic report Annika had shared regarded a scenario she had experienced with one of her professors in a class during her first year. Annika had been asked to explain the meaning of the piece upon which she was working and had indicated to the professor that she “had no idea.” As the data indicated, this answer had cued the professor to continue talking with Annika about her interests and the things she cared about, as these could be inspiring sources for her visual art. Annika had been grateful for this conversation, as she had since believed that the discussion had helped her to make many meaningful artistic decisions. These data appear to indicate that these MFA students, when discussing complimentary, discouraging or confusing interactions with their professors, had placed much value on the communication between a student and a professor. In doing so, as teachers (TAs) themselves, the participants became more mindful of the impact their role can make on each of their studio art students. Relationships with peers: The MFA participants’ words and actions. Interesting issues, different from those surrounding their relationships with their professors, appear to have made an impact on the relationships that the participants shared with their peers across the entire graduate program. By this, I mean that the three MFA student participants had commented frequently about how they had chosen to avoid being social and had different opinions about participating in artistic collaborations with others. I 226 recall when Annika and Jenna had explained early in our semester that they had chosen not to spend time attending get-togethers, dating, or just “hanging out.” The two of them had decided that their time pursuing their MFA degrees was more important. Nate had expressed his frustration with his peers who were earning the MFA to “get a pass” to acquire one of the credentials, an MFA degree, for a teaching position in higher education. He had spoken about how he believed that such choices that were made by some MFA students devalued his own degree. The premise of these data contradicts the ways that the participants optimistically regarded their relationships between one another. Annika, Jenna, and Nate appeared to have appreciated having had the time during our sessions to “just talk” as a small group. My findings suggest that they had been comfortable disagreeing with each other, and what seemed to feel like "constructive downtime" provided a place in which I noted the respect, care, and support that the participants had developed for one another. In particular, Annika had expressed gratitude for the peers in the program who “pushed her.” Additionally, during colloquium four, I noted how the participants had offered to share their time with each other by helping to set up a studio for candidacy or teaching each other new software. The data indicated how the participants had also reached out to others with their idea for organizing a student-only group critique. As mentioned in Chapter Six, when one of the four of us anticipated missing a colloquium session, we had rescheduled it in order to maintain our small group’s range of perspectives within each of our sessions. These findings represent a subtle dichotomy between how the participants implied that they had strong independent natures in part because of the high priority they 227 had placed on earning their degrees. The findings also seemed to reveal that interactions with each other and their peers contributed value to the participants’ experiences of earning an MFA degree. Given the experiences the participants had had with the group video critique they had organized, I noted other realizations that had emerged in Jenna and Nate when reflecting on the event. Having been open to all interested visual art MFA students, the critique had also been presented as an informal occasion to “see what’s out there.” The event had been well attended, and Nate and Jenna had recalled that the exchanges among the MFA students had been “authentic,” despite having also been somewhat callous to a few of those who had attended. With Nate’s support, Jenna had decided to apologize to those students. These data seem to suggest that Jenna and Nate possessed an empathetic awareness for the personal impact that a rigorous critique can have on an MFA student. It is possible that the care they had for their peers were also inspired by feelings of guilt. I noted the mindfulness that encouraged the progress of another action research cycle as Nate and Jenna had planned the event in order to have a critique, had participated in the event collectively with their peers, had responded to the event realizing the potential insensitivity perceived by some attendees, and therefore had chosen to modify and even change their plans for the next critique event. Concepts for collaborating with peers within an art school were regarded differently by Annika, Jenna, and Nate. For example, Jenna expressed that it was not acceptable to her that some students in the MFA program did not take the experience of earning their degrees seriously. She had observed that, as peers in art school together, 228 “We’re constantly rewriting and sharing [our artwork] with each other. If you don’t do that, it’s not okay” (9/6/12). On another note, Nate had shared his experience of having once been “forced” to pair up with another student he didn’t know as part of a class assignment. The two of them had been required to create a work of art together within the following 24 hours and then to present it to their class the following day. Nate had reflected in the following manner: “I don’t normally like collaborations… but this was an exhausting and fun experience…[It] had a really strong idea at its core that I still think about” (11/13/12). Despite a general lack of enthusiasm from the participants regarding group projects in any class, my observations and findings suggest that they had worked well collaboratively. The rapport that had developed within our small group, with the inclusion of some laughs, seemed to complement the concise engagements we did in order to complete the final project in our colloquium series. Perhaps, inspired by this, Annika had recommended that the next time this colloquium series was taught, consideration should be given to doing a “class” project. Jenna had agreed by immediately suggesting the inclusion of organizing a group show or doing the 24-hour exercise paired with a peer that Nate had spoken about. Ironically however, Nate had responded emphatically, “No, group projects suck” (11/29/12). As far as employing concepts of collaboration in the classes they were teaching during that semester, all three participants had mentioned that working within a collaborative environment was an important characteristic for undergraduate studio art courses. This appeared to be an example of what we learned in Chapter Six where Nate 229 “saw” himself teaching something valuable in spite of how he, himself, did not practice collaborative work. The participants coming to terms with perceptions of themselves as artists. Nate seemed to understand that his “authentic self is my artist self” (11/15/12). The findings indicate that Nate still believed in this and other aspects of himself at the close of the semester. At the start of our colloquium series, Nate had shared his fear about when he talked to others about his artwork, his explanations tended to come across as too complex and had suggested that he would “lose people” in these conversations. He had claimed that what inspired him as an artist was abstract (i.e. science, the news, time), and how later he had included that his inspirations had come from reading art books, camping, and the calm he experienced while smoking his tobacco pipe. In terms of being a maker of art, Nate’s perceptions of himself throughout our semester seemed consistent and he reassured us that the concept for and the craftsmanship of his final thesis project would be equally important. During our semester, the evolutions of Annika's comments on and reflections about her artwork suggested that she had learned that her work was more about questions than answers. The risk of, her trust in, and the unpredictable outcomes from working with her intuition were what seemed to have most powerfully come to artistically motivate Annika. To her, coming into a relationship with herself as an artist had meant coming to terms with a relationship with herself. 230 The data seemed to indicate that Jenna had responded to input from others as she grew as an artist during the semester. At first, I observed that she was building a relationship with her artist self through the input she received from an unusually large number of critique experiences. However, over time, the data I had collected regarding Jenna as an artist revealed an elaborate record of her personally valuable ritualistic actions within many of her working methods. Among the lists she had shared at colloquium three of what inspired her artistically, which included shadows, leaves, change, texture, and water, she had included the most humble of visual journal images and had staked the claim “Nothing else commands me in this way” (9/20/12). This succinct reflection of Jenna’s is what I believe to be the deepest, most profound, selfreflection of our entire semester. Given the findings and the literature with regard to understanding one’s sense of self (Chickering, Dalton & Stamm, 2006; Csikszentmihalyi, 1993; Magolda, 2001; Palmer, 2010; Palmer, Zajonc, & Scriber, 2004), Jenna seemed to possess a deeply-rooted acceptance of her inter-relationships associated with the escape of her artistic practice, her instinctively empathic demeanor as a TA, and her choice to leave a career in science to study painting. It seemed that Jenna’s process of coming to terms with the complex relationship between herself and her artist self had been balanced with an “inner” confidence that I believe, based on my findings, was still gunning for the consent of her more resistant and resourceful “outer” confidence. It appeared that she knew that nearly every act she made as a student “counted” toward her growth. Data supporting my supposition include how Jenna had formulated a decision during our semester to invest in expensive supplies and 231 to acquire a piece of new equipment - a projector - that helped the efficiency of her production. Jenna also rarely, if ever, veered from her rituals that involved her preparations to paint in her studio. It seemed Jenna and her artist self were at the edge of “wholeness” (Palmer, 2010) as she talked about a display she had recently constructed of all the artwork she had made, from the beginning in high school to now. This was evidenced in her comment that, “The weirdest thing was that it all connected” (10/18/12). The participants’ vague sense of place in the future as professionals. My findings indicate that the participants’ sense of where their place would be in the professional world appeared unclear at the start of our semester as Jenna had asked, “What do you do when you’re done with your MFA... it’s a gamble” (10/4/12). As the semester progressed it seemed that the participants, having articulated many questions about becoming a professional (artist, teacher, or otherwise), maintained great curiosity toward and hope for the potential of having earned their MFA degrees. The data also seem to indicate that many of the pedagogical activities we had completed during our semester, such as talking about ways to articulate the meanings of their artworks to different audiences, writing lists of their immediate obligatory and preferred situations at hand, and considering an image that illustrated where their artist selves and their teacher selves “overlap” brought about what appeared to be a fresh and mindful awareness as they had begun to consider how they might begin to integrate themselves into the professional or “real world.” 232 It seemed that the most familiar professional work to each of us was the work of a teacher. Nearly all of the conversations we had had regarding a professional life after graduate school had included consideration for a career as a studio art instructor in higher education. In the narrative that follows, a focus on the work of being a teacher will emerge. Nate had articulated wanting to work with university-level students because he preferred the types of conversations students and professors could exchange between them. The findings point out that Nate seemed to feel more comfortable teaching older students rather than younger children. Nate had also indicated that he wanted to place his artwork in alternative venues and teach somewhere that would inspire him through its geography. He appeared to understand that the best way to learn something was to teach it. Annika had disclosed that it had felt meaningful to inspire others while in her role as a TA. Once having learned more pedagogy and gained advice for ways to motivate and communicate with undergraduate studio art students, she had felt that she would be ready for a professional teaching position. She had talked about the awareness she gained in order to have realized that teaching styles are responded to differently and expressed how her role as a teacher became stressful in her desire to grade students’ work fairly as well as ensure that she spent appropriate time on judging their artworks in order to guarantee the success of her undergraduates. Jenna also had revealed that she thought that when offering her students critical feedback during a critique they would hear “you’re the worst 233 artist ever,” the same internally invented feedback Jenna “heard” in critiques as an undergraduate student. The findings indicate that as teachers and considering teaching as a job during the colloquium series' activities, the participants began to realize that they were pedagogical models for their undergraduate students and needed to make relevant curricular and pedagogical choices. The findings also indicate that after the participants had literally “heard” themselves teach, they started to realize how their own personal values and beliefs, as well as their distinct perspectives concerning art, seemed to emerge from their practices in teaching. “The process in which art educators engage should challenge them to continuously test their theories and rethink what they know and value” (Hausman, 2009, p. 112). Overall, the participants had wanted to know more about working with undergraduates, learn new class critique strategies, and attain other innovative pedagogies including reflexive activities so the students learned “to go deeper” (Annika, 10/18/12). The data that led to these findings include what seemed to be the participants’ growth toward being full of genuine care for the lives of their undergraduate students. They seemed to have an inner desire to promote what they believed was life-changing about studying art, and what might be perceived by their students as having empathy for the potentially emotional and intense experiences of studying the visual arts. Designing what could be the best possible course for an MFA student to take initially appeared to be an overwhelming task for the participants. For example, after I had posted a prompt on D2L to begin an electronic conversation about conceiving a syllabus for such a course, Jenna had expressed that doing so was a charge “so big” that it 234 was “hard to wrap my head around it” (9/20/12). Annika had concurred by saying, “there are so many possibilities and parts [of a course] to consider.” Given that each participant had raised some level of interest in being a studio art instructor in higher education, I had thought that their reactions to the prompt would trigger many telling layers of exchanges among us. Instead, I had found myself apologizing in session three: “I didn’t mean for [conceiving the ‘ultimate’ course] to be so hard” (9/20/12). At first, this observation indicated to me that the participants seemed to be far from clear about or comfortable with being a teacher of graduate-level visual artist students, the future profession that I had begun to understand to be of greatest interest to the participants at this time in their lives. However, I realized that once we had begun a group conversation about what would comprise the “Ultimate MFA Course,” Jenna, Annika, and Nate had appeared to enthusiastically pursue discussing impassioned ideas related to possible assignments, readings, field-trips, and a final project for the course. These findings show that when the participants had an opportunity to design the “greatest of MFA courses,” they seemed to prefer, and very much enjoy, collaborating as they began to divulge their own personal experiences from the whole of their visual arts education, including how meaningful Annika and Jenna had found the use of written evaluations as assessment strategies in their undergraduate education. As the participants revisited this task many times during the next several colloquium sessions, they had appeared to be motivated by their own previous experiences as visual art students. For example, they had responded positively to how Jenna’s experience of participating in a critique offering visual, not oral feedback had been informative to her and her peers in 235 novel ways. They had listened to Nate’s stories about his experiences of working with a new medium with each new project he envisioned, and how this had helped his conceptually-based artistic approach to stay fresh. They had learned from Annika’s informative actions of personal reflection that had seemed to help her to better understand the power of her intuition, in conjunction with other situations from their art school experiences that seemed to have made a lasting impact on them. Many of the circumstances we addressed seemed to allow the participants to gain a better awareness of life after graduate school. They had expressed and demonstrated an eagerness in learning about the practicalities of becoming a teacher in higher education or working in a gallery as a curator. They seemed curious about new statistics about MFA alumni, the business aspects of being an artist, and the challenges of maintaining meaningful creative inspiration and production. The findings show that they had wished to be informed about the possibilities they might encounter in the future, even though they seemed to be unclear about what their own personal futures might look like. I have interpreted these finding to mean that “instead of being reactive," they will "be proactive” (Nate, 11/8/12) regarding concerns about their futures, because they began to understand the consequences of the open-endedness of their “terminal” degree (Brooks, 2013; Elkins, 2011; Singerman, 1999). The fulfillment concerning my own sense of self It has been gratifying to sort out the data within this study and immensely informative to have been able to discuss relevant issues with MFA students regarding the 236 personal and professional circumstances of their educational experiences. At the beginning this study, I had aimed to position myself where I could impact the ways an MFA student might explore his or her developing sense of self and bring to light opportunities to supplement the fundamental aspects of earning a professional degree in the visual arts. I believed I might identify, with the help of current graduate students within the university’s School of Art, what I sensed had been overlooked in my own experience of earning an MFA degree, and imagined that by doing so might be relevant to other MFA programs in the United States. There are many fulfilling relationships that have contributed to developing and strengthening my own sense of self as a result of this study. I believe that two overarching circumstances, in particular, contributed to this development and fulfillment: First, my employment of the methodology of action research meant my relationships with each of the participants were relevant to our study and contributed to the affects of its collective experience. Secondly, my desire was to be open to the participants’ curricular inclinations as I facilitated their collaboratively designed MFA course of their own; thus, hoping that the participants would be able to conclude the semester having critically evaluated what they had determined to be most important and meaningful with regard to their own MFA degrees. Since I had shared with Annika, Jenna, and Nate that a most important aspect of the colloquium series was about understanding concepts related to one’s sense of self, I had recalled the notion I put forward at our first session saying “this class is about you paying attention to you” (8/24/12) and soon realized that the methodology of action 237 research would be key to the success of the study. As I “saw myself” in each of the participants at nearly every turn of topic or circumstance, I was able to seek and explore proactive responses with them, by employing a very personally motivated empathy. While the audio from our second session played, I had written in my notes “listening to this recording is exhausting. It seems that every thought is valuable to my study” (9/6/12). "Action research works!" It had felt honest to be “in it” with the participants rather than observing them from the outside. What fed my sense of self with regard to designing the “Ultimate MFA Course” was how intensely the participants embraced the project. They had been slow to leave our classroom after our last colloquium session for the reason that they had asked about the possibility of presenting the results of our final project - the curriculum for the “Ultimate MFA Course” - at a faculty meeting. The participants had included in the course design some of the pedagogies from our bi-weekly sessions and had additionally considered and debated about what course within their current plans of study might also be appropriate for addressing these themes and activities. Among these aspects of meaningful engagements with the participants, I was touched when I noted that within the “ultimate” syllabus for their new course, the participants had collaboratively determined that the course would meet once a week rather than bi-weekly, and would be worth three units of credit toward their MFA programs of study instead of just one. 238 Looking back and acknowledging additional reflections Considering the experiences that comprised this entire study, I discerned additional issues that provided important perspectives at its conclusion. In this section, I address the ways that, if given the opportunity, I hope to go about leading a course similar to the colloquium series in this study. After that, I discuss those findings that emerged unexpectedly over the semester as well as the insight I gained into my own actions and thoughts within the study. I also reflect on the study's successes and limitations. Awakenings of interest for the next colloquium series “What didn’t work?” was one of the questions on my reflection worksheet of which I filled out at the conclusion of each colloquium session called, “Issues of Relevance and Character in the Fine Arts.” Looking back at what I wrote, I am motivated to change different aspects of the course. In general, I would first encourage class members to consider our colloquium series as a place for constructive academic and artistic “down time.” Though I had considered the data I was collecting to be insight into the different “characters” of my participants, the term itself was problematic as participants concluded that “character” did not seem to be what we were directly addressing in the course. Next time, I would address my research interests in the class members’ characters through an embedded approach employing the following terms: To inform myself of the “self” within each student, I would routinely lead a self-reflexive activity at the start of each session. I would hope that the class members could collect 239 weeks of inner reflections and ultimately provide a holistic intra-perspective of them selves. A goal for the end of the course would be that each class member would be able to acknowledge individual strengths and weaknesses as they recognized who each of them “had been” during our semester, and therefore be more able to swiftly move past that place. Students would have an opportunity to sort out, “The ultimate question(s)… how ambitious you are for your work in the long run? How do you pace yourself relative to your particular talents, emotional stamina, and powers of concentration, as well as to the particular demands and rhythm of the kind of work you do? (Anker et al., 2007, p. 113). Another "character" I would look for within each class member would be to explore his or her “student” character. To approach this, my class activities would include a research activity that investigated the topics, personalities, and ideas that provide students' academic momentum from semester to semester. I would begin by having students record their short-term goals and determine the questions that needed answers before they graduate. If class members were TAs as my study’s participants were, I would address their “teacher” selves by encouraging the small group to decide, on the whole, what they believed was missing from their MFA programs and then articulate why having that aspect to the program was important (Beck et al., 2009). Trying to discover the “artist” selves of the class members, I would have them list and then explain the reasons why the world should care about their work. I would also have them consider who made up their supporting and viewing audience, literally. We 240 could then begin strategizing ways to start building relationships with these groups of people. To help class members think in terms of the “big picture” of their lives, I would hope to encourage them to investigate the current and contemporary controversy related to the relevance of higher education’s humanities degrees. The idea of Leonard B. Meyer (1967) is relevant to this process, “If our time appears to be one of crisis, it does so largely because we have misunderstood the present situation and its possible consequences” (as cited in Hauseman, 2009, p. 111). Having learned about the professional interests of each class member, in my next colloquium series, I would hope to gain insight into their “future professional” character by having them write about ways they perceive the immediate future of the field (and medium) within which they specialized. I would also aim to have the students discuss what they each had “heard” within the field in terms of the lives they might expect after graduation. I would try to lead the discussion toward their thoughts and feelings indicating if what they “heard” was okay with them; and if not, I would encourage them to establish why. Having pursued learning about each of the class members’ characters, at the end of the course, I would be interested in sharing with each of them the transformations I had observed and recorded in my reflection notes. A goal for me would be to regularly document, perhaps using a worksheet similar to the one I used with my study’s participants, what appeared to change in each of the class members' individual perspectives, opinions, ideas, and motivations (among other things) throughout our semester together. Of course, I would be open to conversations responding to the 241 observations I shared, as well as encourage them to revisit the answers to each session’s opening reflection questions. Given the many hats ("characters") that visual artists and arts educators wear, their responses might change during the semester. The small group as intense and open hearted I believe that what emerged unexpectedly during the course of this semester-long action research study contributed to its success. Having determined the three kinds of data I would collect - oral, written, and visual - I was prepared to have to print out the blog exchanges from the colloquium’s D2L site in order for me to systematically analyze our on-line conversations. I was surprised when rather early in our semester the participants had indicated that they preferred communicating face-to-face in class rather than following an ongoing blog. I appreciated the notion of being together for our discussions too; however, just given the nature of the ways that students tend to interact with social media, I had anticipated the blogs would be of preference. Another aspect of this study that caught me by surprise was how the momentum of our action research cycles seemed to take over the flow of our colloquium sessions. “There is something exhilarating and exciting about encountering issues and challenges where you work to develop new insights and connections” (Hausman, 2009, p. 112). This circumstance made for an efficient and constant flow of topics to discuss during the sessions as well as efficiently led one series session smoothly into the next. This appeared to be so because we were a small group, which was willing to approach pedagogical happenings and related issues collaboratively. I am not sure that another group of 242 students would have gelled as well as the four of us seemed to; however, only future research studies can tell. Another, and this time more challenging, unexpected circumstance of the colloquium series was that I had to navigate specific philosophic or artistic differences. For example, I had to confront what Morrisroe and Roland (2008) suggested, that TAs might have preconceived notions about how to teach and, “what we teach in our foundations program may conflict with the graduate students’ perceptions of how to educate artists” (p. 91). Nate and I did not agree on ways to fairly assess the progress of an art student’s semester of work. Regardless of how the teacher in me wanted him to come to realize differently, I respected his place as a “student” of the studio art teaching profession and did not insist that he see things my way. One last issue that came as a surprise to me during this study was that at the beginning of the semester, only three MFA participants volunteered to join the study. I was somewhat disappointed, as I didn’t believe there would be enough difference among the students’ voices in our discussions making them diverse enough for persuasive or convincing findings. However, as the semester progressed and I accumulated myriad data, I was grateful for the size of the study. I had amassed many visual and written documents (see Appendix N) and the hours of audio-recorded oral conversations were very dense (see Appendix G, Appendix H, and Appendix I). Importantly in regard to the small number of participants, I realized that, in part, my data collection was considerable because the participants were forthcoming, openminded, and enthusiastic as well as raised many questions during every colloquium 243 session. In the end, it turned out that as a small and accommodating group, we were able to critically and confidentially consider important and intricate issues. Rapport grew strong and the relaxed nature of our personalities and the setting of the classroom space also supported timely and efficient shifts between discussion topics. Ultimately, I believed that working with a small group was positive, as it seemed to impact the participants’ willingness to share. Implications of the research study What follows are some implications developed from this research study in relation to MFA students, MFA faculty members as well as for the field of Art and Visual Culture Education. Conversations about the self The findings from this research study may have the potential to initiate rich conversations toward curbing the “uncertain circumstances” of an MFA graduate’s future professional life. If such conversations were to entwine personal development with professional preparation, consideration of an individual’s sense of self could arise. I had hoped that these research findings might begin to reveal the essential process of guiding MFA students toward their professional goals and that “greater attention [would be] paid to the nature of artistic process and the inner dynamics as students gave form to their ideas and feelings” (Hausman, 2009, p. 108). 244 At the start of the colloquium series I had informed students that our course was going to be about “you paying attention to you.” I had believed that my role was to help them learn skills to begin to effectively do so. Sometimes integrated and sometimes not, the individual characters of each of the participants were the focus of our colloquium sessions. The series’ reflexive activities seemed to have advanced the investigative process as well as have been engaging to the participants. This evidence appeared within the designs of the participants’ curricular ideas relevant to graduate students in the visual arts. The process of committing to the framework of a syllabus had meant narrowing down, then highlighting what the participants believed was most important for an MFA graduate student to learn. In the end, the participants had reported that the course should become mandatory and worth three academic credit units. I was curious about my own sense of self and was inspired by innovative academic approaches for investigating values, consciousness, personal character, personal statements, professional philosophies, and other intricacies of personal and professional development. Seeing the responses from the students in this research study, as well as those I recall reading about from Dr. Lee’s course, there appears to be a need for classes that encourage introspection and the significance of having a sense for one’s self, especially while attending to the transformative process of studying the visual arts. My hope is that the findings help to continue building support for the elaborate and intriguing process of understanding one’s self within higher education. 245 Required coursework related to the development of the self At the University of Florida, after “several years of successfully teaching the pedagogy course as an elective to graduate students, it became a required course for all entering MFA graduate students in 2003 and a prerequisite to their assignment as graduate instructors in foundations courses” (Morrisrow & Roland, 2008). Though this quote does not reference a course specific to addressing one’s self, it does begin to address the importance of how higher education benefits from setting its graduate students up for success. Given the involved undertaking of such a task, the University of Florida hired a foundations coordinator to oversee the training of MFA graduate students working as TAs and the foundations program within which they would teach. As “teaching assistants are teachers in training” (p. 91), Morrisroe and Roland (2008) recognized the importance of developing an MFA student’s teacher voice as part of the course in Florida in which MFA graduate students were to acquire a basic understanding of “the nature and needs of college students and adult learners… [as well as] the characteristics of effective art teaching.” These qualities were in addition to the MFA students gaining an understanding for “social and ethical issues related to teaching art at the postsecondary level” (p.89). Helping MFA art students to understand undergraduate students’ needs, learn about effective characteristics of a teaching practice, and incorporate concepts of social issues related to the visual arts in higher education seem to be intricate and important tasks. Faculty members teaching such a course will be required to have a deep familiarity of and interest in not only MFA students' needs, but also teaching approaches and perspectives on social issues. 246 In some cases, college and university students learn about or gain professional development by attending a specialized workshop, a series of workshops, an optional one-credit class, a career center tutorial, or other educational resource facility activities. At the University of Florida, however, the perspective toward required professional training for teaching in the visual arts seems to present a respectful awareness for the position. Like the pedagogy course at the University of Florida, it appears that a course like “Issues in Relevance and Character in the Fine Arts” would be most effective if it was to be a required course within an MFA student’s plan of study. Who should teach such coursework? According to Morrisroe and Roland (2008), “a growing number of university art programs are recognizing the need to offer more formal preparation in pedagogy to their graduate students who receive teaching assistantships” (p. 87). It also appears that those in the position of a foundations coordinator often take on the task. If given an opportunity in the future to lead a course similar to “Issues of Relevance and Character in the Fine Arts,” I hope to ask the students whom they think might teach a course of this nature. Until then, trying to answer this question on my own has been difficult. It seems certain qualifications would be necessary, such as having a mature background in the studio arts and experiences of working as a professional artist. Findings from this study seem to indicate that having an understanding of issues related to Art and Visual Culture Education would be an asset, as well as having creative, insightful, and pragmatically inclined approaches toward teaching in the field. Reflecting back on this study, it seems 247 empathy was a significant factor in how swiftly I was able to relate to the participants both personally and professionally. Though I close this section without having answered its question, it appears that the concern regarding what might be the best way to seek an answer begins with the concerns themselves. Listening to and hearing the voices of MFA graduate students Participating in this research study provided the participants a structured environment and opportunities within academe for their voices to be heard. “That verbal process goes hand in hand with creating new visual forms. The absence of the former retards or compromises the latter” (Anker et al., 2007). MFA graduate students want to be listened to and heard in ways that a course like “Issues of Relevance and Character in the Fine Arts” could provide. “The dialogue that can only take place among peers or with older artists with whom the students have chosen to work is crucial to the roller-coaster ride of doubt and confidence” (Anker et al., 2007, p. 113). For example, graduate students can use the course platform to help them deal with being confronted with a variety of concepts they are expected to be able to talk about as TAs. The suggestions from the participants that the course should be required and worth three credit units speaks to their perception of its importance (Grant, 1998). Engaging MFA students in writing Quality writing skills are essential for an artist’s professional correspondence and include those who need to write expressive artist statements and specialized teaching 248 philosophies (Daichandt, 2012; Leousis, 2013; Morrisroe & Roland, 2008). Expressions such as “art can be anything” (as expressed by Nate) and “art helps you see the world in different ways” are not informative to those seeking mindful, creative, and motivated artists to hire. Learning to write using examples and being able to succinctly explain complex ideas or scenarios are relevant to the professional success of artists (Daichendt, 2012). The course within this study employed both formal writing exercises (i.e. statements, philosophies) and informal written engagements (i.e. reflections, lists, mini art reviews). The participants in the study seemed receptive to engaging in the various writing activities. Having a degree of confidence with regard to one’s writing skills can impact the self-confidence that informs important correspondence. According to Daichendt (2012), “Writing, for artists, is described as a self-focused activity that remains secondary to the production of art itself… writing is a tool for thinking” (p. 6). He has contended that there is a strong connection between writing and the critique process as well suggesting that the “detailed and introspective manner” of writing might be used to improve art making (p. 131). Examining and fostering relationships between MFA graduate students In this study a range of relationships within the experience of earning the MFA degree were explored in terms of emotional impact and professional confidence. Critically understanding the value of, and influences of these relationships helped the 249 participants in making meaningful connections (Parsons, 1999) within and outside the course. Within an atmosphere of graduate students studying about themselves as graduate students (Singerman, 1999), the course could have been perceived as a sort of constructive downtime or a time away from being judged, and "creative blocks." However, as Morrisroe & Roland (2008) have pointed out, facilitated meetings, not unlike the colloquium series," provide an open forum for graduate students to discuss concerns related to their teaching. They lead to the development of peer relationships… The graduate students themselves make up and inform the course’s curricular topics and begin to remedy how “Many artists graduate lacking knowledge of the rich diversity of the visual archive that proceed and contextualizes their work” (p. 87). Enhanced perspectives for MFA faculty members Potential implications of this study for MFA faculty members include the impact that is inherent within developing a fresh awareness for the different complexities that exist among and within their graduate students. With knowledge of the findings in this study, MFA faculty might gain valuable awareness (as well as feedback) about the ways their graduate students view their MFA programs. The findings can provide faculty members with both helpful and specific insights into the kinds of goals graduate students have for their own futures, and what they view as the most important aspects of earning an MFA degree. 250 It appears that faculty members also need to become more aware of how graduate students view them as artistic and instructional models and mentors. The data collected in this study have suggested that graduate students are acutely aware of how they are taught, and, in particular, are able to critically address both positive and negative aspects of faculty members' pedagogical practices. MFA Faculty members also need to comprehend graduate students' perceptions of curricular topics and what they believe are relevant to their degrees and to the field. “Mindfulness for curriculum means learning how to focus and grasping meanings that are important for the individual” (Iannone, 1999, p. 3 as cited in Irwin, 2007, pp. 1401). In her push to have faculty members keep MFA curricula relevant, Leslie King-Hammond, Dean of Graduate Studies at the Maryland Institute College of Art has argued that, “Students need access to so much more information today because the ways artists work now is so open-ended, using so many new techniques and technologies and mediums” (Anker et al., 2007, p. 102). Implications of this study’s findings on faculty members' relationships with the participants suggest that faculty members need an understanding of the “Charged interactions [that] occur in the university, where the artist has no special status but is part of a complex community” (Anker et al., 2007, p. 109). For example, faculty might gain a more critical understanding of how the nature of the relationships they have with graduate students often dictates graduate students’ perceptions as to whether they are succeeding or failing in a program, as students and as artists (Beck et al., 2009; Dalke, Cassidy, Grobstein, & Blank, 2007). Moreover, the findings in this study reflect how the 251 participants were part of a graduate community, and their views of faculty members had been generated not only by personal faculty interactions, but also by comments about faculty from the graduate community-at-large, not just the other participants. This research can inform faculty members about the potential value of being a mentor for graduate students as, according to this study, some faculty members are perceived as having developed an unintentional disregard for how their actions serve as models for graduate students. According to Robert Storr, Dean of the School of Art at Yale University in 2006: Faculty must be serious and generous about the teaching part of their vocation – just “putting in time” should be grounds for early retirement – and they have to be fully engaged with their own work and in touch with the wider world, even if that world hasn’t always or even ever paid them much attention… [Faculty members might] articulate pleasure or passion [for students’ work,] but respectful displeasure in the work of others is also contagious; these are models of engagement as important as anything else one can transmit to – or awaken or confirm in – a young artist. (Anker et al., 2007, p. 113) Once graduate students have discerned and made known what they feel is relevant to their education in the visual arts, a faculty member can better evaluate whether the graduate students’ perspectives align with their own. The knowledge that results may impact the sensitivity that a faculty member has regarding his or her traditional curricular autonomy (Morrisroe & Roland, 2008). 252 Action research in visual arts higher education classrooms The implications of this study suggest that the "cyclical nature" of action research can serve as a way to develop MFA graduate students skills for reflexivity. Different from being reflective, though valuable in it own right, actions of being reflexive entail putting something out into the world, like ideas and theories, and then reconsidering them again in terms of their value (Anker et al., 2007; Bresler, 1994, 2006; Campbell, 2005; May, 1993; McKenna, 1999). Practicing the methodology of action research teaches students ways to be productively critical about their immediate circumstances and collaboratively develop plans toward productive change. As Storr believed, “Broader access to faculty in various disciplines and of diverging esthetic convictions, plus discussions centered on… student-to-student dialogue, are the better way” (Anker et al., 2007, p. 113). Opportunities for art and visual culture educators The implications for those in the field of art and visual culture education seem significant given the inherent nature of examining and developing artists working as teachers and art educators working as artists. The faculty and students in art and visual culture education could share recent research in the field of teaching the visual arts as the faculty and students in studio art education could share the trends in contemporary art making. When art and visual culture educators learn about findings like those from this study, they can become valuable resources not only for the MFA students who teach as 253 TAs, but also for studio art faculty members themselves. With such findings, opportunities emerge for studio art TAs to work together with art education faculty members and graduate students in order to learn basic teaching techniques such as scaffolding, making effective visual presentations, visual journaling, and effective demonstration procedures (Anker et al., 2007; Boud, 2001; Morrisroe & Roland, 2008). Art educators might also work with studio art TAs and faculty members to learn about the nuances in motivating students and assessing an art student’s progress (Anker et al., 2007). As art educators will also be exposed to art making techniques within such collaborations, they can directly experience as well as assist in the important preparations and planning that comprise teaching in the studio arts. Possibilities for Future Research Given the potential implications of the findings of this study, exhilarating opportunities lay ahead regarding the issues surrounding this action research study. Just as Bogdan and Biklen (1992) claimed, this action research “help[ed me] to develop confidence. It is difficult to act forcefully toward some goal when you rely on feelings without data to support your views” (p. 228). Inspired and passionate about these areas within art and visual culture education, I would like to follow up this study in ways that others in the field might consider the importance of the personal and professional development of MFA students as they develop a sense of self. I plan to modify the structure and various other aspects of the course, “Issues of Relevance and Character in the Fine Arts,” so that I can offer it to others, likely under a new title that evades the term 254 “character.” I wish to conduct further action research inquiries, as the methodology is appropriate for multiple cycles of collaborative inquiry and the emergent nature of discovery. I also envision the development of other studies like this one. Upon collecting data from several studies, my research might become generalizable and so offer ideas and recommendations to a larger audience. I anticipate writing articles that address the findings and implications of this study as these topics might be of interest to the publications produced through the National Art Education Association, the College Art Association, and the Foundations in Art Theory and Education. It is possible that the findings are appropriate for publication in journals directed at teaching artists. Seeking ways that a course of this type might impact different types of graduate students, future research can address in what ways such a course might impact a group of more diverse college and university students or a group of international students. In addition, what implications might materialize from employing this action research study with graduate-level art history students? How would the implications be different from a similar study performed at a private art school or a small liberal arts school? In what ways would they be markedly different from those of this study at a large public university? In terms of modifying the course itself, future research might investigate a threetiered system of related topics that would be appropriate for the different years of earning the MFA degree, given that personal development might be better addressed before a graduate student’s third year, when he or she completes final thesis work and seeks 255 employment in the field of the visual arts. Future research could also consider ways that embedding related topics into various different courses that already exist affect existing MFA curricula (Beck et al., 2009). Conclusion The questions and implications discovered here seem to point toward many more lively, transformative, and empowering research investigations. I hope to continue engaging the action research methodology in more exploration regarding the impact of all the “characters” embodied within pre-service art teachers, MFA students, and the faculty members at work within our art schools and their studios. Though complex, the potential that is inherent to a relationship between a student and a teacher motivate me to offer students in higher education additional opportunities to acknowledge, examine, and integrate an individual sense of self within the relationships that they share with professors, peers, and others. To close, I recall the nature of the most recent conversations that I have shared with Mary who now works full-time as a professional artist. As disclosed throughout this dissertation, I work among many other professional art educators and artists. For both Mary and me, we humbly reflect upon our choices to have situated our selves within the distinct empowerment that results from our own reflexive and mindful practices as they accompany the evolving characters that integrate and comprise one’s sense of self. 256 APPENDIX A – INSTITUTIONAL REVIEW BOARD APPROVAL 257 APPENDIX B – INFORMATIONAL FLIERS ARE695A 002 ARE695A 002 Whatʼs your mission statement? Does self-analysis play a part in your art making? Colloquium: Issues of relevance and character Colloquium: Issues of relevance and character 8 colloquium meetings - 1 credit graduate student studio ARTST rm. 119 8 colloquium meetings - 1 credit graduate student studio ARTST rm. 119 send curiosities to: [email protected] send curious curiosities to: [email protected] partial overview: informally address individual motivations for earning an art degree in higher ed. partial overview: Consider stream of consciousness. How might it empower your art practice? ARE695A 002 go register! ARE695A 002 go register! 258 ARE695A 002 How will you integrate vocation and values? Colloquium: Issues of relevance and character 8 colloquium meetings - 1 credit graduate student studio ARTST rm. 119 send any and all curiosities to: [email protected] partial overview: Identify your current position as an artist in the 21st century. ARE695A 002 go register! APPENDIX C – INSITUTIONAL REVEW BOARD CONSENT FORM The University of Arizona Consent to Participate in Research Study Title: ARE695a Symposium Principal Investigator: Barbara Bergstrom Sponsor: Dr. Lynn Beudert This is a consent form for research participation. It contains important information about this study and what to expect if you decide to participate. Please consider the information carefully. Feel free to discuss the study with your friends and family and to ask questions before making your decision about whether or not to participate. You may or may not benefit as a result of participating in this study. Also, as explained below, your participation may result in unintended or harmful effects for you that may be minor or may be serious, depending on the nature of the research. 1. Why is this study being done? To consider answers to the following research questions: In what ways does a student’s sense of self evolve while earning an MFA degree? What teaching strategies promote the evolution of a sense of self within an MFA student? 2. How many people will take part in this study? Up to 11 persons. 3. What will happen if I take part in this study? Involvement with this study includes participation with course ARE695a 002, Fall semester 2012 at The University of Arizona. 4. How long will I be in the study? August 13, 2012 – December 7, 2012 260 5. Can I stop being in the study? Yes, your participation is voluntary. You may refuse to participate in this study. If you decide to take part in the study, you may leave the study at any time. No matter what decision you make, there will be no penalty to you and you will not lose any of your usual benefits. Your decision will not affect your future relationship with The University of Arizona. If you are a student or employee at the University of Arizona, your decision will not affect your grades or employment status. 6. What risks, side effects or discomforts can I expect from being in the study? There are no side effects or discomforts associated with this study. 6. What benefits can I expect from being in the study? Benefits to participants may be educational: learning approaches to defining self; emotional: clarifying participants’ current and personal sense of self; and professional: understanding how knowledge and awareness of a sense of self contributes to a participant’s professional future. 8. What other choices do I have if I do not take part in the study? Registered students may complete course without contributing to the study and its data. You may choose not to participate without penalty or loss of benefits to which you are otherwise entitled. 9. Will my study-related information be kept confidential? Efforts will be made to keep your study-related information confidential. However, there may be circumstances where this information must be released. For example, personal information regarding your participation in this study may be disclosed if required by state law. Also, your records may be reviewed by the following groups (as applicable to the research): • Office for Human Research Protections or other federal, state, or international regulatory agencies • The University of Arizona Institutional Review Board or Office of Responsible Research Practices • The sponsor supporting the study, their agents or study monitors 261 10. What are the costs of taking part in this study? There are no costs associated with this study. 11. Will I be paid for taking part in this study? There are no payments made to participants in this study. By law, payments to subjects may be considered taxable income. 12. What happens if I am injured because I took part in this study? If you suffer an injury from participating in this study, you should seek treatment. The University of Arizona has no funds set aside for the payment of treatment expenses for this study. 13. What are my rights if I take part in this study? If you choose to participate in the study, you may discontinue participation at any time without penalty or loss of benefits. By signing this form, you do not give up any personal legal rights you may have as a participant in this study. You will be provided with any new information that develops during the course of the research that may affect your decision whether or not to continue participation in the study. You may refuse to participate in this study without penalty or loss of benefits to which you are otherwise entitled. An Institutional Review Board responsible for human subjects research at The University of Arizona reviewed this research project and found it to be acceptable, according to applicable state and federal regulations and University policies designed to protect the rights and welfare of participants in research. 14. Who can answer my questions about the study? For questions, concerns, or complaints about the study you may contact Dr. Lynn Beudert. 262 For questions about your rights as a participant in this study or to discuss other studyrelated concerns or complaints with someone who is not part of the research team, you may contact the Human Subjects Protection Program at 520-626-6721 or online at http://orcr.vpr.arizona.edu/irb. If you are injured as a result of participating in this study or for questions about a study-related injury, you may contact Dr. Lynn Beudert. 263 Signing the consent form I have read (or someone has read to me) this form, and I am aware that I am being asked to participate in a research study. I have had the opportunity to ask questions and have had them answered to my satisfaction. I voluntarily agree to participate in this study. I am not giving up any legal rights by signing this form. I will be given a copy of this form. Printed name of subject Signature of subject AM/ PM Date and time Printed name of person authorized to consent for subject (when applicable) Signature of person authorized to consent for subject (when applicable) AM/ PM Relationship to the subject Date and time Investigator/Research Staff I have explained the research to the participant or the participant’s representative before requesting the signature(s) above. There are no blanks in this document. A copy of this form has been given to the participant or to the participant’s representative. Dr. Lynn Beudert Printed name of person obtaining consent Signature of person obtaining consent AM/ PM Date and time 264 APPENDIX D – INTRODUCTORY SURVEY Issues of Relevance and Character in Fine Arts School of Art The University of Arizona ARE 695a 002 August 17, 2012 Degree: MA_____ MFA_____ Other_______________________________ Gender: M _____ F _____ Other _____ To what level have you progressed in your graduate program? 1st yr. ____ 2nd yr. ____ 3rd yr.____ Other _______________ How old are you? ______< 26 ______27-31 ______32-36 ______37-41 ______>42 As an artist, what is most often your art media of choice? What is the title of some insightful literature you have read recently? List three artists that you believe have influenced your artwork. 1)__________ 2)_________ 3)__________ Please articulate up to three goals (big or small) that you have in mind for a future with your degree in art. 1. 2. 3. 265 What does “sense of self,” mean to you? Below, please write the thoughts that are provoked in you after reading any (or all) of the following quotes: Parker Palmerʼs The Heart of Higher Education “Oxygen and hydrogen make up the elements of water, but the ʻwetnessʼ of water is an emergent property of the system not reducible to hydrogen and oxygen.” “One of the neglected dimensions of our educational system concerns the transformative power true education possesses.” Daniel H. Pinkʼs Drive “Our beliefs about ourselves and the nature of our abilities, or ʻself-theories,ʼ determine how we interpret our experiences and can set the boundaries on what we accomplish.” “Finally, consider what is perhaps the most underused word in the modern workplace: Why?” Survey of National Arts Alumni Project (SNAAP) Annual Report 2012. “Formal training in the arts, when done well, may be ideal preparation for cultivating these abilities [including being] cognitively flexible and inventive; and, [using] design thinking and non-routine, entrepreneurial approaches to deal with unscripted, complex problems.” “Art school taught me how to do art. It was only later that I learned how to be an artist.” Sculptor, Jan Shin. 266 APPENDIX E – EXIT SURVEY Issues of Relevance and Character in Fine Arts Art and Visual Culture Education Division School of Art The University of Arizona Fall 2012 Exit Survey Please rank the following ARE 695 activities in terms of how engaging they were to you: 1 = not engaging 2 = a little bit engaging 3 = engaging 4 = very engaging 5 = meaningfully engaging Responding (orally or by writing in your visual journal) to class-time reflection prompts: Comments / Suggestions: 1 2 3 4 5 Answering discussion questions using D2L: Comments / Suggestions: 1 2 3 4 5 Class time discussions (in general): Comments / Suggestions: 1 2 3 4 5 Individual studio visits with Barbara: Comments / Suggestions: 1 2 3 4 5 4 5 Create a visual about the (re)sources for your artistic research and/or creative motivation. Comments / Suggestions: 1 2 3 4 5 Make a list of the steps involved in your process for art making. Then, create a visual of one step that is likely to be unique to you. Comments / Suggestions: 1 2 3 5 Please rank your level of engagement with the following visual journal entries: Create a depiction of your artistic "autobiography" or educational "autobiography". Comments / Suggestions: 1 2 3 4 Go somewhere you've never been before, by yourself, and create a visual responding to new awareness that emerges. Comments / Suggestions: 1 2 3 4 5 Create a visual about the relationship between your role as a teacher and your role as an artist. Comments / Suggestions: 1 2 3 4 5 267 If you designed one additional visual journal entry, what might it be? In class, I think that talking about _________________________ was least interesting. Suggestions: In class, I think that talking about _________________________ was the most valuable. Comments: What comments do you have (if any) about ARE 695ʼs teaching pedagogies that stand out (positively or negatively)? What readings / activities / assignments (if any) would you add (or subtract) from the course? In what ways (if any) did you find this course challenging? What advice do you have for the future MFA students of a course like this? Would you have liked being more involved (than you were) in the planning of our colloquiums teaching, learning, reflection, and/or assignment activities? Comments: (yes) (maybe) Y M (no) N Too much time was spent on personal reflection. Comments: Y M N Too much time was spent on aspects of teaching studio art. Comments: Y M N Y M N Too much time was spent on aspects of being a student of studio art in higher education. Comments: Did the experience of taking this course help you strengthen your role as a teacher of the studio arts? Comments: Y M N Did the experience of taking this course contribute to the perceptions you have of your self as an artist? Comments: Y M N 268 Did the experience of taking this course contribute to the perceptions you have of your self as an individual person? Comments: Y M . N Each of you indicated on the Introduction Survey that teaching is likely in your future. In what ways (if any) did this course confirm, clarify, challenge, or discourage your thoughts on teaching? Some in the field of higher education believe that students have in common the need for something to believe in, something to hold onto, or something to help get them “out” of themselves. Why might you agree or disagree? At this point in your MFA degree program (outside of our 8 colloquium classes) …exploring personal values and beliefs has been encouraged. Comments: (yes) Y (maybe) M (no) N …preparation for your professional future has been addressed. Comments: Y M N M N …the overall purpose (or reasons) for earning an MFA degree has been addressed. Comments: Y If someone asked you what it was like to take a course like this, how would you respond? In what ways (if any) did this course impact relationships with your fellow (ARE 695) classmates? What (if any) concluding reflection, thought, idea, or further comment do you have about our semester? At the conclusion of our course, what (if anything) feels incomplete about our semester? One final question… How do you believe that this process of earning an MFA degree contributes to your sense of self? Thank you, all, for your thoughtful contributions to our semester. Cheers! 269 APPENDIX F – REFLECTION WORKSHEET Colloquium # Recording Folder Date/Time: Classroom atmosphere (On a scale of 1-10) Instructor energy & demeanor (On a scale of 1-10) Student energy & demeanor (On a scale of 1-10: 7) Specific observations from Participant A: Participant J: Participant N: Participant B: Comments regarding colloquium space: Major topic of colloquium discussion: Provocative topics (explain): Documentation collected: What teaching strategies seemed to “work”?: What teaching strategies seemed to not “work”: To what extent did participants influence today’s colloquium pedagogy (explain)? In what ways did this colloquium help answer the research question “In what ways does a student’s sense of self evolve while earning an MFA degree?” “What teaching strategies promote the evolution of a sense of self in MFA students?” 270 APPENDIX G – COMPLETED DATA CHART ONE The question that guided this research study was: How do the experiences related to personal and professional development within an MFA visual arts program influence a graduate student’s individual sense of self? Research sub-question one: How do MFA students within a course that addresses the curricula and pedagogies of their graduate programs and their experiences as MFA students describe themselves as individuals, students, artists, teachers, and future professionals in the field of the visual arts? MFA students in a course that addresses the curricula and pedagogies of their graduate programs and their experiences as MFA students describe themselves as: Annika SOS = “knowing who you are and having confidence in yourself” Individual Oral Written Visual (Audio-recordings of eight colloquium sessions) (Surveys, letters to self, reading responses, artist statements, electronic correspondence, lists) (Visual journal entries, individual works of art, demeanor, site images) Opening questions Introductions Sources of materials for inspiration Discussion of individual experiences as TAs Participants talked about “seeing themselves” in the readings Intro survey Exit survey Artist statement Letter to self Ultimate MFA ideas Visual journal prompts/lists Electronic prompts Best/worst pedagogical experiences as students List of art making process steps MFA 2nd year Between 27-31 Visual journal entries: GSDS Artist-biography images Visual of one unique art making process step: coll 4 Sources of materials for inspiration VJ image Daughter of proud dad; she talked with him before going to MFA school and he said that he thinks is Studio visit Self-portrait collage 271 (A) Quiet Humble / Introspective Funny Early riser / dances in am Dedicated / didn’t want to miss class Consistent attitude throughout semester Grateful Student (A) the best degree you can get So, she knows that not everybody thinks that way, “I’m going to art school to get to the core of who I am, what I believe in and what I’m going to say “I’m learning to be a better artist, and part of that is knowing myself better” Its difficult to face all these things about yourself In order to know what I want to say, I have to really look at myself and it’s not always nice Liked TedTalk about creativity She’s let go of friends, dating, downtime, and cleaning house & yard Sometimes however, she’ll watch stupid TV to decompress and decide to waste that hour Does morning pages but not always in the morning; she believes its nice to get it all down on the page; morning pages are calming like her meditation practice Mentions another TedTalk about a woman who shops at a second hand store She believes that she is “thinking / discovering” for herself as she connects her dance class with her video work She didn’t find it easy to think about who she was 10 years ago because she wasn’t in the best place in her life (went through therapy) Thinks of fragmentation in terms of being in one place but her mind being somewhere else; she’s glad to hear that the concept is “as old as history” and non-linear Says art has the ability to bring her into the present Enjoys the smells of the beach Was relieved to read Art and Fear as she could see that others think as she does; noted in particular “perfect is the enemy of the good” Hero’s are monks, rabbis, Martin Hoover (19thc philosopher), mother Theresa, Bill Viola, and Bruce Nauman C7: usually goes to a movie on Thanksgiving She shared that she was often nauseated when she used to smoke regularly Didn’t like writing the letter to herself because it reminded her of a strategy she used back when she was living a life that she doesn’t want to reflect upon; “I don’t want to separate these parts of myself again” C8: was fighting a cold; didn’t go shopping after Thanksgiving this year (not good sales) Change in media focus Response to experience of candidacy Said that she is in this class because she wants to gain a better understanding of the MFA process and get other peoples’ viewpoints on it as she thinks it’s unique Believes that MFA program can be really stressful and frustrating She questions why am I doing this? Is it helping or hindering? So she said that a class like 695 would be a space to talk about the issues that she thinks about She’s coming from a different educational model where students were evaluated not graded at Evergreen State College This MFA program puts a lot of pressure on her Is torn about an MFA being a good thing or a bad thing as she’s heard around here that, “MFA Tries to change negative thoughts so they cannot hold her back Tells herself to show down and trust herself more often Doesn’t see roles as self and artist as separate, yet you can’t create all the time and cannot be creatively inspired all the time She does fully understand the creative and intuitive side of her psyche 695 may have contributed to her perceptions of herself as an individual She said that 695, “forces you to know who you are and what you care about through caring about your work and standing behind it! I believe it’s important to know who you are and to grow in order to effectively communicate through art. So in the way the MFA does help evolve your sense of self” Diptych of two photographs addressing memory Said she’d be late to class each time because of a morning dance class she was taking In school to gain skills and clarity in her artwork Wants more knowledge about professional aspects of art career: galleries, grant-writing, etc. Believes that education should come from the students Suggests that the ultimate MFA course would be titled, “Self Motivated Art Practice” Favorite pedagogy she’d Change in media focus Studio visit VJ medium choices included pen and ink, pastel 272 programs kill your creativity” she thinks it sad “I’m learning to be a better artist, and part of that is knowing myself better” Its difficult to face all these things about yourself In order to know what I want to say, I have to really look at myself and it’s not always nice Thinks about priorities all the time because of how much she has going on as a grad student She’s let go of friends, dating, downtime, and cleaning house & yard She doesn’t think that having to go through harsh critiques prepares you for the real gallery world as they are never that mean to your face She know that the stress and insanity brought her to her 2nd year successfully thinking “wow, I’ve really grown” Once not sure what a specific piece was about, she appreciated a professor that asked her “what do you care about” leading to a long discussion about what she’s interested in, issues, etc. and then placing them into the piece Surprised when a prof that once made her cry was working with her saying “we’re just talking… no judgment” One prof tore her work down at first year crit, then came back and was more thoughtful Appreciated her undergrad school’s practice of evals as they kept her from worrying about getting a certain grade, “you’re just thinking about doing a good job” She notes that it is really hard to get a “C” in this program She keeps a regular schedule in her studio, “there’s no question about it” stays regimented with her schedule so she will really work LOVED the idea of designing our own MFA class and asked about presenting the idea to the SoA faculty C4: she wants to learn how to talk about her work Part of me will be glad when it’s over because it’s really stressful; but then I want a community of artists to still push me, I still want to have time to make my work. C4: thinks that if she didn’t have candidacy coming up she would be able to think more clearly about her work; instead she’s feeling pressure to be able to “understand” her work and talk about it “I know what it’s about but I’m not sure how to contextualize it” Asks how we can care so much and not burn ourselves out GSDS: went to Rillito park because she’d always wanted to go; reminded her of the beach; soft lighting; “a place where you go and there’s nothing “behind it” the Mountains are peaceful and offered her the same sensations she felt at the beach She really wanted to present our Ulltimate MFA course idea to their professors, even present it at a faculty meeting; she asked, “seriously, would that be an appropriate thing to do?” She suggested that we put a serious amount of work into the idea of designing this Ultimate MFA class Thanked me at end of session C6 feels pretty ready for candidacy the next morning; she was confident having had a good experienced was when a teacher had her class do a very short and quick project at the beginning of the semester – it helped jump-start her semester of work Does not like critiques for projects that were too openended; she agrees that self motivation is a good thing to encourage but believes that, at least, conceptual goals for beginners and intermediate courses provide useful structure She learned much from the process of writing about his peers works and hearing them read what they wrote about his work Found it helpful to list steps in art-making process and make a visual of one of them; “it helped make it tangible” Suggested that we do a larger piece in response to one of the entries or selfreflections exercises as a way to incorporate selfreflection into our art practice Didn’t find writing to artist self engaging Believed that talking about artist statements was most valuable; valuable o have other people write about my work and get a sense of how they see it Caring casual conversations with prompts was really helpful Suggested that teaching pedagogies and selfreflection be the main focus without professionalization as a topic The class challenged her to think about her work and where her inspiration comes from 695 strengthen her role as a studio art teacher as she got ideas about how to run crits and how to be more affective and compassionate toward students 695 helped her integrate personal reflection into her art practice and helped her to examine how the ways she works relates to her teaching 273 Artist (A) experience at the photo conference the previous weekend A prof suggested that she make a work about something happy since she tends to focus on tragedy Basically agrees with me about taking your time in school so what you accomplish is quality C7: shares her candidacy having passed, it was intense; they first said of her photography, “this isn’t interesting” and “this has been done before”; they pushed me to work with video more and consider making it political and critical of history; A said that she’d probably try some of their suggestions; they complimented her about being willing to take risks; however, she’s frustrated that they are pushing her in a different direction; J recognizes that some of the harshness A endured during candidacy is the result of the challenging personality of one committee member in particular as she asked A if she was turning into a documentary photographer; J offers support as one of her profs liked what she used to paint Feedback from photo conference Says her work is about family history and how memories are handed down generationally and how that can connect with specific places Introduced herself with a diptych that deals with psychological memory being passed down Lately been working with video and sculpture too Recent images are from a family farm and landscapes around Virginia Prepping for a show with J and K “I’m learning to be a better artist, and part of that is knowing myself better” Its difficult to face all these things about yourself In order to know what I want to say, I have to really look at myself and it’s not always nice Being an artist is such a beautiful thing to do with your life Believes that artists have a really important roll, but then… that makes us really self centered She doesn’t think that having to go through harsh critiques prepares you for the real gallery world as they are never that mean to your face Says it’s nice to talk and write about her work She believes that she is “thinking / discovering” for herself as she connects her dance class with her video work Says art has the ability to bring her into the present as it feels otherworldly or meditative or outside the scope of natural laws and orders of things It’s NOT spiritual but an elevated place out of reality, not in a negative way She keeps a regular schedule in her studio, “there’s no question about it” stays regimented with her schedule so she will really work Said that she had no idea where he work comes from then realized it comes from working, like magic; so she did doodles Doesn’t consider postmodernism today’s movement; she doesn’t know where we are today Having to think about doing something “different” is stifling; she believes that art is always a copy of previous art; “ art is referential” Believes that you can make something that states a social and meaningful comment yet doesn’t fit into Photography, video, and sculpture Influenced by work of Soth, Viola, and ParkeHarrison Feels that she can ask a lot of questions through art making Her work is about “the hold that memory and grief carry though generations, what impact certain events have as their “stories” are passed down, resulting circumstances, and modeled behaviors She questions how an experience is formed in her memory and affects her identity Trust your process of artmaking Wishes she could “turn off” her creativity at will as it invades her going to bed and talking with others Wants to be able to turn it on as she walks into her studio The mystery of creative and intuitive side of her psyche may be what keeps her engaged She wrote to her artist, “When I say I’d like to know you better what I really mean is that I wish I understood myself better or I wish I understood the world better or I wish I understood my place in the world better or I wish I understood the place of the artist in the world better. Diptych of herself (before moving to video) Studio visit - videos Said that she had no idea where he work comes from then realized it comes from working, like magic 274 Teacher (A) the narrative of the art world As of C4, what’s going well for A is her trusting of her own ideas, even if they’re stupid She’s having difficulty talking about her new body of work (video) She’s changing to video because of facts that she’s both getting good feedback but she truly considers the work interesting as photo has changed (digitally) She, and everyone, is more excited about her videos Agreed with my buzz words from their statements and listened closely as their peers interpreted their work; found it very helpful to know what others see C5: uses a lot of reflection in her artwork; she has come to trust her intuitive process Does a lot of different things as an artist: taking pictures, gathering props, thrift stores where she thinks, “well, since I’m here”. (It breaks up her ritual) She wanted a list of the questions that I asked at C5 in terms of helping them sort out their artists’ statements Presented at InFuse and received good feedback from professors; one shared being proud of her C6; sharing more about her interest in family history she realized tragedy or more encompassing idea of what is passed own is her focus (especially tragedy); this made her think about making her work differently C7: shared how she will write down something that she does in her work then spend 15 minutes writing about why; did this before candidacy She wishes that she had control over when and where creativity and inspiration come from “it was good to see that art is about the question rather than the answer” Ultimate MFA Course design input She appreciates very much the ideas we shared with her in terms of leading meaningful critiques with her undergraduates Wants students to pick out what they want to read in ult MFA class and then to talk about how the readings inform your work C7: likes the idea of inspiring younger people; she likes being able to share the valuable experiences she’s had because it can inspire others; she too has had teachers inspire her She values how the classroom is a collaborative space Isn’t sure if she sees her artistic process in her classroom has only taught one photo class before She says that she feels like somebody different when she’s teaching (N understands) J shares how she feels like she has to be enthusiastic She doesn’t know how to motivate unmotivated students; N says he acts excited; j says that it depends on who it is (ex; a musician or film maker has to get through her class so she’ll make the project relevant to their discipline) Sometimes student work is God-awful, how do I get them to think more deeply? I want them to go deeper but perhaps they aren’t ready to? Found interesting that certain pedagogies that work well for me as an individual don’t work with other Maybe it is all one in the same.” Her artist loves silly, absurdity, and elevating the inconsequential to the most consequential and the mundane to the extraordinary. She asked, do we stand together or apart… I suppose we’ll never know “that is my question to you and I suppose it is my challenge as well” She quoted Art & Fear: “all artwork will be flawed because all humans are flawed”, “the seeds of the next artwork are embedded in the flaws of the current” and “the perfect is the enemy of the good” The 695 course may have contributed to her perceptions of herself as an artist Ultimate MFA Course design Expectations (syllabus and assignments) provided in FYE handbook for TAs Insists that her students talk about what works and what doesn’t work when critiquing with the class. She shares the purpose for doing critiques: assisting an artist to read their visions She shares with her students what she has heard in her own critique sessions Because photography offers so many different ways to work within the medium, she wants her students to try different conceptual and modes so they don’t get stuck in one way of doing something 695 helped her see how what she does in her studio practices can help her teach better VJ artist and teacher are completely divided roles 275 people in a classroom setting; we’re at different levels and sometimes teaching styles are responded to differently Asks if we can talk more about our experiences with “working” and “not working” pedagogy She has felt in critiques that she realizes “oh yeah, I actually believe that about art… maybe I should apply that” Future Professional in the Visual Arts (A) Wants to go to LA What about “nuts & bolts”? Worked with the group of participants to design the syllabus and curriculum for the “Ultimate MFA Course” She thinks about her future; “I feel like the best part about being here is I have so much time to devote to my work; I have people that push me and want me to succeed; it’s weird to think about not having that” Has thought about applying for teaching jobs but doesn’t want to go to just any city where she might not have time for her work Wants to go to LA or NYC right out of school to take a year round job and apply for teaching positions later Presented at InFuse and received good feedback from professors; one shared being proud of her; though tired she felt good about her InFuse presentation As a teacher, she said that she would share the fact that she uses many mediums of photo; it’s a strength to upper-level classes (and foundations) Wants more knowledge about professional aspects of art career “To potentially teach” Believes that art can be applied outside the studio and helps solve complex problems She asked her artist, “is being an artist part of my character? Or is it just a career? Unsure demeanor MFAP see instructors as role models Postcard for Rombach show Announcement for InFuse talk Daughter of a proud mom Shares a little about being married She likes doing self reflection and meditation Describes herself as a visual person She sometimes wonders, “What am I doing for the world?” She has (envious) peers around her that say that they wish that they were doing what they love with their lives Married and deciding to make art caused “shift” in her relationship; he can come along or not There are only so many hours so she doesn’t hang out with people; she used to be really social and she tries not to do that anymore Doesn’t spend much money or watch TV During her first year thought, “okay, when am I going to change?” I knew that I needed to change but I needed it to start happening Thought she might wake up and just be different; she now understands that she needed this challenge to work harder Believes that growth is painful At first was being asked by profs if she was really doing what she wanted to be doing MFA 2nd year Between 27 – 31 We hinder our possibilities by who we think we are or should be “We, as a culture don’t question enough what are motives are, why we do things we don’t want to do, or why we do what we do at all” “You are a maker” and only anxiety and fear of failure can change that Being intuitive and informed is crucial and necessary She encourages herself to be who you are and not feel guilty about it; trust your choices, make good decisions, mistakes are part of the process Grateful to others and Studio visit 3 medium sized square paintings that capture space, not people, abstract, from photos and from imagination Jenna SOS = who I think I am; the story I tell myself about who I am, who I want to be, a deeper feeling of self (possibly “soul”) Individual (J) Kind Humble / insecure Curious Willing to work as hard as possible for her art Patience teacher Talkative once she gets going but a really good listener Fun Dressed whimsically Unshaven / tall Relaxed demeanor Positive / professional Consistent attitude throughout semester Made many lists and very informal sketches in her visual journal; used pen mostly Was often dressed up for class (red glasses, skirts, etc.) 276 Grateful Student (J) She knows that she needs to learn to say “no” more as she’s doing things that others want her to do; she finds herself doing such duties to “be good” She wishes that she could be more selfish with her time JC reminds her of her dad and admits to wanting to be more in touch with who you are and calm WOW was her response to Nate as he said that he isn’t fragmented, that all his characters are the interconnected We completely relate in terms of writing everything down and making list after list She really enjoyed my small books of lists She doesn’t want to throw away her journals they have become lists First thing in the morning, she thinks about when she will do yoga, teeth, dogs, how to be still; “I’m a worrier” When I’m really tired I worry about my teeth and teeth health; I clench my teeth so I’m are of my teeth In general, she is really hard on herself; I told her as much She wonders what is new about her? She admits to being hard on herself and her worst critic Asks, “Do I apply everywhere?” will you have time to make your art? It’s hard because she’s married and they’ll go somewhere for her or for him “how are we going to work that out? It’s hard to know. What makes money? We haven’t worked that out. “Just wanted to know what you guys are doing” Offers to go to yoga with N if he chooses to do it again Wears certain jewelry when she has to do something difficult Considered reading On Longing, a gift Was relieved to read it as she could see that others think as she does C6: Challenges herself to ride her bike really fast, or seeing what all she can do in two minutes C6 end: has chosen the community she wants (artistic) even if not everyone considers it valuable Believes the world would be a much better place with more art; even if it wasn’t, “this is what I want” C7: used to like Thanksgiving on the farm, but now shares the holiday with her husband; that can put her on edge Her husband gets car sick if she reads in the car; she doesn’t get sick Says her mom is supportive (like the pep talk she needs to stay in grad school) “she held a candle for me” C8: she’s been sleeping a lot She shared how she played “host” over Thanksgiving so she didn’t have to be social at the table; they thought it was great; but, I was being selfish believe that they are a big reason she can do what she does It’s best if success comes from the truest version of you Response to experience of candidacy Likes small classes like 695 because they are like those she liked at Santa Cruz: introspective, readings, talking and analyzing why I’m doing things I do Learning and education can transform spirituality Believes that art school teaches us technique and how to explain ideas. Studio visit 277 Thought at class like 695 would be “safer” than say her art history classes where her talking sometimes feels “messy” She said jokingly that all the best artists steel, “recontextualize” Likes being able to teach and being taught at the same time Feels that if a critique was not intense that it wasn’t a good critique Things that different teachers push you in different ways; it’s what you make of it as a student because she believes that some of her peers just do the work and graduate within an MFA Thought during her first year that perhaps she shouldn’t be in grad school; she was miserable and didn’t have the language to talk about stuff She said that she didn’t “blow off” those profs who said, “oh, this is not good” If profs were harsh and mean, it just made me work harder Given her first year, she feels more ready to take criticism Believes that growth is painful She’s used to having intense crits Wishes that she had a couple weeks to think about the hard questions she is asked at critiques before the crits (i.e. what is your historical context? Where did my work fit into the contemporary art world? Now she thinks about these questions all the time Her visual autobiography was a list as her drawings were “dumb” Said that she was surprised by positive comments about works that she was planning to throw out She sets up her days so she has school for two days and three days in a row for art-making Notes that vis-com students get instruction on making websites and that we (in other departments) should too She’s obsessive about having several works going on at the same time She pays attention to what “counts” as work Thought it was cool that I wanted each of them to keep one of my discs C4: “now I have a consciousness: I go back and forth between making myself come up with something meaningful, “my art has to say something” and the artwork isn’t good; now, I just make stuff and then figure out what it means Says that this class format is comfortable for her; calm environment She likes the responses we’re doing C4: Had an idea for a sculpture to make however, JC wanted her to make a video; she had anxiety about working with materials that she’s not familiar with; feels as if she’s doing something that she really doesn’t want to do As she gets closer to her new video project, she feels that the stress of the project is keeping her away from her work (painting) Feels as if she should do new work for her candidacy; trying new stuff and developing a new language Received advice about candidacy and “knowing where she wants to go” This session, J has many questions about what she Believes that the ultimate MFA course would be titled, “From here to now: a deconstruction and recreation of the artistic self” Favorite critique strategy she’d experienced was when a painting teacher had the class respond (critique) peers’ works by painting smaller works and giving them to the artist She gets frustrated with teachers that are unorganized and seem to have forgotten how to teach having done it for so long She learned much from the process of writing about his peers works and hearing them read what they wrote about his work She believed that D2L was a “less connected” way for exchanges during our term She wanted to do more one on one studio visits with Barbara Had a hard time at first with GSDS; however, ended up “doing something new in my art practice” Believed that talking about artist statements and teaching pedagogies was most valuable She liked the small class environment, visual responses, text sharing and suggested that perhaps we could have done more writing Believed that we should have met every week instead of every other Suggested going on a class field trip, doing a show together as a class, or create work specific to the class together. 278 Artist (J) needs to do for candidacy, she expresses concerns, talks about what she’s seen happening in others’ studios; she ends conversation by thanking us for listening to all her concerns All participants are supportive and offer each other advice for candidacy, video work, etc. GSDS: bought a projector “voices in her head” were depicted in her VJ (shapes) Thanked me at end of session C5: says “ the sculpture stuff for JC this week… it’s not happening” Thought themselves too hard on their peers during the video crit they organized with other video peers Because there were no teachers there, they were super harsh, it was “so real”; she wants to apologize Believes that an MFA student should, most importantly, walk out into the world with confidence Wonders if prof want to know where she thinks she fits in the history of painting or if they asking about what the medium facilitates Was curious about what I did with all my calendars (my journals) as she doesn’t know what to do with hers Shared that Dennis thinks she’s great Was relieved to have candidacy over with support for her work and now says that she had to catch up with everything that she set aside preparing for her candidacy Having worked so hard on a painting (for candidacy), she welcomed her new expectation of herself to work that hard all the time; she explains that that level of bring “on” was needed for her candidacy but still feeling like “no, I can’t take a day off” Prompt of On Longing and writing exercises helped her in her candidacy C6 means a lot to her when professors share their work (when they model) C7: before now, J’s teachers didn’t teach her how to paint; so “I painted circles and I didn’t know what I was doing” she felt lost and was criticized about it; but she felt that she wasn’t given any options; so she doesn’t want her students to “flail” around Teacher are sometimes competitive and keep secrets about their skills in painting Sharing artist statement with husband to help make it as clear as possible Her work is about place and sense of place, memory Trying to figure out why when you have many feelings about the place how do you reconcile that in one image? Takes “tons” of photos, draws from her imagination too Tries to always have a camera with her Planning for show at Rombach gallery with K and A She sometimes wonders, “What am I doing for the world?” Believes that art is “something that you do on your own” Believes that growth is painful Said that she was surprised by positive comments Medium of choice is painting and drawing Influenced by work of Freud, Kariversky, Bayles The time in your studio is when you make your creative decisions and put the time in; as well as deal with your insecurities of being an artist Place, space, mapping, exploring, memory – traces of interpretation. Architecture conceals human frailty. Abstraction, tension, implied narrative Being intuitive and Triptych of “place” paintings Studio visit C7: did a VJ drawing about a jaded force where she’s on the edge of something, then, I’m being hit, come here and think awhile, then making images of myself, reflective thoughts, the process and figuring out clarity (she describes this entry as more of a conceptual interpretation of her process. 279 about works that she was planning to throw out Feels that art making isn’t spiritual however, when it’s really working, there is a ritual process that gets J there Wears the same outfit every time; there’s something psychological about putting on the music and the outfit; the ritual helps to guarantee that I get there Goes through a whole cycle including self doubt, losing track of time, she becomes fluid, the same smells are there She sets up her days so she has school for two days and three days in a row for art-making She’s obsessive about having several works going on at the same time Gets inspiration from walk and taking pics Sources for creative motivation come from trees, leaves, shadows, water, identification, how I’ve lived, memories, change, texture, line, brainstorming, growth, knowledge, freedom of expression “Nothing else commands me in this way” She’d like to be able to talk about her work in a more educated way, better vocabulary (she feels she should); I think I should be able to talk better; she’s dong a lot of research When she feels frustrated she’ll look at contemporary art and read artist statements Doesn’t consider postmodernism today’s movement; she doesn’t know where we are today Where am I and what was done before me? I look for where I fit in, 16-17 C painting She’s been confronted with “why painting” so she has to know the history or painting and be able to say something different She wonders what is new about her? She admits to being hard on herself and her worst critic I’m painting and these shapes come out; she wonders where they are from, Pollock? Dimitri? Everyone likes my color palette “The anxiety of influence fits into the bigger question” As of C4, what’s going well is her new supplies (canvas and paints) She’s putting a lot of money into her work right now and it’s scary The sensory overload of her new materials is exciting as she’s having to learn how to use her new materials “It’s hard and a good thing” “If I work, good things might happen”; she’s making “tons” of work and making different connections and thinking of more things she wants to make; priorities Agreed with my buzz words from their statements and listened closely as their peers interpreted their work; found it very helpful to know what others see; she trusts us (these peers) and in this environment, she said the interpretations mean more C5: she’s considering what I’m hiding behind the buildings she paints Shared the list of steps in her process from getting coffee to meditating; she sits in a chair and moves the work around (like doing a ritual); chuckles about how loud (specific describe) her music informed is a good thing and can make really good art. She wants to buy her own copy of On Longing as it relates to her ideas of landscape, longing, “blindness for place and our narrative we place ourselves in.” She talks about before having been inspired by nature, growth, and knowledge, but at this point she was motivated by color, her bike, urban sprawl, decay… impulse, skilled, feeling of renewal, “expressing my truth visually” 280 Teacher (J) “must” be Considered reading On Longing, a gift; the writing exemplified what her work is about very well Said that it was weird that one time when she presented her artwork from her high school days up until now, “it all connected” C6: after orals, shared that Dennis thinks she’s great Having worked so hard on a painting (for candidacy), she welcomed her new expectation of herself to work that hard all the time; she explains that that level of bring “on” was needed for her candidacy but still feeling like “no, I can’t take a day off” C7: did a VJ drawing about a jaded force where she’s on the edge of something, then, I’m being hit, come here and think awhile, then making images of myself, reflective thoughts, the process and figuring out clarity She talks about before having been inspired by nature, growth, and knowledge, but at this point she was motivated by color, her bike, urban sprawl, decay… impulse, skilled, feeling of renewal, “expressing my truth visually” She says that she paints because she wants to communicate as painting has done throughout history; it’s the best way to talk about complex issues She talks about her letter to her artist, “you are a maker and no one can take that away”; she believes that her art has moods, “yeah I mean it” and “I don’t believe you, someone more important needs to say that.” (Shocked), I respond ‘who’s more important than you?’ J responds, “I don’t know; I’m trying to figure that out” She said that her artist self needs reassurance… this is who you are and it’s okay… if I move forward in this direction, maybe… In her own work, J facilitated safe environments and wants to do that for her students Ultimate MFA Course design Likes being able to teach and being taught at the same time She tries to share with her students the same things she’s learning in her own classes When she critiques her students aesthetically, she believes that (like her once) they hear, “you’re the worst artist ever” Believes that growth is painful She believes that teaching can be like doing a performance Doesn’t spend time to address work of students that have not been respectful of her time Finds it hard to talk about students’ work when it’s just bad; she feels she is humiliating her students in doing so She appreciates students that “speak up” to their teachers As time would run out and we didn’t get to all that I wanted to… we talked about what we’d do at our next session ex: at C5, we’d talk about my books that each of them borrowed; and adding to the ult MFA course (so we decided that that would be our “final” project for the course Feels badly for giving her students D’s (I said, good for you!). She stresses when her students Ultimate MFA Course design Expectations (syllabus and assignments) provided in FYE handbook for TAs Likes to work one-on-one with her students, have them make lists of words, thoughts, colors, actions, etc. and then discuss how they could portray those things; she asks lots of questions; playful exchanges using students “words” Believes that she must come to class excited so her students do the same She has the idea for incorporating writing and reflecting exercises in her classes going forward. At the end of class students would discuss their freewriting and help them learn to communicate VJ entry about overlap of teaching and being an artist, she makes lists to get going and when her students don’t know what to do she has them make lists She read the list of words that her teaching employs but also sometimes shows up in her work; with shapes that she drew repeatedly 281 stress Plans to do more demos in her classes like demoing making shapes like in her work C7: complimented by N as she has been offered to teach a painting class above the FYE level She values the ability to connect with others; being a part of someone else’s artistic process, watching and guiding them to a place where it can change and do something else; “that’s rewarding” She wants to help students think through things that feel impossible; “as a teacher and as a student I am asking questions and doing this intense thinking that doesn’t happen outside of the situation” She likes to provide that space, “intimate space” where people can think and be inspired She values how the classroom is a collaborative space She believes that it is important for students to know the academic history of painting if that is the medium they are working in Before now, J’s teachers didn’t teach her how to paint; so “I painted circles and I didn’t know what I was doing” she felt lost and was criticized about it; but she felt that she wasn’t given any options; so she doesn’t want her students to “flail” around; “being a teacher, you can ask really important questions so students can make those leaps quicker” She does a lot of self-reflection activities with her students including how they feel about a certain critique as a whole; she asks what make a good critique She believes that it is important to be transparent as a teacher (Teacher are sometimes competitive and keep secrets about their skills in painting) In her own work, J facilitated safe environments and wants to do that for her students She’s disappointed when students don’t show up for class Prompted by A saying that she feels like a different person when teaching, J said that you have to walk in to class with enthusiasm even if you’re not; otherwise, “the whole day can suck” A doesn’t know how to motivate unmotivated students; N says he acts excited; j says that it depends on who it is (ex; a musician or film maker has to get through her class so she’ll make the project relevant to their discipline) Believes that there can be real reasons why a student becomes stumped so she’ll “flip the question around” If students are stuck, she says she’ll tease them too (like me) and says, Are you kidding? You showed up this morning, you’re motivated. When a student wants to use a broken heart to represent divorce, she’ll sit with them to work beyond the cliché to get to the “good stuff” “it’s okay, it’s part of the process”; When this upsets a student, she responds by saying that their idea deserves more Says that talking helps to get students looking at all the angles of an issue and when they say, “this is really hard” she tells them that it’s worth it C8: VJ entry ‘overlap’; she was thinking about one meaningfully Liked the ideas of having MFA students do a VJ entry that describes their frustrations as an artist and another entry to visually respond to a critique Believes that students need to realize how crucial their own experiences and beliefs form who they are and individualize their artmaking “I think that going through the process of hard work with an idea and problems solving to create a finished piece can be transformative as an artist.” 282 of the levels in her image as the artistic process and how it needed to merge with the other levels; being a painting teacher she is confronted with things all the time and I’ve realized that I am a critical thinker; I can solve that and help you get through as it helps me figure out my belief system about art and making art. Thinking and considering rules; I’m always having to articulate things that I hadn’t thought about “There is an intense truth in the moment of when I’m speaking it” Finds that when she’s writing out feedback to her students and the same four things over and over, she thinks to herself, I must believe this right! I asked myself if I was evaluating my own work would I say that it needs more detail, better craft…; she’s trying to hold herself accountable Future Professional in the Visual Arts (J) Nate SOS= “A series of thoughts, ideas, concepts that are either picked from other source or created by you that you relate to, agree with, and live by. It also involves a healthy amount of confidence in the validity of these decisions mixes with just a bit of skepticism that, well, you could be wrong.” What about “nuts & bolts”? Worked with the group of participants to design the syllabus and curriculum for the “Ultimate MFA Course” She would break up her triptychs to sell if needed She sometimes wonders, “What am I doing for the world?” She says you spend a lot of time and money as it is still a gamble because you don’t know what’s going to happen afterwards Feels that functional art is important and can see herself making knives to help her to earn money in the future, “I could be my own boss” She asked, “What do you do when you’re done with your MFA?” Asks, “Do I apply everywhere?” will you have time to make your art? It’s hard because she’s married and they’ll go somewhere for her or for him “how are we going to work that out? It’s hard to know. What makes money? We haven’t worked that out. Says that she would happily teach and meet gallery deadlines; however, I’m told that teaching isn’t realistic. Some teachers say, “oh yeah, you’ll get something just work hard” and others “there’s so much competition… it’s unlikely” Her teachers encourage her to understand that a future takes time She know that she could (possibly) go back to her job in science; “I don’t want to go back” Wants to make art everyday in her future Wants to sell her artwork Teach college students skills to further artistic ideas and techniques Doesn’t want to throw her intuitive “raw” parts out sacrificing them for a “flashy” successful life. Success can be defined in many ways Unsure demeanor MFAP see instructors as role models Postcard for Rombach show 283 Individual (N) Outspoken Dedicated Very hard worker Not shy / abrupt / nearing confrontational Confident Willing to share time, ideas, skills, etc. / professional Proactive on his artistic fronts (FB and video crit) Consistent attitude throughout semester grateful Student (N) Shares topics about being married: moving for her or him They enjoy spending time together and doing so takes away from studio time Nate as he said that he isn’t fragmented, that all his characters are the interconnected Jokes about his scooter being a ‘tricycle’; provides tool to control room temperature Believes in a disconnect between the things we buy and where they came from Doesn’t believe that idealism moves us forward or is emotionally productive You have to carry yourself being prepared; be clear, genuine, and honest and not hiding a bunch of stuff You have to communicate out in the real world as yourself Takes a long time to get to know a person and have good conversations Said that he would hate having to do morning pages; he doesn’t journal but writes; has bad coordination in the morning Was reading Walden at this point (coll 2) in our semester Talked of the fishing industry and his piece about it Shared random facts about dinosaurs He has tried to meditate Enjoys teaching Spoke of the different roles we play when we interact with the world: front stage or back stage; like a restaurant’s “front of the house” Motivated by “the uncertainty principle” Has to cross off and then throw away his lists; sometimes he’ll add taking a shower just so he can cross it off, “Son of a bitch, I can cross that one off!” Keeps his schedule and his wife’s on an Ipad Believes that there are many ways to be successful Says that it doesn’t take much for him to live, “food, art supplies” Thinks that doing yoga with others is creepy.. reciting things makes him uncomfortable He’s freaked out by designer apples When he proposed his digital “sketches” I concurred, “it’s you” Found On Creativity inspiring, Was relieved to read it as she could see that others think as she does Doesn’t like the term “heroes” but mentions, Kurt Vonnegut, Einstein, Kali Lama, science, those with a poignent sense of humor, and art that is disarming and endearing at the same time C6; was curious about what sort of job I wanted in the future (prompted by our discussion about professional practices) In terms of dealing with opposition; he promotes collaboration with others over “in spite of” approach C7: he smokes a pipe to help him slow down and think of good ideas; he likes the smell and the challenge to keep it lit as it provides him with a task that is constant but not too challenging Couldn’t “get into” the activity to write to his artist self; “it’s hard to separate those aspects of yourself Talked often about getting everything he possible could out of his MFA experience MFA 3rd year Between 27 – 31 He believes that our “selftheories” are fluid He didn’t believe that 695 contributed to perceptions he has as an individual person – because he (and the others) are already introspective Earning an MFA offers a unique chance to “establish a specific sense of self… explore it more fully, and articulate it” Expresses himself as a grateful and ambitious person and artist Nauman piece about “truth” Studio visit Scooter helmet and hats “Threaded” pages of autobiography images He’s always the first to arrive at class in the morning Bronze cast mugs with overt messages about coffee consumption issues Artistic autobiography piece is made up of 6 different images; starting in nature (green, trees surrounding the entire frame) and threads through to head (selfportrait looking to the right) then threads through to another self portrait of Nate looking left and another page and then the final image is a garbage pile VJ engaged colored pencil, rope, ink, pencil He questions whether or not there exists “true Studio visit Gallery visit at Rombach 284 Reports of critiques specific to his MFA thesis project He was in 695 because he’s self-reflexive in general and skeptical of everything in a healthy way; so he considers others’ ideas and literal methods of being self-reflexive. He believes that broad exposure to ideas is a good thing and “nothing but useful” and he thinks this course might help him consider things he would otherwise not Appreciates the 3 year system of MFA program Third year you really feel like you’re on your own Criticism one year can become awesome later Frustrated by peers to water down his degree by just getting the piece of paper; it devalues his degree Unlike A, he didn’t think that school would help him get to what he “wants to say” Believes that “true education” is a suspect term Thinks MFA program is compact but the progression makes sense as you are questioned a lot up front and then it peters off so you can work more on your own Thinks the ‘theater’ of harsh critiques is not necessary; not productive Appreciates a prof that said ‘flat out’ not to be offended by feedback or take it personally He’s going to grad school partly to become a teacher Thinks students should have to make their own websites and professionally document their art work Self-direction is important Has good momentum going with his thesis project as of C4 Finds it a pain to have to check out a video camera especially since he hasn’t figured out a good idea yet (this comes after A suggests just working) Having others interpret our work is good to do now as that’s what happens in the real world Realizes that part of what profs are training them to do is to be able to be open minded and filter out negative critiques; in the moment, when they don’t like it, it’s hard GSDS: went to a yoga class; didn’t like group yoga but liked the “child’s pose”; he sat in the corner and kept his eyes closed; and came up with an idea for a book work where he records everything he thinks and how the different things interrelate to each other cross-referencing them Thought themselves too hard on their peers during the video crit they organized with other video peers Because there were no teachers there, they were super harsh, it was “so real” C5: tells J and A that they have something to look forward to, their 3rd year in the program as he believes it’s refreshing Won a Medici award C7: was told by a committee member that he’d seen part of his thesis project at World Market Wasn’t sure what VJ entry to revisit; he did a drawing of his pipe that helps him to slow down and think of good ideas; “it’s a ritual” Was told by GS to use language such as not “art can be anything” rather “are is versatile” He said that he needs to be sensitive to others who don’t education” He believes that education in just about any discipline benefits other disciplines Is not sure about the specific advantages offered by arts education Believed that the ultimate MFA course would be titled, “My ‘Ulti-maf-rse” He once had to collaborate (which he prefers not to do) for 24 hours with one other student in his class; it was adventurous, quirky, had a time limit, and allowed for reduced pressure on the quality of the work He is frustrated, even insulted, by poorly planned or executed classes. It shows when a prof isn’t ready He believes that the very fact that he’s in grad school indicates his seriousness and he expects the same of his teachers. He liked 695 readings and resources and wanted to talk about them in class more He learned much from the process of writing about his peers works and hearing them read what they wrote about his work See the role of professor to design the course rather than having students involved in teaching, learning, reflection, and assignment activities He wanted to meet more often as he enjoyed our time together Shared that 695 provided more time to reflect than most classes as well as much needed information of art pedagogy “For the most part I really loved it! Thanks Barbara! You should convince the school to start a course about teaching for MFA students. I think one is very much needed.” Didn’t find writing to artist self engaging He shared Mars Rover Curiosity video over D2L. also, Heisenberg’s uncertainty principle, Quantum Foam and Cosmic Inflation 285 think as he does He stuck around after class to work through his teaching philosophy; A helped with examples to include Isn’t sure what to say to his committee meeting tomorrow; I encourage him to think about what is most important with regard to his piece’s message, and let them put him outside of his comfort zone to help inform his direction for finishing Asked if we were having second studio visits; I said that I could; yes, N wants to go over some further ideas with me C8: feels stuck after his committee meeting as he believes that his piece has broad potential meanings yet he wants it to be “poetic, ritualistic, and indicate the significance of time” His committee thought that his vials for the saw dust were too pretty Says that time is the most important element of the work Artist (N) Doesn’t like “personal” work; “you have to have a leg to stand on” Nate as he said that he isn’t fragmented, that all his characters are the interconnected Work deals with how people interact with the natural world sometimes directly but most powerfully through the things we consume Speaks to American over-consumption Believes in a disconnect between the things we buy and where they came from He wants others to know that disconnection though the “system” obstructs this understanding He introduced himself with bronze mugs representing different things “wrong” with coffee consumption (he very much elaborates on the issue) He thinks his work is hard to think about and most people don’t want to “do hard” Believes that you have to sit with works sometimes in order to let them “speak” to you Thinks his ideas are too complex and it is his job to simplify them so he doesn’t “lose people” Seeing progress takes time; being in school can be hard as you’re asked to solve something emotional and intellectually now Thinks it’s healthy to separate yourself from your work especially during a critique As a sculptor, it takes a long time to get something out: stupid ones and all Considers teaching closely related to making his artwork. They are different but not separate. Says that he thinks in terms of “how is this influencing or informing my other roles. If not, then perhaps you move away from it” Believes that art makes you pay attention and that can be transformative; it makes you look closely at the world Pulls up Nauman’s piece; “the job of the artist is to reveal mystic truths” Believes that art can communicate intimately with viewers Inspired by CNN news, how FOX news upsets him, being informed, being exposed to what you Does not focus on using an one media Inspired by work of Goldsworthy, Goff, and Dion Consumption awareness, personal response to nature, economic success in US ignores environmental costs Shortsightedness, need vs. want He recycles Sometimes art making feels like a slog or you are unhappy with your work Needs to control his sense and methods of motivations He currently engages the “binge and purge” method of art-making “My Artist Self is my self, is my student self, is my teacher self, is my husband self, is my musician self… etc.” 695 did not change his perceptions of himself as an artist Three coffee mugs about coffee consumption issues Pipe image for getting inspiration Computer “sketches” Studio visit Shared his “real” skbk at coll 2 that starts with drawings and ends up as writing Writes down 5 ideas and then returns to one of them Unique step in his process is smoking his pipe (wavy image) Artist and teacher images hardly overlap 286 disagree with, looking at things from both sides; tree ring lab, camping, talking with other artists, art books and random tasks like vacuuming when he can let his mind wander “all science things inform my artwork so [On Creativity] was relevant” believes that art is social, not universal; says we need a cultural upbringing to understand our culture; define universal and social believes that art is a crap shoot; you don’t have control over who likes it; he may respect it for being creepy, etc. but if it doesn’t mean anything to you, the artist has no leg to stand on C4: recognized when he gets momentum going, an anxiety goes with it Agreed with my buzz words from their statements and listened closely as their peers interpreted their work; found it very helpful to know what others see C5: comments that J’s ritual practices in her studio would likely feel very satisfying: however, he’s not good at that Inspired by Einstein, physics, (while talking about On Creativity) and how space itself is “blending”; it’s a process, satisfying; artists and scientists are doing the same thing Favorite tool is a sketchbook Appreciated 7 traits reading as it added support for when “defending” what you do as an artist bring out in the real world Uses many materials broadly so doesn’t feel he needs to justify “why clay?” or “why painting?” he said, “if it propels you to make art; there is no other justification” (am I seeing his own use of “absolutes” here; something he criticized early in the semester?) C6: Discussed technical difficulties of his head project Had a show previously in Ann Arbor and complained about how hard it was to get a response from them in terms of getting his work back Believes that his work is partly inspired by where one lives (looking for job “somewhere” matters) C7: Wasn’t sure what VJ entry to revisit; he did a drawing of his pipe that helps him to slow down and think of good ideas; “it’s a ritual” Wishes he had the discipline to work at least a little bit every day; he thinks he needs around 4 hours to get going with something valuable; however, knows that the little things are important too A valuable aspect of his research is how new ideas come about when considering new materials; he believes that others can make quality decisions about their artwork when they have a working knowledge of what’s out there, method and concept exploration He considers his thesis project a memorial to time, the tree’s years (wood shavings); more than just the process of sanding and sanding C8: feels stuck after his committee meeting as he believes that his piece has broad potential meanings yet he wants it to be “poetic, ritualistic, and indicate the significance of time” His committee thought that his vials for the saw dust were too pretty 287 Says that time is the most important element of the work He likes the suggested strength (and timeenduring) in works from black-smithing (black metal, glass) [I shared ginkgo leaf project, my “tribute to time”] Teacher (N) Ultimate MFA Course design; wants works to be finished before a crit; wants to challenge students with giving time limits (hours or a week) to work on a piece “Son of a bitch; I want to teach this class!” Offers advice on motivating students, communicating with students, and leading critiques with undergrads Nate as he said that he isn’t fragmented, that all his characters are the interconnected Considers that the FYE students he’s teaching are understandably much like high scholars as only 3 months separate them from that place; therefore A need not be upset being told her work is like that of an undergrad in her first year As a teacher, he is an “explainer” and has conversations with students Asks that his students do not take critiques personally but rather see them as a chance to gain important information about their work Tried to have his own students lead a critique session once and it didn’t work; students expected him to do the talking He will broadly use prompts to trigger crit discussion; starts with what is strong, what needs work and then open the floor to the student artist to talk about their work Sometimes does written crits Enjoys teaching Thinks that teaching is hard up front but it gets easier as time goes by “Preparing doesn’t take any time after the first couple years” C7: believes that teaching and learning provide an awareness that is satisfying, open-minded, empathetic, learning anything in general Believes that the classroom is a unique space to explore materials; researching how new ideas come about when considering new materials; he believes that others can make quality decisions about their artwork when they have a working knowledge of what’s out there, method and concept exploration He likes teaching in the FYE program because it’s fast and intense and introduces student to many options; he shares that he started out as a painter and that knowing about more materials sooner would have been valuable to him He believes that learning to draw (well) is an important part of your “toolbox” It’s hard to teach students that are doing viscom so they can make money; they say things like why do I have to make that stupid sculpture? He offers assignments that excite his students and says that they understand that it’s up to them; “it’s their fault if they don’t like it” He asks students why we should care as viewers of their art and asks them to help him feel the emotion that the student felt; say something new; use a new Ultimate MFA Course design Expectations (syllabus and assignments) provided in FYE handbook for TAs Before starting crits with his undergrads he believes that talking with his students about not taking feedback personally is crucial. He explains why crits and being openminded are important Has idea to bring in peers as guest artists and to do demos in his classes He expressed wanting to learn more about being a teacher and believed that this popular job for graduates is “tragically ignored” Can be challenged teaching while being “neck-deep” in everything the degree demands Wants his students to walk away from his class having made work about topics they care deeply for. Artist and teacher just barely overlap; he wanted to talk about his as it was a Venn diagram and wasn’t happy with the image; he wishes that they overlapped more because he finds himself not following “my own advice when I’m teaching occasionally”; he pointed out that a lot of things do happen when they overlap (literally and figuratively); he added, “I don’t always think through my own work in the same way that I ask my students to do”; he said, this prompt was a really important thing to consider but he didn’t put in the time; he didn’t finish this VJ image but thought it was fun 288 way to tell us that the holocaust was bad I asked him to consider how he assesses his students and include that in his teaching philosophy Finds it difficult to assess as how well a student does in class is not necessarily an indication of that student is as an artist; they “feed” one another but they’re different; some can talk about art; some have great ideas; some can’t write about art Says that there is meaning in the structure of a class (classroom) so to be a teacher, “you pay attention to their absences and as an artist you’re helping student s learn to communicate using art Nate believes that his students need to know the value of having success in his class as well as how doing so is different from having quality ideas and growing as an artist He sees value in being up front and sticking to his guidelines; you are grading the learning that took place rather than the artwork [I suggest that he includes acknowledgement of the ambiguity of teaching art as well as the responsibility of being a teacher (of art) “thank you so much” he said he thinks it’s good to have to think about what works and what doesn’t in his classroom Future Professional in the Visual Arts (N) He was in graduate school to become a teacher Wants to live somewhere inspiring, not just move for some job What about “nuts & bolts”? Worked with the group of participants to design the syllabus and curriculum for the “Ultimate MFA Course” You have to carry yourself being prepared; be clear, genuine, and honest and not hiding a bunch of stuff You have to communicate out in the real world as yourself In a job situation, social interaction can be hard and it takes a while to have a good conversation Enjoys teaching “we have to go where the job is” says he and his wife want to teach and she’ll be done with school in two years. Our dream is to teach at the same university it’s hard because apps are due in December before his thesis show (strongest work) is up on April. Says doing job applications is a whole job in itself G told him, “oh yeah, most people don’t do that their thesis year” he said “so wait, you just float around for a year while you’re looking for jobs?” G says, “I guess” Nate says he needs to make money He considers residencies Thinks getting out of Tucson would be good from a career standpoint as well as look good on his resume; however, his wife is still here! He developed a FB page to share show suggestions with peers He’s a bit stressed given he wants the 2-3 unfinished works in his studio to be a part of his teaching position application portfolio images C5; explains digital mock-ups and shares that when Ultimate MFA Course design Would like to teach where students may not have much exposure to art; to teach them a wide variety of media Wants to show his work in wide venues “beyond galleries” Asking why on the job seems like a challenge to authority Is not sure what is meant by “entrepreneurial approaches” In his future, a more established studio is less likely to lead to frustrations or slow-down because of missing tools or lack of proper materials Keep your fingers crossed and collect and keep useful materials as space and good sense permits Believes it can be challenging however surrounding yourself with other hard-working, kind, open-minded and eager artists is important going forward He expressed wanting to learn more about being a teacher and believed that this popular job for Computer “sketches”; mock-ups of sculpture work ideas MFAP see instructors as role models Postcard for Rombach show 289 an idea for a huge project that costs thousands of dollars is presented… this is a great way to get his ideas across C6: still working on apps for jobs to teach in higher education; he had his teaching philosophy and said he’d love my input; G gave him advice on how to re-word his statements “I want a job” apps due in December and will be missing his strongest piece (thesis project) applying for a job is a full time job; is challenged by collecting images of student work C7: his is applying to foundations jobs Barbara Individual (B) Energetic Anxious / nervous Open to any / all discussion Curious Humble Chip on shoulder grateful Why an MFA? I pay too much each month to store my thesis project but I cannot let go of it Why a PhD? I am nervous and note my voice crack – thinking it sounds insecure on my part I realize that I’m overwhelming the situation with too many book readings that are good, so I said I’d post them and that reading them is optional Ask yourself what is important; how do you spend your time? Is it something that is activated in your art or could be activated in your art? Talked about free-writing and how hard it is to do morning pages or meditate Nature is my “sanctuary” Feeling fragmented in all my roles; specifically the hats I wore as an MFA student Shared my colored chart of what I was planning to accomplish for the next year (dissertation writing schedule) C6: Seems like forever since I’ve seen you! Once colloquium started, I still felt awkward C6; noted that atmosphere at colloquium had become laid back and comfortable I promote being proactive, not reactive C7: I tried to point out that their “to do” lists might be a list of “opportunities” Shared how the small of dad’s pipe contributed to feeling of being car sick on Sundays; admits to being a bad “back seat” rider Student (B) Shared who I was as an MFA including the website image of my thesis desk piece Brady Bunch station wagon Wanted to make a big statement with my thesis I loved every minute of being in MFA school (BFA too) Shared who I am as a PhD: I am here because that graduates is “tragically ignored” 695 helped to confirm that he wants to be a teacher and understands that teaching at MFA level would be ever-evolving (Electronic correspondence, lists, memos, precolloquium plans, modified and postcolloquium plans, reflection worksheets) (Modeling/demeanor, demarcated course documents, my works of art, site images) Coll 1:I wrote down the prompts to introduce myself and research project; shared my motivations for being there; shared my artwork; listed my goals for the semester; shared what I might do with the collected data from this study I hoped to “fit in” Jazzed, fuzzy-eyed, formal At end of coll 1 we had “established” our selves Coll 3: wanted to “let it all hang out” but was hesitant given how deep I knew my head and heart were Coll 6: awkward today; parking ticket in loading dock and ticket to pay at garage; felt I shared too much even as I believed that all of my contributions were relevant I feel self-conscious; don’t want to sound cheesy, stupid, unprepared, or motivated by negative things. I hope my anxiety doesn’t show. Don’t feel very good about “winging” it; exhausted today! I was bummed to have missed Annika’s InFuse talk Final Reflection: Self-conscious about being a grad student teaching grad students Lists of potential readings GSDS and Mr. Brenner’s class’ Walden assignment in high school Harbored pieces concept Confident demeanor Simple and open yet private classroom space to spread out and be comfortable Confident demeanor 290 Artist (B) Teacher (B) process of going through all that art schooling and walking away from it, not finding the time I felt my art deserved. I’m interested in the experience of the MFA and how we as artists interpret the experience and put it in our artwork in the end Talked about my study and how I want to go forward with adding to MFA curriculum Shared that I wrote in my VJ, “why am I doing this?” Shared how I get a “kick” out of art school vocabulary (document, monofilament, recontextualize, etc.) I shared my Walden Pond assignment from high school and how it changed me Referenced the same professors we had in MFA school and wanting to be like them Shared that at SAIC, I “took” a class with J Elkins yet he was never there As a student, those were the best years of my life; everyone was geared up to finish and freaking out at the same time. I was so proud: I loved wearing my graduation gown Shared being a student in 632 and about how studio graduates (both of them) were employed by the semester’s end C6: As a PhD student, I’m not rushing because I want my dissertation “to be awesome!” C7: I hate that I received a parking ticket however, I rationalize not getting too upset since the money goes to the university (I’m glad about that) Always trying to organize chaos Success in AZ biennials Not wanting to be craft artist or gallery artist; I wanted to be an artist making work that would someday be in museums Not a practicing artist Elevator answer is that I make art as an attempt to organize chaos Always trying to “get on top” of life but the effort never ends Trying to always sort out my mess in life First inspired by Henry Rollins and Agnes Martin; seriously, this is art? By default, we are contemporary artists Shared my 1.000 Things piece, Spin video, evidence of my fragmentation After I earned my MFA I had to decide if I wanted to make art for galleries and craft fairs (for the money) or museum biennials J encouraged me to consider the world of ceramics; but I thought it’d be a sell out to make mugs for the money “I would be sacrificing the authentic me and be making work for someone else” I wasn’t willing to make mugs, missed the community of artists, missed having money to keep up my artistic “stride” and had to work multiple part time jobs I complimented participants about how they were the “stars” of the Rombach gallery this semester C5: I shared how writing sometimes help me address certain reservations and ideas Shared that materials (many of them) are important in my work including wedding gown of porcelain and teacher desk of oak wood Believe that teachers and artist have same innate motivation: to communicate something worth Final Reflection: Lists of potential readings Was reminded and brought in book, The Artists’ Way Final Reflection: Email: responded to J about her idea of working on a piece for an hour; I shared with her the 1-hour ceramics inch cube project I responded to their ideas of what makes an artist tick: prompts, noting the value of your instructors, “containing chaos” with my harbored pieces Simple and open yet private classroom space to spread out and be comfortable; very similar to the “feel” of my artwork Reflections like crazy! Coll 1: classroom Confident demeanor Modeling listening, 291 knowing to an audience Shared background in education K-12 and left at 30 years of age This class, 695, if about paying attention to you You are artist who have chosen to educate yourselves; that’s huge; congratulations; the fact that you are here is an honor We’ll look at your experiences and how they feed aspects of you and your future. We’ll look at your artwork the ways that you have learned, what professors and learning experiences crits, trips, lectures, etc have made an impact on you We’ll pay attention to how you learn; being conscious of how to you learn; how others impact your artistic “voice” Be honest with me in terms of what is too much given that your artwork is what is most important If I get carried away, you won’t offend me by saying it’s too much Talked about books, CAA talk, informal platform of our semester, VJ to keep a bird’s eye view on semester Oral, written, and visual communication to get to the “heart and soul” of why you are here My responses to students’ participation is affirming, “wow, well said” and “thank you for letting me know” and “healing involves coming to terms with the way things are” I address the importance of being “objective” and learning from what might feel negative at the time Brought in several books to share and read part of them to class Didn’t mean the design the Ultimate MFA class assignment to be so challenging, so worked with them on each syllabus prompt Changed thought to extend the amount of time taken for the MFA course design C4: I was letting the conversation go; I had an idea for what to do that day; however, our talks led somewhere else; it was informative It’s great to be a teacher as you have summers off, opportunities for sabbaticals, etc. C4: says that being nervous is part of the reason you’re here; suggests that we talk about “talking” about our work next session I recommended that they not worry about becoming burned out until after they graduate; while you’re here let them say its good back try video etc.; put yourself in those situations “exhaust yourself and after you’re out in the real world, decide where to put your energy As time would run out and we didn’t get to all that I wanted to… we talked about what we’d do at our next session ex: at C5, we’d talk about my books that each of them borrowed; and adding to the ult MFA course (so we decided that that would be our “final” project for the course I noted the times participants suggested that our class replace unproductive others (ex; crit class depending upon who’s teaching it) I noted that participants talked often about their yoga (even Pilates) and thought perhaps this would be a good pedagogy to add to this course next time I teach it. C5: said we’d be talking about work today atmosphere 7.5 and my energy/demeanor = 8.5 typed and retyped plans At the end of the semester I reflected that it would be interesting to learn in what ways studio art instructors perceive that they are effectively disseminating master-level instruction (opposed to ungrad) Nate said that art has helped him to see the world in different ways – my response is that of course, that’s what my ART203 students would say (how is masters level education different) I sent out the poem from Tony Renna’s funeral From Nate, “Thanks for all the awesome information you keep feeding us and the tasks we do in class, which as I mentioned, have helped me with my teaching philosophy!” Coll 2: classroom atmosphere = 7 and instructor energy/demeanor =6 I felt pressure to be chatty and provide small talk as students filed in; didn’t feel prepared but that feeling went away as the class period progressed Participants’ comments prompted all topics today Coll 3: atmosphere = 8.5 and my energy/demeanor = 7.5 Had more confidence in my plan today Coll 4: less rigid in following plans around research questions Notes and scribbles were multiple on class plans I was writing down ideas and prompts very actively Coll 5: atmosphere = 8 and my energy/demeanor = 9 Still nervous very few notes to myself for colloquium sessions; mostly bullet points at this point in semester after coll #5 I made a list of things that I wanted to cover in #6 I made a list of “next time at coll #6” Coll 6: I want participants to LOVE coming to our importance of research, appreciation for education Visual journals seem to indicate evolutions of self in terms of students deconstructing processes and thoughts, motivations, etc. Simple and open yet private classroom space to spread out and be comfortable 292 I talked about how I was nervous about the midterm in my 203 class that day; participants offered to change our class time; I appreciated it but said no thank you; shared our art and discipline paper assignment (203) I expressed how I wanted participants to think through the “hard questions” now so they can speak to such issues in candidacy, in their statements, etc. I had to announce at nearly every colloquium session when we were just about to run out of time (it went very fast) I read aloud the 7 traits of an artist that taught in art class but are not written down in any curriculum C6: Seems like forever since I’ve seen you! (I am nervous for C6) I shared that I felt awkward since it’d been so long between our meetings “I feel really disconnected” N said “me too” C7: I ask them to consider the image that illustrates their roles as artists and their approaches to teaching; do they overlap or fight each other? I observe that their letters to their artist self sound as if they are “coaching” themselves (offering encouragement) I tell participants that their letters to their artist selves show evidence of (perhaps a new) awareness; I say that J’s serves (almost) like a pep talk Talking about teaching philosophies, we looked at questions from UM article “what do you value and believe about teaching and students?” I talked about how especially in foundations classes I would tell students that I don’t care if they ever touch clay again… that’s not what this is about… while you’re here think about your story as an artist, what does you voice look like? It looks different on paper than on a pedestal Shared that if a student is stuck, I’ll encourage them to think about what they like to do on the weekends… how might that narrative fit a book project? “Are you kidding? You’re here!” C8: I recommend that N look at Wolfgang Liab as he’s deciding what his thesis is about I shared that I had to sort out my priorities as there were so many things that I wanted to do with the class and participants on the last day; it flew by I mentioned the Ult MFA course project; they had worked on it but forgot to bring it to class Future Professional in the Visual Arts (B) Not to be an artist anymore; but an instructor in HED Worked with the group of participants to design the syllabus and curriculum for the “Ultimate MFA Course” I said “we believe in our voices, pushing it , and being a professional on the other end.” Offered advice to meet with critique groups as I wish that I had: I would have approached things differently C6: Talked about myself as a member of colloquium sessions Reflections indicated that sometimes I taught “on the fly” and other times it was planned Important for me to set “ground rules” even as the process was awkward Lists of potential readings Very few notes made ahead of time; more bullet points and this time on scratch paper Coll #7: atmosphere = 7 and my energy/demeanor = 6 Felt unorganized today; sleepy; had a hard time focusing; felt rushed given there had only been one week since we last met This colloquium, I noted that though I had thought that students had little contribution to the pedagogy of the course, I realized that in fact that was not true Opening question = weird I told students that I was impressed that they believed themselves to be “integrated” “I’m friggin’ exhausted today” Coll 8: very curious to get feedback from participants however, I noted questions and placed them on the exit survey; this included ‘ what are the expectations set out for the professors in their profession according the MFA students? Final Reflection: Email: asking A about her curriculum for Ult MFA. In general, as the teacher reading these responses, I often wanted them to clarify how they keep themselves from becoming what they are critical of in terms of their professors and peers Talking about becoming a teacher was particularly provocative topic as was approaching galleries Final Reflection: Unsure demeanor but aware of potential of future possibilities 293 professional groups such as CAA, NAEA, FATE Using layman’s terms on grant proposals (I note here that I don’t feel confident in my voice and I think that it shows) Relationships with galleries, private dealers, museums, etc. (gave them all handouts). I included a handout about prices and buyers information for selling work. We talked about critique strategies 294 APPENDIX H – COMPLETED DATA CHART TWO The question that guided this research study was: How do the experiences related to personal and professional development within an MFA visual arts program influence a graduate student’s individual sense of self? Research sub-question two: How does participating in the course allow MFA students to examine and reflect upon their personal and professional growth as well as their graduate experiences? Participating in the course allows MFA students to examine and reflect upon: Personal growth: Oral Written Visual (Audio-recordings of each colloquium session) (Surveys, letters to self, reading responses, artist statements, electronic correspondence, lists, electronic correspondence, lists, memos, pre-colloquium plans, modified and postcolloquium plans, reflection worksheets) (Visual journal entries, individual works of art, demeanor, site images, modeling, demarcated course documents, site images) In general, participants appreciated having a space to reflect overtly. Offers a safe place to do such an investigation Offers prompts to trigger reflections that perhaps they didn’t realize were so valuable Provides a place where they and their peers can meet to discuss issues of concern or of interest. Offered a quiet space to share works with a small group and to answer their questions about individual art works Sharing answers to opening questions / intro prompts Ex. What have you learned about yourself in the last two weeks? Always willing to support each other We talked about our “selves” at every colloquium Sharing stresses Ultimate MFA Course design (share this course using narrative rather than bullet points); in this course, participants employed the key concept of “self-direction,” gaining confidence, readings pertinent to them and other class mates; partnering with a peer to write a review of one’s work; to focus on research and self-reflection Most written data regarding this question were notes from my responses as conversations amongst the small group during class was needed in order to consider their personal growth as a small group They could decide together 295 Sharing about relationships with professors and how they have supported their “self” Articulating experiences out loud Annika Appreciated the space to share and talk Jenna JC helps her… Nate GS helps him… Barbara Professional growth: Offering of recommendations for the Ultimate MFA Course Realizations for what’s “missing” in terms of professional development in their MFA program Realized that they have more planning to do in terms of what would be productive in terms of curriculum and pedagogy about “self” Writing letter to “self” Electronic correspondence Process of building an artist statement Lists in visual journals such as the steps they take in their art making process Intro survey questions Exit survey questions Offers participants a safe place to make claims and share personal stories Talked about her undergraduate experience and how it was advantageous to her education; also how it contrasted to the type of “grading” that happens at the MFA level Annika’s letter to herself was awkward Offers participants a safe place to make claims and share personal stories Really picked herself apart within all the pedagogical exercises from the semester She was made more aware of how her personal life has affected her personal progress to this point Offers participants a safe place to make claims and share personal stories Gave him an opportunity to share what he has learned over his experience with those behind him Offers participants a safe place to make claims and share personal stories I am able to see just how much I appreciate the opportunity to have gone to MFA school I am relieved that others, even those in the thick of the degree, are aware of the significant of this question in the first place I learned that others genuinely care too Offers a safe place to do such an investigation Offers prompts to trigger reflections that perhaps they didn’t realize were so valuable Provides a place where they and their peers can meet to discuss issues of concern or of Visual journal entry about their overlapping artist self and teacher self Sketch from “go somewhere, do something” Art accompanying their introductions Art accompanying a reflection of the semester Visual Journal entries They were curious about each other and their experiences They were all good listeners Dark lines and doodles in the university = having no idea what motivates her coll 3 “Nothing else commands me in this way.” Coll 3 Confident and poised demeanor Out spoken Visual Journal entry of swing in the tree regarding what inspires him including News coll 3 Modeling ways to share openly Talking about and explaining studio art works at different times during the semester 296 gaining professional futures Collaborating on video critique with MFA peers Always willing to support each other Realized what they didn’t know ex. new pedagogies FYE TAs were provided with projects and syllabus as 200level courses for TAs didn’t TAs were not evaluated at the end; just observed FYE TAs have perhaps never written a syllabus I can teach them the history of the MFA degree and its purpose, assumptions and beliefs Realizations around teaching: responsibilities, time, care for students Sharing new and effective pedagogical practices Participants asked questions of me, the ATR Sharing individual critique strategies Practiced communicating with different audiences Annika Jenna Shared she was interested in learning more about pedagogy Realized that she is good at teaching and shared her success stories Asked, “what do you do after your MFA?” Reflecting on her candidacy meeting, our colloquiums about how to talk about your work helped Wants to establish herself amongst the history of painting Cannot take course in Psychology because she’d be required to do so at the interest. Ultimate MFA Course design They knew and shared what would help make their MFA programs stronger Having professionals come in as guest artists to teach website development Interpreting each other’s work by writing reviews for each peer Readings; required and optional supplies, and the key concept of building a professional artist presence Electronic communication indicated that all three participants had a hard time with the discussion questions to design the Ultimate MFA Course as it was overwhelming to try to do so Some written exercises helped to write artist statements TA FYE handbook Participants had the floor to ask me whatever they wanted in terms of their professional careers. What is most important for their students to learn Best and worst pedagogies that they have experienced as students Process of building an artist statement Writing artist statements Updates to artist statements Intro survey questions Exit survey questions TA FYE handbook Provides feedback on artist statement in a way that includes interpretations of others Helped her consider what’s ahead given her pursuit of work in the field of visual arts She benefitted from hearing the issues that Nate was facing Provides feedback on artist statement in a way that includes interpretations of others That others struggle to define what they futures are as well and that perhaps, there are many that are unsure about what an MFA artist’s future is She benefitted from hearing the issues that Nate was facing The colloquium could help break down for her the “Black and White” issues around having a career as an artist Visual journal entry about their overlapping artist self and teacher self Art accompanying a reflection of the semester They were curious about each other and their experiences Confident given her experiences at the photo conference: compliments and curating opportunity Confident in her curricular and pedagogical choices made as a TA 297 Nate Barbara Graduate Experiences graduate level = too hard Reality of getting a teaching job in VA HED including moving and “having to work” Discussion of meaningful as well as hurtful critiques I shared my story of self as student and as graduate I am a teacher and can therefore teach MFA students to be teachers too as they are usually un-trained I can talk with them about career choices before it’s too late Stressful A priority in their lives Little social time with friends What hurts what’s helpful and what’s not effective either way Talked about classes and how their being good or bad depended much on who the professor was Regarding electives and taking classes outside of SoA, must take grad-level classes therefore more challenging (ex. Psychology). Program is not set up to help MFA students in this sense We talk about who decides what it means to have an MFA today Why earn an MFA degree? They were able to address specific professors that were affective and those that were not Written teaching philosophy Wrote his own lessons for his FYE class Provides feedback on artist statement in a way that includes interpretations of others The colloquium series gave Nate a chance to ask questions, get advice, and begin to experience that unpredictability of his future as an MFA graduate He learned of options and help sources through handouts and recommendations I gave This experience helped me to more clearly see the need for guidance of MFA students in their MFA programs in terms of professional futures. I genuinely felt confident that my PhD topic of study was relevant to this under-studied group of students. I witnessed how intense MFA students are regarding getting their “voice” out there and heard as artistic people Confident and poised demeanor when sharing success stories Out spoken Shared computer “sketches” or mock-ups Missions of MFA program and SoA Dedicated to colloquium series by never being absent In general, all participants were busy, motivated, active, and had a sense of curiosity Intro survey: answering the survey, in general forced participants to evaluate and comment on their current MFA experiences and how it feeds their interests, inspiration, and promotion Participants listed goals that they had for their futures with an MFA degree in hand such as teaching, selling artwork, entering gallery shows, sharing work with “wider” audiences Exit survey: going through the exit survey forced participants to reflect on their experience both in the colloquium series as well as the MFA program itself; it allowed them to look at what pedagogies were meaningful and which ones were not; they considered what they would include as teachers of the Ultimate MFA Course; Participants were able to offer advice and write down what they would express to their peers as well as what they wanted to say to me and one who might teach a similar course in the future; they were able to reflect on the specifics Modeling my professional demeanor Shared my individual website Being playful with Henri video 298 addressed in their current programs with regard to their futures D2L prompts: This “space” offered participants a place to express what they have benefitted from as well as what they would do differently as teachers of undergraduates as well as when they might have the opportunity to teach MFA students themselves Ultimate MFA Course: participants agreed on what was missing from their experience thus deciding it would be a part of their ultimate course. They missed opportunities to develop websites, take photos professionally; experimentation, working amongst other artists indicated other media that might be relevant or of interest to peer art students Participants wanted to take field trips to major art centers such as LA Annika Jenna Nate (the only 3rd year) Barbara Roles that others (Mom, Dad, wife) play in their lives Okay to switch media focus Gave up domestic duties Appreciates the honesty of environment Appreciates the steps (years) of the program design As third year, he feels on his own He offered support for what his previous years had been like esp. year 1 I shared how much I loved and considered the time the best of my life Offers participants a safe place to make claims and share personal stories She could see the efforts of others and do her best to participant or at least be better Offers participants a safe place to make claims and share personal stories She had a place to ask questions about professional futures Offers participants a safe place to make claims and share personal stories Had a chance to share what his “professional” progress was at the time and share his advice to others Offers participants a safe place to make claims and share personal stories I was able to appreciate my MFA education in a way that perhaps I had not before I was able to see the insignificance of the MFA degree in terms of a future; I saw the passion to be artists in the eyes of my participants almost snarky noting that they, like me, will not “make it.” Gallery exhibition opportunity with Jenna Gallery exhibition opportunity with Annika Gallery exhibition opportunity 299 APPENDIX I – COMPLETED DATA CHART THREE The question that guided this research study was: How do the experiences related to personal and professional development within an MFA visual arts program influence a graduate student’s individual sense of self? Research sub-question three: How does my role as the teacher-researcher-artist of the course enable MFA students to critically examine and reflect upon their experiences and their developing sense of self as MFA students? My role as the teacherresearcher-artist enabled the MFA students to critically examine and reflect upon: Teacher: Their experiences as MFA students. Their developing sense of self. Oral Written (Audio-recordings of each colloquium session) (Surveys, letters to self, reading responses, artist statements, electronic correspondence, lists, electronic correspondence, lists, memos, pre-colloquium plans, modified and postcolloquium plans, reflection worksheets) (Visual journal entries, individual works of art, demeanor, site images, modeling, demarcated course documents, site images) Pedagogical activities Pedagogical activities Giving participants the list we made of critique strategies Thank you notes from participants Participants earn credit to do so Providing students with D2L correspondence opportunities Writing Ultimate MFA Course forced participants to commit to curriculum and pedagogy that they believed would be effective Reading reflections On Longing, Art & Fear, and On Creativity Pedagogical activities Sharing book list and readings Thank you notes from participants Ultimate MFA syllabus to promote organized investigation of self Participants earn credit to do so Reading reflections On Longing, Art & Fear, and On Creativity Modeling support for what they are doing Handouts, books, and snacks Charts to organize topics along the way of study’s semester Collected postcards in support of university exhibitions Saw me visit their studios as another “voice” Proactive on their behalf Relate SOS to teaching Pedagogical activities Visual Intimate setting of classroom chairs Handouts, books, and snacks Proactive on their behalf 300 Researcher: Their experiences as MFA students. Their developing sense of self. Artist: Their experiences as MFA students. Their developing sense of self. Addressing the research about significance of changing the MFA program Sharing book list Thank you notes from participants Introducing previous research that MFA students were not aware of (SNAAP) Sharing book list Thank you notes from participants Asking participants to reflect on their SOS on introductory survey Proactive on their behalf Telling them to plan now Let yourself “burn out” after you graduate Studio visits one-on-one Thank you notes from participants Reading reflections On Longing, Art & Fear, and On Creativity My changed SOS shortly after I graduated Relate SOS to art making Practice being able to communicate effectively Asking personal questions so that participants can use answers to build artist statement Studio visits one-on-one Favorite artist should be yourself Sharing book list Thank you notes from participants Written communication with self through letter to artist self Reading reflections On Longing, Art & Fear, and On Creativity Opportunity for them to create an artistic autobiography Saw me visit their studios as another “voice” Proactive on their behalf Practice being able to communicate effectively (I’m modeling this) Willing to add my work to the conversation Proactive on their behalf SOS is worth researching Motivation to do this project stemmed from noting my SOS Students shared existential perceptions and experiences Proactive on their behalf 301 APPENDIX J – ARE 695a SYLLABUS Issues of Relevance and Character in Fine Arts Art and Visual Culture Education Division School of Art The University of Arizona Fall 2012 ARE 695a 002 Colloquium Thursdays 9:00am – 10:45am (every other week; see dates below) Graduate Student Studio Art Laboratory Rm. 119 Instructor: Barbara Bergstrom, MFA MEd Office: 128 Harvill. Please email for appointments as needed. [email protected] Symposium Overview: This symposium extends reflective thought practices concerning the experience of earning the MA, MFA, or any art-related graduate-level degree. Throughout the semester, students may address relevant literature, personal and peer visual responses, reflective writing, contemporary art, and personal motivations for pursuing art in higher education. Course Goals / Student Outcomes: • • • • • • Identify oneʼs current position in the 21st century art world while simultaneously developing oneʼs individual creative “voice”. Consider self-awareness. Practice informal oral, written, and visual communication. Prepare methods for maintaining meaningful art making inside and outside the studio classroom. Prepare methods for maintaining a meaningful professional life after graduate school. Discuss individual strategies that empower and promote individual artistic growth. Course Calendar: Colloquium #1, August 23 and Colloquium #2, September 6. Discussion topics: • What is your “Mission Statement”? • Values and beliefs. Visual Journal Entry: • Autobiographic reflection Written Assignments: 302 • Introductory survey • Informal autobiographical statement Potential Reading Topics: • Self-awareness and self-analysis. Colloquium #3, September 20 and Colloquium #4, October 4. Discussion topics: • What does it mean to study studio art at its highest academic level? • How does your artwork contribute to or inform life in the 21st century? Visual Journal Entry: • Reflection on sources for research and/or motivation. Written Assignment: • Stream of consciousness. Potential Reading Topics: • Excerpts from ArtsEngine initiative at The University of Michigan • Excerpts from Pocantico Gathering at Vanderbilt University Colloquium #5, October 18 and Colloquium #6, November 1. Discussion topics: • Written, oral, and visual communication. • How would you explain your artistic pursuits to a group of museum-goers? A sixth-grader? Your grandfather? The University of Arizonaʼs Art Advisory Board? Visual Journal Entry: • Process and investigation Written Assignment: • Artist Statement Potential Reading Topics: • Excerpts from: Madoff, S. H. (2009). Art school: (propositions for the 21st century). Cambridge, Mass: MIT Press. Colloquium #7, November 15 and Colloquium 38, November 29. Discussion topics: • Studentsʼ choice. Visual Journal Entry: • Consider the relationship between your art making and your teaching practice (if applicable). Written Assignments: • Student-designed peer interview protocol Potential Reading Topics: • Excerpts from Survey of National Arts Alumni Project (SNAAP) 303 Course Assignments: • Bi-weekly visual journaling. • Bi-weekly discussion participation. • Bi-weekly D2L correspondence. D2L: ARE 695a 002 has a designated course site within the D2L system. ALL students are to use D2L and have a University of Arizona email account. Information, announcements, notes, images, and class activities will be posted on or linked to this course homepage. Check the ARE 595a 002 homepage frequently. Required Readings and Materials: Several optional readings will be available on our D2L site during the semester. We will consider websites and other relevant resources. As we examine art and visual culture materials, some students may find certain images offensive. Please contact me if you have concerns about the use of any controversial imagery. Grades: S = Superior: all course work is performed at a clearly outstanding level. P = Pass: all course requirements are met at a satisfactory level and the student has passed the course. C = The grade of “C” is viewed as unsatisfactory at the graduate level. D = Poor: this is viewed as a failing grade. E = Failure, not meeting all of the course requirements, and/or doing so inadequately. Attendance and Participation: Attendance will be taken at each colloquium meeting. Please inform me through email in advance of anticipated absences. These include sickness, religious holidays, and preapproved absences from The Dean of Students. Cell phones are to be turned off upon entering the classroom and remain off during class time. Please do not eat during class time. To endure a respectful classroom environment throughout our semester, please follow these professional expectations. Students with Disabilities: If formal, disability-related accommodations are necessary in order for you to fully participate in this course, you must be registered at the Disability Resources Center (621-3268; drc.arizona.edu) and notify me of your eligibility for reasonable accommodations. You must also request that the DRC send me official notification of your accommodation needs. We will work together to coordinate any determined adjustments. Please see: http://drc.arizona.edu/teach/syllabus-statement.html. 304 Be aware of University resources for counseling (CAPS), library updates on-line, and tutoring options (Ex: writing center). Student Behavior and Responsibilities: In the university classroom environment, all students are expected to behave in ways that are respectful, honest, and ethical in terms of their responsibilities toward all classmates and the instructor. Students are to maintain the policies outlined in The University of Arizonaʼs Codes of Conduct and Academic Integrity. Please note the following: Student Code of Conduct “The aim of education is the intellectual, personal, social, and ethical development of the individual. The educational process is ideally conducted in an environment that encourages reasoned discourse, intellectual honesty, openness to constructive change and respect for the rights of all individuals. Self discipline and a respect for the rights of others in the university community are necessary for the fulfillment of such goals.” Code of Academic Integrity “Integrity is expected of every student in all academic work. The guiding principle of academic integrity is that a studentʼs submitted work must be the studentʼs own. This principle is furthered by the Student Code of Conduct and disciplinary procedures established by ABOR Policies 5-308-5-403, all provisions of which apply to all University of Arizona students.” Students caught cheating on tests and/or handing in papers that are fictitious or plagiarized from books, journals, the Internet, other student papers, or other sources, will receive a failing grade for the course, no exceptions. Both the Code of Conduct and the Code of Academic Integrity can be found at http://dos.web.arizona.edu/uapolicies/ Contents of this syllabus are subject to change at the digression of the instructor. “Art provokes the mystery without which, the world would not exist.” Magritte 305 APPENDIX K – OPTIONAL READING LIST Reading list: Kabbot Zinn Parker Palmer Diderot encyclopedia books from SAIC JFABC Secret Knowledge of Instructions Hockney, “working with lenz” Dimitri article, “Anxiety of Influence” Ontological Epistemological Ontological holism via entanglement and emergence Oxygen and hydrogen make up the elements of water, but the “wetness” of water in an “emergent property” of the system not reducible to hydrogen and oxygen. (Palmer 2010, p.80). Erickson’s: Multicultural Artworlds Hanh’s: The miracle of mindfulness Susan Sontag’s: Regarding the Pain of Others Nartha Nussbaum’s Upheavals of thought: the intelligence of emotions Check out: Sharon Daloz Parks has written extensively on mentoring and the search for meaning by young adults. Contemplative pedagogy (contemplative training of attention) is a promising addition to HEd pedagogical strategies. (p.72). Association for Contemplative Mind in Higher Education www.acmhe.org. Robert’s Rules of Order Aims of Education by Alfred North Whitehead 1929 Contemplative, spiritual philosopher Rudolf Steiner Kronman and Lewis wrote about the soullessness of the university as the institution believes that offering “their students an education on the meaning of life” is not one of its tasks. 306 Carnegie Foundation on “the scholarship of teaching and learning” (It has tested and proven disciplines for creating the communitites of practice needed to evolve new pedagogies. (Palmer p. 45)) C. Wright Mills’s notion of “the sociological imagination” as a way of seeing and being in the world Princeton University’s Project 55 = alumni and alumnae can be significant partners in transformative conversations on campus. Highlander Conversations (included Rosa Parks and MLK Jr.) 307 APPENDIX L – LIST OF QUESTIONS ARE695a Colloquium #5 October 18, 2012 Reflective class questions to prompt clear communication about your artwork: What is your favorite tool? Why? What is your favorite material? Why? What do you like best about what you do? What patterns emerge from your work? What do you do differently from the way you were taught? Why? What absolutely fascinates you? List 3 of your values. What is your favorite color? List 3 qualities of the color. In a simple statement, explain why you do the work that you do. Explain how you make decisions in the course of making your work. How does your artwork grow out from your life experiences? What does your work signify? What does your work mean to you? What does your work do for you? Who are your heroes/heroines? Why? 308 APPENDIX M – ORIGINAL DATA COLLECTION CHART Data Summary Chart Form 1 Document* _________________________ Category** _______________________ Participant Theme 1 Theme 2 Theme 3 Theme 4 Theme 5 OTHER A B C D E F G Date: ________________ Research Question: In what ways does a student’s sense of self evolve while earning an MFA degree? *Summarized documents: Introductory survey; oral, written, and visual bi-weekly responses, D2L correspondence, and participant-designed exit survey. **Categories of data: 1st year, 2nd year, or 3rd year graduate student, art medium (2-D, 3D, visual communications), age (less than 26, 27-31, 32-36, 37-42, 43 and over), and professional goal (teaching, non-teaching). 309 Data Summary Chart Form 2 Document* ______________________________ Category** ____________________ Participant Lg. Group discussion Sm. Group discussion D2L discussion Readings Visual Critique A B C D E F G Date: ________________ Research Question: What teaching strategies promote the evolution of an MFA student’s sense of self? *Summarized documents: Follow-up notes indicating actual symposium happenings, written observations. **Categories of data: 1st year, 2nd year, or 3rd year graduate student, age (less than 26, 27-31, 32-36, 37-42, 43 and over), professional goal (teaching, non-teaching). 310 APPENDIX N – “ULTIMATE MFA COURSE” Professional Artist and Studio Practice Development An “Ult-ma-urse” course for MFA students Course Description: Exit survey: they agree that course could be described as personally reflective an supportive of the vocation of teaching. I responded to Annika, “I appreciate that you’re promoting the individual studio space as more than a work place and emphasizing it can also be a platform for research and reflection.” Rationale for the class: There will be a range of exposure to different working methods and professional skills. Focus will be on self-reflection on an artistic platform. Students will be learning some nuts and bolts and also “digging keep into yourself.” Building professional artist’s presence, write reviews of each other’s work, make a professional website, time management, how to photograph (document) your work, exposure to different working methods and professional skills. Focus on self-reflection. Key Concepts: Self-direction, experimentation, introduction to research, building professional practice Goals and Objectives: The students will gain confidence in who they are as an artist. Pilates and yoga practice. 311 Required Readings / Text: Students are responsible for picking readings pertinent to their artwork and will discuss how it informs their work. “readings that help students to understand the growing process in the MFA and its relationship to students’ work, their research and their personal lives.” Optional Readings: A book that another student in class has read and thought would be pertinent to others. Required Supplies: Sketchbook for writing, images, process, notes, etc.; new materials that are free or cost between five and ten dollars. Optional Supplies: As needed for work. Cross-assign materials. Sticks and sand. Assignments: Challenge students with 1 hour projects that challenge working methods that best fit students personalities. “run a couple of group critiques of the students artwork.. that they consider well thought out and finished.” J - “Create a piece that is about the process of your MFA and the emotions and thoughts around it.” Write proposal suggestions for Grants. 312 Impossible Art Piece – Experimental Work Processes – Partner with a peer and write a review of the work of one another – Pick a material you have never worked with before and make a small project – “Sticks and sand” or plaster if your’re a painter. In other words you’re trying something new with your media Group Project: Exhibition of class work installed by class and curated by the teacher. Final Project: Website. Informal presentation of your work from start of class and how it has progressed reaching the end of the class; share where you believe your work is going with focus on research and self-reflection. Grading and Student Assessment: Evaluation, “evals” transcribe discussion about a and j’s evals. Guest Speakers: Web designer to teach students to make a professional website. Photographer to teach students how to professionally document your artwork. 313 Schedule: Class commences twice a week. One session meets in a classroom and the other session is spent in individual studios. The professor floats around to each student’s studio. Oral answers to Introductory questions at start of each colloquium. Annika: “Having casual conversations with prompts was really helpful.” Field Trips: Los Angeles or another major art center Art Fair: Art Chicago, Art Miami, etc. Public art projects CAA conferences, Professional oriented pedagogy: Potential interview questions for a job in higher education. Teaching Artist Journal article about where to go for grants, residencies, other projects “include group experiences in galleries and museums in large cities.” How to communicate about your work to peers, possible buyers, galleries, visiting artists, and teachers. Long-term professional relationships (especially with galleries/business). Nonprofs, museums, etc. Valuable advice therefore you get the whole chapter. Gallerist expects exclusivity. Private dealers… B mentioned open studios, have sign in book, 314 cards, email address so you can send announcements for shows. I created a document noting the price and the buyer’s information for selling work 315 APPENDIX O – WRITTEN DATA MATRIX Research Question: In what ways do curricula of American MFA programs support a student’s developing sense of self while earning an MFA degree in studio art? Research Sub Question Intro Survey Electronic correspondenc e Letter to artist self “Ultimate” MFA course How do participants’ written artifacts indicate transformation of selfperception? All are between 27 & 31 yrs. VIA EMAIL: Issues of time often surfaced. Being late to class. Being out of town during one scheduled colloquium therefore suggesting changing the date. You are who you are and that is a positive. Keep being you. All found this assignment to be challenging. They didn’t know where or how to start. All have a goal to teach studio art “to help”. All have goal to professionally develop (working with galleries & other venues, selling their art, & writing grants). Having a sense of self includes having confidence and knowing who you are in depth. Appreciation of our incomprehensib le world, spirituality, science. Education holds (student) potential and mystery, & there is not an absolute system of gaining an education or being “tested” within it. Views of education are narrow given today’s standardizations Lots of well wishes and thank yous. Students seemed challenged by having to represent themselves using only one visual. VIA D2L: Caring about ideas and thinking conceptually is important to the participants’ teaching approaches. Hard work of participants’ students creating a finished piece from problem solving their own idea is Embrace the hard or “bad” times understandi ng that they are helpful. The questions you can’t answer are valuable. Addressed concepts of motivation; reasons for making art. There is a sense of playfulness in all the letters. Don’t necessarily like the way you do things but that’s okay for now. Wanting inspiration to work when needed (turning it on and off). We all (PI included) put off this project during the semester. Sketchbook is only required art “supply”. Experiment ation is important regarding use of new materials, working methods, specific studio practices, using found objects, readings chosen by students, concepts for assignments, & peer interpretation s. Professional development Boo k/ Rea ding s Rep ortin g Parti cipa nts relat ed to readi ngs in simil ar way s as they each conn ecte d to and “saw them selv es” in what the auth or was sayi ng. Und ersta ndin g “self narr ative ” “The perf ect is the Artist stateme nt Exit Survey Unders tanding one’s ineffect iveness , futility, meanin g of things, and frailty. Most engaging activities were: class time discussion and studio visits with PI. Apprec iating memor y and place are importa nt. Use of concept s for tension and in/perm anence. Dichot omy of needs and wants. Unders tanding life and death Nature vs. Manmade. “costs” D2L was not ideal for holding discussions. Using text to respond instead of visuals was desired for discussing sources of research and personal motivations. Processing (list form and visually) personal steps to one’s art making was engaging. Participants’ least favorite visual was journal entry was interpreting their relationship between being a teacher and being an artist. The least interesting activity was dialoguing with their own “artist” selves. It forced feeling of separation that made them uncomfortable. (Quote from SNAAP 2012 p. 27, “Moreover, for 316 . Thoughts of our selves (“self theories”) are fluid, can hinder us, & hold us back. Concept of “why” challenges authority & as a culture, we don’t ask. There is a generally negative perception of the way things “are”. All agree that studying the arts is beneficial to dealing with “unscripted, complex problems”. Responding to a strong statement such as “Art school taught me how to do art. It was only later that I learned how to be an artist” can be more thoughtfully answered in a place beyond a written survey. transformative given students confidence. One theme among participants’ regarding what one thing they’d like their students to remembered them by is that of teaching them the value of caring deeply about the art they make. There is some sense of psyching themselves up though this “exchange” . Appreciativ e of the other creative artists and people that surround them. Appreciatio n for their own intuition. Sensitivity toward their futures and how their current experiences contribute to it; collecting tools, following intuition, and going with the mystery. Slow down and trust yourself. Wanting to know their selves better. training on website construction, professional documentati on of one’s work, & how to talk about your artwork. Selfreflection in general & selfreflection while working in students’ studios. Course objective of students gaining confidence. Course schedule includes time alone in studio as professor visits between them and one day a week together in the classroom. Selfdirected. No specific grading requirement. Use evaluations only. Informal presentation of semester’s works focusing on personal research and selfreflection. Consistent thought that exposure to different experiences ene my of the good .” (fro m Art and Fear ) Anxi eties & fears / flaw s& failu re. Lan dsca pe, long ing, & blin dnes s. many arts graduates, satisfaction is more a function of whether they can express creativity in their work, their opportunities to contribute to their communities, and the extent to which their work is congruent with their personalities and interests.” Thus… not being separated!) Discussing teaching and artist statements was the most interesting to participants. Pedagogies that stood out were the positive small group conversations; even requests for more group discussions on specific topics. Advice to others includes being open-minded about activities to get the most out of it as each person gets back whatever they put into a course like this. No strong interests for participants being more involved with the course planning. (Interesting as their MFA ultimate course is student centered?) All agreed that more time on aspects of teaching and what it is like to be a studio art student in HED would be helpful. Participants agreed that meeting more often and/or spending more time together doing a show, field trip etc. 317 is important. is preferred. Specific exercises were to be assigned for different purposes such as controlling time management, making work to sell and work that would never sell, website construction being mandatory, group trip to LA (or major art center or art fail), processing MFA experiences, curated final exhibition. All agree they are stronger teachers having taken this class. Pedagogies include readings, lectures, field trips, critiques, and project assignments. The course itself and the projects = student designed. The class did not necessarily contribute to perceptions of self as artist (just maybe some “nice” additions) or to perceptions of themselves as individuals. Students thoughts about wanting to be teachers (as indicated on Intro survey), became stronger, confirmed their desire to do so. Ways to teach are informed by their studio practice. All participants agree that their MFA program has encouraged them to explore personal values and beliefs & that the purpose for an MFA degree has been addressed. Participants agree that the course could be described as personally reflective and supportive of the vocation of teaching. The course helped participants get to know each other better (PI included). PI was encouraged by participants to implement a course on teaching for MFA students. 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