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A FRAMEWORK FOR EVALUATING COMMUNITY-BASED ART EDUCATION
A THESIS PRESENTED TO THE GRADUATE SCHOOL
OF THE UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA IN PARTIAL FULFILLMENT
OF THE REQUIREMENTS FOR THE DEGREE OF
MASTER OF ARTS
UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA
I would like to thank my husband, Paul, for being so supportive over the past 2
years, as both a sounding board and spiritual guide. I thank my children (Paul, Collin,
Keeley, and Shane) for being my cheering squad. Even though I may have appeared to
be in another world, I heard and felt it all.
I also wish to thank my mentor and friend, Melanie Davenport, who has been
instrumental in guiding me in the process; Craig Roland for giving me an opportunity to
be a part of the incredible UF Art Education Department; and Gerald Culen for offering a
course that made everything click. It has truly been an exciting journey.
TABLE OF CONTENTS
A C K N O W L E D G M E N T S ................................................................................................. iii
LIST OF TABLES ..................................... .. .......... .................................... vi
ABSTRACT ................................................... ................. vii
1 C H A N G IN G TH E R U L E S.......................................... ......................... ...............1...
In tro d u ctio n .................................................................................................. ............... 1
Statem ent of the P problem ...................................................................... ...............2...
Purpose of the Study .......................... .. ........... ...................................... ...4
Definition of Terms ...................... .. ........... ...................................... ...5
Im portance of the Study ...................................................................... ............... 15
Delimitations of the Study ................... ............... 16
Organization of the Rem aining Chapters .................................................. 16
2 R E V IEW O F L ITER A TU R E ......................................... ....................... ............... 18
D efin in g th e Statu s Q u o .............................................................................................. 18
Holistic Education ......................... .. .......... .............. ............... 22
A alternative E education .............................. ............................................ 26
T rue A alternative Schools ....................................... ...................... ................ 28
H om schooling .................................................................... ... ........ ..... ........... 29
Beginnings of the homeschooling movement......................... ................ 29
H om eschooling and beyond .................................................... .................. 31
C om m unity in E education ........................................... ......................... ................ 32
C categories of L earning .. ..................................................................... ................ 35
C om m unity of L earners in A rt .............................................................. ................ 37
Role of Community-Based Art in Community-Building ...............................39
Role of Community-Based Art Education in Community-Building................40
Influences of visual culture ...... .............................. .......................... 40
W hy com munity-based art education? .................................... ................ 42
Status Q uo in A rt E education ........................................ ....................... ................ 43
3 M E TH O D O F R E SEA R CH ........................................ ....................... ................ 49
Paradigm Analysis ................................. ...............................49
Sources of Research........................... .......... ........................ 50
4 PRACTICAL APPLICATIONS OF THE EMERGING PARADIGM .................. 53
C om m unity Y outh D evelopm ent ................................................................................53
Participatory A action R research ...................................... ...................... ............... 58
Y outh as C om m unity Partners.................................................... ........ ............... 59
Youth Engagement Programs: A Closer Look......................................................61
G o t A rt? ...................................................................................................................... 6 4
5 FRAMEWORK FOR EVALUATING LEARNING COMMUNITIES................. 66
Decision-Making Processes within a Community ........................... ..................... 66
D efining the Fram ew ork ..................................................................... ................ 69
T ier 1: E nforcem ent ........................................................................ .............. 70
Tier 2: Entrenchm ent ............................................................ ............ 77
Tier 3: Enrichment ................................................................... 84
Tier 4: Experiment ................................................................... 90
Tier 5: E ngagem ent ................ .............. ............................................ 96
T ier 6 : E m pow erm ent.......................................... ........................ ................ 99
W workings of the Fram ew ork.................................... ...................... ............... 103
6 FINDINGS AND CONCLUSION ......................... ......................106
Positioning Community-based Art Education within the Framework of Learning
C om m unities (FE L C ).................................................................. ................... 107
Positioning Traditional CBAE within the Framework.................................107
Studio in a School ..................................... .. ......... .......... .. .............. ... 108
H O T Schools ................................................................. ............... 110
T im R ollins and K O S .................................................. .......... ................ 113
Positioning Alternative CBAE within the Framework.................................117
M ill Street Loft ...................................................................... 118
A artists for H um anity ........................................................ ............... 120
V O X ........................................................................................................... 12 4
C o n c lu sio n ............................................................................................................... 12 8
LIST O F REFEREN CE S ... ................................................................... ............... 131
BIOGRAPH ICAL SKETCH .................. .............................................................. 143
LIST OF TABLES
5-1. Framework for evaluating learning communities (FELC) .................................105
6-1. Positioning Studio in a School within FELC............................................. 110
6-2. Positioning Tim HOT Schools within FELC .....................................................113
6-3. Positioning Tim Rollins and KOS within FELC......................... ...................116
6-4. Positioning Mill Street Loft within FELC.......... ...................................... 120
6-5. Positioning Artists for Humanity within FELC........................... .................. 124
6-6. Positioning VOX within FELC .............................. ..................... 127
Abstract of Thesis Presented to the Graduate School
of the University of Florida in Partial Fulfillment of the
Requirements for the Degree of Master of Arts
A FRAMEWORK FOR EVALUATING COMMUNITY-BASED ART EDUCATION
Chair: Melanie Davenport
Major Department: Art and Art History
The notion that community exists within any given school or classroom comes
under question as education theorists and practitioners apply the term learning
community to educational environments. Currently used as a popular phrase to describe
almost any learning situation, learning communities in fact may exhibit myriad distinct
characteristics. These range from physically, psychologically, and mentally restrictive,
top-down power systems of standardized accountability and prescribed, didactic
knowledge bases; to bottom-up, true democratic systems that support self-directed
learning and engagement in the wider community for environmental and social change.
My study analyzed research that defines the term learning community. Comparing
and contrasting the values, goals, and practices characteristic of the current dominant
educational paradigm and those from several emergent holistic approaches, such as
Community Youth Development (CYD) and Participatory Action Research (PAR),
provides insights into the qualities of a "genuine" learning community. Three inherent
and distinguishing components, present to different degrees, seemed to define learning
communities: real world experiences, educational orientations, and decision-making
strategies. My study used these three properties to analyze different types of learning
communities, drawn primarily from literature related to CYD and PAR models. This
enabled me to identify and define six levels (or tiers) of learning communities; and
expose as fraudulent any claim that a given school or classroom represents a true learning
community, simply by reason of a common location in physical space. The six tiers are
organized into a format, which I call for the purpose of my study, A Framework for
Evaluating Learning Communities (FELC). I applied this framework to models drawn
from art education, and found it to be useful and effective in identifying the strengths and
weaknesses of such programs.
Community-based Art Education (CBAE), a program that engages youth with their
local communities in significant ways, clearly has several characteristics that parallel
CYD and PAR components of learning communities. Analyzing this approach by using,
FELC however, led me to conclude that (despite their potential) most CBAE programs
fell short in terms of youth governance and authentic action research. This suggested that
the framework provides a useful tool for continuing analysis and discussion toward
developing stronger CBAE models, and toward further cross-disciplinary dialogue among
CYD, PAR, and CBAE.
CHANGING THE RULES
Twenty years ago, if someone asked me whether I trusted formal education as the
established method to provide youth with the understandings they needed to be successful
participants in their community, I would have answered, yes. Back then, I was a
traditional-education advocate, and champion of the public schools. After all, I and
almost everyone I knew had gone through the system, and had graduated high school
unscathed. Granted, out of a graduating class of 600, a few individuals withdrew from
high school early to join the armed forces in Viet Nam, but they were small in number.
After 2 decades of operating within the system of traditional education, both public
and private; as a parent of four children; and later, as an art educator, my trust in this
system gradually came under question. Disillusionment started chipping away at my
commitment to a schooling agenda that often subversively marginalized those youth who
did not subscribe to or "fit" the prescribed mold and who were not being best served by
Some may say that I am idealistic to believe that there is hope for a better
educational system through critical re-evaluation and transformation of pedagogical
practice, through the establishment of more effective and valuable learning communities
by altering the lens with which we view our youth, and through refashioning the criteria
of authority. Investigation into holistic forms of education has proven that I am not alone
in this perspective. This position is considered a radical approach to education by today's
standards, and often inspires fear and criticism. Drawing on a growing body of
scholarship in a wide range of fields that seem to be converging on fundamental and
perhaps unconventional change, I, along with many others, now believe that "changing
the rules" for engagement in learning communities is essential in nurturing the
development of youth self-efficacy and empowerment necessary to meet the challenges
of a world in transition.
Statement of the Problem
Curriculum designers of present-day American schooling have used methods found
in scientific models to achieve pedagogical goals, leading to an increase in restrictive and
empirical requirements for accountability and evaluation. While some pedagogical
models run counter to this agenda, what continues to dominate education throughout the
country are practices that reinforce and perpetuate homogenized curricula and reliance on
test scores (Brown 1991).
Gatto (2003b) went as far as to describe the implementation of structured
educational goals as ways of controlling the masses by keeping them childlike, docile,
and well trained in limited thinking; while supporting conformity, exclusive perspectives,
and competition. He also suggested that since Americans have always been schooled in
this manner and generally do not experience alternative practices, they continue to
perpetuate this pedagogy.
As a teacher, I found myself in this position of conservation and tradition; and
unfortunately experienced (as a parent and as an educator) the devastating effects of this
current formula on youth self-efficacy and the success of their participation in their
communities. Consequently, it became more and more difficult for me to support
traditional education without reservation. I began to look to alternative educational
settings for unconventional possibilities that provide the scaffolding for youth self-
efficacy, empowerment, and active participation in a community.
My research into this topic strongly suggested several common characteristics of
successful alternative learning opportunities, outside the traditional school setting. One
of the common themes in determining a true alternative learning environment is the
attention to the practice of community. Many pedagogical researchers, theorists,
psychologists, and educators, (Clark 1991; Dimitriadis & McCarthy 2001; Miller 1991,
2000b; Pipher 2002) believed that the fracturing of our society today (evidenced in
symptoms of youth alienation and countless reform efforts within formal education) stem
from a shift in worldview: from a local to a global landscape. They argued that one of
education's central roles in addressing this change of worldview is in establishing identity
through community involvement.
Traditionally, public school programs offer very little opportunity for students to
experience true community. Instead, school-reform practices continue to focus on
strategies that "rely on high stakes testing" (Barbanell 2003, p.1) or instill values and
notions correlated to cultural capital possessed by elite classes. (Dimitriadis & McCarthy
2001; Gatto 2003a).
By focusing on knowledge and pedagogies that encourage students to develop
identity through the negation of another, public schools marginalize individuals.
Binary knowledge created by viewing other cultures as us and them is often the strategy
of multicultural education. In reality, this "dominant paradigm of schooling offers us the
antithesis of community" (Wolk 1998, p.55).
The gap between what many schools do, and what many theorists insist should be
done is where my interests lie. Especially in the field of art education, I saw a large gap
between ideas and implementation. In an attempt to help bridge that gap, I have accessed
worthwhile information from other established fields that might have a positive impact on
art education theory and practice. My study examined the issue of community from
several approaches, including the Community Youth Development (CYD) model,
Participatory Action Research (PAR), and the emerging field of Youth Participation in
Community Evaluation and Research. The movement in alternative education from a
youth development and learning perspective as described in CYD Anthology 2002 (Terry
2002), suggested the importance of "an integrative, value-driven theory of youth,
community, and the world" (p.v). Investigation of this movement through theoretical
research and articles relaying case studies, and investigation of characteristics of
community in successful alternative learning communities, brought to light the
interdisciplinary possibilities for Community-based Art Education (CBAE), which
focuses on community art for knowledge construction.
Purpose of the Study
The resurgence of holistic perspectives in education as well as the evolution of
alternative educational learning communities (like those described by CYD, PAR, and
other researchers and practitioners) suggest a shift in pedagogical thought and practice,
from teacher-centered, adult-prescribed learning to child-centered, self-directed learning.
The development of curriculum addressing acquisition of tools needed for students to
become masters of their own learning and active community members is indeed an
indication of the growing trend in education (albeit, education often found outside
traditional settings). The concept of community is particularly significant to many recent
initiatives in alternative education, and serves as a link among holistic approaches, CYD
programs, and PAR strategies. Among reformers in art education, too, there is a growing
interest in community-based and community-building approaches. Research in the field
of alternative education as it applies to learning communities can provide rationale for art
educators who wish to investigate, develop, and implement CBAE.
As a relatively underutilized structure in CBAE, youth self-governance is an
intriguing and thought-provoking model for consideration, given the current state of
education. Therefore, I devoted my study to the inquiry and analysis of the defining
characteristics of learning communities, and to the development of A Framework for
Evaluating Learning Communities (FELC) that situates these characteristics in a
hierarchical format. By positioning various traditional and alternative CBAE models
within this framework, I developed a tool for evaluating curricular programs. I hope that
this tool will stimulate dialogue across disciplines.
Definition of Terms
Learning community: An abundance of discourse on this topic points to a loose
variety of perceptions of community in education, from community as simply a shared
space where individuals gather for educational purposes, to a more complex description
of community where students themselves define the structure and implementation of their
own learning. My review of the literature revealed several characteristics of engagement
in community as it related to educational learning environments, which I then organized
according to the conditions that both distinguish the individual positions and identify
their interrelated and overlapping qualities.
Holistic education: The concept of holistic education is not new; in fact, it has
emerged from the theories of Jean Jacques Rousseau, Johann Pestalozzi, and Friedrich
Froebel, and from the educational philosophies of Bronson Alcott, Francis W. Parker,
Maria Montessori, and Rudolph Steiner (Miller 1991). In essence, holistic education is
concerned with the "whole" child in promoting and maintaining intellectual, emotional,
social, physical, artistic, and spiritual growth (Miller 1991). Additionally, as Clark
(1991) suggested, holistic education as an emerging paradigm is "based on the single
assumption that, at some fundamental level, 'everything is connected to everything else'"
and "reflects an attitude, a philosophy, a worldview that challenges the fragmented,
reductionist, mechanistic, nationalistic assumptions of mainstream culture and education"
Traditional and alternative education: For the purpose of this study, traditional
education refers to environments of learning and teaching that are institutionally
structured on established pedagogy within a standardized setting. These environments
are often equated with public schools, and have been criticized for "confusion," "class
position," "indifference," "emotional dependence," "intellectual dependency,"
"provisional self-esteem," and "constant surveillance" (Gatto 2002b, pp.3-11). However,
they do not necessarily need to exist within a public school setting. Many traditional
forms of education may be found in private schools, after school organizations, and
alternative schools for at-risk youth. It is the values, goals and practices of the learning
environment that most strongly determine its traditional form.
Alternative education is classified as those teaching and learning environments that
nurture choice and diversity, independence and interdependence, self-discovery, and
autonomous learning through holistic models outside the traditional framework and
restrictions of traditional public school models (Sweeney 1991; Raywid 1994). Quite
often alternative education is linked to those at-risk students who cannot succeed in a
traditional program, however, as Sweeney (1991) suggested, true alternative education is
not one that promises "the acquisition of basic skills in reading, writing, and arithmetic"
(p. 207). Rather it is the "way of teaching that is alternative," and not the students who
participate (Raywid 1994, p. 1). These may include programs in after school settings, but
may also include experimental pedagogies or innovative curricula that exist as
independent pockets of energy, hidden within traditional settings.
True, authentic and genuine: The terms true, authentic, and genuine are used
throughout this study by various researchers, including myself, as adjectives to describe
learning, community, and community membership. To dispel the esoteric connotation
that often accompany these terms, I briefly demarcated their intended use for my study.
According to Merriam-Webster (2003d), the word true frequently defines
something that is "fully realized or fulfilled..., ideal, or essential" (para. 2). Peck (1987)
in describing "true community" listed characteristics of transcendental exclusivity,
commitment and consensus, realistic limitations and humility, and contemplation as self-
examination and for self-awareness. "True membership" in a community, as Plant (1974)
suggested, is attained when an individual functions as an integral part of a group, sharing
in self-expression, achievement, and reciprocal goals of the group. Gatto (2002a)
maintained that "true learning" occurs when students attain deep self-knowledge through
various measures including questioning and researching the status quo, pursuing
investigations in subjects of their own interest, interacting with family and community,
and allowing time for self-contemplation. In all of these instances, true community, true
membership in a community, and true learning are achieved when the essential qualities
that characterize them are fully realized or fulfilled as best practices of each.
The terms authentic and genuine also reflect several qualities of best practice. Both
words are often used interchangeably and offer synonymous meanings. Merriam-Webster
(2003c) defined genuine as "actually having the reputed or apparent qualities or
character... free from hypocrisy or pretense" (para. 1-2). Likewise, the word, authentic,
as in "true," "not false or imitation," and "genuine" (Merriam-Webster 2003a, para.3)
offered sensitivity towards best practice as well.
Miller's (2000a) approach to "genuine learning" was oriented in self-directed
learning with learners engaged in seeking out and selecting their own knowledge base. I
used the phrase "genuine community" (pg. 52) as a descriptor that integrated
characteristics of several (best practice) ideas from the literature, including the previously
To draw a conclusion, I would like to argue that the words, true, authentic and
genuine, and other words that help define these adjectives must be viewed and analyzed
contextually for meaning. In this case, they refer to ideals in theory and practice that are
considered the antithesis of the status quo.
Self-efficacy: Drawing from Bandura (1994) and Pajares (2000), self-efficacy is
used in my study to define students' beliefs in their ability to move through a series of
operations required to complete an activity and/or handle anticipated situations,
conditions, or problems. The difference between self-efficacy and self-esteem, according
to Pajares (2000) is that "self-efficacy is a judgment of one's own confidence; self-
esteem is a judgment of self-value" (para. 38). Self-esteem is tied to the perception of
self-worth according to cultural and social criteria, whereas self-efficacy is "dependent
primarily on the task at hand, independent of its culturally assigned value" (Paj ares, para.
The psychological and educational theory of the early 1990s that perpetuated the
concept of self-esteem as a fundamental ingredient for success is now under attack
(Sullivan 2002). Gatto (2002b) in discussing provisional self-esteem suggested that
children who are convinced of self worth by unconditional parental love are hard to
"wrestle into line" (p.9). In other words, teachers find it difficult to discipline and
manage children who enter schooling with the concept that whatever they do is
In order to guide these children towards conformity, students are told what they are
worth through report cards, grades, and tests evaluated by certified official strangers,
rather than allowing them to be self reflective in evaluating their own ability to succeed
(Gatto 2002b). On the other end of the spectrum, Sullivan (2002) maintained that new
research had shown that "D" students, delinquents, drunk drivers, and criminally charged
politicians exhibit just as high self-esteem as nuns, fire fighters, and Nobel recipients.
The effectiveness of emphasizing self-esteem in education is also seen as one of the
causes of grade inflation. Sullivan (2002) in conversing with several professor friends
related, "when the kids have been told from Day One that they can do no wrong, when
every grade in high school is assessed so as to make the kid feel good rather than to give
an accurate measurement of his work, the student can develop self-worth dangerously
unrelated to the objective truth" (p. 102). Teachers trying to build a student's self-esteem
by giving high grades that do not reflect the student's understanding of the material can
often backfire. Students (and parents) are often relentless and aggressive towards the one
teacher who resists playing the grade inflation game.
These educators frequently either give in to the pressure of hostile students or
become burned out from trying to maintain a sense of reality. The ability to address a
challenge or recognize a need for improvement, and the belief in one's ability and
responsibility to do so is better served through nurturing the students' sense of self-
Service learning: Because it is so complex, I examined service learning in some
detail here. Defining service learning is a challenge because the concept is complex and
views are varied, however, most researchers maintained that service learning "involves
both service to the community and learning tied to academic curriculum" (Billig 2003).
At the very heart of service learning is the Deweyan concept of "learning by doing"
(Schine 1999, p. 13). However, the emphasis and intensity of the planning, action,
reflection, and celebration components vary greatly as does the interrelated conditions in
which service learning occurs (Billing 2003). Contributing to the layers of complexity
are several variables that affect the quality of service learning (Billig 2003). They are
* variety of accesses for service;
* diverse relationships that hold different levels of shared goals;
* the characteristics of the populations extending service;
* individuals assisting in knowledge production and employment of skills;
* the amount of time devoted to the service.
Several researchers (Billig 2003; Claus & Ogden 1999) maintained that service
learning can offer an opportunity for young people to develop identity and leadership
skills through engagement in community exploration, needs identification, and positive
action. However, it is important to consider the moral, political, and intellectual features
in terms of service learning goals.
Kahne and Westheimer (1999) held that if the goal of service learning is to engage
in altruistic experiences, than the moral aspect is one of giving, the political position is
one of civic duty, and the intellectual way of knowing is through additive experience (p.
29). On the other hand, if the goal of service learning is social change, then the moral
compass is one of caring, the political position is one of social reconstruction, and the
intellectual way of knowing becomes a transformative experience (p. 29).
Taken a step further, these three orientations can be described in terms of levels of
authenticity and empowerment. The moral goals of service learning establishes levels of
relationships between those serving and those being served and can either be a cursory,
charitable relationship or a deeper relationship that attempts to "create opportunities for
changing our understandings of the other and the context within which he or she lives"
(Kahne & Westheimer 1999, p. 29). Two levels of intention occur within the political
goals for service learning as well. One is the promotion of democracy and responsive
citizenship through altruistic measures that caution against the "dangers of exclusive self-
interest" (p.30) by stressing "volunteerism and compassion for the less fortunate" (p.30).
The other moves students towards what Barber called (as cited in Kahne & Westheimer,
1999) a "strong democracy" (p.30). This calls for student involvement in learning that
"emphasizes critical reflection about social policies and conditions, the acquisition of
skills of political participation, and the formation of social bonds" (p.30).
Service learning in the intellectual realm of knowledge construction can be
supported with limited goals that engage students in "higher-order thinking in
contextually varied environments"(Kahne & Westheimer 1999, p. 30), a cause and effect
orientation, or it can move students towards an altering of perspectives by combining
"critical inquiry with action" (p.30). "This process can transform students' understanding
of both disciplinary knowledge and the particular social issues with which they are
Described as "the engine that drives school reform" (Claus & Ogden 1999, p. 13),
service learning curricula run the gamut from superficial, charitable volunteerism to acts
of true caring, bridge building, and social change. Obviously, the type of service learning
that students engage in naturally depends upon the values, goals, and practices imbedded
in the service learning curriculum.
Cooperative and collaborative learning: Because the terms cooperative and
collaborative learning are often used interchangeably to describe the many forms of
interactive engagement that are aligned with transformative learning, I believed it
important to my study to attempt to describe their differences in some detail as well. The
distinctions between the cooperative and collaborative learning become blurred, in part
due to the uninformed notion that by simply putting students together in groups, there is
cooperation or collaboration happening (Siciliano 2001; Johnson & Johnson 1999). As
Johnson and Johnson (1999) stated, "There is nothing magical about working in a
group.... Seating people together and calling them a cooperative group does not make
them one. Study groups, project groups, lab groups, homerooms, and reading groups are
groups, but they are not necessarily cooperative" (p.68).
Another reason why the lines between cooperative and collaborative learning are
blurred may be that teachers believe the curricular goals and strategies used in both
learning systems are the same, when in fact, they are not. However, goals and strategies
of both may be mixed as educators explore ways to engage students in interdependent
activity (Panitz n.d.).
Panitz (n.d.) defined cooperative learning as "a set of processes which help people
interact together in order to accomplish a specific goal or develop an end product which
is usually content specific" (para. 14). It is a structured step-by-step design that can be
"used repeatedly with almost any subject matter, at a wide range of grade levels and at
various points in a lesson plan" (para. 15). It is generally teacher-directed as a result and
deals with "traditional (canonical) knowledge" (para. 17) that produces a finite solution
most often serving a set curricular end.
There is a variety of cooperative learning techniques, all with common components
employed to secure the group in cooperative activity (Panitz n.d.). Two common ones
are illustrated here. The Think-Pair-Share strategy begins with the individual considering
a question, then discussing the question with a partner, and finally sharing the results with
the class. This strategy may be used at any time during the class for discussion, problem
solving or for creating variety in class presentations (Panitz n.d.). The Jig Saw method is
often used in cooperative learning for teaching concepts. In this strategy, "groups
subdivide a topic and members work together with those from other groups who have the
same topic. Then they return to their original groups and explain their topic" (para.27).
Collaborative learning, on the other hand, is a "personal philosophy, not just a
classroom technique" (Panitz n.d., para. 13). The sharing of authority, and responsibility
that respects and supports the contributions of individuals' abilities creates an interactive
forum for the construction of transformative learning that builds on one another's ideas
(Palincsar & Herrenkohl 2002; Panitz n.d.).
Once the teacher has set the task, the transfer of power goes to the students, making
collaborative learning student-directed (Palincsar & Herrenkohl 2002; Panitz n.d.).
Ideally the task is open ended and "discovery and contextual approaches are used to teach
interpersonal skills" (Panitz n.d., para. 16). Collaborative learning requires all group
members to work on the same aspect of the task at the same time with "student talk
stressed as the means for working things out" (Panitz n.d., para. 16).
In addition, all collaboration contains some forms of cooperation (Palincsar &
Herrenkohl 2002; Panitz n.d.). The following principles underscore the strategies aligned
with collaborative learning (Panitz n.d., para. 38):
* Working together results in a greater understanding than would likely have occurred
if one had worked independently.
* Spoken and written interactions contribute to this increased understanding.
* Opportunity exists to become aware, through classroom experiences, of relationships
between social interactions and increased understanding.
* Some elements of this increased understanding are idiosyncratic and unpredictable.
* Participation is voluntary and must be freely entered into.
To recap the distinctions cooperative and collaborative learning are indeed
similar. Cooperative learning, however, is more structured with strategies often designed
to meet the goal of prescribed knowledge acquisition of learning. It is mostly teacher-
directed, with teacher-formed groups of heterogeneous members. Each member
generally has a specific task he or she is responsible for and completes the task as part of
the whole. Collaborative learning allows more freedom in group formation and
participation. All members share in all aspects of knowledge construction and problem
solving, with dialogue as the key component for building shared understandings. Often
the problem to solve is open ended and outcomes are unpredictable as transformative
Importance of the Study
Disciplines enabling students to explore their inner ecology, cultivate their
attunement to their senses and body rhythms, and thus, develop an embodied
relationship with the natural world contemplative and therapeutic art, dance,
breathing exercises, yoga, meditation would become valued features of the
learning process. (Selby 2000, pg. 90)
Prevailing theory and practice, as well as the resulting curricula in traditional art
education supports pedagogy that promotes teacher-directed learning. The theory and
practice of a new holistic paradigm is seen most often in environmental education, which
has been developing for more than 20 years, in Community Youth Development (CYD)
and Participatory Action Research (PAR) models that have also been evolving over the
past two decades, and in homeschooling archetypes of the 1960s that have evolved into
sophisticated models of today. There are several examples of established curricula,
programs, and organizations that support and promote educational approaches centering
on social and environmental issues, democratic youth governance, and awareness,
authentic research, and resolutions by youth. Yet many more exist.
Further exploration of current theory and practices in Community-based Art
Education (CBAE) approaches, using the lenses of CYD and PAR offers the field of art
education an opportunity to grow and develop across disciplines. Through this inquiry, I
hoped to identify another layer of possibilities for creating learning communities within
CBAE, and in doing so provide a foundation for art educators to engage in critical
analysis and restructuring of their own curricula.
Delimitations of the Study
Several scholars have researched the potential of the CYD and PAR models and
other models drawn upon environmental education, however, these studies have not been
exhaustive and therefore may not cover every area of long term-impact of students'
attitudes, development, or commitment to community strategies. Despite these
limitations, I felt that these studies offered support for the conclusion that such models
are effective, appropriate, and valuable for students and offer appropriate, applicable, and
rich content for my purposes. In addition, I must point out that my objectivity in
undertaking this study was circumscribed by my experience as an art educator and parent.
Organization of the Remaining Chapters
The remainder of my study was divided into five additional chapters. A review of
literature in Chapter 2 provided the rationale for art teachers to look to alternative
educational possibilities through an examination of the defining characteristics of holistic
education, CYD, and PAR. A comparison was also made in reference to Community-
based Art and Community-based Art Education.
Chapter 3 included a description of my research methods with attention to
paradigm analysis and the various resources I used in this analysis. In Chapter 4, I
analyzed two different interdisciplinary approaches that offer both theoretical and
practical examples of holistic models.
Three essential components of these models were identified in Chapter 5 in the
development of a hierarchical framework, which I called A Framework for Evaluating
Learning Communities (FELC). These components characterize and distinguish different
levels or tiers learning communities.
Finally, I applied the defining qualities of learning communities in Chapter 6 to
various Community-based Art Education (CBAE) programs and positioned them within
the framework, drawing conclusions about CBAE based on my findings.
REVIEW OF LITERATURE
We must return to the reality that the status quo is murderous. If mankind is to
survive, the matter of changing the rules is not optional. (M. Scott Peck 1987, p.
Defining the Status Quo
Formal education has long been recognized as one of the main sources for
imparting the fundamental knowledge necessary to develop a nation-a nation of
manageable citizens. This intended outcome of compulsory schooling may be witnessed
in the early 20th century development of the Cardinal Principles of Secondary Education
(Department of the Interior Bureau of Education 1918), a document that may have set the
status quo for current American pedagogy (The Memory Hole, n.d.). Gatto (2003b)
suggested that compulsory schooling in the United States was originally established by
the elite to divide and control the lower class masses by prohibiting uprisings. The
Principles of Secondary Education, published by Inglis, a member of the educational
collaborative team that developed the Cardinal Principles of Secondary Education
provided fuel for Gatto's (2003b) rationale. Gatto (2003b) interpreted Inglis' intentions
for schooling as fitting six basic functions (p.37):
* The adjustive or adapted function: "schools are to establish fixed habits of reaction to
* The integrating function: "to make children as alike as possible"because those who
conform are predictable and easier to manipulate.
* The diagnostic and directive function: "to determine each student's proper social
* The differentiating function: "children are to be sorted by role and trained only so far
as their destination in the social machine merits and not one step further."
* The selective function: "consciously attempting to improve the breeding stock" by
identifying "the unfit with poor grades, remedial placement, and other punishments
clearly enough that their peers will accept them as inferior and effectively bar them
from the reproductive sweepstakes."
* The propaedeutic function: "a small fraction of students will be quietly taught how to
manage (the societal system)" by controlling "a population deliberately dumbed down
and declawed in order that the government might proceed unchallenged and
corporations might never want for obedient labor."
While these may or may not have been Inglis' underlying objective for schooling,
they do seem to resonate with the tradition of "modernity" established during the late 19th
and early 20th century industrial age. The concept of modernity, emphasizing "rapid
progress and growth over tradition and stability, material wealth over spiritual depth,
individual success over communal solidarity, and technological mastery over organic
process" (Miller 2000b, p.5), was evident in mechanized educational systems that
centrally managed and controlled students through the social development of pre-
established roles, standards, and homogenization of identity (Miller 2000b; Gatto 1993).
Many educators, politicians and businessmen including James Conant, Horace Mann,
Henry Barnard, George Peabody, Woodrow Wilson, Andrew Carnegie and John D.
Rockefeller, recognized the importance of "obedience to bureaucratic norms" (Miller,
2000b, p.5) to industrial growth and social progress, and worked toward establishing and
perpetuating what today is considered the status quo in education (Miller 2000b; Gatto
Since the 1983 publication of A Nation at Risk and with Clinton's 1994 Goals
2000: Educate America Act, the metaphor of students as "products" of education, who, in
the name of "quality control," must attain certain levels of achievement by certain ages,
has become the hallmark of contemporary educational philosophy and practice (Miller
1997). Citing Wood, Miller (1997) suggested that the modernist worldview of industrial
America remains the impetus behind contemporary education: "The legislated excellence
movement is primarily concerned with the American economy, not with the lives of our
children" (para. 3).
Currently, in the United States, many pedagogical researchers, theorists,
psychologists, and educators are scrutinizing these recent, accountability-oriented reform
efforts in public education. An increasing number of researchers believe that education is
in crisis because many underlying values and beliefs about education are obsolete and
antidemocratic (Ellis 2000; Miller 1997, 2000a; Gatto 2002b, 2003a; Greene 1993). What
purpose education may have served to prepare workers to meet the demands of an
emerging industrial economy in the 1900s is now recognized as "teaching the wrong
lessons" (Ellis 2000, p. 1). In a synopsis of the industrial culture that continues to
permeate the economic, social, and political philosophies and practices of most modern
nations today, Miller (1991, p.1) listed four assumptions basic to an industrial worldview:
* The world operates in an inherently materialistic mode, with lives, success, and
achievements valued and measured in objective, quantitative terms of "wealth and
possessions, net profit, advanced degrees, public opinion polls, Gross national
Product, SAT scores and so forth."
* The world depends on and honors scientifically rational and analytical methods of
gaining knowledge above artistic or spiritual communication in order to create
"wealth" from natural resources.
* Human beings are fundamentally driven by the win/lose system of a socially
competitive marketplace as well as the economic desires of "comfort, luxury, and
* The separations of groups of people according to religion, language, occupation,
gender, race, and nationality "are more real and enduring than our common
Contemporary American curriculum designers have, knowingly or not, perpetuated
these patterns, using methods found in scientific models to achieve pedagogical goals.
This has lead to an increase in restrictive and empirical requirements for accountability
and evaluation as witnessed in homogenized curriculums and reliance on test scores
(Miller 1991, 2000a; Brown 1991).
The rise of globalization in the past thirty to forty years has raised a new challenge
to the fundamental supposition that originally steered the modern industrial society, a
society that is now drawing to a close (Miller 1991, 2000b; Greene 1993). Doll (1993)
suggested that educational ideas are struggling to keep up with the new sciences marked
by open systems, ambiguity, process, and transformations. It seems that the more schools
fail in their ability to educate students towards a changing worldview, the more emphasis
is placed on concentrated and standardized modes of teaching and learning (Miller 2000a;
Efforts to change the fundamental make up of education without challenging the
outdated world view or status quo is tantamount to "arranging the deck chairs on the
Titanic" (Miller 1991, p.2). Evidence of the negative effects of lingering industrial-era
mentality is witnessed in the widespread and growing occurrences of exploitation of the
ecosystem, homelessness, substance abuse, child abuse, violence and hate crimes, and
youth alienation (Miller 1991; Pipher 2002; Astroth et al. 2002; Martin 1992).
Although many educators and social critics began calling for a paradigm shift as
early as the 1960s (Miller 2000a), these ideas had gone largely unnoticed until the past
decade. Lately, proposals for a radical and comprehensive transformation of educational
theory and practice have been erupting in environmental, ecoliteral, and biocentric
education literature (Miller 1991; Elmwood Institute 1993; Orr 1992; Selby 2000; Terry
2002). Much of what is written points to a holistic worldview as the rationale for
restructuring education (Clark 2002; Miller 2000b; Orr 1992).
Quantum physics in its understanding and recognition of individual events as the
unfolding of a constantly reinvented universe, can be described as an essentially and
intuitively holistic paradigm shift where the "basic substance of the universe is energy"
and that "every 'thing' in the universe is a temporary manifestation of energy in its
'physical' form" (Clark 1991, p. 60). Grounded in the proposition that all parts contribute
to the unity, restoration, and completion of the whole, this shift suggests a move away
from educational practices that segment knowledge, divide people, and fragment society,
toward intuitive and holistic practices that recognize human experiences of the world as
intuitive and spiritual in nature as well (Clark 1991). Through an educational approach
that reflects greater appreciation of more holistic understandings of the universe and
human's place within it, education could have the power to transform and counteract the
often subtle yet harmful effects of separatism and fragmentation within human societies.
The roots of holistic education is found among a wide variety of educators and
critics such as Pestalozzi, Thoreau, Emerson, Alcott, Parker, Dewey, Montessori, and
Steiner all of whom supported the notion that education should be the process of
nurturing the development of the whole individual, morally, emotionally, physically,
psychologically, and spiritually (Miller 2001).
Holism, a perspective that emerged during the 1970s out of literature in science,
philosophy, and cultural history supplied the broad foundation for the evolution of
holistic education concepts (Miller 2001). Miller, recognized as one of the "best known
and best informed interpreters of the holistic education movement" (Paths of Learning
Resource Center 2004, para. 2), described the holistic worldview in four suppositions that
challenge the four previous assumptions about an industrial worldview (1991, p.2):
* Integration of the objective elements of life and the valuing of material wealth as it
leads to authentic happiness, and peace with the subjective, non measurable, yet
honorable personal and spiritual elements of life valued in beauty, joy, love and
compassion is "essentially a reverence for life."
* The Earth and all who inhabit it are sacred, not to be dominated or controlled. A
sense of awe and inspiration comes from the ecological understanding that all living
and nonliving things are interconnected.
* Humanity is still evolving morally, culturally, and spiritually in ways we do not fully
understand. We have the potential to be a caring society through cooperation and
community where there are no "losers."
* Recognizing that "group rivalries and national competition can lead, in a nuclear age,
to total destruction," this global perspective unifies through the celebration of
humanity and welcomed diversity inherent to all cultures.
Holistic education then, is more than just one technique or simply tampering with a
current curriculum (Miller 1991). Rather, it is an effort to find identity, meaning, and
purpose in life by making connections between people, the community, nature and the
spirit. It centers on the nurturing of the whole individual, and suggests that relationships
in community are fundamental. Holistic education is concerned with education for
growth, discovery, and the broadening of life experiences, beyond standard curriculum,
textbooks, and tests, and makes critical advances towards contextual cultural,
environmental, moral, and political meaning. It is not a new concept, yet it is the only
one that may be "dynamic, inclusive, and flexible enough" (Miller 1991, p.3) to meet the
challenge of a changing worldview (Miller 1991; Clark 1991). However, as Clark
suggested, it must be nurtured and encouraged to grow and develop.
These ideas, of course, echo Dewey (1916, 1929a, 1929b, 1933, 1938) who was
widely considered "the leading figure in progressive education..." (Wygant 1993, p. 23).
The basic tenets of Dewey's philosophy, summarized by Wygant (1993) suggested that
[both] mind and body were psychologically unified in the organic response to the
environment. Social experience was essential to human development. Experience
was a flux of doing and undergoing, of action and reflection, of impression and
expression. Learning was a reconstruction of experience for the society as well as
the individual (p.23).
In essence, an integrated curriculum where learners are engaged in experiences of
self-interest first and then engaged within the community is learning "not as a preparation
for later life but as life itself' (p.23). Any discussion about student engagement in the
community, democracy, direct experience and self-directed learning, then, is grounded in
Deweyan philosophy. To this extent, a great debt is owed to Dewey as "unquestionably
the most important" (Dworkin 1967) individual responsible for contributing to the
shaping of American education.
The diversity among proponents of holistic educational pedagogy was recognized
by Clark (1991) as a positive and somewhat fundamental ecological construct that
stabilizes the holistic education movement. In other words, the interconnectedness of all
living and non-living things attributed to a sustainable ecology reinforces holistic theory.
As in ecological systems, the distinct and varied characteristics of interconnected
conditions in holistic education create an enduring and lasting design. However, the
philosophical perspectives found among several leaders in holistic education and research
reveal some common characteristics.
Bowers (2001) suggested that we are in danger of destroying our life-sustaining
ecosystems and that eco-justice as an educational reform measure should focus on the
environment through five concentrations:
* engagement in the eradication of eco-racism caused by undemocratic processes in
science and technology,
* alteration of the global economic and political imbalance,
* deconstruction of material culture,
* connection with knowledge and tradition through intergenerational communities,
* addressing our moral obligations on the long-term effects of excessive materialistic
Orr (1992) also maintained that educational goals need to attend to the concept of an
ecologically sustainable planet. Art educators as well, have been concerned about
environmental issues, but not in the same ways.
A systemic restructuring of traditional educational systems with integration of
meaningful open-ended questions about how and where students find themselves in
relation to society, history, their community, and the ecosystem is central to Clark's
(2002) holistic, learner-centered pedagogy. Gatto (2002a), well documented in holistic
education literature, also suggested that true learning is attained by deep self-knowledge
achieved through questioning and researching authoritative actions, through investigation
of subjects generated by self-interest, through interacting with family and the community,
and through time allowed for self-contemplation. Miller (1996) reinforced these concepts
of holistic education through the integration of spiritual and scientific views, making
connections between linear and intuitive knowledge, academic subjects, individuals and
communities, and between the personal and transpersonal self.
In essence, the overarching understandings developed by much of the literature on
holistic education can be said to emphasize immersion into real world situations,
establishing relationships between ecological, environmental, and social issues and
individual identity. Self-generated knowledge obtained from family and community,
connections and interactions becomes the foundation for nurturing the intellectual,
physical, and spiritual whole of the individual. While strategies for implementing holistic
models may vary, the core characteristics tend to reflect Miller's (2000b) description:
Holistic education is based on the premise that each person finds identity, meaning,
and purpose in life through connections to the community, to the natural world, and
to spiritual values such as compassion and peace. Holistic education aims to call
forth from young people an intrinsic reverence for life and a passionate love of
learning. This is not done through an academic "curriculum" that condenses the
world into instructional packages, but through direct engagement with the
environment.... The art of holistic education lies in its responsiveness to the diverse
learning styles and needs of evolving human beings. (pp. 206-207)
It is no secret that the general state of education is in need of reconsideration and
reconstruction both in theory and practice. Likewise, it should not be surprising to
discover the increased visibility and availability of pedagogical models that exist and
function outside the established traditional educational structures. Like a parallel
universe, alternatives to education theory and practice exist separate from current
educational reform that continued to emphasize stringent practices of standardized
testing, and homogenized, teacher centered curriculums. However, distinguishing
between different types of alternative education is necessary in order to determine which
models promise real and innovative restructuring for change.
The evolution of alternative education since the 1960s has manifested two
consistent characteristics; a) alternative education is designed for those who are not best
served by traditional programs, and b) its theories and practices diverge in a variety of
ways from traditional educational programs and environments (Raywid 1994). Raywid
(1994) described three types of alternative settings that are seen in most alternative
* Type I are the most popular alternative schools, characteristic of magnet schools,
community learning centers, or other schools that are philosophically situated outside
of traditional education. They are marked by innovative and creative curriculum.
These educational settings are attended by choice.
* Type II or "Last-Chance Programs" (para. 9) are alternative programs to which
students are sent as a last resort before expulsion from traditional school. Often these
include in-school suspension or modification programs, and out of school programs
that focus on behavior modification with little or no attention to modifying
curriculum. No one attends by choice.
* Type III or "Remedial Focus" (para. 11) programs are for those who have been
predetermined to need remediation or rehabilitation. These too may be contained
within a traditional school or often are after school programs. Upon successfully
completing the program, students are returned to the traditional school setting.
Students are referred to these programs under the pretense of choice.
Type II and III programs are based on the assumption that the problem lies with the
student and that the individual needs to be fixed, or cured. Sweeney (1991) suggested
that preventative programs such as those designed for at-risk youth are merely an
extension of the failing public school system that preserves a homogenized system by
preparing to resocialize "misfit" students back into the regular system. Studies suggest
that these programs typically make no difference in drop out rates, suspension, corporal
punishment, or expulsion (Raywid (1994).
In one case study, Hamovitch (1996), illustrating a typical Type II or III program
explained how the Ordered School Reinforcement Program's (OSRP) "ideology of hope"
is contradictory in nature and detrimental to the students in the program. He suggested
that the practices and attitudes of the staff and administration reflect the ideology that the
inability of these African-American students and their parents to rise above desperate
socio-economic conditions is entirely their own fault, and not the result of social
institutions' policies and practices. Hamovitch (1996) strongly implied that this
preventive program, a program, and possibly others like it that are designed to keep anti-
social behavior in check through behavior modification methods, are based on the hope
of resocializing these at-risk students into self-control and motivation to achieve higher
status within the boundaries of a prescribed middle class ideal.
Indeed, in defining these three types of alternative educational settings, Raywid
(1994) suggested that the most encouraging are those that "sustain and generate
community within them" (p.4), that engage learners in ways beyond textbook application,
and that provide the structural and organizational scaffolding necessary to nourish the
first two components. She also maintained that an abundance of these successful
alternative schools such as described in Type I are operating as nonprofit organizations in
the public sector, and should serve as models for regular school initiatives. However,
Raywid questioned whether they will be truly recognized and emulated in the currently
challenged traditional educational system. In the next two sections, I examined more
closely, "true" alternative schooling as models for community-based reform.
True Alternative Schools
Sweeney (1991) cautioned us to look at the internal workings of alternative
educational programs as she described the difference between at-risk or dropout
programs and true alternative schools. True alternative schools can be distinguished by
* their attention to educational reform through pluralism;
* diversity and equal education for all students by choice;
* decentralization of formal structure;
* the development of curricula based on individual needs;
* the involvement of parents, teachers, students, and community members in the
planning, implementation and assessment of schools;
* the reduction of school violence, vandalism, and disruptive activities.
Sweeney (1991) also suggested that a holistic perspective is key to the operation and
organization of a true alternative school where the recognized abilities and potential of
individuals are central to the goals and principles of the school.
The Alternative Community School in Ithaca, New York offers a program that
Lehman (1991) suggested could be implemented in any secondary school. Describing six
options from which students may choose freely, he also described two other important
and instrumental factors that differentiate between this school and more conventional
public schools: democratic self-governance involving student and parent participation in
running the school and hiring staff, and the mutual respect and caring relationship
between students and staff.
In addition to the more structured models, the homeschooling movement offers a
looser fit for alternative education. The homeschooling phenomenon, according to Ellis
(2000) had "developed without leaders, without planning, without design" (p. 14).
According to the 1999 Parent Survey of the National Household Education Surveys
Program (National Center for Educational Statistics 1999) the three main reasons why
parents homeschool their children were
* because they believe they can give their child a better education at home,
* for religious reasons,
* because of poor and inadequate learning environments at school.
Beginnings of the homeschooling movement
The first stage in the homeschooling movement emerged during the early 1970s
with three major contributors to the field of education: Paul Goodman, Ivan Illich, and
John Holt (Ellis 2000; Farenga 1999). Arguing that children were not best served by
compulsory schooling, Goodman (cited in Ellis 2000; Farenga 1999), suggested that
schools during the 1960s make better use of community facilities and services, and that
the community, rather than institutions, was a better source for learning.
Illich, in his 1971 book publication titled Deschooling Society argued that universal
education through the available models witnessed in traditional settings as well as
alternative settings was not possible. His idea of"deschooling society," meant reversing
modern pedagogical thought and practice of creating more educational materials,
demanding more teacher responsibility, and filling a child's life up in the pursuit of
prescribed knowledge to accommodate a different style of learning that nurtured
opportunities for more holistic learning (Illich 1971).
Holt (cited in Farenga 1999), influenced by Illich's idea of deschooling, sought
ways to circumvent the established system. He wrote about children's rights in an effort
to help children break free of poor schools as well as to help children break free of poor
social situations (cited in Farenga 1999). As a result of the work of these researchers and
through the collective writings of others, homeschooling began to grow. By 1980, there
were approximately 12,000 children being homeschooled in the United States (Ellis
The second stage in homeschooling developed in the 1980s and 1990s with the
networking and exchange of ideas, books, equipment and materials among
homeschooling practitioners that resulted in changes in state laws, new journal
publications, and the growth of organizations designed to meet the curricular, testing, and
other supportive needs of homeschoolers and their parents (Ellis 2000). By 1990, there
were approximately 300,000 homeschoolers, with homeschooling becoming legalized in
1993 in all fifty states (Ellis 2000). In 1998, more than one million children were being
homeschooled (Farenga 1999; Ellis 2000). "At this rate of growth (20%) one quarter of
all children will be homeschooled by the end of another decade" (Ellis 2000, p. 14).
Homeschooling and beyond
Currently, the homeschooling movement has entered another phase in its
development: "cooperative community life-long learning centers. (CCL-LLCs)" (Ellis
2000, p. 17). Bearing close ties to a wide variety of alternative schools that are
progressing toward child-centered education, CCL-LLCs are a new form of
homeschooling; learning institutions that make no claims at being substitutes for K-12
public schools (Ellis 2000). Each word in the unofficial name implies a different concept
that exists in direct contrast to the status quo (Ellis 2000).
* Cooperative suggests "all programs, supplies, and facilities are owned and controlled
by the member families they serve. The parents together buy and exchange
equipment, provide services and make decisions about what they will do together or
do separately. Each cooperative makes its own rules, and sets its own standards"
* Community suggests two concepts: "what the learners get from the community" and
"what the learners give to the community" (p.19). This is viewed in terms of taking
advantage of libraries, parks, health clubs, shops, banks, businesses, farms, factories,
the streets, and environment for learning as well as providing service to the
community and taking part in community activities.
* Life-long learning implies that in this rapidly changing world, no one gets to
graduate. Future learning centers "must provide continuing learning opportunities
throughout the life span of individuals" (p. 19). In addition, learning, is an act of self-
discovery, "satisfying one's own natural curiosity" (p. 19) as opposed to teaching,
schooling, and educating, which is controlled by some superior authority. Finally,
learning is more than "being educated to play a role in the industrial society" (p. 19).
It replaces consumerism with the love of being, "valuing knowledge more than
things" (p. 19).
* Centers suggest a main location where services such as counseling, mentoring,
testing, laboratories, classes, books, supplies, and equipment are obtained by
members of participating families. These centers may simply be a website, a base for
a large collection of data on community, national or global learning opportunities, or
may extend to include a facility completely furnished with any combination of the
previous components. Functioning like a library, centers provide services to
participants as needed.
Ellis (2000) believed that this type of learning center may be the wave of the future in
education and that traditional educational practices might eventually be replaced by
learning center practices.
Community in Education
One of the fundamental components existing within all of the alternative education
models and practices cited in this literature review is the element of community and
community development both within and outside a more or less structured educational
environment. Many (Clark 1991; Dimitriadis & McCarthy 2001; Miller 1991, 2000a;
Pipher 2002) believed that the fracturing of our society today, evidenced in symptoms of
youth alienation and ultimately unsuccessful traditional education reform, stem from a
shift in worldview: from a local to a global landscape. In addition, Pipher (2002)
provided various reasons for the fragmentation of communities, attributing it to the
emotional distancing of individuals from their community. She maintained that the
further we are away from home the less accountability we perceive. The result is
witnessed in the breakdown of social structures. Pipher suggested that active engagement
in community, as a concept of a shared place, is necessary for global sustainability
(2002). "The cure to the cultural colonialism of global shopping malls is loving our
hometown" (p. 138). One cannot love their hometown without sharing stories, ideas, and
understandings with the diversity of people living in the community.
Clark (1991), Dimitriadis and McCarthy (2001), and Miller (1991, & 2000a) also
argued that one of education's central roles in addressing this change of worldview is in
establishing identity through community involvement. Traditionally, most public school
programs offer very little opportunity for students to experience true community. Focused
on curriculum that secures and sustains binary prescriptions and pedagogies, public
schools marginalize individuals, creating the exact opposite of community. But what is
community and how is community developed and cultivated in educational settings?
Compiled from The Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary (2003c), several definitions for
community are given:
* society at large; a unified body of individuals;
* a group linked by a common policy;
* the people with common interests living in a particular area;
* a group of people with a common characteristic or interest living together within a
* a body of persons or nations having a common history or common social,
economic, and political interests;
* an interacting population of various kinds of individuals (as species) in a common
In referring to social welfare and educational practice, these meanings do not quite
measure up. In fact, Peck (1987) suggested that these definitions and those who employ
them are using the word falsely. To use the word community meaningfully, "we must
restrict it to a group of individuals who have learned how to communicate honestly with
each other, whose relationships go deeper than their masks of composure, and who have
developed some significant commitment to 'rejoice together, mourn together,' and to
'delight in each other, make others' conditions our own'" (p. 59). For deeper
understanding, Peck (1987) further elaborated by listing several characteristics of "true"
community to include transcendental inclusivity, commitment and consensus, realistic
limitations and humility, and contemplation as self-examination and for self-awareness.
In addition, Peck (1987, p. 69-74) maintained that once community is achieved, it then
* offers a safe place for healing and transformation, and a "laboratory for personal
* nurtures "a group that can fight gracefully,"
* supports "total decentralization of authority,"
* realizes a "spirit of peace".
Boiten and Stimson (2003) described the common meaning of community as "the
place where we exist for one another and for the well-being of the whole where we
gladly forego the luxuries of life for friendship, companionship, and the wellbeing of
others the place where we belong" (p. 92). Pipher (2002) stated that "communities are
about accountability, about what we can and should do for each other" (p. 136).
"Community does not mean 'free of conflict.' It's inevitable and even healthy to have
great differences. Even conflict can lead to closeness. As Dennis Schmitz wrote,
'Humans wrestle with each other, and sometimes that wrestling turns into embracing'"
Despite the myriad of definitions and characteristics of community, one thing is
clear for those writers and researchers in the social sciences, the idea of community is
complex, and more than simply a gathering of people who share something in common.
With increased attention to social and environmental accountability in the educational
arena, commitment to building community within traditional educational settings is
increasingly considered in curricular design, hence the term learning communities. As
attention to social and environmental accountability enters the educational critical arena,
the reemergence of a commitment to building community within traditional educational
settings is often considered in curricular design (Neperud 1995). However, the phrase
learning communities coined by many educators and researchers of alternative education,
connotes a philosophy different from what is being considered community-building in
traditional education (Boiten & Stimson 2003).
Boiten and Stimson (2003) suggested three ways of looking at the term learning
communities. The first refers to "communities that learn," implying that society is in a
constant state of transition, and the wellbeing of each member as well as the evolution of
our community is uniformly dependent on the learning growth of all. "Communities that
provide learning opportunities" are communities that provide lifelong learning
experiences for knowledge and skill development to people of all ages. Learners are not
sequestered in schools away from family, community, society, and nature, but rather, are
active participants in evolving community matters. The third description, "and perhaps
the most meaningful" (p. 94) is "communities of learners." This type of community
engages members in interactions beyond companionship and needs for "belonging."
Communities of learners are the "foundation on which the larger community and society
can be built... through learning about others as well as learning with others" (p.95).
These models of learning communities were characterized by Miller (2000) as
possessing three common elements:
* Each individual is multifaceted in their experiences, knowledge, feelings, and purpose
and should not be type cast into a single role.
* Individuals as unique and whole are not in competition, but serve to enhance the
greater whole or larger community of family, society, culture, the planet and beyond.
* Each individual should be dynamically engaged with the community in mutual
problem solving, bringing together people of diverse backgrounds in democratic
It is important at this point to go one step further in describing learning
communities. The above discourse focuses on the relational dynamics of members in a
learning community, however attention to the ways that learning occurs is also
Categories of Learning
R. Miller (2000b) provided a synopsis of three educational orientations described
by researcher J. Miller (1996) that broadly classifies the extent to which engagement in
community is a part of learning, adding a fourth orientation of his own. Most
contemporary traditional education pedagogy is founded in the transmission approach
where young people are taught established predetermined values, beliefs, and accepted
knowledge through absorption, memorization, and mastery of material. In this
orientation, knowledge is seen as stable and relatively unchanging, is disseminated
through rigid authority, and evaluated through high stakes, compulsory tests.
The transaction approach is more receptive to learning through meaningful
activities, experiments, and adventures, and between people through conversation and
discussion. This orientation is generally principled upon encouraging democracy as only
democratic communities solicit dialogue. The teacher is not necessarily an authority, but
plays an important role in students' learning through participating in conversation and
guidance or modeling of operations. Promoted by Dewey and Piaget, this form of
education is often called "humanism."
A more radical approach that Miller (2000b) considered holistic education is
transformation. This is a social, cultural, ecological, and spiritual orientation going
beyond the transmission of knowledge and the engagement of learners in a
communicative action as in transaction. It encourages learners to seek deeper meaning
behind their lives in relationship with others both locally and globally, and with the
earth. A transformation occurs when individuals are able to move beyond their own
"cultural conditioning" (p. 203) and egos and become aware of and appreciate the
interconnectedness of all living and nonliving things. Steiner, Montessori, and Emerson
were a few proponents of this approach.
The fourth approach that Miller (2002) appended to J. Miller's orientations is self-
direction. Self-direction engages learners in naturally seeking out and selecting their own
knowledge base. Teachers are viewed as resources, never acting as authorities or rarely
mentors unless by request. Most or all of the structures of traditional education including
grades, lesson plans, age grouping, and teaching strategies are considered irrelevant.
Self-direction is concerned with genuine learning and "has little or no interest in
education as a specific profession" (p.204).
One solid example of how a community of learners can build a foundational
environment for learning about others as well as with others is through engagement with
activist art. As an often-overlooked component in community-building, art for social and
environmental change makes valuable contributions that seek to deconstruct community
issues, and then reconstruct alternative possibilities. Creating learning communities
grounded in art for environmental and social change can be very empowering to all
involved. The next section discusses the contributions of activist art and artists to
learning communities both in and out of traditional educational settings.
Community of Learners in Art
Art for environmental and social change (social reconstructionism) is an important
contemporary movement that promotes cultural democracy, providing a venue for
communicative exchange. Socially informed activist artists offer an alternative view and
challenge current constructions of society by bridging age, gender, income, and ethnic
differences, enabling individual regeneration, and developing a sense of community.
One example of an artist working in this way is Judy Baca, a Mexican-American
muralist who collaborated in 1988-89 with hundreds of residents in the rural town of
Guadalupe, California in designing and painting the Guadalupe Mural (Congdon 2004).
Located in a park where teens tagged graffiti and drank beer, the mural, developed
through a series of panels, "told the history of a farming community and its dreams for
the future" (pg. 4). Congdon (2004), in elaborating on Baca's perspective of the project
maintained that the mural "allows for a dialogue about issues related to race, ethnicity,
class, and gender" (p. 4), creating an educational opportunity based on "collaborative
artistic practices, aesthetics, and community content" (p. 4).
Visual images created intentionally to stir debate, dialogue, and community
conversation is another example of art as a catalyst for social reconstruction. In 1988,
artists Elizabeth Sisco, Louis Hock, and David Avalos created a silkscreen photomontage
called Welcome to America's Finest Tourist Plantation and placed the image on the back
of several buses in San Diego, California (Congdon, 2004). Designed to "draw attention
to the plight of illegal immigrants in the San Diego area" (p. 4), the artwork also drew
controversy, generating immediate and intense debate throughout the community. This
dialogue was significant enough that "media coverage from the event was collected and
turned into a gallery exhibition" and "editorials, newscasts, interviews and informal
conversations became a recognized part of the artwork" (p. 5).
"Well formed communities are grounded in identifiable beliefs and practices"
(Congdon 2004, pg. 2) and members often celebrate and expose those beliefs and
practices through art. Art then, becomes a transformative vehicle by assisting
"community members in thinking through issues needed to sustain a viable and healthy
community. The work of artists and others involved with the arts often generates
individual and collective action" (p. 2). In this way, communities as evolving systems,
can be challenged to change through social reconstructionism based on art created by,
with, and for the local community (Congdon 2004).
Role of Community-based Art in Community-Building
"Community-based art is increasingly being created and recognized in the
academic art world" (Congdon 2004, p. 3). Gablik brought attention to this growing
trend in her 1991 publication, The Reenchantment ofArt. Many social, political, and
environmental artworks such as Kryzysztof Wodiczko's homelessness projects, Lynne
Hull's environmental reconstructive art, Fred Wilson's confrontation of power and racial
inequality, Suzanne Lacy's interactively orchestrated performances on gender roles, and
Mierle Ukeles' ritualistic acts of healing and sensitivity towards marginalized sanitation
workers, have moved the art world forward in advancing social and environmental
reconstruction. Grounded in community awareness, collaboration, and contextual
dialogue (Gablik 2002; Congdon 2004; Anderson & Milbrandt 2005), community-based
art reflects research into social values, mores, institutions, and practices, surveys attitudes
and perspectives of community members, and solicits community interaction for change.
This is a distinct move away from modernistic thinking that the individual artist, as
a "talented and unusual" (Congdon 2004, p. 2) creative genius can only create in solitude,
isolated from the rest of the world (Congdon 2004; Anderson & Milbrandt 2005).
Formal qualities based on the elements of art and principles of design, often only
understood by the "academically educated" (Congdon 2004, p. 2) and used as the sole
criteria for defining, evaluating, and understanding art are giving way to content-based
and contextual communication of ideas through dialogue (Congdon 2004; Anderson &
Milbrandt 2005). "In this way, the power of the group, not the individual is again at the
center" (Anderson & Milbrandt 2005, p. 6).
Current social and environmental theories centering on holistic attitudes and
practices are made visible in community-based art. However, artwork that is based in
social and environmental awareness and criticism, and confrontation of the
disequilibrium between artificial facades and underlying realities, can only make an
impact on a community when it stimulates members to share in democratic discussion
and dialogue. Artwork that involves collaboration with all members of a society,
including marginalized groups, can only be truly successful when all participating
individuals' ideas and inherent knowledge are recognized as vital in building the kind of
community necessary for change.
Role of Community-Based Art Education in Community-Building
The world is increasingly organized through the visually commercial (television,
movies, computers, the internet, advertising, clothing, cars, mass media, etc.) and
individuals are increasingly reliant on visual forms for personal and cultural meaning
(Anderson & Milbrandt 2005). Often these forms of visual culture support and promote
stereotypical gender roles, racial and cultural biases, isolation and marginalization of
groups and individuals, and social and environmental consumerism. In other words,
visual culture often seems to reflect and maintain the status quo rather than challenge it.
Influences of visual culture
Anderson and Milbrandt (2005) in referencing John Berger, maintained that social
reality is constructed out of what we see: "Years ago, John Berger held what we see is
determined by what we believe, and, even more profoundly, that vision is reciprocal.
That is, if we see we can also be seen. Seeing is reflexive. It makes us who we are" (p.
50). Anderson and Milbrandt (2005) further expanded on art-making as a reflexive
function of a culture.
The images we make are an extension of our reflexivity. Every image, photograph,
painting, or advertisement embodies a way of seeing. There is no such thing as a
neutral image. Every image embodies the point of view and values of its maker.
Further, every image maker is part of a culture and is influenced by it. Deliberately
or not, the maker's values, mores, and cultural sensibility will be reflected in the
image. Art and design are cultural artifacts and performances; they are visual
culture and they reflect their society. (p. 50)
Consider some of these points in relation to one aspect of visual culture (i.e.),
advertising, and children:
* At six months, just as babies begin to mouth simple sounds like "da da" they are also
forming mental images of corporate logos (Schmidt 2003, para. 5).
* One in four children utters a brand name as their first recognizable word (Schmidt
2003, para. 7).
* Nearly 40% of children aged one to four have a television set in their bedroom.
Television and video viewing time increased from 11 hours a week at age one to 18
hours a week at age four (Schmidt 2003, para. 10).
* American children sit through about 3 hours of television commercials a week -
20,000 ads a year, 360,000 by the time they graduate from secondary school.
(Johnson & Gannon 2004, para. 1).
* Mike Searles, President of Kids 'R' Us says "If you own this child at an early age,
you can own this child for years to come" (Johnson & Gannon 2004, para. 4).
* The habit of consumption is not the only effect of television which children
internalize and incorporate into their daily lives. Children's world views are often
developed through the persuasive power of television's 'perfect world' that can
become the most dominant force in their early socialization process. (Johnson &
Gannon 2004, para. 7).
* Young children experience difficulty distinguishing perceptually between programs
and commercials. (Johnson & Gannon 2004, para. 11).
* A substantial proportion of children, particularly those below the age of 8, express
little or no comprehension of the persuasive intent of commercials (Johnson &
Gannon 2004, para. 11).
* Younger children who are unaware of the persuasive intent of television advertising
tend to express greater belief in commercials and a higher frequency of purchase
requests (Johnson & Gannon 2004, para. 11).
* In the Art/Essay Contest "What Do Kids Really Want That Money Can't Buy?"
sponsored by the Center for a New American Dream, the most common answers were
"love," "happiness," "peace on earth," and "friends." Significant numbers of children
also wanted time with family, a clean environment, a world where people treat each
other with respect, a chance to see lost loved ones, help for suffering people, health,
and time to play (University of Florida 2002, p.3).
"Taken as a whole, the collective body of advertising sells a vision of the world, a
way of life" (Jacobson & Mazur 1995, p. 25). Because children are likely to spend more
time in front of the television rather than with friends, family, and teachers (Johnson &
Gannon 2004), the opportunity for constructing meaning through interaction with real
people is minimal. In the short time that children actually do spend in school,
Community-based Art Education programs offer one way to provide opportunities for
children to construct alternatives to those perspectives visualized in the media.
Why community-based art education?
Community-based Art Education (CBAE) has emerged over the past decade or so
as a social-reconstructivist approach to art curriculum. Educational theory suggests that
students need to learn how to become viable members of their communities as active
participants and contributing citizens (Congdon 2004). Teachers, then, need to guide
students in becoming "individuals who can effectively deal with the many challenges
facing our society today, as well as people who can recognize and build on the positive
characteristics of a given community" (Congdon 2004, p. 6). In this regard, proponents
of CBAE urge art teachers and students to "step outside" (London 1994) and engage with
their local communities in significant ways, gaining both inspiration from the
communities in which they live, as well as a sense of community participation by visually
responding to local issues (Anderson & Milbrandt 2005; Congdon 2004; London 1994).
Community-based Art Education, then, as a reflexive action that seeks to confront,
understand, and/or produce change, can play a significant role for youth as they negotiate
identity and place in the local and global contexts of adulthood. Investigating the world
around them not only serves to help emancipate youth from the narrow agendas of
advertising, but also serves to help youth uncover local and global community resources,
understand and appreciate the interculturality and interconnectedness of all things, and
engage in community actions for environmental and social change.
As Congdon (2004) suggested, "while art education theory has not yet fully
addressed community-based art education practices, there has been a great deal of theory-
building behind it" (p. 3). Yet, a CBAE orientation is visible to varying degrees in
models inspired by and illustrative of more holistic communities. It moves from text and
teacher-experts to physical and intellectual activities outside of the classroom culture into
the community. Both CBAE theory and practice address social and environmental
biodiversity as well as community action for change. However, while CBAE strategies
are employed in geographical pockets around the country, it is not a widely practiced
model in traditional art education. A look at the dominant pedagogical models in art
education is necessary for a comparative overview.
Status Quo in Art Education
Environmental education models (Elmwood Institute 1993; Hungerford et al.
2003), and alternative education models (Astroth et al. 2002; James 2003) recognize a
shift in pedagogy from a community of teachers as providers of prescribed knowledge
(Tiersl, 2, and 3) to a community of students empowered as collaborative engineers of
their own learning (Tiers 4, 5 and 6). However, most traditional art education continues
to practice limited modes of community based on teacher-directed learning, especially in
discipline-centered approaches (Neperud 1995). An overview of two widely used
models, Disciplined-based Art Education and Advanced Placement Art Education
provide a point of contrast for CBAE.
Disciplined-based Art Education (DBAE), established in the 1980s for elementary
level art education is a model that continues to be a school-centered program. This
program elevates the European sensibilities of elitism by examining the four disciplines
of art (production, art criticism, art history, and aesthetics) through the elements and
principles of design. Based on the idea that students should learn how to replicate
professional practices of artists, critics, historians and aestheticians in the art field, DBAE
solicits academic proficiency separate from "human feeling, sensation and imagination"
(Wieder 1990, pg. 29).
Trained as an art educator in DBAE during the mid 1980s, I incorporated the
DBAE model in my curriculum as a way to discipline young people's minds in thinking
about, talking about, and producing art through an established set of criteria, rules, and
standards. Systematic and sequentially structured instruction is at the heart of DBAE.
Certainly, the art print market has found its place within DBAE. A myriad of
manufacturers of art prints, slides, games, and supplemental resources have made
available to art teachers a wealth of material that makes it easy and desirable to stay
within the four walls of the classroom. The occasional field trip, though, can offer
enrichment and reinforcement of what students are viewing in class.
Additionally, most of the available visual images focus on Eurocentric, male-
generated, art reproductions that have been designated "high art" throughout history.
Images of cultural crafts are less often available as the art print industry begins to catch
up with multiculturalism. However, few of the images collections available today show
evidence of contemporary artists such as Baca, Hull, or Wodiczko working with
In 1990, Wieder, criticizing DBAE wrote, "DBAE advocates... are most emphatic
in their disassociation with the Lowenfeldian, child-centered art education legacy" (p.
27). He further maintained that
This structure is, by and large, unconcerned with students' aptitudes, values, etc.
Emphasis is on instructional output within the context of a fixed, standardized
curriculum in which students uniformly acquire subject-matter content more or less
incrementally (pg. 28).
Wieder (1990) also suggested that DBAE's concentration on content rather than
students' needs or interests most likely stems from the notion that young people really
"do not know what is good for them, and even if they did, would not act accordingly"
(pg. 29). Teachers as experts, or rather artists, critic, historians, and aestheticians working
in the art field as experts makes student autonomy impossible. Teacher autonomy is
limited as well since following the disciplinary dictates is essential to DBAE.
This essentialistt approach" (Wieder 1990, pg. 28) also denies student meaning-
making through emphasis on knowledge (prescribed) and skill acquisition in a
transmission orientation. Through my training, I learned that being able to evaluate
student art knowledge and skill through standardized testing is a component that DBAE
embraces in part, as evidence for art education advocacy. It may be assumed that
teachers who practice the DBAE model adhere to these dictates in varying degrees. Some
may not completely support content-based curriculums, yet may choose to maintain a
teacher-based focus while incorporating student self-expressive components.
Currently, DBAE theory has evolved into the so-called Comprehensive Art
Education (CAE), which attempts to include more diverse perspectives such as
multicultural and communal aspects of the art world. To this extent, DBAE/CAE
curricula do support viewing images from other communities and cultures, and encourage
questioning strategies for group discussion and self- discovery as well as cooperative
work involving, to a small extent, community members (ArtsEdge 2004 and ArtsEdNet
2004 offer examples of this).
Another example of a popular, widely practiced art educational curriculum is found
in Advanced Placement (AP) high school art programs. This school-based learning most
often operates under the restrictions of inflexible hours, compulsory attendance, and
management rules. While the College Board suggested allowing extended class time and
flexible opportunities for research and out-of-school experiences (College Board 2004),
most AP art programs, including the ones that I observed as a high school teacher,
continue to exist and operate within traditional school formats.
Students may, by their own initiative, choose to take an AP art course; however,
this choice is restricted to those who have proven academic success in art during previous
years and naturally are willing to invest the time and energy necessary to be successful in
this rigorous program (College Board 2004). In some instances, such as in the high
school where I taught, teacher recommendation was also needed to accompany the course
schedule request. This can perpetuate competition and segregation within a learning
AP art education uses the transmission approach to learning where knowledge is
stable and enforced through rigid authority, criteria, and expectations -all based on the
formalistic elements of art and principles of design. Teachers are viewed as masters of
this traditional and elite knowledge with students as apprentices.
In AP Art Studio, the College Board criteria for Drawing, 2-D design, and 3-D
design, centers around the use of elements and principles in the Quality, and Breadth
sections. Cautioning against a solution to a series of teacher-directed class projects, the
Concentration section encourages an in-depth investigation into something of personal
interest (College Board 2004). However, my observations have led me to discover that
teacher-directed class projects tend to be the focus for assignments in the AP art studio
program. Indeed, my conversation with a university art education student who had gone
through an AP art studio program in high school revealed that, at least in her experience,
this was the case. Student-directed action research into comprehensive studies of
environmental or social issues in the community are not listed as viable Concentration
options, although they could be, depending on the direction the student wishes to explore
and more importantly, the teacher's ability to guide the student in this endeavor.
The AP program is an opportunity intended to enable high school students earn
advanced credit towards freshman level college or university art studio courses. To this
end, AP art programs may sometimes invite participation or input from college faculty
and professional members of the discipline in determining equitable course descriptions
and requirements, standards settings, and evaluation of student responses at the Reading
(College Board 2004). However, the committees that have the power to decide upon and
regulate the criteria for passing do not include high school students. Indirect student input
may be acquired through faculty involved in the program; however, this was not evident
in the College Board course description publication.
In comparing DBAE and AP art practices to CBAE, we can see that they offer very
little opportunity for students to engage in what can be described as best practices for
communities of learners. Yet, the emerging and merging interdisciplinary theories
behind "changing the rules" have gained momentum as practitioners test and document
them in practical models. These models solicit additional theoretical inquiry, which
petitions more practice. The result is an increasingly sustainable universe existing
parallel to the status quo. There is little doubt that a new paradigm in education is upon
us and may soon be in serious competition with the old, outdated one.
The attention being paid to learning communities seems particularly promising,
especially for art education, because of contemporary artists' practices, and the unique
potential of art education to allow for construction of community through classroom
collaboration. The art class, with an inherent quality that allows students an opportunity
to engage in interaction with one another, provides fertile ground for collaborative
activities that "require [students] to arrive at a position that the whole group can live
with" (Anderson & Milbrandt 2005, p. 27). Indeed, Anderson and Milbrandt (2005)
maintained that "increasingly, collaborative strategies are being considered and applied in
art education..." (p.31).
In talking about learning communities, however, art educators may not be aware of
the larger discourse and in fact, there seems to be little agreement within the discourse
about the meaning of this term. How do we recognize successful programs that meet best
practices for empowering students through community? In the next chapter, I described
the process I undertook to define criteria for successful educational efforts in building
community, and to develop the resulting framework for evaluating such programs.
METHOD OF RESEARCH
While the past era of industrialization continues to influence and control much of
education's intellectual, moral, and cultural climate, new ways of knowing that reflect a
changing worldview are beginning to occupy an elevated position in pedagogical theory
and practice. In surveying the literature, I have positioned two conflicting views of
education, specifically the concepts and operations that delineate ways of knowing, into
parallel systems. One is the "status quo" an outdated modernist/industrialist view that
dominates educational theory and practice. The other is an alternative view that is
grounded in holistic theory and practice and manifests itself in various disciplines in a
variety of ways.
In a postmodern world of uncertainty and open-ended meaning, multiple views
coexist, and when each have "specific cognitive 'interests' with distinct goals and values"
(Pearse 1992, p. 244) "embedded in its actions and documents" (Carroll 1997, p. 171),
they are considered paradigms. Carroll (1997) specifically defined a paradigm as "a body
of beliefs and values, laws, and practices which govern a community of practitioners. A
paradigm is analogous to world view" (p. 171). Thus, the research on alternative
educational views suggested the emergence of a new paradigm illustrated, within holistic
models such as homeschooling and Community-based Art Education (CBAE).
My review of the literature compared and contrasted these several paradigms with
the current dominating zeitgeistt" (Pearse 1992, p. 249). This is the first step in
paradigm research and analysis (Carroll 1997). "Paradigm analysis, as it provides a
structure for research requires determination of the character and structure of a
professional community as well as an analysis of the substance of the paradigm" (Carroll
1997, p. 171). The second step reflects a method of paradigm research that anticipates
"the convergence of ideas and points of entry for dialogue" (p. 188) by identifying
existing ideas in different fields and merging them in a way that solicits "discourse and
intercommunity dialogue" (p. 188).
I took this next step by identifying several holistic models from Community Youth
Development (CYD) and Participatory Action Research (PAR). Through examination of
these models, I have determined that they not only offer important educational concepts
and strategies for building true community, but that the potential exists for
interdisciplinary dialogue with (CBAE).
Pursuing this possibility, I developed a framework for describing levels of learning
communities that merge the theories and practices of the studied paradigms. I then
positioned various CBAE models within the framework, proposing a point of entry for
further analysis and cross-disciplinary dialogue among CYD, PAR, and CBAE
initiatives, and suggesting a convergence of paradigmatic ideas that reflect similar values,
goals, laws, and practices. This, I believe, offers all fields involved, positive ways of
moving forward in developing and blending pedagogical strategies that can provide youth
with ways of knowing, and empowerment, important to a changing worldview.
Sources of Research
In preparation for this study, I conducted a survey of 22 at-risk adolescents in
Gainesville, Florida during Fall 2003, to find out what they might think about community
based art education and personal empowerment. The personal insights they revealed
convinced me that these youth are desperate for a voice in their education and that their
teachers understand little about what they are interested in learning. Prescriptive art
curriculums based on adult assumptions do not allow students opportunities to explore
their own interests nor does it engage youth in learning activities for empowerment. In
addition, the responses about personal identity within a social context indicated a
negative disequilibrium between how these youth view themselves and how they
perceive the adult world views them. These preliminary findings set the tone for further
After defining my focus I continued an investigation by incorporating multiple data
collecting strategies. The major strategies for the study included:
* A survey of 22 at-risk youth in Gainesville, Florida.
* Enrolling in a graduate methodology course at the University of Florida called Youth
and Community Issues, in which CYD and PAR strategies were modeled and
involvement in an action research project was the culminating activity.
* Document analysis of several CYD and PAR workbooks that I obtained from both the
methodology course and also purchased through a PAR website. These action
research workbooks included Investigating and Evaluating Environmental Issues and
Actions (Hungerford et al. 2003), Teaching Middle School Students to be Active
Researchers (Zorfass & Copel 1998), Organics: A Wasted Resource? (Culen et al.
2001), and Participatory Action Research Curriculum for Empowering Youth (Sydlo
et al. 2000).
* Analysis of student artwork viewed on the HOT Schools website (Connecticut
Commission on the Arts 2003a, b,and c), and in two print publications including The
Reenchantment of Art (Gablik 2002) and Art for Life (Anderson & Milbrandt 2005).I
also obtained several youth created publications from Youth Communication in
Atlanta, Georgia to review first hand the artwork that was being produced in these
newspapers and zines.
* Examination and analysis of the dominating paradigm in education. Much of the
critical information about dominating curricular theory and practice was found in
print publications since this well-established pedagogy has been the status quo for
almost a century.
* Examination and analysis of characteristics of holistic theory and practice from
several different types of resources. Because CYD and PAR are emerging practices,
some of this literature was found in current journal and anthology publications such
as CYD Anthology 2000 (Terry 2002) and CYD Journal (Goodyear & Checkoway
2003) as well as on organizational websites. Most information on holistic theory,
though, was obtained in print publications.
* Analysis of CBAE theory from the most current and innovative art education book
publications, purchased at the National Art Education Association Conferences in
2003 and 2004, and the Florida Art Education Association Conference in 2003. The
publications, Step Outside (London 1994), Community Art in Action (Congdon 2004),
and Art for Life (Anderson & Milbrandt 2005) suggest that CBAE is becoming a
viable art education model.
* Policy analysis of CBAE programs as stated on organizational websites. These are
relatively new programs (10 to 20 years in the making) that, without the advances of
computer technology, would not be visibly accessible to the public.
It should be noted that in my analysis of traditional and alternative CBAE
programs, I focused on stated policies and not necessarily individual teaching practices,
because time did not allow me to physically visit each site. I do hope to visit these sites
in the future though to further my investigation of learning communities and to further
the development of my framework.
In the next chapter, I described the holistic models I examined with descriptions of
specific pragmatic examples and the criteria they suggest. Using this information to
create a framework for evaluating different levels of student empowerment in learning
communities, I positioned several CBAE models in relation to the framework and then
evaluated my findings.
PRACTICAL APPLICATIONS OF THE EMERGING PARADIGM
Youth are seen as a collection of problems to be fixed, rather than as future parents,
neighbors, voters, political leaders, and workers who might benefit from maximum
adult involvement, participatory learning, and the encouragement to grow and
become productive, contributing adults. (Astroth et al. 2002, p. 13)
Community Youth Development
Because strong models exist for building community in other fields, my first step in
creating a framework for evaluating CBAE was to analyze the characteristics of those
existing models. The models I examined in this chapter include Community Youth
Development (CYD) and Participatory Action Research (PAR).
Through the collective and continued research on adolescent development, the
focus of the community youth movement has evolved from the 1970s issues of youth
resiliency and the ability to succeed "despite overwhelming odds in their lives" ( Perkins
et al. 2003, p. 3-4). In deficit models of youth development, quite often substance abuse,
teen pregnancy, youth crime and violence, and drop out rates are viewed as causes of
youth alienation from society. An estimated 9.2 million to 15.8 million children are
considered "at-risk" in this country (National Governors Association 2000). Astroth et al.
(2002) suggested that increased teen pregnancies, increased use of drugs and/or alcohol, a
propensity for dropping out of school, unemployment, engagement in violence, and an
increased likelihood of experiencing a host of mental health problems are actually
symptoms of youth alienation, caused by routine exclusion from social institutions,
employment and other cultural spheres.
Preventative measures that focus on eliminating individual risk conditions and
behavioral problems rarely effectively prepare youth to meet their current challenges or
those they will continue to face (Astroth et al. 2002; Perkins, et al. 2003). Shifting from a
focus on problems to a focus on strengths, abilities and engagement in self-development
and community development, the Community Youth Development (CYD) movement
goes beyond youth resiliency (in creating opportunities for positive development) to
youth engagement in their own development. It does this by "promoting factors that
provide all youth with the critical elements needed for successful development and
engagement in their communities, regardless of their level of risk" (Perkins et al. 2003, p.
These factors define CYD as an integration of youth development and community
development (Perkins et al, 2003):
* Youth have the natural capacity to shape their own development by pursuing their
interest and interpretations.
* Commitment from the community and youth participation is essential in enabling
youth to reach their potential.
* Building on strengths rather than deficits, youth development programs existing
specifically to promote youth development are inclusive, enduring, and engage
students in activities that build skills, nurture supportive relationships between youth
and adults, and offer opportunities for youth to take on responsible roles; entrusted to
collaboration and teamwork.
* Youth have the responsibility as full partners in their community to act as agents of
change for the betterment of their communities.
Combining holistic philosophies with community connections and child-centered
perspectives of homeschooling, CYD alternative education research and practices are
frequently administered outside of traditional education environments. This is necessary
because of the inflexible and prescriptive teacher-centered pedagogy designed for an
industrial nation (Ogden 2002). After school CYD programs that empower youth as
collaborative engineers of their own projects and nurture self-efficacy and community are
witnessed in cases like Montana's Red Lodge Youth Council (RLYC) (Astroth et al.
The RLYC, consisted of 12 youth in grades 8 through 12, and seven adults from
representative schools, the justice system, the Boys and Girls club, city government, and
the community at large (Astroth et al. 2002). Led by 14-year-old Angela Schilz, RLYC
included activities such as researching, evaluating, and developing long range plans
concerning local youth issues, coordinating and leading community forums,
presentations, planning sessions, and youth events and activities, securing youth positions
on the local school board, hosting leadership retreats, and planning and supervising a
local skateboard park construction.
Cautioning against youth development efforts built around program or
organizational needs rather than on youth needs, Astroth et al. (2002) pointed out that all
too often adults design programs with adult agendas in order to "help" youth, resulting in
short lived programs. In order for youth development to be intentionally youth
empowering, adults must change their perspectives, leave their agendas at the door, and
change the rules of authority and control. This may be handled through alternative roles
suggested by Astroth et al. (2002, pp. 16-17):
* Shift the typical practitioner's focus from pre-chosen outcomes to process.
* Overcome preconceptions that can hinder quality work between youth and adults
("fixing" youth, adult control, youth aren't capable of handling decisions).
* Act as an environmental governor monitoring and helping participants manage and
rightfully distribute power.
* Serve as a skill broker help youth identify skills needed and provide opportunities to
learn those skills in order to accomplish an objective.
* Function as the group's lackey buying donuts, and making sure there are materials
and supplies for meetings, etc is a far cry from developing lesson plans with learning
In essence, it is about adults trusting in the power of youth and getting out of their way.
That is the challenge and goal of CYD.
One example of how this can work is the Investigating and Evaluating
Environmental Issues andActions (IEEIA) curriculum implemented in a middle school
class in Molokai, Hawaii. The IEEIA model originated in 1972 with a collaboration
between a middle school science teacher, Ralph Litherland and Harold Hungerford, a
science education professor in an effort to "involve students in... investigations of
community problems and issues" (Marcinkowski n.d., para. 23). Together, they
developed several structured modules that helped students of various abilities gain the
skills necessary to become autonomous learners through investigations into
environmental issues (Marcinkowski n.d., para 24).
These modules consisted of reviewing environmental issues, researching these
issues using secondary sources, developing surveys, questionnaires and opinionnaires for
further investigation, analyzing and interpreting the data, and then designing a plan that
would culminate in a voluntary action towards resolving the environmental issue
(Marcinkowski, n.d.). This structure has evolved into various models, offering curricular
workbooks and resources (Culen 2001; Hungerford et al. 2003; Project WILD 1995;
Zorfass & Copel 1998) that guide students and teachers through the process. In addition,
teacher workshops and follow-up support provide important teacher preparation for the
implementation and success of the programs (Marcinkowski, n.d.).
The IEEIA program, in particular was implemented during the 2000-2001 school
year in a large fifth-sixth grade class, team-taught by two teachers in the Kualapu'u
Elementary School on the island of Molokai, Hawaii (Cheak, Volk, & Hungerford 2002).
It was evaluated in May 2001 by a five-member research team, using both quantitative
and qualitative measures (Cheak, Volk, & Hungerford 2002). A summary of some of the
team's findings, which did "exceed our expectations of what we would find from the
testing and interviews" (p. 61) concluded that students who participated in the program
* improved their critical thinking and problem-solving skills as well as knowledge of
ecology and familiarity with environmental issues;
* improved their ability to analyze issues, identify appropriate actions for issues
resolution, and became more actively involved in environmental citizenship;
* used a wider range and more difficult reading material, improved their writing and
public speaking skills, and an gained an ability to contribute to the community as
* gained more poise, self-esteem and leadership skills than their peers and were more
autonomous and mature than their peers;
* were enthusiastic about academic challenges and were motivated to school success;
* made a positive impact on the island in aspects of community awareness and
resolution in environmental issues (pp. 61-62).
Other findings indicated that the program supported effective teaching strategies
and the teachers found this "community of learners to be a "liberating experience"
(Cheak, Volk, & Hungerford 2002, p. 62). Parents were proud of their children and
supported the program, and students became resident experts that local authorities often
turned to for authentic information developed from the real-world problem-solving
practices of the community youth (p. 62). IEEIA also reflects the strategies of yet
another similar type of alternative learning model called Participatory Action Research.
Participatory Action Research
Youth-centered Participatory Action Research, or PAR, is a method of engaging
young people in research in order to create positive social change. It has been
defined as "collective, self-reflective enquiry undertaken by participants in social
situations in order improve the rationality and justice of their own
social...practices." (The Freechild Project 2003, para. 1)
Many community institutions and organizations including The Youth Action
Research Institute (YARI), The Youth Action Research Group (YARG), and the Youth
Strategy Project of the DataCenter (The Freechild Project 2003) center their research,
programs, and publications around youth-produced information concerning issues that
affect young people and their resolutions. YARI (The Institute for Community Research
2003), formed in 1996, promotes peer training in ethnographic, interactive group action
research for advocacy and social problem solving, involves youth in the development and
dissemination of new action research curricula, materials and research instruments, and
trains educators, youth workers, social science interns, and others in the action research
methodology and for their classrooms and programs.
In 1998, YARG (Center for Social Justice Research, Teaching, and Service 2003)
was formed by neighboring communities in Washington, DC when several DC public
schools were ordered to close because of failure in making vital repairs to the schools. A
group of high school students "began working closely with community organizers to
develop a peaceful and strategic response to their plight" (Center for Social Justice
Research, Teaching, and Service 2003, para. 1). The collaborative efforts concluded in a
candlelight vigil and a march by students, teachers, and neighbors on busy 16th Street
NW. Bell Multicultural High School was reopened the next day.
Continued work by the high school activists and community organizers then
focused on problems surrounding education and housing in the diverse community of
Mount Pleasant and Columbia Heights. After meeting monthly for after school training
and community forums focusing on neighborhood issues, the Georgetown University
Volunteer and Public Service Center (VPS Center) began to support the efforts of the
group and provided training for the students in participatory action research methods as
well as funded a community based research project in the students' neighborhoods.
Providing "strategic research, consultation, and training for social, economic and
environmental justice organizations" (DataCenter 2001, para. 1), The Youth Strategy
Project partners with technical assistance groups as a primary source for youth
organizations who are doing action research throughout the U.S. It also conducts
research, analysis, designs campaign strategies, and develops training for community-
based youth organizations.
While there may appear to be little difference between the work of CYD and PAR,
there is perhaps one significant point to be made. Community Youth Development is
grounded in the process of youth leadership development while Participatory Action
Research is concerned with the production of legitimate information generated by youth
(London 2002). The coupling of both these powerful developments, however, suggests
an even more dynamic movement towards valuing youth and their potential in sustaining
the global community.
Youth as Community Partners
"Some people would say that the next great liberation movement is the liberation of
children and youth, and that we are in the midst of it" (Terry & Woonteiler 2002).
Youth Participation in Community Evaluation and Research, an emerging field of study
and practice, is not well documented or communicated. However, born out of the
previously established fields of Community Youth Development (CYD) and
Participatory Action Research (PAR), it builds on the foundation of youth development,
program evaluation, and community development through both process and production
(Goodyear & Checkoway 2003; Checkoway et al. 2003). Grounded on the premise that
young people's full participation in community research, evaluation, and action benefits
all members, this new field promotes radically different and holistic alternatives to
traditional education theory and practice. These alternatives vary from youth acquisition
of new skills, active participation in a community, and an understanding of social
responsibility, to becoming channels for social justice (Goodyear & Checkoway 2003;
James 2003; Goodyear 2003).
In the 2002 collaborative Wingspread Symposium of "youth leaders and adult
allies" (Checkoway et al. 2003, p. 7), a meeting was held to form specific strategies for
strengthening youth participation in research and evaluation and for promoting this new
field of study. Seven principles emerged from this meeting (p. 11):
* Youth participation in community research and evaluation transforms its
participants.. .in ways of knowing, the strategies we devise, the methods we employ,
and our program of work.
* Youth participation promotes youth empowerment...recognizing the experience and
expertise of all young people, and respects their leadership capabilities and potential
* Youth participation builds mutually liberatory partnerships...values the assets of all
ages, and fosters supportive and respectful youth/youth and youth/adult working
* Youth participation equalizes power relationships between youth and
adults... establishes a level playing field... structures environments that respect the
involvement of young people, and train adults in supporting genuine youth decision-
making and leadership development.
* Youth participation is an inclusive process that recognizes all forms of democratic
leadership... involves diverse populations and perspectives, especially those who are
traditionally underserved and underrepresented.
* Youth participation involves young people in meaningful ways... in all stages of the
process, from defining the problem, to gathering and analyzing information, to
making decisions and taking actions.
* Youth participation is an ongoing process, not a one-time event... continuously clarify
and reflect upon its purpose and content... research and evaluation are viewed as an
integral part of knowledge development, program planning, and community
While the Youth Participation in Community Evaluation and Research field may
currently be underdeveloped in terms of strategies, organization, and advancement, the
work being done across the nation by youth engaging in community research and
evaluation is plentiful and exciting to say the least. Youth Voice, Serving Our Youth and
Communities (SOYAC), and Youth IMPACT, are but a few specific programs actively
developing youth-engaged communities. Other organizations such as Youth on Board,
Youth Activism, At the Table, The Freechild Project, and Youth as Resources (YAR)
provide resources, strategies, programs, and even funding for those interested in creating
youth-engaged communities. A closer look at Youth Voice, SOYAC, and Youth
IMPACT gives the uninitiated a clearer picture of how youth engaged as expert
researchers relying on local knowledge about issues that affect them, can become
important agents for social and environmental change in their communities (Brown et al.
Youth Engagement Programs: A Closer Look
"At-risk" youth participants in Youth Voice, a program at a Buffalo, New York
community center recently completed the research, evaluation, and action phases of a
mapping project that located the assets and deficits of their community from the
perspective of youth (Mead 2003). These youth, ranging in ages from 13-16 took to their
neighborhood streets with cameras in hand to visually survey what was working and not
working in their community. After developing the photographs, the youth "mapped" out
the assets and deficits into these two categories. Continued mapping led to two more
subcategories that outlined the assets into "People" and "Places" and the deficits into
"Things we can do something about" and "Things that we can't do anything about." Two
important projects of action resulted from this research and evaluation activity: the
cleanup of a riverfront park, and the collaboration with a local architect to improve the
playground at the community center. As Mead (2003) observed, once the mapping was
complete, the youth became excited about their potential for making a difference with the
things they could do something about.
SOYAC promoted the "first youth-led community needs assessment of San
Francisco south of Market district" (Zimmerman & London 2003, p.21) through Oasis, a
nonprofit organization for the empowerment of girls and young women. These youth
created a written report, video, and website about their research findings generated from
self-designed surveys that they administered and analyzed. In addition, they presented
their report to city authorities, planners, supervisors, advocates, and activists with a
request for increased attention to finding solutions for growing problems of drugs,
violence, unemployment, inadequate housing, and health care (Zimmerman & London
Supported by trained staff, 12 high school aged youth of Youth IMPACT visited 40
San Francisco community-based organizations (CBO), to conduct a comprehensive
evaluation of these organizations. Over a year-long process, the teens were initially
trained in team building, leadership development, critical thinking, and evaluation design.
Next, they decided on two overarching survey questions: How well are the CBOs in San
Francisco serving children and youth? What makes a CBO feel ti t,i ti/y to youth?
From this work came multiple research questions that addressed health and wellness
programs, academic support, youth employment, and enrichment programs. After
selecting and developing their research instruments- observations, a questionnaire, and
focus groups, the team conducted their study and published a report in 2001.
These strategies and actions, which paralleled the IEEIA program on Molokai,
Hawaii, served as a basis for funding, program development, and technical assistance
activities by the San Francisco Department of Children, Youth and Their Families.
Youth-led investigations, evaluations, and reports such as these mark the essential need
for organizations who serve youth to have their stake holders (youth) engage in the
evaluation process (Zimmerman & London 2003; What Kids Can Do 2003). Lily, a
former team member and now board member of Youth in Focus claimed "Who knows
what youth need better than youth?" (What Kids Can Do 2003, paragraph 10).
"Historically, any group that has been shut out of the decision-making process has
been forced to advocate for itself before its status in society has improved" (James 2003,
p. 34). Youth empowerment, as a genuine advancement towards youth liberation, "must
begin with an analysis of the ways power is collectively organized, followed by the
development of strategies for these relationships to be collectively transformed" (James
p. 34). The shift towards alternative educational practices that are grounded in holistic,
community-based learning provides the development of important critical thinking skills
not necessarily gained in traditional education (Boiten & Stimson 2003). As James
(2003) suggested, the goal of youth empowerment is to support youth in identifying their
own problems and solutions by giving new form to the environments and institutions in
which they are a part. Taking "common knowledge" found within communities and
transforming it into legitimate knowledge through authentic research, evaluation, and
action is a central component for youth empowerment and self-efficacy (James 2003).
Quite often, environmental and social science educators employ various types of
social action research in ways that integrate language arts, science and computer
technology into their curricula. In none of the existing models with which I am
acquainted, however, is visual art promoted as a viable strategy in conducting, presenting,
or responding to research on community issues. Rather visual art seems to be used as a
superficial means to an end in communicating the issues at hand.
For example, students participating in the Investigating and Evaluating
Environmental Issues and Actions (IEEIA) model on Molokai, Hawaii used visual tools
such as videos, digital cameras, slide presentations, PowerPoint presentations, Imovie,
and web site development to convey information about environmental issues. However,
these elements of visual culture were not necessarily viewed as transformative strategies
that would themselves initiate change, but merely as supplemental ways to stress a point.
The after-school Youth Voice program in New York used photography to "map" or
determine the assets and deficits in their community, but never employed their
photographic work to communicate awareness to the public.
Since community and learning have so many different manifestations and
definitions, I thought it might be important to organize a conceptual structure that would
help to distinguish them from each other, while recognizing the links between them.
From my close examination of these models, I identified several components that seem to
characterize strong learning communities: a) real world experiences, b) educational
orientations, and c) decision-making strategies.
In the next chapter, Chapter 5, I put all these pieces together to develop A
Framework for Evaluating Learning Communities (FELC). This framework is intended
for use in analyzing and identifying the type of community specifically constructed in
traditional and alternative Community-based Art Education practices, but could also be
used in other fields where the term "learning community" is bandied about.
FRAMEWORK FOR EVALUATING LEARNING COMMUNITIES
School today, with its top-down structure, competitive belief system, rating,
ranking, labeling, and segregation of children, is not about promoting or practicing
community, and in many ways it advocates the exact opposite, fostering qualities
that tear people apart rather than bring them together. It's easy to call a school or
classroom a community, but if we were to hold those environments to a realistic
vision of the idea, it would be extremely difficult to locate community anywhere
inside a traditional school, except perhaps in the lunchroom or playground. (Wolk
1998, p. 55)
The above quote comments upon the ease with which educators loosely apply the
term "community" to classroom environments. However, in Chapters 2 and 4, the review
of qualities attributed to learning communities, as well as the abundance of literature on
the related holistic and alternative approaches to education, suggested several qualities
inherent to genuine, democratic community. In this chapter, I examined these and other
qualities of learning communities more closely and proposed that these can be used to
distinguish between different levels of a hierarchical framework, one that ultimately
suggests the accuracy of Wolk's (1998) criticism.
Decision-Making Processes within a Community
Real world experiences defined by student interests and engagement in decision-
making processes are critical for student involvement in learning, knowledge
construction, and self-efficacy. Participation in a learning community, within and beyond
an established setting, can be examined in terms of both decision-making and self-
directed experiences. I have discussed self-directed learning that involves interaction
with the wider community extensively in an earlier chapter; however, before turning to
my framework of learning communities, a brief review of literature about decision-
making processes is important in providing a complete contextual background for the
Reflecting on the process of community building, the power structure, and level of
engagement and participation that occurs, often corresponds to how decisions are made
within a group. Kansas State University (2001) produced a Fact Sheet that outlines three
ways that individuals and groups reach decisions. These included:
* Dominance/Submission (Win/Lose). One person dominates the situation and others
give in as a decision is made (para. 6).
* Conversion (sometimes Win/Win, sometimes Lose/Lose). Additional facts are
presented so that one person persuades the others to his or her view, or gives up
something to get something (para. 7).
* Integration (Win/Win). A blending of ideas develops when everyone can agree and
support. The group discusses the alternatives, states individual views, and makes a
decision based on the needs of everyone (para.8).
Taking these three processes of decision-making further into the realm of
community building, Plant (1974) suggested that the positions individuals hold in relation
to other individuals of a group fall within the standings of subject or servant, exile, rebel,
vagrant, or member (pp. 48-49). Servant or subject implies repression and oppression of
identity where the individual is controlled by and conforms to the values of the group.
Individuals can also choose to leave the group in exile with feelings of alienation after
discovering that the social interaction and discourse of the group is foreign and/or
meaningless to his/her sensibilities. The less extreme position of rebel places an
individual at odds within the group, acting out with anger and opposition in constant
disagreement (unhealthy criticism) with group values, and living with the consequence of
rejection. A vagrant represents a marginalized person in a group, drifting about as an
apathetic individual who finds the values of the group meaningless and irrelevant. True
membership is attained when the individual is functioning as an integral part of the group,
energized with self-expression, achievement, and shared goals reflecting reciprocity in
meeting the needs of all members.
The characteristics of membership then, resemble Clark's (1999) description of the
characteristics inherent to "genuine community"; all other groupings that are often
considered community can actually be perceived as collectivism. Referencing Buber's
1965 publication Iand Thou, Clark (1999) defined "the collective" or "collectivism" as a
group of people who have lost their "personal identity, voice, efficacy, and
responsibility" as a result of "surrendering self in order to become an accepted part of a
larger group" (p. 6).
Applying Plant's (1974) characteristics of individual positions in relation to the
power structure and level of engagement within groups, one can easily see how the
decision-making process informs these positions. Servitude, exile, rebellion, and
vagrancy exhibit features that can be associated with the dominance/submission and
conversion practices of decision-making. Integration parallels membership.
Confusion often surrounds misapplication and misunderstanding of the similar
words "collective" and "community." This confusion tends to interfere and prohibit the
establishment of true and meaningful communities in education. Quite often communal
activities are equated with loss of identity. Fear of losing individual control and power,
and thereby displacing the culturally revered "individual" as the center of educational
efforts, creates opposition to community-based learning. (Bucci 2003). Indeed, this
resistance is not unfounded, as group work can sometimes subsume individualism, but
this situation is reflective of how decisions are made within a group and in understanding
the decision-making process. In addition, misappropriated use of control and power can
disenfranchise individuals in their efforts to create an authentically democratic
With genuine community, shared insights, knowledge, and expertise of the
individual ideally become empowering forces essential to the work of the group. A
democratic learning community cannot exist without respect for multiple perspectives.
Defining the Framework
The framework described below classifies educational learning communities into
specific categories. These categories organized into tiers, suggest a movement from
superficial practices to authentic practices of learning communities. Three key concepts
drawn from holistic, Community Youth Development (CYD), Participatory Action
Research (PAR), and alternative school literature provide a working strategy for
analyzing and classifying their characteristics in relative positions.
* Real world experience: This concept addresses the where and when of learning, and
is situated in authentic access and experiences beyond the classroom. It considers the
physical setting and the timeframe in which learning takes place, the utilization of
external sources, and the interactive/communicative skills required.
* Educational orientation: This concept addresses a) what is being taught and learned,
including an assortment of pedagogies that range from the solicitation of prescribed
knowledge to open-ended inquiry, b) why information and understandings are
presented, and c) how knowledge is constructed.
* Decision-making: This concept is informed by the democratic process, directing
attention to who is distributing power and authority, as well as equity of power,
rewards and consequences, and the resulting dynamics created by the relationship of
individual group members to each other.
In the following suggested framework, I used these essential concepts to analyze
and distinguish between six levels or tiers of learning communities as practiced by
educators. These concepts draw attention to how students engage in community and how
their knowledge and self-efficacy are informed, determined, and constructed at each level
(Table 1). It provides just one possible way to draw distinctions between different ways
that educators define community.
Tier 1: Enforcement
Schools may call themselves communities, but actually represent forced
compulsory attendance in a facility under centralized control.
Real world experience: As Lippard (1997) maintained, "a peopled place is not
always a community" (p. 24). Referring to the dictionary definition of community in
Chapter 2, this first tier can be associated with "an interacting population of various kinds
of individuals in a common location"... "linked by a common policy" (Merriam-Webster
Online Dictionary 2003b). The physical facility as well as the institutional management
define and drive the amount of student and teacher engagement in the practice of
community at this level. Gatto (1990) informed us that
Our form of compulsory schooling is an invention of the state of Massachusetts
around 1850. It was resisted sometimes with guns by an estimated eighty per
cent of the Massachusetts population, the last outpost in Barnstable on Cape Cod
not surrendering its children until the 1880's when the area was seized by militia
and children marched to school under guard. (para. 5)
The increased attention to attendance and keeping track of students, executed in a
number of ways, tends to bury the human side of students under a pile of facts and figures
(Gatto 1991). Management of the masses is the essential qualification of success in this
level. The learning community is firmly equated with a school-based community,
defined only by attendance in the same institution.
In addition, there are a number of established resources available in the community
that offer watchdog benefits to learning communities by providing truancy services as
well as onsite supervision. Truancy officers are employed by the school, or by the local
juvenile justice system, to round up truant students or to secure the physical facility.
While their ultimate mission is to help youth, they nevertheless act as a control
mechanism for corralling youth, making sure each child is where he or she is "supposed"
to be. Often, adults in the larger community view as suspect children who are not in
school during the widely accepted school hours.
Educational orientation: The transmission approach to learning, where young
people are taught established values, beliefs, and accepted knowledge through absorption,
memorization, and mastery of material is a goal not necessarily met at this level. Record
keeping and numerical management and accountability of students and even teachers are
the focus at this level.
Understanding that teachers in general are caring, hard working individuals, it is
the institution of education itself that "overwhelms their individual contributions ..."
(Gatto 1990, para. 4). Teachers as figures of authority are required to keep constant
surveillance of their students both physically and mentally as taskmasters, overseers,
evaluators, and judges of student self-containment and discipline, student self worth,
classroom involvement, prescribed knowledge construction, and hierarchical place (Gatto
1991). Teachers too are kept under surveillance at this level. The role of the
conscientious teacher is then often at odds with the institutional sine qua non, creating
frustration, disillusionment, and sometimes apathy or resistance.1
1 My own experience as a student teacher ten years ago found me questioning the importance of keeping
track of students with school mandated color-coded slips of paper. I was to record students who were
Decision-making: At this level, mandates flow from the top down, dictating
teacher practice and student behaviors. State and local administrators determine and
apply their authority onto principals and teachers, who must then enforce these practices
on students. Teachers have no voice in decision-making (concretely seen in states with
no teachers' union) and students have no voice in the way policy is coercively ordained.
As Smyth (1987) suggested, the relationship between administrators and supervisors, and
the resulting educational practices and "processes of inspection, domination, and quality
control" continue to be grounded in the outdated "industrial-managerial model"
established in the early 20th century (p. 570).
Imposed membership in a community through teaching assignment rather than
choice affects teachers' commitment to this level of learning community. Imposed
membership takes two forms: assignments to grade levels or courses that the teacher is ill
prepared for, and/or assignments to schools that are unfamiliar, physically distant, or
In many counties across the nation, teachers are challenged for various reasons to
teach subjects or grade levels for which they are not qualified. Non-acceptance of this
charge could cost a teacher his/her job, so many acquiesce by sticking to what they do
know: rules, regulations, and dictated information. Fear and lack of knowledge tend to
create a sterile environment for community-building in this level. One Texas school
unexcused tardy on pink paper, excused tardy on blue paper, unexcused absence on pink paper, and
excused absence on yellow paper. Those who needed a pass to the office had to carry another color paper,
while those who wanted to go to the guidance office, yet another color. I was always confused and felt that
too much time was spent during class trying to figure out the appropriate color scheme. When I returned to
that same school a year later as an interim teacher, I ignored the accounting system completely, in
resistance to what I considered an unnecessary and complicated distraction.
district teacher survey, the Texas School Performance Review, published in 2001,
reiterated these notions through written quotes made by teachers:
Too many teachers are forced to teach in areas outside their certification, thereby
providing a substandard education to students. (para. 32)
I have been teaching without a curriculum guide all year in a content area I was not
trained for (not to mention two grade levels). I rely on the help of two teachers but I
never know what I'm going to teach one or two weeks from now. (para. 33)
Other school officials around the country agree that forced situation caused by
teacher shortages and poor administration has led to hiring teachers for classes outside
their field or discipline.2 A Detroit newspaper listed the consequences of this condition
for the Detroit Public Schools (Harmon 2000 para. 25):
* The limited availability of teachers armed with education degrees has forced Detroit
Public Schools to staff hundreds of classrooms with uncertified teachers. Many
teachers are also teaching subjects outside of their expertise.
* School board member Glenda Price and others believe student performance suffers
because of the shortage. Price anticipates that the nationwide dilemma will get worse
before its gets better. She said there is nothing to indicate an increase in the number
of college graduates trained to teach.
Employment of unprepared and/or non-certified teachers is just one example of
measures taken by administrators to control unmanageable situations caused by teacher
shortages. Teacher isolation is another example that exists in various circumstances.
Teachers who need to travel distances beyond their own social community to work
due to a lack of teaching positions, often feel alienated from the community in which they
2 As the art teacher at a new charter school established for the arts in North Carolina, I was told half way
through the year that I had to teach reading to a group of students from various grade levels and various
reading levels because these students had been identified as needing remedial help. There was no Chapter 1
program in place, nor did the administration intend for there to be one, at least for the remainder of that
year. Consequently, my art program was cut back in order to allow time for me to teach reading. In
addition, and more importantly, I had no clue how to teach reading to various reading levels, and since I
was given no training, or even help from any other teacher, I simply read books to the children and had
them draw stories. I was at a total loss, which was a disservice to the students as well as a source of anger
and frustration for me.
teach as well as from their own community. In speaking about recruiting teachers to rural
schools, Simurda (2003) suggested that isolation is a factor for new teachers. Michael
Hill, the director for Policy Studies in Rural Education at the National Association of
State Boards of Education stated, "Trying to recruit new teachers out of school to rural
areas is pretty tough unless they're from that area. I once lost a guy who felt that driving
20 miles to a McDonald's was just too far" (Simurda p. 23).
Lack of professional support in rural areas creates professional isolation as well,
which can often be more damaging than geographic isolation (Simurda 2003). Time
constraints from travel as well as a sense of detachment from the local social community,
makes it difficult for teachers to interact effectively with their colleagues, students, and
parents of students. This especially applies to those, such as art teachers, who may be the
one person in their field at any given school.
In moving from teacher issues to student issues, the concept of students as "empty
vessels to be filled," requiring constant adult direction and intervention is another
characteristic embedded in this tier. Accepting the daily system of being sequestered
away from the real world, students, perceived as an ignorant and primitive mass, must
endure a lack of privacy and continual supervision that extends to after school hours
(Gatto 1991). This creates a body of students dependent on "the casual judgment of
strangers" (para. 14) for knowledge construction, appropriate self-discipline, and
ultimately the true meaning of their lives. As Gatto (1991) cynically suggested:
It is no exaggeration to say that our entire economy depends upon this lesson being
learned. Think of what would fall apart if kids weren't trained in the dependency
lesson: The social-service businesses could hardly survive, including the fast-
growing counseling industry; commercial entertainment of all sorts, along with
television, would wither if people remembered how to make their own fun; the
food services, restaurants and prepared-food warehouses would shrink if people
returned to making their own meals rather than depending on strangers to cook for
them. Much of modern law, medicine, and engineering would go too-the clothing
business as well-unless a guaranteed supply of helpless people poured out of our
schools each year. (para. 13)
In their critique of Assertive Discipline, a disciplinary model adopted by thousands
of educators across the country, Render, Padilla, and Krank (1989) noted the use of the
terms "good" and "bad" to describe appropriate and inappropriate behaviors. "It is
implicit that when students do what a teacher wants [appropriate behaviors] they are
'good' and when they do not do what a teacher wants [inappropriate behaviors] they are
'bad.' This is a strong message for young people to be sure" (p. 609). In this particular
model, rules and consequences are defined and dictated by an authoritarian figure and
children are told they do have a choice to choose good or bad behavior (Render,
Padilla, & Krank 1989). Render, Padilla, and Krank (1989) also pointed out, "The notion
of choice in such a situation is a myth when one considers that students do not have a
choice to be in school" (p. 617).
Good students surrender their own estimation of self worth and knowledge to
official evaluation (Gatto 1991). Those who do not surrender are labeled as poor (or
bad) students, carrying this stigma through the remainder of their academic life as
"problem" students. Additionally, many secondary schools have an unwritten policy of
"pushing" these problem students out of school through suggested voluntary withdrawal.
Orel (2003), a former teacher in a Birmingham, Alabama adult high school
program, maintained that 522 students in his school district were withdrawn or "push-
out" mid-year, shortly after per-student funding (school funding based on student
numbers) was granted to the school. The reason given by the superintendent for all 522
student withdrawals was "lack of interest" (p. 8). While writing a research paper about
this issue for a graduate course, Orel discovered that this was not the reason. He then
volunteered to teach his adult education class, which consisted of mostly withdrawn high
school students, to a number of enthusiastic students during the summer without pay. His
research paper found its way into the hands of the school board, who determined that it
was written without authorization. Orel's adult education program was closed down.
When he proposed a "massive volunteer literacy project to work one-on-one with the
withdrawn students," (p. 8) Orel was fired from his job. His students were "dispersed to
the streets" (p.8) with no afterthought or concern for their welfare (Orel 2003).
On this rudimentary level, physical place, as well as the established mode of
operations via rules and regulations, are the most significant components of community.
A group of people who gather at a school for the purpose of education does not
necessarily mean that real engagement in a learning community will occur. In fact,
community in the best sense can actually be undermined or sacrificed when stakeholders'
powers are usurped by a controlling few. Teachers and students who gather at a location
and engage in community that replays set policies of enforcement often do so out of fear,
indifference, and/or ignorance. Characterized by dominance and submission in a
win/lose decision-making structure, servitude, exile, rebellion, and vagrancy are positions
that stakeholders experience, often in rotation. It may be suggested that individuals
experience anger, temporarily idealistic enthusiasm, or an emotional willingness
somewhere in between.
Tier 2: Entrenchment
Fixed firmly and securely within the physical and intellectual trough of prescribed
agendas and curricula, stakeholders are embedded in a system that is dictated by
standards that perpetuate and maintain finite knowledge construction.
Real world experience: Moving beyond the first tier of engagement in
community, this second level can be described as an educational location that allows
some limited choice in schools and/or course electives as well as an option to join extra-
curricular clubs, sports, or other shared community activities. This setting continues to
be defined as a school-based community, since the best place for knowledge acquisition
is considered to be and maintained within the confines of a physical structure segregated
away from the rest of society. Inflexible hours impose constraints on where and when
learning can take place. Illustrated by Alameda County, California, teachers listed time
as one prohibitive factor in scheduling trips outside the school setting (Community
Resources for Science 2000). In addition, classes structured and timed by a bell signaling
the end of discussions, thought, and interaction, frequently prevent or cut short
meaningful opportunities for community. Meier (1993) argued this point:
No other institution we know of, even the army or prison, is organized so
mindlessly. In no other institution do we change supervisors and peer groups every
forty-five minutes, or engage in a totally different activity every time the bell rings,
without any particular sequential order. (p. 656)
Educational orientation: The orientation known as transmission is most common
at this level, reinforcing knowledge as stable and best disseminated through rigid
authority. Knowledge is assessed through high stakes compulsory testing. The use of
these tests for school accountability can cause a school to become a system driven by the
politics of accreditation and funding rather than by classroom instruction and student
learning (Sloane & Kelly 2003; Abrams, Padulla, & Madaus 2003).
In addition, students are put under increased stress, anxiety, and fatigue caused by
the one high stakes test that can make or break them (Abrams, Padulla, & Madaus 2003).
This is repeatedly witnessed in those high school seniors who have attained passing
grades in course work, but who cannot graduate because they have not passed the
required standardized exam.3 Empirical studies indicate that mandated state testing
increases high school student drop out rates as well (Abrams, Padulla, & Madaus 2003).
A Florida high school student's online response to an article about the FCAT, Florida's
high school exit exam, echoed much of same sentiments as those highlighted by Abrams,
Padulla, and Madaus (2003):
I agree with the student who says that passing the FCAT Reading or Math shouldn't
be a determining factor in graduating. There are people who are just not good test
takers but are extremely bright. You have people with test anxiety or someone like
me who just doesn't do well on timed tests. Testing as the only indicator of whether
or not someone has achieved the highest level of academic excellence has never
been a 'good' idea. Many students work very hard in school to get the most out of it.
They should not be penalized for missing the FCAT Reading by ten points. I
wonder what this students ACT or SAT scores are like. Aside from that, I have read
many articles lately stating that as FCAT scores increase, the scores on ACT and
SAT have gone down. Maybe that's because to much time is spent learning the
FCAT and not enough spent on learning the basics. (Rosenthal 2003, para. 26)
High stakes testing affect teachers as well. By spending more time in the
classroom on preparing students for the test, teachers across the country feel they are
under unnecessary pressure to increase student performance (Abrams, Padulla, & Madaus
3 In my experience as a high school art teacher, I had witnessed seniors in my class reacting in highly
agitated and frustrated ways because they had not passed their final effort at the high school exit exam and
would not be receiving a high school diploma, even though they had passed all of their courses. Some
actually cried during class. I felt helpless as to advising, helping, or even comforting them in this situation.
The topic of passing the state exam was a constant undercurrent in my class with both low and high
performing students, and I felt that attention to learning was undercut by the tension.
2003). Research indicates that placing an emphasis on test preparation decreases morale
and can lead to the de-professionalization of teachers as they are forced to narrow their
teaching skills to test instruction (Abram, Padulla, & Madaus 2003).
In this regard, teachers, as presumed masters of knowledge at this level, engage in
knowledge construction through didactic measures of lecturing, rote memorization, and
repeated practice. Although it can be assumed that novices learn from experts, teachers
as experts rarely get an opportunity to practice their knowledge (Meier 1993). "Young
people go to schools in which adults are allowed no time to act as serious mentors"
(Meier 1993, p. 656).
Schools whose practices situate them at this level of learning community also have
"an obsession with time" (Welsh 1986, p. 112). "Time on task" is an objective for those
pedagogues who equate the number of minutes students spend on learning an assignment
with how well they learn it (Welsh 1986). The required time in school (6 hours a day) as
well as segmented time throughout the day to teach and learn the material become the
most important aspects of the functioning of this learning community.
This of course does not take in to consideration two things: a) some students
require more time to learn an assignment, and b) meaningful learning is cut short when
time is up. As one high school art student related, "You have ten minutes to set up, thirty
minutes to do your work, and ten to clean up" (Welsh 1986, p. 120). Another student's
comment suggested not only frustration, but also the issue of disconnection that occurs
when work is limited and then interrupted by enforced time restrictions:
You have to go to the art room and "work" there. I usually just get started when the
bell kills it. There's no time to polish to keep working until you know it's
finished. I usually end up taking it home. (Welsh 1986, p. 120)
Another issue at this level is the concept of adults as omniscient authorities of
student ability and potential. Students enter into this level of community as apprentices
where teachers model a required skill, and students follow. They are not encouraged to
question the authority of the teacher or the information presented to them. All students,
regardless of their learning style or interests are expected to adapt to fit the prescribed
mold. This may be summed up best in a quote from a high school student "There is no
feeling [at school] that more than physical presence is required" (Welsh 1986, p. 112).
Those who do not fit the mold, or question and critique the learning they receive are
negatively labeled throughout their school experience.
Decision-making: Engagement in community is based on a hierarchy of power,
with federal, state, and local administrators dictating standards, and course requirements.
This structure is complex and sometimes all consuming. Gatto (2003b) stated:
At the heart of the durability of mass schooling is a brilliantly designed power
fragmentation system which distributes decision-making so widely among so many
warring interests that large-scale change is impossible without a guidebook. Few
insiders even understand how to steer the ship, and those favored few may be
losing the will and focus to do so. (pg. xxi)
Teachers are often "subject to the flavor of the month reforms advocated by
politicians, administrators, and public policy" (Alcock 2004, p.10A). Although
experienced teachers learn to recognize students needs, to address those needs would go
against current mandate, perhaps costing teachers their jobs. Unfortunately, many
teachers have become hardened to the realities of their precarious position. The backlash
effect can be seen in teacher frustration, demoralization, and lack of respect for the
teaching profession, both community wide and within teachers themselves.4
41 recall one student in particular in my high school art class who wanted nothing more than to create
comics although I felt at the time that comics did not fit into the class assignments. Trained as an educator
Many students believe that they have a real choice in selecting their courses;
however, limitations are often set forth according to teacher-determined abilities, test-
evaluated competencies, and/or prescribed coursework for graduation requirements.
Tracking, not only situates students in predefined courses, but also reinforces the
advancement of competitive and segregated groups within the school setting.
Traditionally established "truths" about abilities and achievement (or intelligence)
infused with "cultural politics," keep administrators, educators, and parents from
supporting efforts to eliminate tracking (Oakes et al. 1997, p. 483). In more direct terms,
tracking is one factor that maintains the status quo, keeping white students separate from
minority students (Oakes et al. 1997).
In addition, many students, having little interest in many of the elective courses
offered in their middle or high schools, are resigned to being placed in these courses
anyway, as there often are no alternatives. What students actually are interested in
learning is typically not surveyed or given consideration, although elective courses are
presented under the presumptuous auspice of choice. In his comment on what he
perceives as the "stylized game of school," Welsh (1986) suggested that students
"tolerate hours of boredom and trivial routine almost as a favor to us" (p. 113). In a few
geographical areas, alternative courses are offered to high school students from local
community colleges or universities for high school and college credit, but here again,
there is very little choice, as most of these are not considered electives.
to teach the formal qualities of "fine" art and following the prescribed objectives for art education in my
state as well as my school, I did not allow this student to explore this genre of art that held some meaning
for him. I was fearful of a confrontation with the head of the art department in terms of allowing this
student to continue with comic production, and instead continued to force my agenda onto this student.
Eventually the student stopped coming to class.
The only real choice for many students lies in extra-curricular activities; however,
these too can be wrought with dominating characteristics. Teachers who also coach or
sponsor extra-curricular activities continue to position themselves in the role of master,
disseminating knowledge through premeditated strategies, repetitive training, and
expected outcomes. Coaches and sponsors may find their relationship with students in
this position more rewarding, especially with winning teams and clubs, and enjoy a high
level of activity and student participation; however, the role of "master" continues to be
played out, validated, and preserved. In speculating the differences between high-school
sports now and when most parents of current high-school athletes were in school, Smith
(2004) suggested that
Athletes were less inclined to "specialize" in one sport and instead played two or
three. These days, many coaches often urge an athlete to pick one sport in junior
high and do it exclusively. Part of their pitch is that "this will improve your chance
for a scholarship." What it really improves is the coach's odds of a winning season
When questioned, Maine students maintained that interfering parents, favoritism in
coaching, and a "win-at-all-cost" philosophy at their schools and in their communities
were harmful aspects of school sports (Weber 2004, para. 10).
This is not to say that the coach or sponsor as a positive role model is not
important, as indeed he or she can be, or that sports and clubs do not serve a valuable
function in learning communities. However, another underlying component that
sometimes serves as an obstacle to extra-curricular public school activities at this level is
that now some schools require students to pay a fee in order to participate. In terms of
school sports 30 years ago and now, Smith (2004) related, "athletes didn't have to 'pay to
play' a school sport. That's still the case in most school districts, but an increasing
number have instituted a fee to play a sport" (para. 12).
Another concern with coaching as a component of a learning community is the
issue of teacher certification. In Maine, almost 70% of middle and high school level
coaching staff were not teachers (Weber 2004).
We were noticing that more and more of the high school coaches were not teachers
and so had no role in the educational programs," said Robert Cobb, the dean of the
University of Maine College of Education and Human Development. "The
percentage was even higher in the middle schools, which clearly affects what a
school is trying to accomplish with sports and academics." (Weber 2004 para. 3)
Even in this level of community built upon shared interests it can be suggested that
there is no adventure in learning. Teachers see students only in relation to subject during
an inflexible day that is built around 40-50 minute class periods. Passive learning is the
norm for knowledge construction, with "70%-90% teacher talk" (Neumann 2003, p. 228)
as the mode of operation. Norm-referenced assessment and evaluation for punitive,
screening, and labeling purposes create competitive roles through tracking and ability
Students are often bored or sometimes considered behavioral problems. Teachers
as authoritative disseminators of knowledge are pressed to provide state and local
authorities with proof of their abilities as teachers through student success via testing.
At this tier, community continues to be characterized largely by dominance and
submission in a win/lose decision-making structure. Teachers as both employed servants
of administrative masters and masters of indentured students often engage in this level of
learning community with an initial hopeful and enthusiastic attitude that turns to apathy,
anger, and frustration. Students engage in this physical and intellectual community with
many of the same emotions that often result in acts of exile, rebellion, and vagrancy.
Tier 3: Enrichment
Embellishment of curricula such as project-based components, field trips, and
discussion act as supplements or add-ons to existing practices rather than integrated
Real world experience: Within this tier, connections to the world beyond the
classroom are often experienced through trips to other locations or through outside
community guests visiting the classroom. Museums and other public institutions provide
educational programs and opportunities for school groups. They offer extensions of the
community through supplemental material, through representatives who vicariously bring
the program to the classroom, or through authentic on-site participation.
Teachers, whose schools offer very little financial support for special events or
field trips, can sometimes find local museums that will send docents to the classroom to
share a bit of cultural community with students. For schools located a great distance
from cultural centers, many museums, such as the National Gallery of Art (2004) provide
resource materials that can be borrowed in the form of slides, tapes, and curricula. Some
even have websites designed for children. Indeed the role of museums, cultural
institutions, and public works become important in this level.
Outside adventures such as field trips, although a component in this level, are often
not as readily available or as meaningful as they ought to be. Liabilities and logistics
constrict the number of field trips a teacher can plan, and limit the ability of teachers to
take advantage of learning opportunities that arise during the year.
The Alameda County teacher survey, referenced in the previous tier, also reports
that besides the time factor, cost, availability of transportation, and inconvenience of
transportation create logistical blocks in allowing outside adventures (Community
Resources for Science 2000).5
A controversial trend regarding "educational" field trips speaks to the difficulties of
securing learning experiences in the community. With shrinking school budgets,
commercial businesses such as Toys R Us, The Sports Authority, Pearle Vision, and
PetSmart have taken up the task of providing field trip opportunities complete with
transportation to educators across the country (Alfano 2004). Field trips apparently have
become big business for commercial companies over the past ten years who are "happy to
step in to get customers for the future" (Alfano 2004, para. 14). Lack of content and
meaning in field trips unfortunately is common at this level because of many logistics,
including time, money, and school policy.6
Magnet schools as well as schools that offer electives and extra curricular activities,
find a place at this level of learning community. Parents who view school choice as an
opportunity for their children to receive better public school education find magnet
schools a convenient and satisfactory option. Certainly, many strong learning
5 Taking a bus driving training class in order to guarantee a bus and driver for any field trips I wished to
take with my high school art class was a suggestion made to me during a frustrated conversation with
another art teacher at my school. In this way, I could drive the bus myself and reduce the financial as well
as the logistical burden of securing a driver. While I did not know of any other teacher that held a bus
driver certificate, I actually did begin a bus driver training class. I soon realized, however, that the
requirements were more than I could manage at the time, and dropped out.
6 While serving as an intern in an elementary school, I participated in a fifth grade field trip to a local
college art gallery. The art teacher proudly told me that every year she takes the entire fifth grade to this
gallery at the same time every year. She also mentioned that the fifth graders look forward to it because
this is the only trip they take in art during their elementary years. There was no curricular preparation for
the trip as far as relating to curricular content, as the focus of the exhibit was to view the Scholastic Art
Scholarship winners. During this trip, the 100 students were shuffled single file through the museum in
record time. There was no opportunity to discuss the artwork as we were on a strict time schedule, and
opportunities for discussion were not taken upon return to the classroom.
communities develop within magnet programs. However, school choice through magnet
schools is sometimes infused with problems.
Henig (1995) in a report about Maryland magnet schools suggested, "The direction
in which school choice points may exacerbate rather than ameliorate racial segregation"
(p. 729). In addition, many parents (situated along with their children as consumers of
schools) are often not capable of choosing the best option for their child, allowing
arbitrary qualities such as school uniforms dictate selection (Gintis 1995).
Educational orientation: Lab work, and hands-on experiences as well as the
verbal exchange of ideas finds a place here in this level as project-based activities. The
transaction orientation of learning through activities and projects, experiments, some
outside adventures, and in-class attempts at conversation and discussion begins to appear
as pedagogical strategies. However, the transmission approach to learning continues to
define much of the pedagogy in this learning community.
Project-based activities enter the curricular scene at this level; however, projects are
often confused with unit plans. Wolk (1998) described units as "finite, predetermined,
externally created, and 'taught'" (p. 97). Learning through unit activities are "highly
teacher-, textbook-, and official-curriculum-directed" (p. 97). They are also preplanned
in groups of lessons with a prescribed final product or test and with little social
interaction. Unit-based curriculum finds its place in Tier 3.
Project-based activities, on the other hand are "open, long term, integrative
inquiries done in a social setting that are created and/or developed with much student
input and ownership" (Wolk 1998, p. 96). Within project-based learning, there fall two
curricular categories: those that are teacher-created, and those that are teacher-guided, but
student-created. Teacher-created projects are either obtained from the official
curriculum, or deviate only in degrees from the mandated curriculum (Wolk 1998).
Teacher-guided, but student-created projects are initiated with the teacher presenting
options and issues, and students choosing the direction they wish to take (Wolk 1998). Of
course, this is simplistic as there are always characteristics that fall in between, but these
distinctions will serve as distinguishing traits for clarity in this framework.7
In this level, teacher-directed projects, derived from official curricular mandates
with expected outcomes as described in the first category, are more often the practice.
Rarely are students truly allowed to choose a project based on their own interests or with
unpredictable results in this level. Quite often, choice is disguised in the form of a
preformulated list from which students select.
Discussion is generally principled upon encouraging democracy, although teachers
tend to shy away from controversial issues that may solicit conflicting ideas. In her book,
Moral Questions in the Classroom, Simon (2001) suggested that teachers often refrain
from engaging students in discussions of issues that are of intense importance to them
and to society out of fear of controversy and pressure to teach required information.
7 The last position I had as an elementary school art educator found me in a traditional but private school
setting. On my first day there, the directors of the school proudly conveyed to me that they and their staff
were open to the arts, and that I would find a supportive environment for my art program. To this end, I
was informed that there were several bulletin boards strictly reserved for my use, and I was to be sure and
utilize these boards to display students' artwork, which could be rotated on a weekly basis. My program
was mostly project-based and process-oriented with art activities and art production spanning several weeks
to complete. After a few weeks had gone by, the directors began questioning me as to why no artwork was
up on the boards. I of course explained that my students had not completed their projects yet. When the
artwork did go up, the directors as well as other staff members were reserved to say the least in their
comments about the work, as much of it was not necessarily "pretty." As I understood it, the previous art
teacher did "quickie" lessons every week and was able to rotate new artwork on a weekly basis. She also
perpetuated public opinion that art has to look beautiful in order for it to be good by using fool-proof art
production techniques that allowed for very little experimentation or unpredictable outcomes.
Decision-making: The teacher continues to be considered an authoritarian figure,
but begins to play an important role in students' learning through guiding class
conversations and discussions. However, the teacher does present material in the form of
teacher-directed research and discussion and can either lead controversial discussions
towards student awareness or manipulate discussions towards prescribed knowledge or a
teaching agenda. Hess (2004) offered another related perspective with four approaches
that describe how teachers respond to the idea of introducing controversial issues in their
* Denial: A teacher believing that a topic is not controversial, will teach it so that
students will acquire that right answer.
* Privilege: A teacher, believing that a topic is controversial, but has only one right
answer to the problem, attempts to persuade students to accept that answer as truth.
* Avoidance: A teacher believing that his/her views are so strong that a controversial
topic cannot be presented fairly, chooses not to address the issue at all.
* Balance: A teacher strives to balance a fair discussion by promoting consideration of
all sides and positions of a controversial issue.
Teachers at this level of learning community will most often adopt the avoidance
approach in classroom discussion, but in some instances may even adopt the one-sided
persuasive approaches as authorities of knowledge. Rarely will balance in controversy be
Teachers who experiment with giving students the opportunity to establish their
own set of class rules also find themselves at this level. The techniques of conflict
resolution may be used as a "way to reduce fights and other conflicts so that students can
just get on with education" (Kivel 2000, para. 5). However, in this respect it is often
viewed as a classroom management tool and not as a way for students and teachers to
engage in developing "cooperative classroom practices that break down the competition
and individualism of traditional education" (para. 8). In addition, this type of classroom
management takes time away from the still present high-stakes testing mandates and
teachers are often reluctant to use these strategies in their classroom communities.
This level of learning community continues to be mostly a school-based
community with all operations stemming from the classroom. Mandates, inflexible
schedules, and limited class periods tend to dictate access to opportunities and interests
beyond the classroom. Field trips, a potentially viable community experience beyond the
classroom are characterized at this point as a break from the confinements of the
classroom by both teachers and students, rather than as meaningful connections to a
Although this level may appear more interactive with teacher-directed discussions
and research, many of the characteristics from Tiers 1 and 2 continue to dominate and
produce learning communities based on traditional, industrial pedagogies. In other
The education system (school) comes complete with production goals (desired end
states); objectives (precise intermediate end states); raw material (children); a
physical plant (school building); a 13-stage assembly line (grades K-12); directives
for each stage (instruction); managers for each stage (teachers); plant supervisors
(principals); trouble shooters (consultants, diagnosticians); quality control
mechanisms (discipline, rules, lock-step progress through stages, conformity);
interchangeability of parts (teacher-proof curriculum, 25 students per processing
unit, equality or treatment); uniform criteria for all (standardized testing interpreted
on the normal curve); and basic product available in several lines of trim
(academic, vocational, business, general). Is this reminiscent of Fords, Apples, and
Big Macs? (Sawada et al 1985, p.15)
Stakeholders at this level of learning community continue to experience mostly
dominance and submission in a win/lose decision-making structure. However,
engagement in the positions of servitude, exile, rebellion, and/or vagrancy is observed
less often as curricular practices attempt to add activities beyond rote learning.
Individuals enter into this physical and mental community with slightly less resignation,
apathy, and/or anger. Idealistic enthusiasm continues to permeate the community as
members participate in more "hopeful" curricular activities; that is activities that seem to
allow more autonomy for both teacher and student.
Tier 4: Experiment
Tentative attempts at integrating student governance components, democratic
discussion, and physical connections with the wider community as well as integrating
strategies designed to meet the needs of individual students are tested within controlled
Real world experience: School-to-work or work-study programs and vocational
training programs are integral components of this level. However, still defined as mainly
a location-based community, these experiences outside the traditional school setting are
often supported as potential cures for deficit-based assumptions about those students who
do not follow the traditional college track or are considered at-risk. "Risk-reduction
strategies fail to adequately prepare young people to assume productive roles as adults"
(Astroth et al. 2002).
School-to-work and work-study programs provide students with an opportunity to
attend school part time, in order to earn the required credits for graduation, and work part
time, in order to experience the hopefully empowering aspects of earning a wage and
learning life skills. Vocational training programs incorporate course requirement work
with job training in marketable skills, and are often offered to students who do not plan to
attend college after high school. Although these opportunities have value, they
nevertheless are superficial with regard to their impact on the evolution of the wider
Having students make cursory connections between their own lives and the
community of which they will eventually be a part of is a philosophical stance recognized
by educators as well as administrators here. This perspective segregates young people
from the larger community as individuals who are not yet prepared to face the
contradictions of society and are unable to make viable contributions to the wider
community (Magnuson, Hudson, & Baldwin 2003). In essence, adults in this learning
community, marginalize students as non-members of the wider world.
In addition to program choices that move students beyond the classroom, this tier
also finds a movement toward greater school choice. Frequently, charter schools
advertise some alternatives to traditional educational practices with a mission of more
innovative curricula that extend beyond the classroom walls. However, not all charter
schools are created equal. In Michigan, the debate over expanding the number of charter
schools in the state points to the lack of an accountability system. This allows charter
schools to flourish in most states, but also permits these schools to continue without
regard to educational effectiveness (Michigan Union 2004).8
Educational orientation: At this level, the transaction approach to learning
dominates the pedagogical design. Varied attempts at learning strategies through
8 Initially, I thought that the charter school where I taught and sent one of my children to was a great
opportunity to bring the two divergent populations in the small conservative town where I lived together in
community. After all, the school was supposedly established to do this. In addition, it was understood to
be grounded in the arts and integration of all subjects. As it turned out, there was a hidden agenda that
slowly became apparent with secret board meetings, and coercive strategies for choosing and retaining
students and teachers. In addition, the administration and management of the school was so disruptive that
eventually a for-profit private management company was hired to try and straighten out the ineffective and
meaningful activities, experiments, and adventures, and between people through
conversation and discussion help learners become more receptive to other possibilities.
Also sometimes noted is the transformation of knowledge that encourages learners to
seek deeper meaning behind their lives through the learning that can happen in
interactions between people. Discussions that introduce controversial ideas emerge
through a more democratic process balanced by the teacher as guide in modeling of
operations that example appropriate courtesies and interactions.
Though usually teacher-created from unofficial curriculum, project-based activities
may offer some student input and decision-making. Group work, as seen in cooperative
learning strategies defined in Chapter 1, functions in various capacities and effectiveness.
Peer learning and teaching begin to materialize as more developed cooperative strategies
are established. Integration of subjects and disciplines are attempted at cursory levels.
Service learning becomes an important component in this level. It is estimated that
service learning as a wide spread practice in education is carried out as a pedagogical
strategy in almost one-third of all public K-12 schools, in one-half of all high schools,
and in up to 88% of private schools (Billig 2003). However, not all service-learning
experiences are equivalent in meaningful learning opportunities. They vary widely in
purpose, outcomes, and levels of student engagement.
In referring to the definition of service learning in Chapter 1, the type of service
learning seen here could best be described in terms of altruism and self-interest, giving
through charity, and weak transformative experiences. In addition, a prescribed numbers
of hours of completed service for graduation requirements mandated in an increasing
number of state initiatives, along with superficial or even non-existing reflective