Teaching Artists: The Need to Reach Wider Audiences

Posted by Rosalind Flynn, Mar 13, 2014 5 comments

Rosalind Flynn Rosalind Flynn

Everyone I know who works as a teaching artist has amazing success stories of student learning experiences with, through, and in the arts. There are stories about reaching the “unreachable” student, motivating whole groups of resistant learners, creating breathtaking products, deepening understandings about curriculum subjects, and engaging the minds, bodies, and imaginations of young people in extraordinary ways.

This is great stuff. This is the kind of information that should be shared.

  • How do effective Teaching Artists get the results we get?
  • What are our methods?
  • What precisely do we do in a class session or series?

We know that what we do works and we know why it works. But are we sharing this information with a wide enough audience? I don’t think so.

I teach a graduate course called Drama in Education. Its focus is the educational uses of drama in classrooms—the kinds of drama that Teaching Artists do. I am continually searching our university library database for articles and books that will increase my students’ understandings of how to use this powerful teaching tool.

I do have a large collection of reading materials that verify the value of using drama-teaching methods in classrooms. They are thoughtfully written pieces that assert how drama improves students’ abilities to communicate and collaborate, declare drama as a factor in increasing students’ reading, writing, and thinking skills, and give some examples of the work in action.

But almost all of the most recent publications fall short on the “what” and the “how” of the classroom work. What exactly did the students do in these powerful lessons and how did the teacher or teaching artist design and deliver the drama effectively? I honestly feel that the best and strongest resources I have were written 20-plus years ago.

I think the case may be the same in the other art forms. It is not, however, that teaching artists are failing to write about their work. My recent search for “Teaching Artist” articles published since 2004 in the university library database resulted in 666 hits. But a close examination revealed that 92 of the first 100 hits were from Teaching Artist Journal [http://tajournal.com]. TAJ is a superb publication that is a much-needed repository for reports about our work, but its audience is us.

If we want the field of Teaching Artistry to grow and earn recognition for robust results with students, we have to share what we do and how we do it with more people. We have to reach the educators who influence how Math, Science, Social Studies, Language Arts, and Foreign Language, as well as Arts subjects are taught. We have to leave the safe company of arts advocates and spread the word about our work with wider audiences.

And although ways of sharing what works in classrooms are rapidly changing, the strongest means of communicating with educators nationwide and worldwide for now is still a written piece in a respected publication. National councils and organizations in the field of Education still produce publications for their many members and subscribers—online and in print.

It’s not that hard to find out how to submit an article about your work to a publication. Most of their web sites include all the information a potential author needs under headings like:

  • Writer’s Guidelines/Submission Guidelines
  • We Want To Hear From You
  • Upcoming Themes
  • Call for Manuscripts/Call for Articles
  • Submission Deadlines

So, I issue this challenge to Teaching Artists (and while I am at it—to myself): Let’s create larger audiences for the good work that we do. Let’s take the time to write up what we do, how we do it, and why it works. Let’s be the loud voices that infiltrate the wider world of Education to insist on the arts being a vital part of the conversation.

Below are a few publication opportunities to get you thinking and typing:

The Reading Teacher calls for feature articles and invites shorter submissions for sections called Teaching Tips and View From the Chalkboard.

The National Council of Teachers of Mathematics publishes:

Teaching Children Mathematics, Mathematics Teaching in the Middle School and Mathematics Teacher

All three publications seek long and short pieces for sections like Informing Practice, Supporting Teacher Learning, and Activities for Students.

Two of the National Science Teachers Association publications are:

Science and Children

Science Scope

The National Council of Teachers of English offers many publication possibilities:

English Journal addresses work with high school students.

Language Arts focuses on elementary school. This journal has a current call for articles in a themed issue—The Body Literate: “...the role of bodies in meaning making—the child’s physical experience of engaging with texts, readers’ emotional responses when caught up in a story, and students’ playful interactions with the environment while living literate lives.”

Voices from the Middle is NCTE’s middle school journal. Consider its current call for articles on Motivation for Learning and Life: “How do you build motivation in your classroom?”

Educational Leadership has pretty much the same theme in an upcoming issue—Motivation Matters: “This issue will consider how teachers can spark inner motivation in all students. How can we change curriculum, instructional approaches, grading, and classroom culture to engage more students in learning?” (This April 1 deadline is fast approaching!)

Another themed issue, Culturally Diverse Classrooms, has an October deadline and seeks articles that address how schools can improve the academic achievement of their fastest-growing group of students—English language learners.

Social Studies and the Young Learner wants articles that detail instructional approaches, activities, and assessments of thoughtful and engaging lessons for its theme, What’s Your Best Lesson?

Middle Level Learning publishes articles on middle school Social Studies lessons and activities.

Childhood Education highlights perspectives on innovative classroom practices from around the world.

Urban Education addresses urban issues in education from U.S. and international perspectives.


What other publication opportunities can you recommend?

What already-published books or articles have been helpful to you in your work?

5 responses for Teaching Artists: The Need to Reach Wider Audiences


March 13, 2014 at 7:14 pm

Rosalind Flynn Thanks for sharing the lists publications!

Here are two that you may not have heard about:

1)- The ABC's of Environmental Arts Education using the Iceality Methodology - The Revolutionary Educational Idea on the Rise from the Good People at the International Center for Environmental Arts (ICEA)

2)- The "Theory of Iceality on Environmental Arts" is the Science Behind Environmental Art. It is a practical study on the aesthetics of the relationship between Humans and their Environment through Arts and Culture, ultimately promoting an effective sustainable global Culture of Peace between all Living Things ~ Human, Wildlife and Plant Kingdoms)
Reference Link: http://theicea.com/page22

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March 13, 2014 at 8:48 pm

This is a great article and is so true. I think we are all so busy doing our work and make a living we forget how to promote ourselves in this way. Good food for thought and action.

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judy says
March 14, 2014 at 10:15 pm

You've made it impossible for us to have any excuses not to share our work. The reasons, the sources, and the inspiration….all here and clear!


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Mark Tarallo says
March 15, 2014 at 6:49 pm

Thanks for a great article, Dr Flynn. It really hit home for me. As a certified social studies and biology teacher, I know everything you mentioned applies to my subjects as well. Please allow me to share my fondest memory of teaching psychology to high school juniors and seniors, which happened to be a lesson where we used elements of drama in the classroom. The lesson was defense mechanisms. After a lecture and discussion on the common ones, I divided the class into groups. Each group picked a defense mechanism out of a hat and was given 10 minutes to come up with a skit that acted out their mechanism. As each group performed, the other kids in class had to guess which defense mechanism it was. The learning, enthusiasm and fun that filled the classroom that day is not something I will ever forget. It also happened to be one of the most effective ways of teaching a lesson that I've experienced. I hope you and your colleagues keep up the great work and continue to spread the word about using drama in the classroom, no matter what the topic!

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Laurie says
March 16, 2014 at 6:18 pm

Rosalind, this is so true! From my experience as an elementary school principal, the toughest part of arts integrated learning is finding a way to effectively share the impact and value with those outside our school (parents, community members, other schools, district personnel). You have given great resources and strong encouragement for teaching artists to share their work and its impact on learning. I need to do a better job of tapping into those publications and sharing articles with my community and colleagues! That is one idea I had not thought of until now :)

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