International Journal of Art & Design Education

The Structure and Content of Art Teaching in the Secondary School

Volume 2.1   1983



The author addresses the challenge of developing a curriculum for Art in secondary education, given the almost total absence of literature dealing in a practical and coherent way with the problems and content of Art teaching. The common belief amongst Art teachers that their subject is intrinsically different in many ways from others presents an obstacle to the development of a coherent curriculum. Nevertheless, most Art teachers agree that it should be possible to identify the fundamental elements which underlie all activity, although few seem to have attempted the exercise. Art education in the UK has moved from a position where it pioneered many of the attitudes which characterise present day schools, to a confused subject area, generally lacking in direction and purpose. The author calls for a fundamental reappraisal of the content, structure and function of Art teaching. The paper describes how the author, funded by the NSAE/Berol bursary, devised a new Art syllabus for his school. The resulting syllabus was devised to provide a framework in which could be designed a balanced, sequential course of study for inter-related and inter-dependent Art, Craft and Design areas. Adapting the spiral curriculum model described by Tyler, learning is cumulative and needs repeated reinforcement. Three independent elements are identified: the motivation element, the perceptual element, the element of technique. Implicit in this structure is the belief that there are fundamental Art experiences that are equally valid at all stages of pupil development. The outcome was a published project handbook 'An Experimental Art Syllabus', designed in a split-page format, which enables cross-references to be made easily between the three syllabus elements. A trial project was conducted with a number of schools and views solicited from individual teachers, local advisors, HMIs and curriculum working parties. Implications for the training of Art teachers in the light of the findings of the project are considered. The proposed syllabus provides a workable solution to the problem of curriculum design, but acknowledges the key issue is how to maintain a flexible approach and, at the same time, give sufficient information about content, sequence and priorities.