Audrey Figueroa Murphy

Integrating Aesthetics into Professional Development for Teachers of English Learners

Audrey Figueroa Murphy, The School of Education, Department of Human Services and Counseling

Abstract

The emphasis on testing in curricular content areas has left little room in most U.S. schools for education in the arts. Yet research supports the pedagogical value of aesthetic education, particularly for English learners (ELs), whose representation in schools continues to increase. This paper presents a qualitative action research study intended to contribute to the understanding of the impact of incorporating aesthetic education into the training protocol for teachers of ELs. Twenty-three graduate education students at a private university in Queens, New York, participated in an artist-led workshop rooted in the aesthetic education theories of Maxine Greene (1995, 2001, 2007) and structured around the four-stage knowledge acquisition schemas of Torbert (2006) and Heron and Reason (2006). Thereafter, the trainees experimented with using arts-based lessons in their own classrooms, which included ELs. Interviews conducted after the workshop and again after the practice attempts showed that participants gained confidence and facility in integrating arts and aesthetics into their teaching. Participants' reflections also support research that suggests that arts-based education is an excellent means to develop the cognitive, linguistic, and cultural abilities of ELs. These findings are supplemented with recommendations for implementation and with a sample rubric for an EL-friendly aesthetic education unit.