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Art and Art Education
Teachers College, Columbia University
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Art and Art Education

Department Projects > The Center For Arts Education Research at Teachers College

The Center For Arts Education Research at Teachers College

Teachers College is the oldest and largest graduate school of education in the country.  Founded in 1877, it became part of Columbia University in 1898.  The College prepares individuals for a wide range of careers in the education professions, business, community organizations, government and research.  The faculty consists of approximately 130 professors and an equal number of instructors and visitors, many of whom hold positions of distinction within their fields.  In any academic year, the student body of the College numbers over four thousand, representing every state in the union as well as over seventy foreign countries.  There is a school-wide emphasis on the tutorial system, field-based research, and the development of close faculty-student relationships essential to successful pursuit of professional and academic goals.

The Center for Arts Education Research at Teachers College is an interdisciplinary arts group founded to stimulate and support basic and applied research in the arts in human development, art education, and the arts in education.  Founded in 1993 by Professors Judith M. Burton from the Program in Visual Arts and Hal Abeles from the Program in Music, the Center calls upon expertise from professionals in the arts: visual, music, dance, theater, and media, and also from philosophy, cognitive and developmental psychology, curriculum, education, and technology.  A mix of projects characterizes the Center's work to date.  Some studies have explored the role and potential of the arts in diverse educational settings from the vantage point of school reform, curriculum development, arts integration and assessment; of particular interest has been the role of the arts as they interweave in urban culture and education.  Other studies have dealt directly with the aspects of artistic-aesthetic thinking, philosophies, practices, perception, and action both within and across the diverse domains of the arts; data from these studies have already offered critical theoretical insights for educational practice for schools and colleges.

From its inception in 1993, the Center has been directly involved with school systems and museums, often serving at-risk populations.  To date, school settings and museums have provided the laboratories for most of the applied and basic research undertaken, although more recently this has includes colleges and universities.  It is crucially important to the Center that examination of the role of the arts in human development, artistic practice, and in education is set within the realistic contexts of everyday experience for our subjects: children, adolescents, artists and teachers.  The research undertaken in these settings combines diverse methods and approaches, including theoretical and empirical, quantatative and qualitative, survey, case study and longitudinal paradigms.  Our efforts are sustained by the belief that while development in each art form is unique, the arts none the less have critical communalities and, as normative capacities in human functioning, involve an interweaving of cognitive, affective and sensory responses.  Here, the role of culture-as-context, as represented by schools and institutions of visual and performing arts, is viewed by the Center as a shaping mechanism of profound importance to the course of human functioning.

While much research in the arts education has typically focused on either applied (practical) or basis (theoretical) issues, the Center takes for its mission the study of those aspects of human functioning that are central to an interweaving of both focuses: we seek to know more about human development in and across the arts as this occurs within schooling and culture.  The following describes the Centers activities and projects.


Projects have included:

Art in the City. A curriculum development and assessment project in the visual arts for children and adolescents focused on working in Central Park as a site for investigation and creative practice in teaching andlearning. Funded: Central Park Conservancy

Lincoln Center Institute Project. As part of a multi million-dollar grant from Lila Wallace, the Center carried out an assessment of the LCI's visiting artist program and summer repertoire selection.  Information from this project was used to develop the chapter Natural Allies: Children, Teachers and Artists, in Jane Remer's book, Beyond Enrichment.

Bushnell Partners Project. An arts in education assessment initiative involving community arts programs, artists, and schools in Hartford and Bloomfield, CT.  Locally funded.

Cathedral Project. A curriculum development/assessment initiative involving middle and high school pupils in using the Cathedral of St. John the Divine, NYC as a context for interdisciplinary teaching and learning. Private funding.

Heritage Demonstration Project. The Heritage High School is a partnership between Teachers College Columbia University and the New York City Board of Education. The Center is funded to collaborate on a series of yearly conferences to examine learning in the context of collaboration between the School and the cultural institutions of New York City.

Community Arts Project. An assessment initiative of the Pew Charitable Trust, to document a series of funded community arts programs in the city of Philadelphia, PA.

Arts Empower Project.
As assessment initiative of the William Penn Foundation, to document a series of funded artist residencies in the public schools of Philadelphia, PA.

Arts Learning and Transfer Research Project. Funded by McArthur and General Electric, a three-year initiative to study the effects of transfer from learning in the arts to learning in the other school disciplines. Findings from the study are published in E. Fisk (Ed.).  Champions of Change, (1999), and in Studies in Art Education, 41.3.2000,

National Task Force on Student Learning. Funded by the National Art Education Association, the nine-member task force of public school teachers and college faculty, spent three years researching art teacher classroom practices and their effects on pupil learning.  Publication forthcoming.

Manhattan High Schools Summer Art Program. Funded by the NYCBoE; an assessment initiative involving the citywide summer visual arts program.

The Comic Book Project.  An arts-based literacy and learning initiative hosted by Teachers College, Columbia University.  The project encourages children to make a connection between what they write and what they draw about their personal experiences, interests, and environments, thereby engaging them in the learning process and motivating them to succed in school, after school, and in life. 

Teaching the Possible: Narrative Journey in Art and Culture.
Funded by the National Art Education Association; a research initiative focused on the way middle school students distill and embed responses from cultural objects (fine art and commercial media) within their own creative practice. Two public presentations of this work have been given.

Ways of Knowing and Ways of Doing. A Spencer Foundation research-training program focusing on the philosophies and practices that shape educational research in the arts and humanities. Funding has sponsored two student-organized conferences on -'Ways of Doing' and an electronic publication.

Lending One's Life to Art.
Funding is currently sought for a research initiative focused on the collection and analysis of adolescent responses to work of culture (fine art and commercial media). Researchers have already collected interview materials from over 100 adolescents and have begun an analysis of the trajectory, patterns, and movements in thought as youngsters formulate their responses.