A Cartographical Exploration of Collaborative Inquiry as a Professional Development Model for Art Educators

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This dissertation draws on a number of cartographical processes to explore the particularities and circumstances of eight visual art teachers engaged in a yearlong collaborative inquiry within a formal, federally funded professional development program for arts educators. Art educators, many of whom lack content area colleagues within their schools, often work separated by geographical distance and may not have opportunities to regularly engage in professional development opportunities that are simultaneously content-specific, collaborative, and related to their working contexts. By examining the ways in which collaborative inquiry might provide such an opportunity, this study presents a number of challenges that emerged for the participants in this study, including: 1) Participants' socio-cultural norms and a desire to belong to a group that could offer the collegial support absent in many of their schools led participants to downplay their differences and suppress conflict for the sake of inclusion in the group; 2) Teachers' participation in a collaborative inquiry group operating within a funded professional development program provided them with professional opportunities and technological equipment, yet offered little support as they attempted to integrate the technology into their classrooms and to negotiate their sudden visibility within their teaching contexts; and 3) The researcher, acting as a participant facilitator within the group, unintentionally assumed a neutral stance in an effort to negotiate her competing desire for a close relationship with participants with her desire to disrupt assumptions and trouble practices for the sake of professional learning and growth. A number of "openings" may allow art educators to continue to engage in, create, and advocate for arts-based collaborative inquiry opportunities in a current socio-political climate that threatens such opportunities. For instance, art educators' need for collegial support and the existence of online networks and free internet-based software provides both a motive and means for geographically separated art educators to connect. Future research that more specifically addresses the challenges of providing art educators with collaborative professional development opportunities can build on the particular description and identification of challenges this study offers.