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Online master’s degree program supports educators and artists

Master of Arts in Art Education program is geared toward art educators who want to continue their own development

Professional teachers are going online to improve their skills in the classroom and reignite their passion for art.

The Ohio State University has a program to help build on the connection between art making and teaching. The online Master of Arts in Art Education program is geared toward art educators who want to continue their own development and inspire more development of the students they teach.

“A big aspect of a graduate degree like this is about providing access to graduate-level education to individuals who would not have access to that opportunity otherwise,” said Jennifer Richardson, associate professor of arts administration, education and policy.

Richardson said the graduate students in the program may be the only art teacher in their school building and often are responsible for a large number of students. She said the class allows them to connect with teachers in similar circumstances from across the country.

Students in the online program learn about the latest theory and research to enhance their teaching, as well as curriculum development and assessment strategies. Richardson said the program is tailored to teachers at a variety of points in their careers.

“Maybe one student has gone to school a while ago, while some of them have gone pretty recently. So we’re all in different places in terms of the last time we were in a university setting and in terms of our education,” she said. “Some have done different kinds of professional development and have different kinds of experiences.”

For Brittany Schwarck, an Ohio State graduate and elementary school art teacher in the Gahanna Jefferson school district, the online master’s degree program was a chance to build on her earlier experience.

“I received my undergraduate degree from Ohio State, and had an exceptional experience. The exposure to contemporary and progressive teaching philosophies lit a passion in me for social justice, multiculturalism and student-centered pedagogy,” she said. “I am absolutely the teacher I am today because of my rigorous experiences as an undergrad in this program and the phenomenal relationships I made and still have with my peers and professors.”

The option to expand her education online made sense at this point in her career.

“I decided to pursue my master’s degree online so that it would not disrupt my teaching job. I love my job and I wanted to find a prestigious program that would allow for my very busy work schedule,” she said. “They also challenge me to go further, and push myself intellectually and creatively. I feel invigorated by becoming a student again.”

In addition to learning how to be a more effective art teacher, the online master’s degree program encourages these students to grow as artists.

“So instead of approaching art making in the classroom as ‘I’ll show you this artist, now let’s make something that looks like this art,’ we ask how do we engage in these kinds of thought processes and approaches to our making that enable the art teacher to be creative in the way that they approach teaching itself?” Richardson said. “I find that the art teachers are really excited to be able to think as an artist and return to that space as a way of igniting their passion for art education again.”

Schwarck said the experience has already helped her in her job. She said she was able to take the ideas for one of her assignments and use it to lead a professional development day for her district’s art department.

“I am looking forward for this degree to give me more exposure to contemporary theories and ideas within the field of art education. I always want to be growing and evolving to meet my students’ and the world’s ever evolving needs,” she said. “I am looking forward to passing these experiences on not only through my teaching in the classroom, but through leadership within my district and other professional organizations.”

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