Art is a vital part of education. According to PBS, art helps students–particularly younger students–develop important motor, language, decision-making skills, and nurtures inventiveness, cultural awareness, and visual learning. The benefits transcend the art room walls: A report by Americans for the Arts showed that young people who participate in the arts at least three hours a day, three days a week are four times more likely to show improved academic performance than students who do not participate in art education and related activities. Dedicated art teachers are key to this success.
Art teachers teach students of varying grade levels the fundamental principles of color and design, and how to use them to create art. They provide technical instruction in a wide breadth of mediums, such as painting, drawing, sculpture, and mixed media. They also plan lessons, oversee student projects, organize and order supplies, and assess students’ progress in the classroom. Knowing how to nurture young artists and successfully manage a classroom is what elevates artists to true teachers, but these skills take time–and training–to develop.
Online art education degrees help aspiring teachers develop the skills they need to succeed and meet state teaching requirements, but no two programs are alike. Here is our ranking of the top online art education programs:
In an online art education degree program, students cover coursework in areas such as art theory, history, and instruction. Many classes are often tailored to meet students’ teaching goals. For example, very young children with developing motor and language skills learn differently than high school students. Art teacher training must reflect these nuances.
Young children grow and develop rapidly. They are still exploring and developing motor skills, basic social skills, and how to behave in the classroom. Art teachers working with young learners must be in tune with their evolving needs and adapt their teaching methods accordingly. That means that in addition to taking fundamental art courses, elementary art teachers in training must also learn how to work with and instruct young children specifically. As a result, art education curriculum often includes the following courses, among others:
Much like aspiring teachers of any discipline, art education students may be required to also accrue a certain number of student teaching hours in local classrooms, even when enrolled in an online program. These invaluable internships give art education distance learners a chance to apply what they learned in a practical way and usually fulfills a requirement for teacher licensure or certification.
By high school, most students’ physical and emotional development has slowed, but their needs shift. At this age, they are able to sit in and attend class for longer periods of time, know how to behave in the classroom, and have the skills necessary to understand and create more complex art. At the same time, however, they are still trying to figure out who they are, where their passions lie, and what they want to do with their lives. High school art teaching methods tap into all of that. Art teachers help students not only learn more about themselves but also how to express themselves through various art mediums. Secondary instruction in areas such as color and design theory, art history, and even fine art techniques is more advanced than at the elementary school level. Secondary school art teachers also often complete the following types of teaching courses, which reflect high school students’ learning needs:
As with elementary art teachers, high school art teachers seeking licensure must complete supervised student teaching hours in a real classroom, even when enrolled in online art education programs.
Art education was once grounded in the traditional classroom, but new and sophisticated learning technologies now support a growing number of online art education degrees. The convenience of online art education degrees make them a particularly attractive option for students who want to work while attending school, like artists who want to segue into teaching without sacrificing their craft.
Teaching art requires training and experience. Employment and licensure requirements can vary by state and even school district, but most art education students who hope to teach at the K-12 level need to earn a bachelor’s degree in art education. Some pursue a double degree in education and art instead. While a four-year degree can open the doors to entry-level teaching positions, master’s degrees in art education are ideal for those who want to teach college-level art courses or who are pursuing other advanced or administrative careers in the field.
Most online programs prepare students for teacher certification or licensure in the state in which they study. All art teachers who hope to teach in public schools must be licensed, but private schools and community art programs may be more lenient.
An online bachelor’s degree in art education, sometimes referred to as a BAE, prepares students to teach art in K-12 schools. Students are required to take general education classes in addition to art-specific classes that help aspiring teachers build their knowledge of art and design. Instructional and curriculum design classes are also mandatory as they teach students how to apply that knowledge to art classrooms and become an effective educator.
As with any other teaching program, online art education students will need to complete a semester (or more, depending on the program) of student teaching. Online learners may be able to complete this requirement in a local school. Many student teachers complete the first half of their term teaching elementary students, and the second half teaching middle and high school students, but that isn’t always the case. Regardless of how the requirement is divided, student teaching experience gives future art instructors an opportunity to apply what they have learned to real classroom settings, all while completing a requirement for state licensure and making valuable professional connections.
In addition to fieldwork, most online art education bachelor’s programs also require students to create a professional portfolio, which can also be used when the graduate applies for art education jobs.
Although exact courses will vary by program, below is an example of what online learners can expect to take at the bachelor’s degree level:
|Intro to Art Education||
This course offers a high-level introduction to both the philosophical and technical aspects of teaching art, like lesson planning and classroom management.
|Academic Connections for Artists||
This course helps students learn to examine and discuss art with an academic edge, but also in a way that engages students and inspires them to participate.
|Assessing Learning and Teaching||
This course teaches future art instructors how to use data and statistics to monitor student learning and retention.
This course is ideal for those who want to teach art to the elementary sect. Students study current theories and research pertaining to early human development and learn how these impact early art education.
|Curriculum Development for Art Education||
Students learn how to identify and apply art curricula that is both standards-based and developmentally appropriate.
|Technology and Art Education||
Students study a number of educational technologies and learn when–and how–to integrate them into the art classroom
|Student Teaching Placement With Ongoing Class Meetings||
Students gain hands-on experience as student teachers in a local classrooms and under the supervision of a licensed teacher. They submit weekly reports detailing their experiences.
|Drawing for Art Teachers||
This class revisits classical drawing principles with a mind for form and medium. Students refine basic drawing skills, but also how to discuss and critique drawing in a way that promotes learning and classroom values.
Students who want to teach college art classes or pursue an administrative role within art education often need an advanced degree. Online master’s degrees are an exceedingly convenient option for students who want to advance their education while continuing full-time work or for those who do not live close to a college offering advanced degrees in art. Some schools offer online master’s degrees in art education in a hybrid format, meaning students complete some courses online and others through a local campus. Many colleges also have 100 percent online master’s degree options.
Most online graduate degrees in art education help students strengthen and refine their art knowledge and pedagogical skills. The goal is to provide students with an advanced and thorough understanding of art instruction as well as help them meet educator requirements and regulations. During the last year or semester, online students are typically required to complete fieldwork as a student teacher at a local school. During this time, they will work directly with elementary, middle or high school students, under the guidance of a licensed teacher, to apply what they have learned to a real classroom setting. Some master’s programs also culminate with a thesis or exhibition of artwork. Online art education students can usually arrange a short campus visit to complete this requirement.
|Advanced Teaching Strategies||
Students learn how to initiate discussion and investigation of contemporary art theory and practice in a classroom setting.
Students use new approaches to making and teaching art in a classroom setting and report their results for review.
This seminar teaches art teachers how to review their own professional development and how to use those experiences to guide students considering professional art careers.
This course allows graduate students to pursue an area of interest not covered by other art education courses, and under the supervision of a faculty adviser.
|Contemporary Issues in Art and Education||
Students review contemporary issues in the world of fine arts and art practice and are taught how to connect them to their own art and teaching practices.
|History of Teaching Art||
Students review how art has been thought throughout history with a mind for effectiveness.
|Studio Art for Teachers||
Students are encouraged to explore and advance their own work in a local studio where they will experiment with new media, materials and techniques and document their findings.
|Contemporary Pedagogy in Art Education||
This course provides an in-depth review of modern educational theory as it applies to art education.
Between the master’s and doctoral levels lies the Specialist in Education degree, or EdS. This degree can be ideal for students seeking a leadership role in art education. Some online EdS programs are broken up into two parts: one that focuses on teaching art, and the other on management or administration. Because an EdS is an advanced degree, many programs require students to pass a comprehensive exam and complete a thesis to graduate. While some colleges require online students to report to campus to present their theses, some schools allow students to do so using video conferencing tools. The same is true of exams: Some online students must report to campus, but others are able to sit for proctored exams at local testing facilities. Prospective students should clarify requirements and options before entering a program so that they can plan accordingly.
Online doctoral degrees in art education are advanced, research-based degree programs that allow students to develop highly specialized expertise and gain the necessary qualifications for college-level teaching and research or supervisory roles. Programs can usually be individualized according to the student’s background, experience, and professional goals. Courses usually cover topics such as art pedagogy and research theory and methodologies. Some programs also include more specialized topics such as educational leadership, art studio content, and multi-media. Many schools have several specialty tracks from which students choose, depending on their interests and career goals.
PhDs, by nature, require students to conduct original research in the field, and that is just as true of online doctoral programs as it is of campus-based programs. Practicums and internships putting research elements to use are common, but online students may be able to coordinate these locally. Note that some programs require students to complete on-campus residencies. For example, students earning an online PhD in art education from the University of Missouri must complete a one-year residency, but all remaining coursework is completed online. Once students have completed their research, they must prepare a dissertation and then defend their work, research methods, and findings before a board of professors and other experts. Some online students will report to campus for this process, but some schools allow them to defend their work in-person or online using a video communications tool.
Online degrees in art education make postsecondary learning more accessible and convenient than ever before. This flexibility can be incredibly helpful for students who must balance school with other obligations, such as those who work full-time to build their resumes or offset cost. Online learning also allows students to apply to art education programs that meet their needs without concern for geography. This benefit is especially helpful in higher-level programs offering several specialty tracks. If a working art teacher wants to advance to an administrative role, he or she can enroll in an online master’s degree with an art leadership component–even if area schools do not offer such courses–and still continue to work throughout the program.
Students interested in online degree programs need not sacrifice quality for convenience, even in this traditionally hands-on field. Today’s advanced online learning platforms allow art students to collaborate with professors and classmates just as if they were in a physical classroom. Important in-person work is still completed, but with a mind for convenience. For example, an online bachelor’s degree in K-12 art education may require students to complete a semester of supervised student teaching, but will coordinate with local schools. Online PhD students complete a residency or on-site research as required, but defend their dissertations using Skype. Online bachelor’s degrees in art education still strive to prepare students for licensure, but students should always verify that their chosen program meets state requirements.
Megan Brockington earned her bachelor’s and master’s of art in art education and currently teaches high school art to students in grades 9 through 12. Her passion for art education began when she visited an art therapy facility. “The idea astounded me’ that art could reach across barriers and heal a person, both physically and emotionally,” says Brockington. “Art education is more than understanding techniques and studying art history. It is finding your voice and making a statement to society in a visual way. Going through the art education degree process and finding my own voice were parts of an emotional process that I wanted to provide for others.”
Much of Megan’s day is spent with students, designing curriculum to teach art techniques and also offering creative problem-solving ideas as they struggle through the trial and error nature of art education. Her greatest passion is using technique, art history, and self-critiques to reveal how important art is.
Her MA in art education put her on the path to teaching success. “By the time I had finished my bachelor’s,” says Brockington, “I still felt unprepared for the classroom setting. My first year of teaching was adequate, but I stayed only one or two steps ahead of the students. Much of my success as a teacher has come from the complexity of my master’s degree.” As an art educator, Megan has led students into small, large and full-ride art scholarships to prestigious schools throughout the country and has shepherded unlikely artists into art careers.