GRAE Conference 2013 ☆

The poster from this year’s exclusive GRAE Conference, hosted by Penn State’s School of Visual Arts.

There is no doubt that the process of researching for and completing a graduate degree demands academic collaboration and many introspective nights. But it is often purported that academia exists in isolated spheres where ideas are safeguarded instead of shared. In the close-knit communities that comprise TC, how can students most effectively connect with their greater professional fields? As a professor, how can you facilitate the dissemination of your students’ hypotheses to offer a more diverse range of feedback before their projects reach completion? The Art and Art Education department at TC attempts to solve this dilemma by partnering with Penn State’s School of Visual Arts for an annual exchange of dissertations.

According to the event program from this year’s Graduate Research in Art Education Conference, The GRAE is a collaborative event founded in 2005 “to provide a forum where students can discuss the issues and developments in art education” being explored in their current research. Dr. Richard Jochum, the Art Education representative who accompanied his TC students this year, describes the conference as a platform for graduate students to voice their ideas and receive direct peer feedback. In addition to giving the students a window unto the themes their peers are investigating, Dr. Jochum is pleased that the conference can expand the intellectual scope for the graduate students, advocating that “every layer of presentation to the outside world gives them a frame to shape their work.” In the few years since GRAE began, the collaborative exchange between Teachers College and Penn State has already expanded to include presenters from The Ohio State University and Syracuse University.

The four TC doctoral students who traveled to Penn State for the conference in October are all currently in the process of composing and finessing their dissertations. To receive a Doctorate in Art and Art Education at Teachers College is a highly individualized process. Yet each student is required to first complete their teaching certification through work on a pilot research study, before submitting a formal topic proposal and the writing the paper. As Dr. Jochum says, the dissertation process is ongoing: “it is the journey of an art educator or doctorate student to find the right method for the right theme” of inquiry.

The GRAE conference this year featured thirteen presentations categorized into four themed panel discussions: experience, reflexivity, community, and identity. Of the four TC participants, Sean Justice presented in the first panel about experience. His thesis “Learning to Teach in the Digital Age: Digital Fabrication and New Learning Paradigms in Schools,” champions the sometimes refuted belief that digital technology, such as the use of 3D printers, can be an instrumental tool in teaching environments. Opposed to the subjugation of such machines as items beyond the scope of art, Sean advocates that employing innovative technology in art classes can expand the opportunities students have to experience and interact with their creations. A more in-depth overview of his research can be found in the Arts & Humanities article From Red Room to Digital Studio.

The other TC participants included Beatriz Albuquerque-Mendes, who spoke on “The Role of the Video Game Glitch” in inadvertently teaching students critical thinking and literacy while solving a technological problem; Amanda Newman-Godfrey, who presented on “The Impact of Art Making and Dialogue Around Artworks,” for students with Autism Spectrum Disorder; and Andrew Buck, whose “On Content and Conversation” presentation examined how graduate students completing their MFA degrees manifest their ideas in three-dimensional, ceramic form.

Collaboration through events such as the GRAE conference is pivotal in increasing the interconnectivity amongst students and college departments themselves. TC’s Arts and Art Education department is unique amongst graduate programs in that it incorporates fine arts studies, providing a strong focus on studio learning that many art education programs alone do not offer. TC currently provides well-rounded course work in theory, studio, and the practice of art, but the intermingling of academic minds through these conferences permits the opportunity for ever more growth and diversification.

By Alyssa Foster

A&H Staff Writer