Student art exhibit represents world of teaching and possibilities

November 13, 2009

University Park, Pa. -- Visitors walking through the atrium in Chambers building may have noticed a display of unusual forms of student art constructed with common art supplies. The exhibit, which will be on display through January, is a group effort by elementary education majors enrolled in Art Ed 303. The students worked together to construct a visual metaphor that represents the complexities and hopes of teaching.

The pre-service teachers were asked to complete a reading that invited them to consider the tensions between teaching that supports a “language of possibility” and teaching that colludes with limitations and a “culture of silence.” The students responded by visually interpreting these ideas through various signs, texts and materials as they reflected upon their own developing teacher identities and goals.

“A language of possibility acknowledges the potentials for teachers to co-create meaning with students and open spaces for diversity, empowerment, and voice,” said Rebecca Plummer Rohloff, who is a visiting assistant professor in the School of Visual Arts and the facilitator of the project. “By recognizing dominant cultural norms or institutional practices which exclude or marginalize youth, pre-service teachers can become self-reflective, learn to take responsibility for their individual biases, and become supportive allies and mentors for students.”

Five groups of students worked together and collaborated their own resources to construct a visual metaphor. Their artwork represents the complexities and hopes of teaching and an emerging awareness about biases and assumptions teachers may have about learners.

“A major goal of this course is to understand how the arts expand divergent thinking and meaning making processes -- important skills in a world of complexity and ambiguity,” said Rohloff. “Arts inquiry can offer safe spaces for questioning the world and experimenting with ideas, and it is the teacher who must be willing to risk the journey to build such a learning community.”

The students completed the art projects in approximately two, two-hour class sessions, and incorporated strips of fabric with written adjectives and statements of hope, compassion and change. One of the art pieces featured represents a kite in-flight with long colorful tails, which hangs in tension with cultural image that signify the weights and hindrances of limitations.

For more information about the two student art works, contact Rohloff at

  • IMAGE: Penn State

(Media Contacts)

Last Updated November 18, 2010