DBAE (Discipline-Based Art Education) Verses TAB (Teaching for Artistic Behavior):
Two Approaches to Art Education
Joni H. Hough
University of North Carolina at Charlotte
Dr. David Gall
December 10, 2009
Discipline-based art education (DBAE) has been the leading framework for art education for the past twenty-five years. According to Day (as cited in Stankiewicz, 2000),
…the discipline-based approach has influenced the National Standards for Arts Education, the framework for the recent National Assessment of Educational Progress in the arts, the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards guidelines for art certification, as well as state art guidelines, district art programs, and the art teaching of many individuals (p. 311).
Teaching for Artistic Behavior (TAB) is a choice-based approach to art education (http://teachingforartisticbehavior.org/, 2009). This paper will compare and contrast these two methods to art education.
In 1982, the J. Paul Getty Trust established the Getty Center for Education in the Arts (Duke, 1988). According to Duke (1988), “Unlike a grant-making foundation, which funds the programs of others, the primary purpose of the Getty is to create and operate its own programs” (p. 7). “By the mid 1980s, the Getty Center for Education in the Arts…became a major catalyst for reform in art education” (Delacruz & Dunn, 1995, p. 46). Duke (1988) states,
The Center found that the status of art education had declined alarmingly. Most students spend 12 years in school during which they receive some 12,000 hours of instruction in all subjects. Less than one percent of this time is spent in studying any of the art forms, and 80 percent of all students who graduate from public high schools have little, if any, instruction in the arts at all... Moreover, arts instruction in many places has been limited to teaching technical skills for making art - not to teaching students about the historical and critical aspects of art as well. While studio-oriented art may have been a satisfying experience for a few innately gifted students, it meant that children were not receiving sufficient instruction in the cultural and historical contributions of art or in how to analyze, interpret, and value works of art (p. 7).
DBAE became the art program championed by the Getty Center for Education in the Arts. DBAE had the full weight of the Getty Center for Education in the Arts behind it with programs for public advocacy, professional training, the creation of DBAE model programs, theoretical research, and curriculum (Duke, 1988).
Through DBAE, the Getty Center for Education in the Arts would change the face of art education. According to Delacruz and Dunn (1995),
In 1987, in the special Summer issue of the Journal of Aesthetic Education devoted to aspects of DBAE, Gilbert Clark, Michael Day, and Dwaine Greer boldly spelled out the theory of DBAE. According to Clark, Day, and Greer (1987) discipline-based art education draws content from four foundational disciplines-art studio, art history, art criticism, and aesthetics-as these disciplines are defined by a community of scholars and experts who have devoted themselves to inquiry in these fields of study. Formal written curricula in the visual arts should be developed for all grade levels within the school district. Curricula should be structured sequentially and hierarchically, and implemented on a district-wide basis. Student achievement and program effectiveness should be formally and systematically assessed and evaluated (p. 47).
DBAE elevated art education to a new status. It was now an actual discipline, with a testable curriculum. Hamblen (1987) maintains that, “The language of DBAE is one of a no-frills, no-nonsense program that leaves little doubt that budgeted money will be well-spent and that there will be no hedging on what needs to be done and what will be accomplished” (p. 69).
During the late 1980s and the early 1990s, DBAE flourished, but it was not without its critics. Hamblen (1987) states,
In my opinion these educational perspectives alone are not adequate to the needs of a pluralistic society undergoing rapid change and requiring a variety of types of input and a variety of view-points. These rationalistic perspectives do not allow for curriculum choices being problematic and open to dispute and challenge (p. 69).
Hamblen (1987) further condemns the art criticism aspect of DBAE, maintaining,
Considering, however, that children will be studying exemplars, this aspect of art criticism is also predetermined in that children will be asked to evaluate what has already been given validation by the learned. Focusing on what is deemed to represent the aesthetic heights of a culture could give students a distorted view of art and a view that has little resemblance to the world in which they live (p. 72).
Hamblen (1987) also points out,
If standardized testing becomes an overriding concern, lower cognitive levels can be expected to constitute much of the art curriculum. The metaphoric qualities of art, so integral to its understanding, will have little place in the identification and convergent responses required by objective test questions. Statements that art instruction should emulate other subject areas need to be assessed as to whether the dominant characteristics of general education, beyond their legitimating power, are desirable. It is in the area of the cognitive level of instruction occurring that the consequences of teacher-proof materials, predefined outcomes, and standardized testing could become all too evident (p. 75).
According to Stankiewicz (2000), “Although DBAE initially signaled attention to content, and was criticized for the other two components of art education – the learner and the social context” (p. 311).
The Getty Center for Education in the Arts did listen to some of DBAE’s critics. “In their attempt to accommodate diverse views about art education (and the vehement criticisms of DBAE in particular), the GCEA (Getty Center for Education in the Arts) found itself in the midst of the multicultural education movement” (Delacruz & Dunn, 1995, p. 47). Delacruz and Dunn also state,
Many of the participants attending the 1989 and 1992 Issues Seminars identified common aims for multicultural education and DBAE. Both movements recognized the need for programs of study that embrace ethnic diversity. Both movements recognized the need to identify, examine, and incorporate alternative ways of looking at art. Both movements recognize the need to address the problem of context: that is, the attempt to study artists, art forms, and cultures out of their original settings. And finally, both movements recognize that no single voice in the field ‘speaks for’ DBAE or multiculturalism (p. 48).
Although, the Getty Center for Education in the Arts did address the need for multicultural content to be added to the DBAE curriculum, there are still issues with some of the basic tenets of DBAE. For example, Stankiewicz (2000) points out,
Passive metaphors of learners receiving objectified knowledge from external authorities should be replaced by conceptions of the learner as an active agent, setting personal goals for learning, and creating meaning through encounters with art (Erickson, Katter, Lankford, Roucher, & Stewart, 1999). Both content and learner are structured by gender, ethnicity, class, and all the other cultural factors that contribute to the production and reproduction of shared values (p. 311).
It is in this area that TAB excels.
Whereas DBAE had financial and political support from the Getty Center for Education in the Arts, TAB is a grassroots organization that was formed for and by art teachers (Douglas & Jaquith, 2009). Although TAB is supported by Brown University, Massachusetts College of Art and Design, and Bridgewater State College, “…it remains an independent movement firmly planted in classroom practice” (Douglas & Jaquith, 2009, p. xii). According to teachingforartisticbehavior.org (2009),
The concept emerged over 30 years ago in Massachusetts classrooms through the need for more authentic art making experiences. United through Massachusetts College of Art (MassArt), teachers working in isolation discovered others who also held belief in the child as the artist. With the support of MassArt, NAEA and The Education Alliance at Brown University, the Teaching for Artistic Behavior Partnership (TAB) was formed in 2001 and incorporated in 2007 (http://teachingforartisticbehavior.org/).
According to Douglas (2007), students in a TAB classroom can work at their own pace, work from their strengths, follow a train of thought over time, learn from and work with peers, be “on task” for a greater portion of class time, develop a working style, explore their interests in visual form, form cooperative groups and engage in positive social interaction, and take responsibility for the care of materials and the classroom. Teachers in a TAB classroom can observe students working to determine strengths and weaknesses, work with small groups of interested students while others work independently, allowing for more in-depth instruction, offer special “scaffolding” to struggling students, get to know students through their personal styles, expect students to come to class highly motivated and ready to work (Douglas, 2007).
There are four practices that form the structure of choice-based art education. First, the student is the artist. Douglas and Jaquith (2009) maintain, “This powerful statement insures that students will have control over their subject matter, materials, and approach” (p. 9). The teacher presents a five minute demonstration of a new material, technique, or art concept at the beginning of each class, ensuring that content standards are met. After that, students choose at which studio center they will work.
The second practice is pedagogy. Douglas and Jaquith (2009) state,
Choice-based teaching comes in many forms: direct and indirect (through visuals and references), whole-group demonstrations and discussions, small groups with students who choose a particular exploration, and one-to-one interactions. These multiple approaches are possible because student independence is encouraged. Teacher roles include demonstrating, modeling, facilitating, caching, providing curriculum content, and altering that content as a result of observations made in class. The teacher also ensures accessibility of art materials, tools, and visual references for independent learning through student-directed experiences (p. 10-11).
Because so many teaching styles are utilized, teachers are more likely to meet the needs of every student in a diverse student population.
The third practice in choice-based art education is classroom context. Douglas and Jaquith (2009) assert,
The ideal learning environment for student-driven artmaking requires the efficient structure of time, careful arrangement of space, and thoughtful choice of materials. Good classroom management allows teachers to respond in a timely manner to student needs. Predictability of studio centers is central to the effectiveness of choice-based teaching and learning, and enables students to plan ahead for their art class (p. 13).
The final practice in choice-based art education is assessment. According to the website, teachingforartisticbehavior.org,
Assessment is ongoing and students are coached and encouraged to self-assess as they work. When students are working independently, the choice teacher is able to make general and one-on-one observations of what students know and can do. Future demonstrations and assistance are directly tied to these observations. Assessment is tailored to the specific district expectations. (http://teachingforartisticbehavior.org/faqs.html, 2009).
Student-directed exhibitions are also used as a form of assessment and as a tool for learning. Douglas and Jaquith (2009) maintain,
Students select artwork to exhibit, and their choices reflect self-evaluation of their recent work. Empowering students to organize and direct art shows extends their knowledge to the fields of aesthetics and criticism. As they determine which pieces to exhibit and how to arrange the exhibition, students develop skills necessary for growth in the visual arts (p. 15).
According to Greene (as cited in Burton, 2000),
Young people are too often bored in schools because we do not offer them meaningful challenges, we do not invite them to bring their own experiences in to the arena of learning, we do not ask of them the kind of reflection and exploration of possibilities that engages their thinking, and we do not offer them insights and skills in those non-verbal languages of the arts where imagination can open up new corners of reality (p. 330).
This may be the case in DBEA classrooms, but with TAB, this is not the case. Andrews (2005) states, “Students are engaged in artmaking, art planning, and art reflection. They are the instigators of their art curriculum; not passive bodies waiting for instruction” (p.39). Andrews (2005) further states, “This arrangement fosters greater interaction among the student artists, brings more ideas into the art room, and creates an atmosphere of enthusiasm and creativity” (p. 39)
DBAE has impacted art education in the United States for the last twenty-five years. It has brought legitimacy to K-12 art education. The art education community has improved upon DBAE over the years; however, it is still not a perfect approach to art education. DBAE focuses too much on content and not enough on the actual students. TAB on the other hand, is a student-centered, choice-based approach to art education. In the TAB classroom, a variety of teaching methods are used, increasing the likelihood of reaching all students. With TAB, students do not just learn about art, they are artists.
Andrews, B. H. (2005, July). Art, reflection, and creativity in the classroom: A student-driven
art course. [Electronic version]. Art Education, 58(4), 35-40.
Burton, J. M. (2000, Summer). The configuration of meaning: Learner-centered art education
revisited. [Electronic version]. Studies in Art Education, 41(4), 330-345.
Delacruz, E. M., & Dunn, P. C. (1995, November). DBAE: The next generation. [Electronic
version]. Art Education, 48(6), 46-53.
Douglas, K. (2007, December). Starting with the students: Choice-based art education. Art
Beat. Retrieved November 1, 2009 from
Douglas, K. M., & Jaquith, D. B. (2009). Engaging learners through artmaking: Choice-based
art education in the classroom. New York: Teachers College Press.
Duke, L. L. (1988, March). The getty center for education in the arts and discipline-based art
education. [Electronic version]. Art Education, 41(2), 7-12.
Hamblen, K. A. (1987, Winter). An examination of discipline-based art education issues.
[Electronic version]. Art Education, 28(2), 68-78.
Stankiewicz, M. A. (2000, Summer). Discipline and the future of art education. [Electronic
version]. Studies in Art Education, 41(4), 301-313.