Degree Name

Doctor of Education in Leadership (Ed.D.)

Type of Paper/Work



Sarah J. Noonan

Second Advisor

Chien-Tzu Candace Chou

Third Advisor

Stephen Pohlen


This qualitative phenomenological study investigated how professional artists, working as classroom teachers without partaking in a formal teacher preparation program learned to teach. Interviews of thirteen professional artists, termed community experts, contributed to an understanding of how they learned to teach and how their experiences compared to those of traditional teachers. The interviews revealed the following four findings: (a) the artists achieved purpose in their work through a mindset formed by an identity that integrates values centered on performance and continuous learning; (b) the teacher did not exist absent the artist, but over time the artist and teacher became one and the same, the artist-teacher; (c) the artists employed a distinctive pedagogy as classroom teachers that authentically and naturally used their disciplinary and professional skills, performance abilities, and the values that comprise their identity as artists when learning to teach; and (d) learning to teach for community experts was a process that progressed through foundational stages of teacher development similar to traditionally prepared teachers. Analysis of the findings compared community experts to traditionally prepared teachers using Fuller’s (1969) developmental conceptualization of teacher concerns and Berliner’s (1988) development theory of skill learning in teachers. The experiences of community experts as they learned to teach revealed an inability to separate their previously acquired artist identity, values, knowledge, skills, and performance abilities from the process of learning to teach when in the role of high school classroom teacher. As a result, their experiences allowed for the discovery of a distinctive pedagogy used by the community experts that incorporated their disciplinary and professional knowledge as artists. This unique pedagogy represented the life and work of the artists. It is “the artist way of teaching.” The recommendations that emerged from this study align with valuing non-traditional teachers, such as artists, in the field of K-12 education. This begins with school districts deliberately hiring and developing community experts to increase educational opportunities for students. Teacher preparation programs should consider supporting such a shift in the field’s current practices by creating alternative pathways for individuals interested in becoming K-12 teachers but not necessarily leaving behind their current professions. School leaders need professional development that authentically supports and grows non-traditional teachers, such as artist-teachers and their distinctive pedagogy. This study contributes new knowledge to the field of K-12 education and informs prospective teachers without traditional preparation seeking to understand what to expect through the experiences of the artists that participated in this study and learned to teach without a script.

Creative Commons License

Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.

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