• Home
  • General
  • Using ATLAS to Help Preservice Teachers to See Structures of Teaching

Using ATLAS to Help Preservice Teachers to See Structures of Teaching

The National Board for Professional Teaching Standards (NBPTS) has provided a useful resource for teacher preparation programs and in this post, I share a three-part strategy used to help preservice art teachers to develop a pedagogical mindset.

Accomplished Teaching Learning and Schools (ATLAS) is a resource of the NBPTS. The subscription-based site contains curated teaching videos, along with supporting commentary and instructional materials, submitted as part of teaching evaluations such as the edTPA, and National Board Certification. 

As a National Board Certified Teacher, I was keenly aware of the rigorous teaching expected of the NBPTS. So, as classrooms closed during the 2020 pandemic, I quickly signed up and searched the ATLAS database for teaching exemplars that would resonate with soon-to-be art teachers. I scanned through 50 art videos, selected one, and developed a simple three-part strategy for using the video in whole-group instruction. I use this approach twice a semester.

Learning to Identify Teaching Structures: A Three-Part Strategy

  1. Before class, students read the teacher’s commentary provided. To make the reading more accessible I downloaded the PDF ahead of time and made it available in the course LMS as part of the assignment. I found that novice students rarely understood all of what they were reading in the commentary, but reading ahead helped them to anticipate what they would see in the video.

  2. In class, we watched the video together. Students were prompted to look for three of the teaching structures discussed in the course text, Studio Thinking 3: The Real Benefits of Art Education. They watched the teacher giving a demonstration, monitoring and interacting with students at work and looked for moments when the art teacher engaged a student in mini-critique.

  3. After watching the video, students took a few minutes to reflect upon and analyze what was seen in preparation for the whole class discussion. Through discussion, students practiced using discipline-specific language as they acquired new knowledge, and made connections between the text and an authentic teaching situation.

I found that students began to challenge varied biases and assumptions they held about what quality teaching looked like, as they also began to see and understand the complexities of teaching.

This reading, watching, and responding cycle aided preservice teachers in three ways. It:

  • cued them to look for intentional teacher moves,
  • modeled planning and reflection, each a hallmark of the reflective practitioner,
  • provided a visual model to carry into student teaching where preservice teachers are expected to create a video and commentary as part of the edTPA teacher assessment.

Before using ATLAS, I sent early preservice art teachers into classrooms, a practice that was fun, but often ineffective. University students often walked away from those experiences with stories about the children and teens they encountered, but most overlooked the work of the teacher, even when it was the work of the teacher they were assigned to observe. If you are interested in directing your students to better see the actions teachers take to structure learning environments, then I encourage you to give ALTAS a try.

AACTE members who sign up for a new ATLAS subscription before the end of 2023 will receive a 20% discount. Both institutional and individual subscription options are available. Learn more.


ATLAS. (2023). https://atlas.nbpts.org retrieved October 20, 2023

McComb, C. (2010). Think, record, reveal: Studio process assessment and the artistic thinking it reveals. [Doctoral Dissertation, Pennsylvania State University]. https://etda.libraries.psu.edu/catalog/11264

Sheridan, K., Veenema, S., Winner, E., & Hetland, L. (2022). Studio thinking 3: The real benefits of visual arts education (3rd edition). Teachers College Press.

Shön, A. (1984). The reflective practitioner: How professionals think in action. Basic Books.

Cam McComb is Associate Professor of Visual Art Education at Eastern Michigan University where she co-leads the art teacher certification program. She holds degrees in Art Education from The Ohio State University, Miami University, and the Pennsylvania State University, where she earned a Doctor of Philosophy for researching pre-adolescents and their ability to document artistic thinking. McComb spent 25 years teaching art in K-12 public schools prior to beginning her work with preservice teachers. She is a National Board Certified Teacher, a mixed media artist, a published writer and scholar, an arts advocate, and a 2018 graduate of the National Art Education Association School for Art Leaders. She is the Higher Education Division Chair of the Michigan Art Education Association with research interests focused on the scholarship of teaching and learning, assessment, and concept-based curriculum design. This year the National Art Education Association recognized McComb as a leader in higher education for the western region of the United States and at this year’s conference they named her the 2023 National Art Educator. McComb believes in the democratization of art making: a creative practice open to everyone at any time. She is currently releasing a six-segment podcast/video series titled, Engaging Process: Where Art Education and Art Making Meet.