Some profess that teaching is both an art and a science (Berliner, 1986, as cited in Marzano, 2007; Weisman, 2012). Well-honed pedagogies developed through deliberate practice, as well as knowledge of one’s discipline area (Weisman, 2012), may signify the scientific parallels, but comparing teaching to the evoking of the imagination and all its intricate wonder is also a tenable position worthy of further exploration. While creating engaging lectures and activities when delivering information and ensuring a positive classroom environment constitute much of our professional responsibilities, our educational philosophies, as well as individual talents, gifts, and dispositions also inform our teaching practice, including assessments. Indeed, a careful examination may reveal that like the artist, the canvas is our classroom.
As an anti-racist early childhood education assistant professor, my teaching is oriented towards disrupting hegemonic knowledge while encouraging students to critically examine themselves, schools, and the US society. More specifically, I challenge value-laden Eurocentric epistemologies (which often obscures power relations while elevating anti-blackness) by utilizing a racially and culturally diverse curriculum, one which honors the experiential realities of those who have endured (and continue to endure) oppression, marginalization, and dehumanization. My curriculum, in essence, is a counter-narrative to the dominant racial and class narratives. Across all education levels, however, decentering whiteness, not only from the curriculum, but also from the pedagogical approaches, policies, and assessments, is critical to anti-racist educational efforts and solutions.
Yet, my talents do not solely lie in the realm of the scientific: I am an artist. I write short stories and poetry. I have a passion for drama, photography, and videography. Anti-racism writing, scholarship, and activism intersect with my artistic inclinations, producing works that lay bare the layers of my consciousness, the “artistic soul”—steeped in the dual, yet contradictory forces of hope and reality. Anti-racism is resistance; art is catharsis. The two gave birth to the C.A.P (Creative. Academic. Practical) model of assessment.
Consistent with my anti-racist teaching pedagogy, I designed the C.A.P model to offer students diverse possibilities to express their understandings of course content, though the explicit aim of the creative component was to center non-dominant cultural ways of knowing, being, and making sense of the world. This is not to suggest, however, that the C.A.P model of assessment is a stand-alone component; rather, the curriculum, the pedagogy, and the assessments all reflect and reinforce anti-racist education principles; for example, the saliency of race in the US context and the cultural knowledges and strengths of Blacks/African Americans, including creative expressions, contributions, and diverse forms of resistance to systemic racism.
As it is currently predicated on the constructs of anti-racism as well as critical race theory, each component of the C.A.P model allows students to engage in meaningful, self-reflective, as well as critical explorations of racial inequities in schools and US context. For example, in an undergraduate course focused on the social and emotional development of young children, the curriculum addresses the racial disparities in school discipline, which is also supplemented by critical race and anti-racism analyses of teacher-student interactions and teachers’ perceptions of Black students and in particular, Black boys (see, for example, Bryan , 2020). One assessment that fits with the curriculum as well as the academic dimension involves having students locate and analyze articles and other scholarly resources on the school-to-prison pipeline. A creative assessment, (which could also classify as a practical assignment), for instance, would entail students developing a classroom play-based environment, along with teacher-led activities that support healthy, positive racial identity development among young Black children.
The C.A.P model is not limited to undergraduate education, however, as I have also used the C.A.P model in my graduate course: Anti-racism education. In this course, we examine racism from both historical and contemporary perspectives, focusing on the myriad ways in which historical systemic racism, including racist policies, have contributed to contemporary socio-economic inequities. Drawing on the contributions of African American and Latinx scholars, we also explore white privilege, elements of critical race theory, intersectionality, and anti-racism curriculum, pedagogy, and children and race.
The assessment for the creative category includes an analysis of one creative expression, for example, a poem, in which the artist explicitly challenges racism—or to use a critical race theory analysis—provided a counter-narrative to dominant tropes of Blackness, of Black identity and worth. The goal of such an assessment is to demonstrate to students that while power relations underpin much of the racialized constructions of Black bodies; there has always been –and always will be—resistance to epistemic and psychological violence. Subversion of dominant thought at the nexus of voice, expression, agency, and artistic empowerment, offers a profound learning experience for my students—and myself. They are transformed by the stories, by the narratives, by the suffering that was released through the spoken word; I am inspired to unearth more silenced voices. Who has yet to be heard? Can the artist find freedom for himself/herself/themself and others through his/her/their art? Emancipatory pedagogies grounded in historical consciousness, perhaps, is an essential starting point.
I’ve been using the C.A.P model for the last three years, and students have consistently stated how much they have enjoyed the creative assessments. As this juncture in national and global history, more than ever, we, as educators, are called to be creative and critical thinkers—not only for pedagogical purposes, but also for racial and economic justice. Returning to my opening statement, teaching is an art and a science; but what would it profit, if we approach such task without considering the inequities and ideologies that divest those of darker hue of their humanity? Thus, I offer a new description: teaching is an act of transcendence, reconciling the past with present opportunities for societal transformation anchored in a commitment to challenging injustices while ensuring the humanity and dignity of the oppressed. In true artistic fashion, however, I end with a simple invitation; teach for liberation; teach for change.
Dr. Escayg’s research focuses on anti-racism in early childhood education as well as children and race. As a social theorist, Dr. Escayg has utilized elements of Critical Race Theory, Black Feminist Thought, and Anti-racist Education to offer new exegeses on children’s racial identity development, including strategies to promote positive racial identity among Black children; a research-derived protocol to assess children’s play; and an anti-racist approach to US early childhood education. Her recent publications have highlighted and interrogated the ways in which whiteness, as a system of racial privilege, functions in early childhood contexts. Central to Dr. Escayg’s work is a commitment to racial equity in the early years and the holistic well-being of Black children. In addition to her scholarly and activist pursuits, Dr. Escayg writes short stories, poetry, and children’s literature.
Berliner, D. C. (1986). In pursuit of the expert pedagogue. Educational Researcher, 15(7), 5–13.
Bryan, N. (2020). Shaking the bad boys: Troubling the criminalization of black boys’ childhood play, hegemonic white masculinity and femininity, and the school playground-to-prison pipeline. Race, Ethnicity and Education, 23(5), 673-692.
Marzano, R. J. (2007). The art and science of teaching: A comprehensive framework for effective instruction. Alexandria, VA: ASCD.
Weisman, D. L. (2012). An essay on the art and science of teaching. The American Economist, 57(1), 111-125.