Sometimes I can’t decide whether implementing Arts Integration (AI) in our classrooms is better for the student or better for the teacher! Kids learn better—teachers teach better with arts in the content classroom.
I know from my own experience at Bates Middle School, a school transformed by Arts Integration and showcased on the Edutopia website, as well as from observing arts integrated classrooms throughout my school district that teaching through the arts engages and motivates students and improves cognitive capacities. A lot of research confirms this. In 2002, one of the first concentrated looks at the effect of art in the classroom was published by the Arts Education Partnership (AEP): Critical Links: Learning in the Arts and Student Academic and Social Development.
The authors, lead by Dick Deasy, found that after reviewing sixty two research projects there was indeed an important relationship between learning in the arts and thinking skills. They found that motivation was an underlying link to academic achievement and effective social behavior. Catteral, Duamis and Hamden-Thompson, in 2012, found that socially and economically disadvantaged students did much better academically when they had high levels of arts engagement or arts learning as compared to their peers. Just this month, in a letter sent to Title 1 State Coordinators, Dr. Monique Chism, Director of Student Achievement and School Accountability Programs at the U.S. Department of Education said that the arts “play a significant role in the development of children and their learning”.
Research around the 21st Century Skills also links the idea that teaching through the arts has provided students with practice in these necessary skills: thinking critically and creatively, collaborating with others, understanding, appreciating cultural diversity and more.
AI improves teachers’ practice:
As arts integration specialist, I know that arts integration works well in teaching because it incorporates the “best practices”. It provides for differentiated instruction by allowing teachers to tap into multiple intelligences of their students. Plus, it employs strategies that exemplify current scientific knowledge about how the brain functions. The arts provide alternative pathways in the brain for students to construct knowledge and build memory.
Above all, arts integration is an approach for active learning. Arts Integration techniques lend themselves to collaborative learning and experiential learning. Many studies have indicated that traditional learning through lecture and work sheets is one of least effective learning strategies, and being involved actively is the most effective. The experts at the Southeastern Center for Arts Integration (SCEA) say “the reason why arts integration holds so much potential for the classroom is the power of art to engage students in experiential learning, which is the process for making meaning directly from the learning experience as opposed to academic learning.”
When students feel invigorated by the arts, teachers end up invigorated.
When teachers see that their students are the most engaged and motivated when the lesson involves integrating the arts, they tell me that they find their job to be more exciting, easier and more interesting. They are successfully reaching and involving more students and their students, thus feeling much more successful about their own learning. The lessons make learning fun for their students, which in turn creates a more positive classroom environment. Class management becomes much easier because more students are working collaboratively and actively engaged in learning. What could be better?
Catterall, J. S., Dumais, S.A., & Hampden-Thompson, G. (2012). The Arts and Achievement in At-Risk Youth: Findings from Four Longitudinal Studies, Research Report #55. (12) Washington, DC: National Endowment for the Arts.
Deasy, Richard J. (Ed.). (2002). Critical Links: Learning in the Arts and Student Academic and Social Development. Washington, D.C.: Council of Chief State School Officers. http://www.gpo.gov/fdsys/pkg/ERIC-ED466413/pdf/ERIC-ED466413.pdf
Edutopia: Schools That Work-Arts Integration http://www.edutopia.org/stw-arts-integration
Southeastern Conference for Arts Integration: http://centerforartsintegration.org/