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Open Access Publications from the University of California


2022 Foreword

The editor summarizes and introduces the reader to the contents of the 2022 Journal for Learning through the Arts, Volume 18, Issue 1.

Arts and Sciences

Expanding Equity in the Early Grades through Art and Nature Study

This article reviews evidence that children in the early grades benefit from aesthetic education and encounters with the natural world. The goal of kindergarten is examined, along with how the youngest members of a kindergarten cohort can be disadvantaged by an over emphasis on reading skills. Effective ways that early elementary teachers can awaken children’s desire to learn through hands-on aesthetic and nature study projects are described.

Winter, Her Dolphin Tale, and the Rise of Environmental Education

Dolphin Tale is a movie about a dolphin that loses its tail after being entangled in a crab trap line and obtains a prosthetic tail. The movie was presented to support environmental education classes at the University of Brasilia. Over a period of five years, 210 Brazilian undergraduate and graduate students answered questionnaires after watching it. The results demonstrate that the movie helped to accomplish environmental education goals: the comprehension of the role of scientific knowledge in solving socio-environmental problems, the impact of human activities on biodiversity, the novelty of the integrative interplay of different disciplines, and the importance of values in awareness.


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Language Arts

“Beyond the 'ordinariness'”: Arts-based teacher education

This article documents work with pre/in service teachers who are university students across three universities in three regions of the US, across multiple courses.  Given our shared concern about the narrowing of space for imaginative literacy practices in schools, we focus on our collective use of open-ended, arts-based pedagogies as a way to challenge how we, as instructors, and our students conceive of literacy practices. A collection of Shaun Tan texts (including picturebooks, wordless graphic novels, and other multimodal/media texts for young people) served as focus texts across our three classroom contexts.  We found surprise, a problematizing of narrow literacy definitions, and flexibility were all common ways of responding to this open-ended, arts-based literacy work. It resulted in tensions around and challenges of conventional or ordinary classroom literacy practices and pedagogical choices.

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A Movement Rises to Change the Teaching of Reading: Low Test Scores Fuel Demands for Change

This is the first in an occasional series on the dramatic national push to revamp how reading is being taught in the earliest grades. This EdSource special report examines the state of early reading in California, the needs of special learners, teacher preparation and training and curricula and textbooks that are driving instruction.

Scripting the Curriculum: A History of Students Dramatizing Content Information

Prior to the 1990s, the term “arts integration” rarely—if ever—appeared in educational literature. The term may be new, but educators have been involving students in arts learning processes for centuries. In particular, teachers have long harnessed the power of drama to engage students in arts-integrated learning activities. Articles and books published between 1903 and 2018 reveal that student-written scripts comprised classroom learning activities in social studies, literature, and even science courses. Briefly contextualized in prevailing American educational ideologies, this research examines the history of the use of scriptwriting as an educational tool, sharing what teachers and students did, how they did it, how they described it, and why they endorse scriptwriting as a learning activity. The generations of teachers who authored the articles about their practices report academic and social benefits for their students as well as professional satisfaction for themselves. Their ideas, methods, topics, and insights may serve as validation and motivation for current educators. The goal of this research is to encourage today’s educators by familiarizing them with the significant history of this work and challenging them to continue to promote and implement artistic ways of learning.

Art Infused Literacy: Scaffolding the Writing Process with with Visual Strategies

This article describes a classroom-based teacher inquiry project that incorporated the use of visual art strategies to scaffold the writing process for 2nd grade students. The project was conducted in a rural Title I school in the Intermountain West. Designed by an art teacher, the Art Infused Literacy inquiry project applied the theory of transmediation, which is the “process of translating meanings from one sign system (such as language) into another (such as pictorial representation)” (Siegel, 1995, p. 456). This concept was of special interest to the first author since she recognized that transmediation could be a framework for bridging art and literacy teaching and learning. Many of her young students struggled with literacy skills and through transmediation she saw a way to organically support reading and writing in the art classroom. Being familiar with the content areas of both art and literacy, the first author had observed  in her art classroom the similarities between how visual art and written works are created. Noting this connection inspired the following inquiry questions: (a) If salient concepts of the  writing process are taught and practiced via exploration of the visual arts first, does this foundation provide a scaffold for students to transfer these concepts to the writing process?  and (b) What visual strategies can be effectively employed to assist students in learning complex writing skills and achieving transmediation?   A seven week interdisciplinary unit was designed and implemented in the first author’s classroom. Upon completion, this inquiry revealed synergies between visual arts and the writing process which resulted in positive student outcomes.


Teaching and Learning through the Arts

Effective Learning in the Modern Classroom

Abstract: Effective learning is viewed as an evolutionary process, and as such, it involves an expanded version of the Crenshaw-Collins view of intersectionality. It demands an in-depth view of the complex socio-cultural-ethnic milieu in which students are embedded. Even more, effective learning requires effectance problem-solving, investigation and semiotics, along with effectance motivation, to form a quadripartite framework for effectance holism, which becomes the foundation for equity. Equity in the classroom requires shared human experience, research, process, ideas, as well as product. Effectance motivation associates walking, awareness, attention, perception, thinking and adapting to one’s environmental conditions that encourage effective, competent interactions of students with their surroundings. Arguably, effectance, rather effective, motivation is evidentiary in childhood development, and is responsible for acquisition of increased intellectual awakenings in the home and in the classroom. However, effective motivation alone is self-limiting. I include effective problem-solving, investigation and semiotics into the equation. That students are active, constructive participants in the learning process is also evidentiary. With Susan Harter effectance motivation encompasses the developing intellect of children and evolution of their independence, mastery, competency and success. Against this background of scholarship research, Gardner’s multiple intelligences portray student success and motivation as a pathway only to stereotypical roles, without any educational value. In contrast, egosystem provides a viable framework for understanding students and their complex makeup. In fact, I argue that frames of reference should replace frames of mind. In terms of the value of learning through the arts, early modernism, especially Dada and Surrealism, have inspired students to reimagine their own art as having, not only intrinsic aesthetic value, but also extrinsic narrative value as social-political commentary. Essentially, art and design education must reimagine what students could do, if only they did not have to conform to a set curriculum, and were allowed to research art history on their own, explore their personal passions and experiment with various art forms.

A Mixed Methods Critical Review of the A+ Schools in NC: Making a Case for Fidelity in Frameworks

Quantitative findings from NC school report cards comparing 37 arts-integration public K-8 schools in North Carolina (NC) called “A+ Schools” with 37 traditional public K-8 NC schools revealed that the majority of NC A+ schools averaged lower EOG scores than the schools in their district. In this data sample, both A+ Schools and traditional schools’ scores in NC had a downward trajectory since 2001. Additional findings included increased arts classes offered at A+ schools and slightly decreased chronic absenteeism compared to traditional public schools. This data was triangulated with a qualitative analysis of three interviews: with the NC A+ Schools program director, with an arts director at an A+ school, and with a principal at an A+ school. Challenges to implementation within the NC A+ program are discussed as well as methods of preparation and practice that link these two high-performing schools to four highly acclaimed arts-integrated school programs. A five-part framework for arts-integrated schools is recommended: (1) the use of data-driven planning, (2) garnering funds, (3) collaboration between arts educators, arts specialists and classroom teachers, (4) ongoing professional development (PD), and (5) showcases of student work.

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Arts Infusion: My Lived Experiences as an Elementary Visual Arts Teacher

In this article, I present my lived experiences as an elementary visual arts teacher working in an arts-infused school. Investigating arts infusion as a form of arts integration, I introduce arts infusion and what it looks like in practice. Weaving together personal experiences, stories, reflections, lesson examples, and a literature review, I am inspired by narrative inquiry as a way of knowing and making meaning of past experiences and how reflective thinking can provide insight into the complexities of teaching and classroom practice. Reflecting on themes such as scheduling, time and space, participation, content knowledge, relationships and engagement, and support and funding, I highlight successes and challenges I encountered while working with arts infusion. Recognizing that many schools, particularly at the elementary level, are implementing arts integration, it is important to become aware of the lived experiences of those working in such programs and the possibilities their experiences, such as my own, have for growth and change. It is my hope more schools will acknowledge the potential for the arts and arts infusion in education.