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Open Access Publications from the University of California


Foreword to 2021 Volume 17, Issue 1

Foreword to 2021 Volume 17, Issue 1

Teaching and Learning through the Arts

The Benefits of Infusing the Arts in a College Preparatory Program

An extensive body of work has demonstrated the benefits of participating in the arts, including when it is integrated into other disciplines, for young adults. In addition, this work highlights the likely advantages of engagement with the arts for students from low-income backgrounds as they transition into elite postsecondary institutions. Such findings have shaped the organization of the Princeton University Preparatory Program (PUPP), a rigorous academic and cultural enrichment program which supports high-achieving, low-income public high school students, from the communities surrounding campus, prepare for admission to and success at selective colleges and universities. More specifically, PUPP provides its scholars with a studio art course during each of their three summers in the program and school-year trips to performances and museums. During their time in PUPP, scholars attend approximately 21 live performances and visit at least six different art museums.

In this paper, we add to the literature on art integration by examining whether, and how, the views of PUPP scholars on the arts programming they receive change over their time in the program. We also assess the PUPP alumni’s perceptions of the extent to which PUPP’s art and cultural activities influenced them. Taken together, these analyses of survey data help us understand whether there are differences in student views by the amount of art programming they receive (“dosage”) and if there are sustained benefits of the arts integration and programming PUPP students receive (“fade-out”). We supplement this quantitative data with information from focus groups with a variety of stakeholders.

Although our quantitative analyses of survey data revealed no dosage or fade-out effects, our interview data highlighted the cumulative development of art skills and knowledge over time and confirmed that the program’s arts and cultural activities provided contextual information and experiences useful for PUPP alumni in college. Along with prior work that shows PUPP scholars’ overwhelmingly positive views of the arts programing, these  findings point to the benefits of university-led college access programs that provide arts and cultural exposure for students’ social and cultural capital and college preparation.

Case Study Involving Art Integration Supports Social Studies Content Learning and Creativity

Arts integration with core subjects has been recognized as improving academic achievement. The current study investigated the mechanisms / principles supporting success by examining artist-reported thoughts during an art-integrated social studies project in which the artist created a diorama about a Native American tribe’s use of corn. The research questions centered on these issues: the ways corn was depicted in the artwork, types of themes emerging from the data, types of interactions present, processes occurring when art and social studies inquiry are combined, and aspects of creativity theory occurring in the final artwork and data. The data for this case study were collected over four months during the creation of the artwork, and consisted of notes of the artist regarding questions, thoughts, feelings, and decisions while working on the art piece. The diorama showcased various scenes of corn’s place in Hopi society such as courtship during corn grinding, corn kachina dancers, perfect “mother” and “father” ears of corn for a newborn, corn petroglyphs, and a small cornfield near a stream. These data were explored by thematic analysis using the constant comparison method, techniques common in art research. Thematic analysis yielded seventeen themes and sixty subthemes, including the finding, from interaction analysis, that artistic inquiry facilitated and guided social studies inquiry and vice-versa. These art-facilitated interactions resulted in new social studies content learning by the artist, along with facilitation of creativity. Data statements showed support for fluency, flexibility, originality, and elaboration; Torrance’s creative strengths; Piirto’s Seven I’s of Creativity; and Csikszentmihalyi’s flow. Art-driven social studies inquiry could be used by social studies teachers as a motivating educational tool to increase content learning while encouraging students to increase their creativity. Art education can be recognized as an integral partner of social studies. This concrete example not only showed increased motivation and content learning but improved creativity.

Arts-Embedded Education: Experiential Learning in a Waldorf First-Grade Classroom

This article provides an overview of the first-grade art and literacy curriculum of Waldorf schools, the world’s largest, non-religious independent educational network. The Waldorf curriculum was created by Austrian philosopher Rudolf Steiner, a contemporary of John Dewey and Maria Montessori who shared their belief in the advantages of active learning. Yet Steiner was unique among his contemporaries in his focus on an artistic approach to learning. Under their teacher’s direction, children draw, sing, play and learn the sounds of alphabet letters.

Statewide Arts Integration Programming: A closer look at successes and challenges for elementary students, classroom teachers, and arts educators.

When schools face issues of funding, arts programs are usually among the first to suffer, facing everything from cuts to full-blown elimination. However, the arts have been shown to be crucial for student development, not only for the joy of self-expression through the arts themselves, but also because of the social, emotional, and academic connections children can make through them. Recognizing this importance, several school districts across the nation have adopted a paradigm-changing method of instruction in which the arts are actually integrated into the curriculum as a means of teaching other core subjects. One organization making this possible is the Beverley Taylor Sorensen Arts Learning Program (BTSALP), an arts-integration statewide program now implemented in 400+ schools throughout the Intermountain West.

This qualitative study seeks to evaluate the effectiveness of this particular program in a handful of schools through interviews conducted with arts educators, general-curriculum teachers, students, and parents. Schools were chosen for the study to reflect the different art forms in which the educators specialized and to include areas with differing student demographics. Results indicate that, despite some challenges, participants found this method of arts integration to be a highly effective way to teach core curricula while preserving the aspects of art that students find engaging.


Language Arts

Language Through Music: Bridging the Opportunity Gap in the ELD Classroom

Because long-term English language learners (LTELs) in California normatively take two hours of English language instruction beginning in middle school, their schedules disallow participation in electives, such as arts, representing a significant opportunity gap. This mixed methods study examined the student, parent, and teacher experiences as well as the student English language development outcomes of a pilot program undertaken in one Southern California school district, in which one class of 17 LTEL students were placed into a choir class that embedded ELD standards into the curriculum. After one semester of the pilot program, qualitative data in the form of interviews, journals, and a focus group indicated that the program improved social-emotional outcomes for LTEL students and was highly supported by their parents, while teachers indicated that the program was positive, but needed further support in order to work well as a regular course offering. Quantitative results derived from ANCOVA analyses of English language assessments indicated that the students in the program significantly improved in their English development in comparison to a demographically matched control group from the same district. Implications for practice and further research are discussed.


Medical Humanities

Medical Students using Theatre to Engage Seniors in Long-Term Care Facilities: Fostering Empathy Through a Humanities Pilot Project

Background: The implementation of humanities, and particularly theatre, into the medical curriculum is a nascent but promising field. Here, we report on the Theatre in Community Health Project (TCHP), an initiative devised by University of Ottawa medical students focused on the use of performative theatre with residents in a long-term care facility. We also describe the impact on medical students’ developing communication skills and empathy after they complete the TCHP.

Methods: Two cohorts of first year medical students at the University of Ottawa participated in the TCHP at Villa Marconi Long Term Care Facility (LTC) over two consecutive years. Medical student participants subsequently each completed a critical reflection of their experience and these were used as the basis of our thematic analysis. Using an inductive thematic analysis, 17 themes and the frequency of statements pertaining to each theme were identified.

Results: The analysis of the students’ reflections showed two overarching themes: insight into communicating with geriatric populations and improved insights into long term facilities.

Conclusion: Our study of the TCHP programshows a relationship between medical students’ experiences with audience-oriented performative theatre and increased capacity for empathy and communication toward the targeted audience. The mechanisms by which this increased capacity takes place may be twofold: first, enhanced awareness of the behavioural components of empathy and communication; and second, deeper appreciation for how each patient’s individual context shapes the clinical encounter.