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Open Access Publications from the University of California


A Variety of Approaches to Studying the Value and Implementation of Arts Education

In this introduction to the issue, the editor summarizes the content and comments on the significance of the information provided therein.

Teacher Preparation and Professional Development

What Predicts Pre-Service Teacher Use of Arts-Based Pedagogies in the Classroom? An Analysis of the Beliefs, Values, and Attitudes of Pre-Service Teachers

Arts-based pedagogies have a positive, significant impact on various student academic-related outcomes. University teacher preparation programs may want to consider pre-service teacher beliefs, values, and attitudes toward arts-based pedagogies in order to better support teacher growth in using these arts-based approaches. In this study, we administered the Teaching with the Arts survey to 160 pre-service teachers. Results from the survey suggest that pre-service teachers value the arts; however, this was not related to their plans for future use of arts in the classroom. Pre-service teachers’ perceptions of personal creativity and ability to overcome systemic constraints were highly predictive of plans for future use. Implications for policy and practice are included.

Pilot Study on Kindergarten Teachers’ Perception of Linguistic and Musical Challenges in Nursery Rhymes

Nursery rhymes provide a unique learning context for preschoolers in regard to their emergent literacy and musical development. According to Vygotsky’s social constructivist theory (1978), in order for learning to occur, children must face challenges, and adults must provide support to guide them toward mastery of new skills. The current pilot study began with the aim of  documenting teachers’ reactions to nursery rhymes in relation to their level of difficulty. Eighty-eight kindergarten teachers were asked to use the new nursery rhymes in their classrooms. Then, they were asked fill out a questionnaire to document their reactions and their ratings of the linguistic and musical difficulty. Teachers’ reactions were measured by their overall impression of the nursery rhymes, their perception of pupils’ enjoyment of the nursery rhymes and the time they spent using these nursery rhymes in their classrooms. The results revealed that the teachers tended to have a better impression of the nursery rhymes, perceive their pupils’ enjoyment of the nursery rhymes as more positive, and spend more time on those nursery rhymes judged the easiest in regard to their vocabulary and their rhythm. According to Ezell and Justice (2005), by putting more emphasis on easier nursery rhymes, teachers might target only what children have already mastered, leaving less opportunity for new emergent literacy and music skills to develop. The results point to the necessity of improving educators’ training in regard to the use of nursery rhymes by focusing on the educational opportunities provided by linguistic and musical challenges in nursery rhymes, an important starting point for explicit instruction and scaffolding (Bruner, 1983).

Teaching and Learning through the Arts

Innovating schools through dialogic arts-based practice: ingredients for engaging students with a whole new mind

While the “scientific” debate about school dropouts has ensued, some have taken matters into their own hands, creating successful non-school based programs on the arts for at-risk youth based. Their efforts demonstrate powerful results for learning and human development. We suggest that it is time to incorporate this knowledge base, and as well, explore its potential for an integrated model of learning that considers the creative needs of all individuals. During the fall of 2011, we introduced a pilot project to work with storytelling and painting with a group of youth in a full pull-out program. In this article, we share stories from our experience and offer insights about the complex road ahead to inject creativity into mainstream schools. The importance here is to insure that all students will be better equipped for a future that engages the whole mind and being.

“I’m a writer. But I’m an artist, too. Look at my artist’s notebook”: Developing Voice through Art and Language

This paper examines how elementary children develop voice in a classroom where art and language have equal import from four different contexts: group, guided, table, and independent shares. Specifically, this paper highlights one child in particular: Rebecca, a writer who discovers art as a way of knowing and develops a greater appreciation for her love of writing.  My dissertation study took place in a second grade classroom, a ripe context to study a multimodal approach to learning, since many modes of knowing often lose their status (e.g., art) to more privileged ones (e.g., language) as learners progress in the elementary grades. This article investigates how one child develops voice through art and language and serves as an exemplar of how multiple ways of knowing and contexts in which to learn can positively influence children’s sense of self as artist, writer, and meaning maker.

Arts and Sciences

Learning Through The Arts In Denmark: A Positive Psychology Qualitative Approach.

This article disseminates the results of a qualitative, case-based study carried on in Danish schools in 2008-2011. Results show that learning outputs can be seen as more than academic achievement, and the arts’ contribution to learning can be viewed as more than the ancillary support of academic performance. Learning within an artful mindset implies a broader view on school learning, for the key reason that art offers many optimal opportunities for formal, mediated, meaningful and material learning. The main empiric and theoretical issue explored in this article is the experience of positive emotions and cognitive intensity within the artistic activities in school projects and its consequences for individuals’ learning, development and well-being.

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A River Runs Through It: Art, Geology and Life on the Upper Mississippi

This article presents a pilot interdisciplinary project for middle-school students including visual literacy, studio art, English-language literacy, geology and the study of indigenous groups.[i] The location of the pilot was in the upper Midwest, along the Mississippi river bluffs of St. Paul, Minnesota. English-as-a-Second Language (ESL) students from a Title I school joined a six week summer program, where they examined the banks and bluffs of the Mississippi river, effigy mound sites, and made visits to the Science Museum of Minnesota and the Minneapolis Institute of Art. This curriculum investigates ‘place’ and effects of time, with the intent to increase students’ knowledge of local history, and their placement within the socio-cultural context of a river-city. Students took digital photographs, created mixed-media art, conducted computer research and wrote about their experiences. Teachers agreed that this combination of learning strategies was a rich interdisciplinary experience for students. This article describes the various components and resources for such interdisciplinary curriculum, with emphasis on skill-building, knowledge acquisition and exploring connections.

[i] This project was funded by a grant from the National Art Education Foundation (NAEF).

Upper Elementary Students Creatively Learn Scientific Features of Animal Skulls by Making Movable Books

Arts integration in science has benefits of increasing student engagement and understanding. Lessons focusing on form and function of animal skulls provide an effective example of how handicrafts integrated with science instruction motivate students and support learning. The study involved students ages 9-12 during a week-long summer day camp. Students applied animal skull concepts of eye positions of predators and prey, relative eye sizes of nocturnal animals compared to tunnel-dwellers, shapes and functions of different types of teeth, and terminology and functions of different bones, openings, and structures of animal skulls in making moveable book pages. These pages featured pop-up constructions, a lift-the-flap page, and a turning wheel behind cut-out windows in a page to convey the skull concepts. Additional creativity was incorporated through making a three-dimensional cover related to the Mexican Day of the Dead with skulls made from pieces of recycled plastic bottles, drawing figural-transformations, and creating animal skull models from household or discarded materials. The lessons included classification of images of skull features on cards and examination of realistic animal skull models. Pretest-posttest science content results indicated large gains with a very large effect size; attitude surveys and student work showed high motivation and creativity.

Multimedia Approaches

Education through Movies: Improving teaching skills and fostering reflection among students and teachers.

Learning through aesthetics—in which cinema is included—stimulates learner reflection. As emotions play key roles in learning attitudes and changing behavior, teachers must impact learners affective domain. Since feelings exist before concepts, the affective path is a critical path to the rational process of learning. Cinema is the audiovisual version of storytelling. It enhances emotions and therefore sets up the foundation for conveying concepts. Movie experiences act like emotional memories for developing attitudes and keeping them as reflective reference in the daily activities and events. To foster reflection is the main goal in this cinematic teaching set. The purpose is not to show the audience how to incorporate a particular attitude, but rather to promote their reflection and to provide a forum for discussion. In this paper, the authors relate their experiences in cinematic teaching, particularly the effectiveness of the movie-clip methodology, in which multiple movie clips are shown in rapid sequence, along with facilitator comments while the clips are shown. The movie clip method can improve faculty teaching and stimulate their professional growth.  Teachers seldom think about themselves and usually lack the time to disclose their feelings. However, they use their own emotions in teaching, so learning proper methods to address their affective side is a complementary way to improve their communication with students. This methodology offers a special environment for fostering open-hearted discussions, helps teachers improve their self-knowledge, and develop closer relationships with colleagues and students through the affective domain. In this paper the authors want to share the methodology and a summary of their experiences in teaching. Although the authors’ field is mostly medical education they have also had some cinematic teaching experience with other audiences, and consequently they want to share with a extensive community of educators. An Appendix is included at the end, with a collection of movie scenes the authors frequently use in medical education.

Medical Humanities

Theme-based courses foster student learning and promote comfort with learning new material

In this article, we review the literature about theme-based teaching, then report quantitative and qualitative results from surveys from three different courses: one section of a100-level in-person art course; five sections of 300-level on-line art courses; and one section of a 100-level in-person biology course at SUNY Delhi with applied themes (“food,” “healthcare,” and “beer” respectively) in teaching and learning. Our results indicate that embedding themes across an entire course can be a successful way to improve student perceptions of their learning and comfort with learning about new subjects.  These data expand current gaps in the literature with respect to the measured benefits for students of adopting themes in college teaching and learning.  They will be useful to teachers considering the use of themes in their courses and to anyone looking for a way to help students relate to the disciplines in their courses.