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Open Access Publications from the University of California


Teaching and Learning through the Arts

Artistic Classroom Activities: What Skills Can Students Learn?

Research suggests that incorporating diverse active learning approaches, including creative and entertaining activities, into a class helps sustain students' attention and improve their ability to engage with the complex problems of the modern world. This study investigates how two different artistic classroom activities, one based in performing art and one based in visual art, compare to conventional classroom activities with the same broad educational goals.  This study finds that artistic classroom activities and conventional activities generally encourage similar understanding of course content, attention, and interest in students.  A performing art activity (in the form of a roleplay) encourages more improvement in communication skills than a similar conventional activity.  Some students view a disconnect between learning content and learning communication skills, however, so instructors must ensure that students recognize the value of artistic teaching techniques.  Suggestions for helping students adapt to new artistic activities are presented.

Creative and Body-based Learning: Redesigning Pedagogies in Mathematics

Contemporary schooling produces unequal educational outcomes in Australia and across the globe. While mandated high-stakes tests supposedly place all students on a common scale, they can limit pedagogic practices and often fail to recognize the “abilities” or embodied knowledge of many children. In addressing these challenges, particularly as they relate to the teaching of mathematics, this article reports on a qualitative study that investigated an arts integrated professional learning model, Creative Body-based Learning (CBL), at two Australian primary schools. CBL uses active and creative strategies from a range of art forms to increase student engagement and expand pedagogic possibilities across the curriculum. In this pilot study, five teachers formed action research teams with four artists to integrate CBL into mathematics. Findings drawn from interviews with teachers include higher engagement and improvement of student dispositions in mathematics and, more significantly, a broadening of teachers’ pedagogical practices to engage students and provide them with multiple opportunities to present their learning.

Arts in Education: The Impact of the Arts Integration Program and Lessons Learned

Erie Arts & Culture (formerly ArtsErie), in partnership with the Union City Area School District, Crawford Central School District, Penncrest School District and Edinboro University in Pennsylvania received Arts in Education Model Development and Dissemination Grant from the U.S. Department of Education in 2010. This grant provided the opportunity to design and implement Arts Integration: From Vision to Implementation,a four-year project that integrated dance, music, visual arts, and drama into existing curriculum. Arts Integrationprovided professional development for classroom teachers and teaching artists and established avenues for their collaboration to design and implement arts-integrated classroom-based learning through an artist-in-residence experience. The purpose of the project was to improve lesson planning and the quality of teaching; student engagement in the learning process and their learning habits associated with the arts; and ultimately, students’ achievement in math and reading. This project reached approximately 900 students annually in participating schools. Student data presented were collected only for students in participating and control classrooms, whose teachers agreed to be included in the evaluation. Included participating, or treatment, classrooms were selected from three schools that experienced arts-integrated learning. Included control classrooms were selected from two schools of similar demographic composition, where the project was not implemented. The data were collected from 54 treatment and 50 control classrooms. The total number of students in treatment classrooms was 969, and, in control classrooms, 962 students.  The total of 35 participating classroom teachers, 32 control classroom teachers, and 16 teaching artists participated in the evaluation part of the project. Arts Integrationproduced a number of positive outcomes for the participating students, as well as teachers and teaching artists, who participated in the program.  This evaluation documented a number of positive outcomes related to quality of teaching, student engagement and learning habits.  At the same time, because the program was time-limited and the level of exposure for individual students was not long-term, the impact of arts-integration on student achievement in math and reading could not be definitively determined.  This article provides a number of recommendations that would enhance the design and implementation of similar arts-integration programs, as well as offers lessons learned with respect to its evaluation.

Performing Arts

Taking it to the stage: Performing arts education and African American male academic identity development

This case study examines the relationship between school-based performing arts participation and academic identity development for African American male high school students. Participants addressed how their engagement in a school-based performing arts program influenced their academic achievement and school experiences. The researcher used African American Male Academic Identity Development theory, a proposed framework, to address the following questions: What are the experiences of African American males who participate in school-based performing arts programs? How do performing arts education experiences influence the academic identity development of African American male high school students? Based upon the data derived from this study the author argues that school-based performing arts participation may improve academic performance, engender positive school experiences and encourage affirmative racial identity development for African American male high school students.  Findings from this study contribute to the body of literature on the relationship between arts education and academic achievement among African American males.

Language Arts

Re-Imaging Student Learning Through Arts and Literacy

In this article, the authors consider the role that arts-integrated writing might play in shaping student learning opportunities. It explores the topic of using photos, drawings, and other images in the classroom as visual texts to mediate personal expression, thinking, and learning with language-based texts. Existing literature on multimodal curricula is briefly reviewed and ideas are provided for teachers who would like to explore this approach to writing instruction. Issues of equitable access to learning opportunities that are centered on students’ multiple ways of knowing and the funds of knowledge they bring to school, as well as shifting cultural definitions of literacy and multimodality, are also explored. Specific examples of how teachers can maximize the potential of multimodal, arts-integrated teaching and learning in their classrooms are shared. The article concludes with implications for teachers, their teaching practices, and student learning.


Arts and Sciences

Integrating the Arts into Science Teaching and Learning: a Literature Review

Combining arts with science builds on children’s interests in nature while allowing artistic expression.  Although educators often discuss integrating the arts into science learning, empirical support is relatively recent.  This thorough review of the education research literature on arts integration synthesizes previous empirical studies and theoretical literature published on arts integration, how the arts are integrated into science teaching, and the efficacy of arts integration for science learning.  It provides evidence that arts integration provides positive outcomes in important areas such as learning, school climate, and teacher collaboration.  This review also discusses evidence regarding obstacles to arts integration such as time, professional development, and ongoing support for teachers.  Finally, we offer implications for future research, including the need for more rigorous empirical studies on integrating the arts into science teaching and learning.

Teacher Preparation and Professional Development

Learning through Film: Lessons from Workshops for Teachers and Pre-service Teachers of English

This article looks back on the professional development offered to teachers of English to support them in their teaching of film since the introduction of film into the English syllabus in Ireland in 1998. It focuses on three inter-related elements: the interpretation or reading of film; the pedagogy that supports this interpretation; the potential of exploring issues of social justice and the self-other relation through narrative films. The article outlines four distinct phases in the professional development offered to teachers and shares the emerging findings. The first phase involved the introduction of film and its use in opening up discussion and creating interpretative communities in teacher education workshops for teachers of Leaving Certificate English. The second involved an exploration of film genre in workshops designed for teachers of Transition Year. The third involved the development of a dialogic form of pedagogy in interpreting film in a series of workshops directed at teachers of Junior Cycle English. The fourth involved the use of film in exploring education for justice in a series of workshops for pre-service teachers on Bachelor of Education and Master of Education programmes. The article explores the link among narrative film texts, generative questions, thoughtful interpretation, and the value given to dialog and the movement of question and answer in professional development workshops where narrative films are viewed and interpreted. The article is autoethnographic in character (Holman Jones 2005; Ellis et al. 2010). It involves self-reporting, descriptions of practice and reflection on that practice.

Research Approaches

Development and Psychometric Investigation of an Arts Integrated Assessment Instrument for Educators

The development and initial psychometric investigation of the Hocus Focus Analytics (HFA) scale, an instrument to measure student growth and outcomes using an arts-integrated teaching approach, is reported.  A 15-item instrument consisting of five subscales (cognitive, motor, communication, social skills and creativity) was developed to measure the outcomes of students (n = 31) with disabilities through the performance of four different magic tricks.  The performance of each trick was assessed by the students’ teachers (n = 4) at four different times for a total of 124 completed assessments using the HFA scale.  Results of the present study offer initial support for the psychometric properties of the HFA scale.  The authors discuss the importance of using an instrument to measure student progress through a multidisciplinary, arts-integrated curriculum and future research implications.

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