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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Research Approaches

Csikszentmihaliyi’s Concept of Flow and Theories of Motivation Connection to the Arts in an Urban Public High School

The concept of flow, or being so immersed in an activity that awareness of self becomes inextricable from the action, and motivational theory can work collectively to help us better understand how fine arts curricula can impact student motivation and learning. In this article, we use Csikszentmihaliyi’s concept of flow as a way to explore high school students’ experiences when completing challenging learning activities within a fine arts education program. In this study, focus groups were conducted to explore 19 high school age performing arts students' experiences of flow and how those experiences affected their engagement, motivation, and academic outcomes.  From the researchers' perspectives, participants, who did not know the concept of flow, described rich, descriptions of flow experiences revealing aspects of growth mindset, emotional intelligence, and self-actualization.  There were also connections to academic subjects that included the desire to stay in the program and the requirements of maintaining good grades, using art as a platform for assignments in other classes and applying the skills developed through arts education to do well.



Introduction for 2019 issue

Teaching and Learning through the Arts

Stakeholder Perceptions of the Effects of a Public School-Based Theatre Program for Children with ASD

Arts programs are often credited with helping children with autism spectrum disorders (ASD) gain cognitive and social skills. As with all claims of transfer from experience in the arts to abilities in non-arts domains, empirical evidence is mixed, and often criticized for both imprecise methodologies and a lack of connection back to the art form itself. Exact measurement of programs’ mechanisms and effects are rare. To investigate the effect of theatre experiences for children with ASD, we completed a systematic study of adult stakeholders of a large, school-based, successful musical theatre program. We found stakeholders emphasized modeling, routines, and relaxation as useful strategies, endorsing that the program built imitation, motor abilities and turn-taking skills. These observations raise questions for standard theories of the effects of arts that focus and accentuate only higher order social and emotional or academic skills, and emphasize the importance of including stakeholders in theorizing and measuring the effects of arts programs for all populations.

Connecting Arts Integration to Social-Emotional Learning among Special Education Students

Little is known about the connection between arts-integrated education and social-emotional learning, particularly for students with disabilities. This paper draws on data from a case study of a federally-funded arts integration program called Everyday Arts for Special Education (EASE) to identify the mechanisms by which arts-integrated teaching promotes engagement, self-control, interpersonal skills, and leadership among special education students. We draw on observational and interview data to present a conceptual model for understanding the impact of arts-integrated education on student social-emotional outcomes. The data suggest that arts integration impacts students' social-emotional outcomes in two ways: by providing teachers with simple, easy-to-implement activities that explicitly encourage growth on one or more social-emotional competencies; and by providing teachers with a methodology that encourages student engagement, which in turn encourages social-emotional growth. We conclude with a discussion of some of the factors required in order for arts integration to be adopted and implemented effectively within classrooms.

Teacher Preparation and Professional Development

Challenges and Supports to Elementary Teacher Education: Case Study of Preservice Teachers’ Perspectives on Arts Integration

This case study investigates the factors that challenge and support preservice teachers’ (PST) arts integration beliefs and practices. The participants include a total of 74 PSTs enrolled in a mandatory university arts course at a large Southern university across three consecutive semesters. Concurrent with arts class enrollment, PSTs are also enrolled in their capstone, semester-long, student teaching experience. The authors used PSTs’ end-of-semester reflections and the primary data source. Findings illustrate that PSTs can be creative through arts integration within teaching and learning, while still acknowledging challenges at the school level. The authors detail how they revamped existing elementary preservice arts classes to focus on arts-integrated instructional practices. In addition, findings illustrate the need for strategic inservice training for mentor teachers on the efficacy of arts integration in elementary settings and for administrative support for the arts at the school level.


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