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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Journal of Learning through the Arts

2020, Vol 16, issue 1


Foreword to 2020 Journal of Learning through the Arts

Thank you to the authors and reviewers for their contributions to the 2020 Journal of Learning through the Arts.

Performing Arts

Mapping out Dramatic Forms

This paper examines the understanding of the use of dramatic activities and conventions in the field of education and social action, differentiating between the constructs of theatre and drama in education. In order to help reflect on the practices of teachers and educators who use these didactic strategies in their profession, three diagrams are used as models to illustrate mapping techniques. The first is sketched from the process/product, play/performance and participation/non-participation variable; the second is based on the variables of verbal/non-verbal, open/closed and small scale/large scale; and the third diagram represents drama/theatre, collective/individual and change-centered/not change-centered practices. All theatrical forms in the three diagrams are concisely, but not wholly, characterized.

Pedagogical Discoveries through Participation in a Devised Ethnodrama about Depression

This study employs interpretative phenomenological analysis to investigate theatre artists' perceptions and experiences of the phenomenon of devising and performing an ethnodramatic play about depression. Specifically, it explores reflective journal entries the artists wrote after each rehearsal and performance. The analytic process included identifying, coding, and categorizing significant statements in order to develop warranted assertions about the phenomenon. The data suggest that the phenomenon was pedagogical in nature. As such, this article explores seven emergent themes / beliefs participants apperceived throughout the process and discusses the variable veracity of those beliefs.

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Arts and Sciences

It got me back to science and now I want to be a plant scientist: Arts-integrated science engagement for middle school girls

While middle school is a critical phase for science career development for all students (Maltese & Tai, 2009), this stage presents considerations for females in science, in particular. During middle school, the decline in science interest is greater for females than males and, for most students, the level of science interest developed during this middle school stage will persist throughout their lifetime, thereby influencing science career interests and attainment (Todd & Zvoch, 2017). This study aimed to stimulate and sustain middle school female students' interest in science study and careers by transforming opportunities for their participation in classroom science in ways that better appealed to and supported female science students. Research has shown that collaborative and active engagement with peers, hands-on and tangible modes of engagement, significant real-world connections, and choice have been effective in supporting middle school female students in science. Arts-integration has been explored as a cohesive framework that could potentially incorporate each of these characteristics into a science learning environment for five middle school female students. Pre- and post-interviews served as data to investigate the impact of a four-week arts-integrated science unit on the students’ interests in science and science careers. The students explicitly discussed the positive effects of collaborative and active engagement with peers, hands-on and tangible modes of engagement, and significant real-world connections on their interest in science and science career planning. While they did not explicitly acknowledge choice, all of the girls indicated thorough enjoyment from learning and engaging in science in the ways presented in the study. All of the students advanced in their career planning as a result of experiences in the unit, either in terms of science careers or the arts. Findings are discussed in light of related research and future lines of inquiry.

History of science meets history of art on Galileo's telescope: An integrated approach for science education

An interdisciplinary approach to science education through history of art is proposed. The approach is innovative, as the artworks complement the history, philosophy and sociology of science contents to increase students’ interest and motivation. The approach integrates humanities and science education through history of art, which request interdisciplinary cooperation of the teachers of the school subjects involved with historical curriculum contents. The approach is elaborated through the case of Galileo's telescope, which provides specific features on the relationships between science and technology (scientific instrumentation applied to generate knowledge), nature of science, and science-technology-society relationships, where history and art meet each other. Further, history of art contributes some contemporary artworks on Galileo case that highlight all those relationships. The explicitness, perception, beauty and accessibility of the paintings may also be a key element to develop teachers’ and students’ interest and motivation in teaching and learning science through its integration with history of art. Finally, the interdisciplinary educational approach develops a teaching-learning sequence on the basis of Galileo's telescope to guide teaching the issue in science education through history of art. This didactic exemplification elaborates some aims, contents, resources and activities throughout the human, social, philosophical, artistic, scientific and historical aspects involved in the case of Galileo that teachers must adapt to specific subjects, degree and students.


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Medical Humanities

Bringing Type 2 diabetes to theatre: Examining Appalachian audience reflections on The Sugar Plays

The Sugar Plays are a family-focused health intervention. The goal of the play is to explore the experience of living with a Type 2 Diabetes Mellitus (T2DM) diagnosis in Appalachia. This present study examined audience reactions using three data-collection methods: (1) open-ended questionnaires, (2) participatory sketches and (3) semi-structured personal interviews. This qualitative analysis of 30 audience members who participated in all three methods found that they articulated lessons learned from the plays, evaluated the characters’ behaviors, and engaged in reciprocal storytelling. The audience’s reactions demonstrated that narrative telling is relational and that audiences were critically engaged in the process. The plays also helped health practitioners foster conversations about diabetes, the impact of intergenerational dietary habits, and the role of intergenerational buffers.

Language Arts

Integrating Drawing in Teaching English Language at Yumba Special School for Children with Intellectual Disabilities

Pupils with intellectual disabilities have personal, social and communication challenges as stated in DSM-5 (APA, 2013) and ICD-10 (WHO, 1992). As such, their cognition in general and language acquisition in particular are difficulties they struggle with in school. As a result, teaching them becomes cumbersome for teachers and caregivers. However, theories in the literature aver that art can be used as a tool to enhance teaching and learning of English language to pupils in the general population and pupils with intellectual disabilities in particular. The purpose of this study was to integrate drawing in teaching and learning of English Language at Yumba Special School for children with intellectual disabilities. The special school is situated in Tamale, the capital of Northern Region of Ghana. The study employed action research method where topics in English Language were taught by making pupils draw in the classroom. The researchers used six weeks to conduct the action research. Researchers observed that integrating drawing in teaching English Language do not only make learning enjoyable and interesting but also drawing gained and sustained pupils attention as they were actively involved in the learning process, even though children with intellectual disabilities are symptomatic of Attention Deficit Hyperactive Disorder (ADHD). Therefore educators should adopt drawing integration in teaching English Language in intellectual disability learning environment.


Lab Reports and Horror Stories: Leveraging Chemistry Majors’ Writing Interests for Student Engagement and Retention

Perceived divisions between arts/writing and science/disciplinary writing stymie science students' writerly growth. This study adopted a case-study qualitative design to discover how science undergraduates at one public university in the eastern U.S. understood writing and how they evaluated creative or personal writing in relation to their science identities. Findings show that science majors in this sample defined science writing as distinct from others kinds of writing, but they also saw creative writing as personally enjoyable and valuable. Conclusions are made that science educators may be able to leverage creative, imaginative writing that used in industry, such as science fiction prototyping, to give students chances to demonstrate how creative narratives do not lie beyond the boundaries of scientific discourse.

Teaching and Learning through the Arts

Executive Function Improvement of Students With Adverse Childhood Experiences After an Art-Integration Program.

This paper shares the results of an exploratory study that measured the change in Executive Function (EF) skills of At-Risk third-grade students with varying Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) before and after an Arts-Integration (AI) program. Student EF skills were measured using the Minnesota Executive Function Scale (MEFS) and a statistically significant increase in EF skills was observed in the post-test. In addition, a regression analysis was conducted to determine if students with a high level of ACEs improved at a different rate than students with a low level of ACEs and it was found that the number of ACEs was a significant predictor of improvement on the MEFS.  The article describes why students with high ACEs would likely have EF skill deficiencies, why EF skills are important for success in school, and how using the arts in curricula can help develop EF skills in students.

Arts and Geography


Much has been written on the history of Abeokuta and their artworks since their occupation of Abeokuta. Yoruba works of art are in Museums and private collections abroad. Many Museums in the Western part of Nigeria including the National Museum in Abeokuta also have works of art on display, however, much of these are not specific to Abeokuta. In particular this research unravels a mix up in international documentation of Abeokuta works. Writers on Abeokuta works of art include both foreign and Nigerian scholars. This research uses Historical theory to study works of art collected and preserved on Abeokuta since inception of the Egba, Owu and Yewa (Egbado) occupation of the town and the implications for development in the 21st century. The study involved the collection of data from primary sources within Abeokuta in addition to secondary sources for information on the varied works of art including amongst others Ifa and Ogboni paraphernalia, as well as records of artefact collected through wars. The research unravelled germane works that have not been written on.  However, the study also unravels that very little is done to improve on the indigenous technologies through the introduction of modern machinery for production. Recommendations are given for better production without undermining the cultural identity of the people to promote tourism and industrialisation for the development of the town and mass employment of millions of its teeming youths