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Open Access Publications from the University of California


A Pastiche of the Arts and Educational Research

This article provides an overview of the articles featured in the Journal.

Speak Out: Dancing into Problem-Based Learning

In recent years, Problem Based Learning (PBL) has been applied in medical and psychological areas of professional education. The PBL approach requires students to move past traditional choreographic methods toward making dances informed by real-world issues. In PBL, students work cooperatively to solve complex problems. Rather than being presented technical dance steps, they develop critical thinking abilities, acquire problem-solving skills, and communication dexterity. PBL can be effectively adapted for teaching high school and university dance classes, where problems are used to unlock the student voice and fuel the collaborative choreography process. This can be done in part by having groups meet in one dance studio with a roving teacher/facilitator and by using a problem as impetus for the creative process. This article describes a four-day PBL dance workshop and performance.

Passing the Torch: Preparing Teaching Artists through a First-Year ArtsBridge Program

During spring, 2005 The University of Montana, Department of Drama/Dance successfully piloted a small ArtsBridge Program through a new service-learning course for advanced dance and drama students. This article describes the process of setting up the university-public school partnership; describes challenges to faculty, staff, scholars and host teachers; and outlines future goals and suggestions to others starting up similar programs.

Design Education as Community Outreach and Interdisciplinary Study

Students from three schools responded very enthusiastically to community design projects. Participants in a summer course on design education created interdisciplinary projects that were taught to their K-12 students during the following academic year. This article highlights three of the many successful projects, offering suggestions for other teachers to consider.

Content in Context: Community Building Through Arts Education

This article shares critical reflections on cultivating community partnerships through arts education and provides an analytical framework for community building. It is argued that increasing access to arts education requires attention be paid not only to content issues in arts education, but, also, to holistic approaches that address the contexts of diverse learning communities. Findings are based on multi- year qualitative analysis with participants in urban secondary schools and communities in Los Angeles County.

The Artist Teacher Uses Proportions, the Math Teacher Helps Students Understand the How and Why, Fractions Fly the Kites

Mathematics and art are often considered opposites in the traditional curriculum. In this project with fourth graders, mathematics and art provided a springboard for using fractions, in particular, the multiplication of fractions, using Chinese kites.

The project began with a discussion of, “What does an artist really do in a mathematics classroom prior to studying fractions?” Typical responses from students included artists "make things" and artists sing, write stories, paint, draw, build, dance, compose music, etc. One student responded that special artists also “invent things,” which led directly into the project of kites.

Further discussion of kite flying included the cultures and competitions of flying kites around the world in countries such as Viet Nam, China and Indonesia. As the artist led the students through the project, students began to believe that an artist has to learn to use skills to make art functional and better, often involving mathematics, specifically fractions. Throughout the project the artist and mathematics professors observed and assessed how students came to believe that fractions were an important part of everyday life skills. The successful use of fractions would be necessary to complete the project. As a surprise to both sets of instructors, no work with fractions had been introduced in the mathematics classroom used for the lesson. However, empirical research with the simple pre/post testing showed significant gains in the understanding of fractions after the lesson.

Upon completion of each kite’s construction, the student was asked to decorate his/her kite in order to create some diversity of design. Every student successfully flew the kite they had constructed and decorated. The successful flight of every kite by each of the students provided a powerful and meaningful experience with fractions and proportions and the importance of using fractions in art.

Essential Poetry: Activating the Imagination in the Elementary Classroom

Does poetry have a place in elementary education? Can reading and writing poetry offer elementary learners a way to imagine (and to image) the world through personal insight, to organize and interpret their experience, and to discover meaningful connections to other areas of knowledge? If so, how should these modes of interaction and interpretation be taught? This article examines poetry’s place in the California Content Standards for Language Arts, illustrates and defends a foundation for teaching poetry to students in the 3rd grade and analyzes examples of student writing in the 3rd 4th and 5th grades taught by the author through a project she developed at a dual immersion charter school in an underserved school district.

Visual Arts and Academic Achievement

The focus on academic performance testing in elementary schools has caused a decrease in student experience in the arts. Visual arts (drawing, painting, sculpture, and collage) have been minimized in elementary schools. Without exposure to the special avenues of cognitive development and personal expression nurtured by visual arts, students are not able to meet their full potential. This action research examined the role of visual arts in elementary schools in a rural area of California. Teachers, parents, and students were surveyed, interviewed, and observed; and artifacts were collected to determine whether visual arts were valued for intrinsic or instrumental contributions. Findings suggest visual arts are highly valued by the elementary school community and are well integrated by some teachers. Importantly, if classroom teachers are expected to integrate art effectively, meet the California Visual Art Standards, and help children grow in this domain then there must be either explicit training in the visual arts for elementary classroom teachers or a requirement for providing art specialists.

The Role of Drama on Cultural Sensitivity, Motivation and Literacy in a Second Language Context

Although drama has been used successfully in English as a second language and has been shown to have positive effects on achievement and on self-confidence and motivation in various studies, it has received little attention in French immersion context where subjects are taught in French, the second language of students. The objective of this study was to teach about Acadian culture to one French immersion class using drama (Drama group) and the other French immersion class using a more teacher-centered method (Library group). Both classes were at the intermediate level. Our central question examined the impact of drama activities in elementary early FI on language learning motivation, on cultural sensitivity, and on second language writing? The data included a motivation test, a written composition, teachers’ journals and classroom observations. Results showed a positive effect of drama on several variables. First, the Drama group evaluated the learning unit significantly higher than the Library group. Furthermore, the Drama group showed a significantly higher integrative motivation and also a significantly higher desire to learn French than the Library Group. Both groups had a high cultural sensitivity before the intervention and thus there was no difference between the two groups either at post-test time. The writing of the composition revealed that the Drama group received a significantly higher overall score, and a significantly better score on cultural content. Both groups achieved high on content, accuracy, and details.

Differences in Mathematics Scores Between Students Who Receive Traditional Montessori Instruction and Students Who Receive Music Enriched Montessori Instruction

While a growing body of research reveals the beneficial effects of music on education performance the value of music in educating the young child is not being recognized. If research of students in the school system indicates that learning through the arts can benefit the ‘whole’ child, that math achievement scores are significantly higher for those students studying music, and if Montessori education produces a more academically accomplished child, then what is the potential for the child when Montessori includes an enriched music curriculum? The decision to support music cannot be made without knowing music’s effect on academic achievement and its contribution to a student’s education. This study was an experimental design using a two-group post-test comparison. A sample of 200 Montessori students aged 3-5 years-old were selected and randomly placed in one of two groups. The experimental treatment was an “in-house” music enriched Montessori program and children participated in 3 half-hour sessions weekly, for 6 months. The instrument used to measure mathematical achievement was the Test of Early Mathematics Ability-3 (Barody & Ginsburg) to determine if the independent variable, music instruction had any effect on students’ math test scores. The results showed that subjects who received music enriched Montessori instruction had significantly higher math scores and when compared by age group, 3 year-old students had higher scores than either the 4 year-old or 5 year-old children. This study shows that an arts-rich curriculum has a significant positive effect on young students academic achievement.

This comprehensive research presents developmentally appropriate early education curriculum for children from 2 through 6 years old and addresses some of the most compelling questions about early experience, such as how important music is to early brain development. Contemporary theories and practices of music education including strategies for developing pitch, vocal, rhythmic, instrumental, listening, movement and creative responses in children are presented. It explores the interrelationship of music and academic development in children, and demonstrates how music can enhance and accelerate the learning process. This study combines the best of research and practical knowledge to give teachers the necessary tools to educate tomorrow's musicians. It is essential reading for all students and teachers of young children.

The Media Mural Project: Empowering Youth in New Mass Media

This article describes the pedagogy, practice and outcomes of a digital art program developed to enable high school and middle school students to become active participants in new forms of grassroots public media. Students and their teachers become producers and controllers of art-based videos and associated digital dialogue which is distributed on the Internet.