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Open Access Publications from the University of California

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.

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