Learning In and Through the Arts
After analyzing four years of data, we know that of the five tenets of a whole child approach to education, "engagement" is the tenet that whole child supporters are most interested in. A major factor in ensuring each student is healthy, safe, supported, and challenged is engaging them in the process of building each critical dimension.
For example, school leaders can choose to ban cell phones because of cyberbullying concerns, but that response treats the symptom rather than the problem and does not engage students in the process of creating a safe place. Alternatively, giving students the opportunity to create a play that illuminates the realities of cyberbullying allows them to construct and demonstrate their understanding of its effects. How might we consistently engage students in the process of making their schools and communities safer places, healthier environments, more supportive climates, and more rigorous and challenging learning cultures?
Research and years of experience reinforce the power of integrating the arts to engage students in every dimension of learning and development. Arts integration has been defined by teaching artists, teachers, education specialists, and leading arts organizations as "an approach to teaching in which students construct and demonstrate understanding through an art form." When the arts are integrated, students are more engaged because they take on a more active role in learning by experiencing things directly and expressing themselves in multiple ways. They are challenged to take what they learn, build a deeper understanding, and then do something with it. When the arts are integrated well, students are involved in making decisions about their learning. But you don't have to take our word about the power of integrating the arts.
According to the Search Institute, interviews with several thousand U.S. teenagers yielded more than 200 different inspirations that enrich teens' lives, excite them, and tap into their true passions. In the top 10 were participating in or leading art, dance, drama, music, writing, or other creative arts activities. Researcher, author, and consultant Robert Marzano states, "One is struck by the superior findings reported for visual and dramatic instruction over verbal instruction in terms of the percentage of information recalled by students one year after the completion of the unit."
This month on wholechildeducation.org, we're focusing on the power of engaging students in learning through the arts. Join us as we continue to change the conversation about how learning can and should take place inside and outside the classroom—and learn about and contribute resources, ideas, inspiration, and examples of arts integration on the Whole Child Blog and this month's Whole Child Podcast.