What is Arts Integration?

Published On: August 26th, 2021|Categories: News|
What is Arts Integration?

What is Arts Integration? Picture includes two young students painting in a classroom.

The Kennedy Center offers a comprehensive definition of Arts Integration:

“Arts Integration is an approach to teaching in which students construct and demonstrate understanding through an art form. Students engage in a creative process which connects an art form and another subject area and meets evolving objectives in both.”

According to The Kennedy Center, Arts as Curriculum are the arts programs that many schools offer: music, drama, dance, theater and are offered for students to develop knowledge and skills in a particular art form guided by national, state, or local standards for each of the art forms.

Arts-Enhanced Curriculum is when the arts are used as a device or strategy to support other curriculum areas, but there are not objectives in the art form explicitly being taught. For example, using music to teach letter names and sequence in the alphabet is an arts enhancement. Music is used as a means to other ends, but students are not usually expected to learn about melody, musical concepts, or singing skills. Arts-enhanced curriculum acts as a “hook” to engage students in learning other content and educators need little or no training in the art form.

In Arts-Integrated Curriculum, the arts become the approach to teaching and the vehicle for learning. Students are engaged in dual learning objectives as they engage in the creative process to explore connections between art forms and other subject areas to gain greater cross-cutting understandings. The experience is mutually reinforcing and results in deeper meaning-making in both the arts and other curricular areas. Arts-Integration requires that educators engage in professional learning about arts standards and how to authentically connect the arts to the curriculum they teach.

Educators, schools, students, and communities benefit from knowing the different ways that arts can be present in schools. When we don’t make the distinctions, opportunities can be missed, programs can lack clarity, and the arts can seem too unwieldy to incorporate into everyday practice. By making the distinction among the different approaches to the arts in schools, educators can focus their instruction, get clear about outcomes for students, and select the most appropriate approaches based on their goals. Ultimately, school communities are best served when all variations of the arts in education are present.

Why Arts Integration?

There are two big reasons why arts integration is effective: arts integration practices are aligned with how students learn and arts integration energizes educators by providing increased professional satisfaction. (Source: Why Arts Integration? Two Big Reasons Why are educators interested in arts integration?)

Research about how humans learn supports arts integration, which provides learning experiences that are active and experiential, accessible, authentic, reflective, social, collaborative, dynamic, evolving, and focused on problem-solving. Because arts integration aligns with how humans learn best, students find it meaningful, relevant, and engaging.

Not only is arts integration engaging and motivating for students, educators often regain a sense of efficacy when they see the positive impact of arts integration on their students’ learning. Arts integration offers a powerful way for educators to return to the joy of teaching that aligns with current best practices and brain research.

Arts Integration Supports Individual Needs

Arts integration is powerfully aligned with the principles of Universal Design for Learning (UDL) and provides a range of options for accessing, using, and engaging with learning materials to accommodate the broad spectrum of learner variability in every classroom. The options provided through UDL reduce barriers in the learning environment for all students while keeping expectations high.

Arts integration is an inclusionary approach to teaching that supports all students including students with disabilities, English language learners, students experiencing trauma and/or conflict, and students identified as gifted and talented. This approach is an educationally powerful way to provide “whole, healthy, and connected ways to learn” that support the tenets of Whole Child initiatives: physical and emotional safety, active engagement, personalized and challenging learning.

According to The Kennedy Center:

“Arts Integration, as an approach to teaching and learning, supports many tenets for the development of the whole child by providing emotional safety, promoting full engagement in learning that is personally meaningful and challenging. The arts offer wholeness to learning that integrates though, feeling, and action, weaving together “the threads that connect mind, body, and spirit.”

Additional Resources

This article was written by Josie Komorowski  – NCESD Early Learning Coordinator
Published August 26, 2021

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What is Arts Integration?

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