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Thoughtful Arts Integration
January 17, 2013 | Volume 8 | Issue 8
Table of Contents
Turn Your Classroom into an Inquiry-Based Design Studio
Anne Hayden Stevens
At its core, arts integration is a process of taking creative practices out of the art studio and into the everyday classroom. No matter what your level of art experience, you can transform your classroom with arts integration by
For example, consider a science class unit on the human eye. In this unit, students might look at three or four different representations of the eye and discuss which representations are most successful at communicating eye function. As a teacher, your role is to create a learning environment that offers several high-quality examples of media for students to interpret, thus engaging students' design sensibility and encouraging them to practice redesign in a media-rich setting.
In this environment, teachers no longer hold a set of right answers; the answers are relative to a series of formal (readability, color, form) and contextual (audience, purpose, application) characteristics that the students are investigating.
Following their initial inquiry and discussion of several models, students enter a studio phase in which they test their hypotheses about successful models of the eye. Students select a function to represent and draw a small sketch of their idea. After a brief review of their sketch with the teacher or their peer, students choose modes of expression: Draw in 2-D or build in 3-D? Produce a realistic representation or a diagrammatic one?
Allowing for multiple modes of expression encourages students to take ownership of their choices and results. Basic materials, like butcher paper, markers, model magic, or air-hardening clay, would support the design portion of this science lesson.
Once the models are complete, conclude with a peer critique. Have students consider
This opens up a dialogue among students about their work and the formal and contextual characteristics of the content they're studying. As a teacher, you can tend to the learning environment and quality of inquiry by moderating the discussion and modeling effective feedback. (Wiggins writes that "helpful feedback is goal-referenced; tangible and transparent; actionable; user-friendly (specific and personalized); timely; ongoing; and consistent.")
It may be uncomfortable for you to encounter students' questions about a topic outside your area of expertise. However, questions are not only a good sign that students are engaged, but also an opportunity to deepen inquiry. You can turn the questions back to the student or group by asking, "What do you think?" Once they have developed a hypothesis, the students can turn to a reputable online source and share the answer with the group.
Design Within Reach
In this template for arts integration, students
Many artistic practices are at work: design, dialogue, formal media choices, and analysis. Although this example is based in visual arts, the process also works with dramatic arts, dance, or music. Likewise, the content seen through an arts lens can be replaced with examples from mathematics, literature, or social studies. All subjects at all grade levels are open to interpretation and redesign.
I encourage all teachers to use their own areas of expertise to find open-ended, design-driven challenges for students. Student innovation will spring from asking, "What else can I do with this idea?" And redesign is a natural way to explore the arising complexities.
Thoughtful arts integration is within range of all educators at all grade levels.
Wiggins, G. (2012, September). Seven keys to effective feedback. Educational Leadership, 70(1), 10–16.
Anne Hayden Stevens is coordinator of the Creative Studies Program at the Center for Talent Development at Northwestern University. Her experience as an interdisciplinary arts educator in higher education and K–12 has led her to advocate for arts integration as a critical component of gifted differentiation and talent development.
ASCD Express, Vol. 8, No. 8. Copyright 2013 by ASCD. All rights reserved. Visit www.ascd.org/ascdexpress.
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