Our Goal: Helping Teachers

Our goal is to increase the teachers' ability to boost student engagement. Teachers recognize a new level of student engagement immediately when they go back to the classroom and use arts integration after a training. They are thrilled and surprised at the effectiveness of the arts integration strategies the invite students to overcome barriers that have seemed intractable. We generally do not promise an increase in student achievement because it is so dependent on circumstances beyond our control. But we cannot escape delight in reporting an increase in grades when we have the opportunity. The power of arts integration to help students overcome barriers to learning is intoxicating for teachers (and all of us) the more they embrace arts integration as a daily classroom practice.

We simply need to reach more of every group in order to have impact on education as a whole. What we do takes so few resources for teachers to implement that we need as many teachers as possible engaging students using arts integration 1) for educations' sake and 2) for arts' sake. However, given the gross underrepresentation of Hispanic people in civic society, as well as Native Americans, we would do a great service to our state and nation to focus on deeply penetrating these markets with this effective education/arts intervention. With the rich cultural and arts resources resident in these communities, there is great opportunity for arts integration to be a natural expression, in education, of the richness ready to be put to good use in classrooms through the discipline, skills and processes of arts integration.

We believe every classroom can be filled with the joy of learning at every level, in every subject, for every student, through arts and arts integration. Every teacher can learn to use arts integration in their own way. Our goal is to make arts integration accessible to as many teachers who want it. As soon as a teacher understands the power of arts integration to engage students in authentic learning, every teacher will want it. Thus, we have developed content and a process for professional development: First, we use a three-step arts integration process (known as the Embody Learning process) for teachers to use in the classroom:

  1. Physically engage students with the art form and have students explore the academic content using the art form,
  2. Guide students to discover new knowledge, inquire, innovate, create, and
  3. Have students show what they have learned.

To help teachers engage students in this process, we train skills or knowledge in six areas: planning, innovation, collaboration, assessment, presentation and improvisation. We have developed a curriculum for the six skills in various formats — one-day trainings, multi-day workshops, in-school multi-day visits, etc.

We are looking at how arts integration used in daily academic lessons has an impact on student engagement and on the results of student engagement, which are attendance, behavior and student achievement. We also work with teachers to raise the quality of the arts integration, providing access to arts resources that enhance the learning experience for their classroom practice. Our job is to bring in artists and artistic practices in all the art forms that teachers can access for their arts strategies. Our goal is for teachers to use high integrity examples of dance and movement, theater and performance art, music, visual arts, media arts, poetry and literature, and architecture, culinary arts, sculpture, fiber arts and local culture. And most important to develop a sense for quality, or at least have a source to use as a measure of integrity or evaluation.

We are looking for outcomes through assessment and data.

Assessment:

  1. How many students are engaged
  2. Are arts standards evident
  3. Are academic standards evident
  4. Are learning objectives evident
  5. Are students focused
  6. Was academic learning visible, clear
  7. What was arts take-away for students

Data:

  1. Attendance
  2. Behavior
  3. Participation
  4. Grades

In the assessment, when teachers know they will be evaluating specific areas, they are conscious from the planning stage of their classes and focus on achieving a recordable presence of each area. On a rating scale, they generally are rated at 3 or higher on a 1-to-5 scale. Attendance always improves. Behavior is not always an area that is measured in every school. But grades almost always go up and teachers are always surprised when they first see the results. Teachers were willing and even excited to use arts integration, but they never expect to see quiz results to so quickly reflect a deeper level of authentic learning from students.

We use an action research instrument. Questions are adjusted in response to the goals of the classrooms in which we are working.

Our task is to know as much as we can about what is the best practice for teachers in classrooms with students — we will continue to evolve our program content. What we have learned through assessment and data has dictated our four classroom practice points and our six skill areas. We have also designed a model for working with schools that involves five visits per school year, 13 days total including planning, modeling and demonstration, and reflection in the classroom with teachers and students and five professional development sessions. This “light touch" has transformative results for classroom practice.

Our goal has been to have sustainable impact on classroom practice with a "light" touch... that means, without a large and ongoing investment on the part of a school or a teacher. For example, if a teacher attended a training session, could that teacher go back to the classroom and make a difference in student engagement? Or if a school had a professional development session, would it have an impact school wide on student engagement? We determined, through work in three schools, that we could have an impact school wide with four visits to the school over one school year. That would be enough time for early adapters to master arts integration practice and become leaders, for willing teachers to experiment with arts integration and have mentors in the school and for school leadership to recognize the value of arts integration by seeing the results in student achievement.

This was a risk because our work cannot survive if we are unable to make it sustainable. The old days of hiring professional artists to be in the classroom with the teacher were great for everyone involved, but that model is financially unsustainable. Rather than see arts integration die, we have redefined it by helping all teachers learn to use the arts as a strategy for planning lessons without the presence of artists. For the cost of professional development, which is part of every schools' existing budget, arts integration can become an essential part of every schools' student achievement and teacher training imperative... IF we can demonstrate its power and get the word out. Our biggest task is always to redefine arts integration and then to explain its academic value.

The desired outcome is that everyone understands the power of arts integration to engage students in learning of all academic subjects as well as the full range of arts... and that all teachers understand that arts integration skills and methods are accessible to them. It's simply a matter of their choosing to make the effort. The actual outcomes are that more and more teachers are changing their classroom practice forever... a common statement from teachers even after just one day of professional development: "I will never teach the old way again..."

This model of a light touch, and variations of it, is how we will reach teachers, schools, artists, districts and everyone with arts integration professional development. This is our modus. We believe it is the only means that arts integration will reach a large segment of teachers because it addresses the issues of their lack of time and funds, yet it is effective in helping them be better teachers.


AiS does not and shall not discriminate on the basis of race, color, religion (creed), gender, gender expression, age, national origin (ancestry), disability, marital status, sexual orientation, or military status, in any of its activities or operations. These activities include, but are not limited to, hiring and firing of staff, selection of volunteers and vendors, and provision of services. We are committed to providing an inclusive and welcoming environment for all members of our staff, clients, volunteers, subcontractors, vendors, and clients.