Arts Integration

Katie Koehler
Gail Markowitch
Sarah Henson

The purpose of the following information is to inform readers of the importance of arts integration in the classroom. We will first provide background information on arts integration and then discuss research findings on this topic. The research was provided by scholarly journals regarding case studies and teacher action research. We will conclude by providing a recommendation about our moral approach to arts integration for schools in a democratic society.

What is Arts Integration?

Uhrmacher, P.B. & Moroye, C.M. (2007). Instituting the arts. Clearing House, 81, 53-57. Retrieved June 5, 2008 from Ebscohost database.

This article proposed four ways to implementing the arts in education:
1. Disciplinary
2. Interdisciplinary
3. Utilitarian
4. Transformational

Advocates of the disciplinary approach believe that students should learn about the history of different forms of art and how to critique, produce, and appreciate different forms of art. The interdisciplinary approach treats each academic discipline as equal. Each subject area contributes to the overall understanding of a theme or unit that is studied. The utilitarian approach uses the arts to help students perform better in other academic areas. The transformational approach asks educators and students to look at education through the eyes of an artist.

The 5 goals of the transformational approach are:
1. Students learn to communicate by representing art in different ways
2. Students develop a sense of creativity that can then be applicable to other aspects of their life
3. Students learn about and appreciate the work and personal histories of different artists in their communities
4. Students make connections with art and other academic subjects
5. Students learn to gather and analyze information in unique ways

The Effects of the No Child Left Behind Act on the Arts

Due to the No Child Left Behind Act and high-stakes testing in English language arts and mathematics, teachers have found themselves spending less and less time teaching in, around, and through the arts (Gullat, 2007). According to researcher, Von Zastrow, the No Child Left Behind Act and its form of documenting academic achievement, has in turn, cut many arts programs and decreased time allotted and funding for arts education (Mason, Steedly, & Thormann, n.d.). This has resulted in very few job openings for arts instructors. (Mason, Steedly, & Thormann, n.d.). If we are living in an era of the No Child Left Behind Act, when the arts are noted as core academic subjects, then why are they being left behind?

Even though the arts are considered core academic subject areas, they are not as valued as English language arts and mathematics (McCarty, n.d.). The arts are not considered as important because they do not teach the skills that directly improve standardized testing scores. Justification for this may be that the art curriculum is not measurable (McCarty, n.d.). "The arts survive at the margins of education as curriculum enrichments, rewards to good students, or electives for the talented" (Rabkin & Redmond, 2006, p. 60). "The arts are often perceived as the "icing": nice if you can afford it, but dispensable if you can't (Manner, 2002, p. 18).

Gullat, D. E. (2007). Research links the arts with student academic gains. The Educational Forum, 71, 211-220. Retrieved June 2, 2008 from Ebscohost

Can Arts Integration Help Students Learn?

According to a survey that was administered for a public awareness campaign, 73% of the pool of people believed that the arts can help all children develop, not just children with high socio-economic status (Gullat, 2007). Those who responded also believed that children who are exposed to the arts in schools, have an opportunity to develop their sense of creativity and individuality through the way they express their ideas. When asked if the amount of arts instruction their children were exposed to was enough, 71% responded that they were content with the present level of arts instruction. The survey was conducted by means of telephone interviews with 1,008 individuals who were over the age of 18 and who lived all over the United States. Many parents, teachers and administrators are preoccupied with making sure that students pass state exams. The one class a week of visual art may seem to be enough arts education when teachers feel strained for time. Those that do not know how to easily incorporate and integrate arts into the classroom may feel overwhelmed with that burden.

Most art integration programs are subservient- the arts are used to add excitement to other subjects. Co-equal means engaging students in both the “aesthetic qualities of artistic work as well as higher order cognitive skills.” (Bresler 1995, 34 & Mishook & Kornhaber 2006, p.5). In a study done by Mishook and Kornhaber, that reported on "high-stakes accountability", two trends were found: (1) "The arts schools…were far more likely to engage in a coequal, cognitive style of arts integration, whereas non-arts schools used a subservient approach” (2) “Schools with higher levels of poverty were more likely to use a subservient approach” (Mishook & Kornhaber, 2006, p. 6-7).

"Research showed that the use of visual art in reading comprehension helped students with disabilities and those from low socio-economic backgrounds more so than other students (McCarty, n.d., p. 17). The research found that students from low-income areas and students with disabilities tended to show the most growth with the integration of arts in the core curriculum of studies. (McCarty, n.d., p. 17). Integrating the arts into the classroom enables students of all levels and abilities to excel. Students that may have difficulty comprehending a story after simply reading the words might comprehend best if pictures are included. A student might learn better visually rather than verbally. A teacher can pinpoint the strengths and passions for learning for their students with disabilities through the use of art integration.

Benefits of Arts Integration

The National Endowment for the Arts conducted research and came up with five statements that describe how the arts can be beneficial to students and the educational community (Gullat, 2007):
1. The arts can promote the academic growth of students if they are actively involved in the learning process.
2. The arts can bring students, teachers, and parents together by sharing fun and creative experiences.
3. The arts can help produce a curriculum in which the core subject areas are tied together and meaning is created for the students.
4. The arts provide students with an outlet to reach other cultures found among larger groups of people and institutions.
5. The arts can humanize the atmosphere in which students learn.

According to the case study on how arts integration supports student learning, conducted by De Moss and Morris, the main impact of their findings stated that "the arts contribute to analytically deeper, experientially broader, and psychologically more rewarding learning." (Demoss, and Morris, n.d.).

“The arts support qualities that are desirable in students, including creativity, originality, and expression” (Brown, 2007, p. 172). Previous research has found that “students participating in arts integration make notable gains in social competencies, such as cooperative learning and adult and peer relationship development” (Brown, 2007, p. 173). Art integration “encompasses an emphasis on student construction of knowledge through collaboration to make real-world connections to learning that spring out of past work, as well as on the use of reflection in continuous assessment of student learning” (Brown, 2007, p. 173).

Student benefits of art integration:
o “Elaborate and creative thinking and problem solving”
o “Verbal and nonverbal expressive abilities”
o “Applied learning in new contexts”
o “Increased skills in collaboration”
o “Increased self-confidence”
o “Higher motivation” (Brown, 2007, p. 174)

Art integration is important because it hands over responsibility for learning from the teachers to the students. Students become more involved in their learning and gain knowledge and meaning from their experiences. Arts integration allowed the students to “interpret content in ways that were meaningful to them” (Lynch, 2007, p. 36).

Arts integration helped to “create a safe atmosphere for taking risks” (Lynch, 2007, p. 36). According to a two year study of research by Betts, Fisher and Hicks, "the teachers were very pleased with the results of the Arts Integration Program for their classes. Teachers reported that their students on the whole had increased self-confidence at the end of the year. They stated that their classes showed a greater cohesiveness than classes they had before. That is, they and their students had created a supportive environment where they felt they could take risks" (Betts, Fisher, and Hicks, n.d.).

Other Findings/References

Mishook, J.; Kornhaber, L. (2006). Arts integration in an era of accountability. Arts Education Policy
Review, 107, 3-11. Retrieved May 27, 2008 from ProQuest Databases.

The researchers conducted a study reporting on the impact of "high stakes accountability" (p. 3). Their hypothesis was when preparing the students for high-stakes testing, the success of students depends on the type of art integration practiced. (Subservient vs. Co-equal.) They concluded that “Efforts to prepare students for the state exams in Virginia may (but do not always) foster
arts integration practices; some of these are detrimental to arts learning” (p.4).

Brown, S. (2007). An arts integrated approach for elementary-level students. Childhood Education, 83, 172-174. Retrieved June 8, 2008
from ProQuest Databases.

The purpose of this article was to give information on arts integration to elementary level educators. The article provides important questions to ask when creating an arts integrated curriculum and discusses the benefits of the arts integration approach. This article was written because "a focus on school reform within the field of elementary education has brought an arts-integrated approach to teaching and learning to the forefront" (p.172). The author concluded by challenging educators to "re-conceptualize their practice and their role and become connectors of ideas and concepts through arts integration” (p. 174).

Lynch, P. (2007). Making meaning many ways: an exploratory look at integrating the arts with
classroom curriculum. Art Education, 60, 33-38. Retrieved June 8, 2008 from ProQuest Databases.

The researchers wanted to explore how art integration created meaning in a public school. They focused on the fine arts curriculum and did field work at the Arts Academy in the southeast United States. The researchers concluded that art integration is essential for all learners, because it allows them to make meaning from their classroom experiences.

Appel, M. (2006). Arts integration across the curriculum. Leadership,36, 14-17.Retrieved June 8, 2008 from ProQuest Databases.

This article was a literature review on the benefits of an arts-integrated curriculum. The author believes that "arts integration positively impacts cross-curricular achievement and teachers’ abilities to use multiple modalities and intelligences" (p. 15). The article concluded that arts integration has endless potential in a curriculum, but must be supported by the community. Teachers integrating the arts must be supported by providing professional development opportunities.

Riggins-Newby, C. (2003). Achievement through the arts. Principal, p. 8 Retrieved June 8, 2008

The author of this article shares her opinion on the need for action on the issue of increasing academic achievement among students. She believes that arts should be integrated into urban school districts as a way to improve “student learning and academic achievement” (p. 8). She ends with a message to urban educators: “urban educators are urged to integrate the arts more fully into their educational programs as a means of enriching the content of all subjects and of enhancing the teaching process” (p. 8).

Stubblefield, E. & Watson, G. Building a sense of history: Folk art for early childhood learners. Social Studies Research and Practice, 3, 154-161.
Retrieved June 9, 2008 from

This article was broken down into 4 sections:

Participants and Setting
The participants involved in this action research study are 1st grade students, their teacher, Ellen Stubblefield, a kindergarten teacher, Glenda Watson, and a professor at a local university. The 1st grade classroom can be found within a school located in the suburbs of Hoover, Alabama. The professor was involved in the preparation and participation of the study. The focus of the action research study was to see how integrated folk art during the Harlem Renaissance time period impacted the social studies learning unit on community.

For two months, the children studied their unit on community. In addition to folk art, the first graders studied music, literature and technology. Before the study was conducted, the students read a wide array of books with a theme of community. A large number of the books dealt with Harlem and the Renaissance period. One particular piece of literature that read was Romare Bearden: Collage of Memories by Jan Greenberg. Folk art by Romare Bearden is found throughout the book.

Collectively, the students made their very own mosaic of their community in Hoover, Alabama.The students made drawings and cut pictures out of magazines to the mosaic. Information was also gathered from people within the community, such as the mayor.

Community Project
The children went on a field trip to local museum to study the exhibit on Alabama folk art. Diversity was a theme that came up when studying the art work. The textures, colors, and styles of the art were examined. After the field trip, some of the students tried to recreate some of the art work of Romare Bearden.

In addition, the students took a look at the New York Metropolitan Museum of Art web site and viewed the page called “The Block”. Romare Bearden’s mosaic folk art of Harlem during the Renaissance period was viewed. The children took note of the people, the streets, the buildings, and the colors and shapes that were used by the artist.

The students also read poetry by Langston Hughes. Topics of racism, discrimination, and prejudice came up and were addressed through discussions. The communities of Hoover and Harlem were also compared and contrasted through discussions. After the discussions took place, the students were ask to write poetry of their own. The students were then sectioned off into groups. One group was in charge of publicity and collectively, created a brochure that showcased what was learned throughout the unit. It would be handed out to classmates, family, and friends. The final project required the students to create different buildings found within their community such as a hospital or the city hall. Boxes, paint, construction paper, glitter and wood were all supplies that were used.

Due to the fact that the arts were integrated into the social studies unit on community, the students’ awareness of their senses was heightened. This instilled a sense of curiosity and eagerness to make discoveries on their own. Not only did the children ask questions, but they also had the opportunity to reflect on the folk art associated with their own community and that of Harlem. The children were also required to use imaginations and think creatively. The analysis of folk art from the Renaissance jump started discussions about that historical time period. Throughout the learning unit, the children were able to make connections between people in history, geography, and art.

How Educators Can Become Involved

The Aesthetic Education Institute of Colorado (AEIC), which is made up of professional educators and teaching artists, offers workshops to educators (teachers administrators, school board members) to help them implement any or all of the previously described approaches (Uhrmacher & Moroye, 2007). The AEIC’s goal for educators is to enable them to enhance the creativity and meaning-making skills of their students through art. The AEIC takes educators through a set of hands-on activities that associated with visual arts, music, dance, theater, and creative writing.

Most schools include art in some way (Uhrmacher & Moroye, 2007). But, the question is how much and of what quality should there be art inclusion? The AEIC helps educators match the amount and type of art in education with each school’s philosophies and goals. So what can teachers do? The AEIC holds a workshop which is usually held during the last two weeks of June for seven days between the hours of 9 am and 4 pm. School board members, administrators, teachers, and parents are welcome to join. The Lincoln Center in New York City also offers a similar kind of workshop. Teachers are encouraged to look into local resources as well.


We believe that it is a teacher's professional responsibility to integrate arts in the classroom. Research has proven the importance of arts in education when integrated, as well as taught, as a core subject. Arts in education can help reach the at-risk population of students. In a democratic classroom, arts integration gives students the opportunity to take control over their own learning.

“To see it- I agree with you-sometimes it is not a tangible thing; it is a connection that you see in the response to the pride and work done, an overwhelming smile or a warm handshake, it might be a physical thing, or it might be the product that’s created; it’s hard to measure, but you feel it, and you know” (Mason, Steedly, Thormann, n.d.).

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