Integrating Thinking, Art and Language in Teaching Young Children

Article excerpt

ABSTRACT

This study investigates learning outcomes of four-year-old children at a preschool in P. R. China. The children are educated in a school ecology designed to address cognitive, social, linguistic and psychological development, where an instructional technique, "Integrating Thinking, Art and Language" (ITAL), is applied to support them in developing multiple intelligences. A total of 67 beginning or pre-level I Chinese preschoolers participated in the study, whose learning in the first eight months under ITAL instruction is examined. Scenarios of ITAL instruction, children's samples and assessment of learning outcomes are reported and analyzed. Results indicate that the preschoolers demonstrated significant growth in art as well as other subjects, oral language expression and social interpersonal skills through producing and communicating about their artwork. Possible adjustments in applying ITAL are also suggested.

How to maximize children's learning outcomes has been one of the most important topics for educators and researchers to explore. Many aspects that may lead to better understanding about learning and teaching have been discussed and examined. Some raise the importance of making connections between students' existing knowledge or ability and new information, students' handson experience, and personal exploration in learning (Dewey, 1938; Ogle, 1986, 1989; Piaget, 1969). Others argue that the impact of social interaction, culture and community on learning must be taken into consideration (Dixon-Kraus, 1996; Gleason & Ratner, 2009; Heath, 1983; Vygotsky, 1978).

The theory of multiple intelligences (MI) acknowledges various capacities that make up the mind (Gardner, 1983). It implies that distinction exists in how individuals deploy intelligences. Although an intelligence is defined as the biopsychological potential to process information in certain ways for the purpose of problem solving, the theory has an impact on the teaching and learning in the classroom. Gardner argues that people are not born with all of the intelligences that can be learned and improved. Everyone is intelligent in various ways and can develop each aspect to increase competency. For classroom application, Armstrong (1994) specifies that in the MI classroom, teachers continually shift their method of presentation from linguistic to spatial to musical, often integrating intelligences creatively. Because all intelligences can be possessed by students collectively, it is appropriate to address as many intelligences as possible in lesson planning for classroom instruction (Borek, 2003).

Campbell (1996) conducted action research in his classroom. He created seven learning centers each focusing on one of the seven intelligences and students had opportunities to rotate and complete learning tasks in these centers. "The daily work at the seven centers profoundly influences their ability to make informative, entertaining, multimodal presentations of their studies" (p. 3). The results regarding the impact on students who participated in the project include improved academic achievements, increased responsibility and independence, and improved cooperative learning skills.

Thinking is considered an important element in education, if not the most important, in the 21st century, according to Kagan (2003). Thinking is divided into three types: understanding information, manipulating information and generating information, and "information processing is the essence of thinking skills" (Kagan, 2003, p. 2). Additionally, the approaches in teaching thinking skills include the specific approach to having thinking skills embedded in the school subjects (Hamers, Luit & Csapo, 1999).

The study by Rogers (2008) examined the infusion of another intelligence or art in teaching and learning to respond to "a lack of understanding that using art in other core subjects, through arts infused instruction, is significant" (p. …