Academic journal article Phi Delta Kappan

Classroom Educators Learn More about Teaching and Learning from the Arts: The Arts Are Crucial to a Complete Education in and of Themselves, Joseph Amorino Points out. However, the Arts Also Can Lead Teachers to Reinvent Their Own Practice

Academic journal article Phi Delta Kappan

Classroom Educators Learn More about Teaching and Learning from the Arts: The Arts Are Crucial to a Complete Education in and of Themselves, Joseph Amorino Points out. However, the Arts Also Can Lead Teachers to Reinvent Their Own Practice

Article excerpt

Students in the Glen Rock Public Schools in New Jersey dance their numbers, imagine the human characteristics of minerals, and transport themselves into Revolutionary War times--all as the result of what teachers learned in a powerful professional development experience built around integrating the arts into all types of instruction.

"This isn't a matter of just adding clever activities to what I already do. This really means rethinking my understandings about the nature of my practice," said one participant.

Glen Rock transformed instruction by enabling teachers to discover the richness of incorporating various aspects of the arts into their classroom work. In a deeper vein, these educators more clearly understood that the arts should never be peripheralized, because the arts have unique potential as vehicles that can open new ways of thinking for teachers and for students. If the full measure of one's intellect encompasses sensory, emotional, kinesthetic, and cognitive processes, and if academia is defined by intellectual engagement, then the arts must be classified as profoundly intellectual and academic subjects indeed.

Glen Rock's journey began when the district invited reviewers from Teachers College, Columbia University to evaluate arts education for its 2,416 students. While recognizing that Glen Rock's arts program had many commendable qualities, the Teachers College consultants said the district would benefit by enhancing communication between its six schools; integrating the arts into general education classrooms; allowing students to further explore process, materials, and personal expression through making art; and providing professional development programs that would create a more cohesive districtwide curriculum. At the same time, teachers wanted instructional strategies that would encourage students to form original ideas, improve their conceptual and creative thinking, and expand their propensity to explore, discover, and learn in ways that did not lead to predetermined outcomes.

Through an Arts Create Excellent Schools grant, Glen Rock was eventually able to fund a three-year professional development program to address the findings of those evaluators and the desires of its 190 teachers. The Teachers College consultants designed professional learning opportunities for teachers that would engage them in experiences similar to those they could provide for students. Six daylong workshops introduced 12 teachers--some art teachers and some classroom teachers--to integrating the arts into their instruction and deepening their understanding about the nature of teaching and learning. Ultimately, 26 teachers were involved in a project that extended five years and produced a DVD that would enable the district to share its work with other educators.

LAYING THE GROUNDWORK

The initial workshop, held on an auditorium stage, introduced teachers to sensory-based learning; its connections to emotional, kinesthetic, and cognitive processes; and its influence on creativity and idea formation. As a visiting consultant for visual art and drama, I'm also hoping to stimulate some early thinking about applications to classroom practice. Some opening discussion leads to a casual, but driving question: "Where do ideas come from?" Silence lasts for seconds.

Some teachers say they simply urge students to "be creative," but have never considered creativity and idea formation as "teachable" qualities. The group quickly raises three key questions: "Can you teach to creativity?" "Does creative thinking embody an intellectual behavior which emerges from a specific set of conditions?" and "Can these conditions be recreated in the classroom?"

I let the questions dangle. Our search for answers will begin with the first hands-on activity. The teachers sit in a circle with a sheet of 18x24-inch drawing paper on each of our laps. We devote a minute or two to silence and establish a tranquil, focused tone in the warmly dramatic stage lighting. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.