Academic journal article Studies in Art Education

Transdisciplinarity and Art Integration: Toward a New Understanding of Art-Based Learning across the Curriculum

Academic journal article Studies in Art Education

Transdisciplinarity and Art Integration: Toward a New Understanding of Art-Based Learning across the Curriculum

Article excerpt

With new standards and initiatives, general education has shifted its priorities from rote learning of academic content to understanding overarching concepts and building thinking skills that underlie all disciplines. For instance, the Common Core Standards in Language Arts and Mathematics emphasize understanding of core ideas and application of knowledge through higher-level thinking skills (Common Core Standards Initiative, 2012; Kendall, 2011 ). Similarly, Next Generation Standards in Science focus on practices, cross-cutting concepts, and core ideas (National Academies, 2011); likewise, the Framework for 21st Century Learning stresses critical thinking, collaboration, communication, and creativity (Jacobs, 2010; Partnership for 21st Century Learning, 2012).

This change in focus toward conceptual and procedural skills should prompt general educators to entertain alternative pedagogies that foster these abilities. The conceptual/procedural turn in education, although at this time quite moderate, could also portend greater, more profound institutional and philosophical changes. Indeed, this may be an opportunity to rethink education as a whole, to shape a new paradigm of education built on a more dynamic, creative, organic, and realistic vision of how the world works, how young people learn, and how the mind understands its experience and the world.

Art integration-which brings to teaching and learning the benefits of artistic thinking, process, and creativity-could be a major player in this new paradigm. However, for art integration to be a compelling alternative to other pedagogies and/or to play a pivotal role in shaping a new education model, general educators must understand its potential for deepening and transforming learning across the curriculum. The challenge for art educators who support art integration is to fully delineate and promote art integration as the complex, dynamic practice it is so that those outside the field can see its potential.

Art Integration

Art integration comes in multiple forms, from approaches that employ simple illustration of academic topics to others that foster metacognitive skills. Silverstein and Layne (2010) defined art integration as "an approach to teaching in which students construct and demonstrate understanding through an art form. Students engage in a creative process, which connects an art form to another subject area and meets evolving objectives in both"(para. 3).This model of art integration, while embracing art objectives, essentially utilizes multimodal arts-based learning to enhance comprehension of academic subjects. With its nod to art practice, it has stepped beyond the art-infused model of integration espoused in many popular books on art integration curriculum (Cornett, 2010; Gelineau, 2004; Goldberg, 2011; McDonald, 2010), in which art production is solely a strategy for teaching academic content.

Art integration also has reached beyond interpretation of academic topics to explore and interpret life-centered issues or "big ideas" that transcend disciplinary boundaries (Burnaford, Aprill, & Weiss, 2001; Daniel, Stuhr, & BallengeeMorris, 2006; Gaudelius & Spiers, 2002; Parsons, 2004; Taylor, Carpenter, Ballengee-Morris, & Sessions, 2006; Stewart & Walker, 2005; The Ohio State Transforming Education Through the Arts Challenge Mentors (TETAC), 2002; Wilson & Cohen-Evron, 2000). Essentially an extension of art-infused learning with an emphasis on ideas, concepts, and issues, concept-based art integration is closely aligned with the new emphasis in general education on cross-cutting concepts.

What about the conceptual/procedural skills the new initiatives in education demand? Wilson and Cohen-Evron (2000) found that integration could also connect subject areas by emphasizing inquiry processes and skills common to all disciplines. This process-based vision of art integration aligns closely with the current emphasis on conceptual and procedural skills in general education. …

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