Educators - Elementary School

List of Studies

Professional Outcomes

  • Increased Instructional Capacity. In environments that are arts-rich, elementary teachers try new things, take risks, and learn from the process. This dynamic cycle leads to increased efficacy in their teaching. Elementary teachers who teach and integrate the arts in their classrooms also develop an increased awareness of differentiated instruction and use the arts to reach each student. In one study, for example, the arts also provided an opportunity for teachers to assess teaching and learning in new ways through process documentation, the collection and assessment of curricular materials and student artwork (Burnaford, 2009). Another study found that art specialists who practice their own art are more equipped to model arts learning for their students (Graham & Zwim, 2010). By wrestling with their own artistic problems, learning from mistakes, experiencing how they push and pull ideas, researchers found, they gain a deeper understanding of the processes their students will go through. Teachers who are artists, the study also found, understand the importance of play as part of the artistic process for elementary students and as a means for children to discover their own ideas.
  • Professional Collaboration. Elementary teachers and teaching artists who collaborate on arts-based activities in the classroom learn from each other. Teachers have pedagogical and curricular expertise and teaching artists bring arts knowledge and skills. Together, they provide inventive arts integrated instruction to support student learning. When they are receptive and reflective in this practice, they also learn from their students. Studies also find that teachers who work with arts specialists and teaching artists in professional development, and who partner with arts specialists and teaching artists in their classrooms, increase their abilities to integrate art in their classrooms. In addition, in one study, creative partnerships led to enhanced literacy skills in elementary students (Wolf, 2008).
  • Professional Learning. Research finds that in-service elementary teachers gain skills, knowledge, and confidence when they experience in-depth and long-term arts-based professional development. Such professional development, studies find, enhances teachers’ instructional capacities and leads to more effective teaching. Arts-based training an professional development and learning through partnerships with arts specialists and teaching artists, research finds, also motivate and equip teachers to integrate the arts in their classrooms more frequently and in greater depth. In one study, for instance, when teachers participated in the creative process themselves in the course of their training and professional development, they were better able to provide similar experiences for their students to engage in the creative process in arts and arts integrated lessons (Bellisario & Donovan, 2012). Pre-service teachers, research also finds, gain knowledge, skills, and confidence when they are provided with a comprehensive arts methods course and opportunities to practice teaching in real-world classroom and community settings. 

Personal Outcomes

  • Leadership. At arts-rich schools, arts specialists discover new roles as leaders, creating enhanced arts opportunities for students. In one study, for example, arts specialists became leaders in their schools when given opportunities to conduct arts-based professional development for their non-arts peers (Burnaford, 2009). Their peers recognized the contributions that the arts make to student learning, leading to increased collaboration and wider school awareness of the arts. In this same study, art specialists developed cross-curricular literacy skills and were able to integrate these into their curricula reinforcing students’ abilities to critique, write, and use arts vocabulary.
  • Risk-Taking. At arts-rich schools, teachers employ dynamic approaches in their teaching by integrating the arts, taking risks with their curriculum, trying new things and becoming reflective of their practice. By taking risks themselves in their teaching they encourage their students to do the same, leading to innovative and effective learning. In one study, for example, teachers took risks by sharing their personal artwork with students, which encouraged students to more openly share and discuss their own work (Upitis et al., 1999). In another study, researchers found that arts integrated training and professional development required teachers to take risks, and that teachers reported that as a result of their own participation in arts integrated learning, they were better equipped to support students in taking the risks required in learning new material, both in the arts and in other subjects (Bellisario & Donovan, 2012).
  • Self-Awareness. By engaging deeply in arts activities, teachers experience challenges, which in turn lead to self-discovery and shifts in their beliefs about their own capabilities. The arts, studies find, allow teachers to become more self-reflective and discover their strengths and artistic and pedagogical potential (Patteson, 2002; Upitis et al., 1999). Research finds that the arts also allow teachers to uncover and consider their perspectives on complex social issues. In one study, for instance, teachers experienced dramatic arts that led to new insights about poverty and awareness of their own beliefs about poverty, which in turn transformed their views and impacted how they taught often-difficult related content (Gallagher & Service, 2010).
  • Self-Efficacy and Self-Confidence. Pre-service and in-service teachers who receive in-depth and long-term arts-based professional development and coursework, gain increased knowledge and skills which leads to shifts in their perceptions abut their abilities to integrate arts in their classrooms. This increased self-efficacy and self-confidence translates into more depth and frequency of arts education and integration in the classroom.
  • Teacher Engagement and Retention. Teachers who teach in and through the arts feel joy, rejuvenation, and increased enthusiasm and experience a deeper commitment to their profession. Teachers find that integrating the arts into their classrooms pushes them to try new things resulting in an excitement about teaching. In one study, teachers on the verge of burnout found that arts integration revitalized their passion for teaching and recharged them personally and professionally (Bellisario & Donovan, 2012). These teachers are more engaged in their teaching. Increased enthusiasm for teaching in one study translated to decreases in teacher absenteeism (Barry, 2010).