Educators - Middle School

List of Studies

Professional Outcomes

  • Assessment. The arts provide middle school teachers forms of authentic assessment (performance assessments, portfolios, and other assessments that directly measure demonstration of knowledge and skills) to assess students’ understanding. In one study, drama was a particularly effective form of authentic assessment at the middle school level. (Morris, 2001).
  • Increased Instructional Capacity. The arts provide avenues for increasing teaching effectiveness with the potential to reach all learners. The arts provide opportunities for teachers to be innovative in their instructional approaches and allow them to make new connections about their students’ learning styles. In several studies, teachers developed an awareness of student diversity and the need for improved motivation that enjoyable experiences in the arts can provide middle school students (Barry, 2010; Burton et al., 2000; Nelson, 2001; Oreck, 2004; Upitis et al., 1999). Teachers from another study developed an understanding that the arts provide multiple points of access for special needs students, giving them opportunities to express themselves (Mason et al., 2008). At arts-rich schools where the arts are integrated across the curriculum as a tool for school reform, studies find that the arts provide opportunities for teachers to innovate, experiment, and make their teaching more dynamic (Adkins & McKinney, 2001; Corbett et al., 2001; Cote, 2009; Stevenson & Deasy, 2005).
  • Professional Collaboration. Studies find that teachers who collaborate with peers and artists develop increased satisfaction and contentment in their teaching. Studies also find that partnerships between teachers and arts specialists and teaching artists, result in enhanced arts integrated instruction. In studies of arts-rich schools where the arts are integrated across the curriculum as a tool for school reform, for example, researchers found that teachers developed connections with peers in their schools and districts and with local arts and cultural organizations that led to increased collaboration in the delivery of arts education and more effective arts integrated instruction in classrooms. Studies also find that school-wide arts integration can lead to increased leadership roles for arts specialists.
  • Professional Learning. Studies find that through arts-based professional development and partnerships with arts specialists and teaching artists, in-service middle school teachers gain skills, knowledge, and confidence in the arts, and enhance their instructional capacities both in the arts and in other disciplines they teach. In one study, teachers who experienced arts-based professional development felt a sense of community that empowered their learning and acquired new perspectives on teaching, exploring new media, making connections to prior experiences, and increasing their willingness to take risks (Upitis et al., 1999). Teaching artists who collaborate with teachers to implement arts integrated instruction, experience positive impacts on their own artwork. In one study, their participation in arts integrated instruction not only strengthened their individual studio practice, but also changed their beliefs about the benefits of arts for students and broadened their perceptions of the issues teachers face in their work (Upitis, 2005).

Personal Outcomes

  • Risk-Taking. At arts-rich schools where teachers have more flexibility and support to use the arts in their classrooms, they are able to take risks, try new things, and be reflective about their practice. In some cases teachers pursued their own art, taking risks by sharing their work with their class, a move that inspired students to pursue their own art (Burton et al., 2000; Upitis et al., 1999).
  • Self-Awareness. Teachers who participate in long-term, arts-based professional development and integrate the arts into their curricula discover qualities and capabilities in themselves, which over time lead to their ability to make personal connections to prior experiences through art, help them to develop new ways of seeing, and in some cases, lead them to pursue their own art work (Upitis et al., 1999). Teachers in another study felt that their participation in arts-based professional development allowed them to experience the creative process discovering unknown artistic capabilities that they were then able to translate into their teaching (Bellisario & Donovan, 2012).
  • Self-Efficacy and Self-Confidence. Studies find that middle school teachers who experience long-term arts-based professional development have increased self-efficacy. In one study, for example, teachers noted that their perceived lack of self-efficacy in the arts inhibits their use and frequency of arts integration in the classroom, and the researcher found that repeated, long-term exposure to arts in professional learning built their self-efficacy and self-confidence, leading to increased use of the arts in their classrooms (Oreck, 2004).
  • Teacher Engagement and Retention. Studies find that teaching through the arts pushes and enables teachers to try new things resulting in increased excitement about and joy in teaching. They also find that as a result of integrating the arts into their classrooms, teachers experience rejuvenation and a deeper commitment to teaching. In several studies, for example, teachers who taught at arts-rich schools expressed increased happiness and satisfaction derived from their use of arts integration in their classrooms (Barry, 2010; Burton et al., 2000; Cote, 2009; Stevenson & Deasy, 2005; Upitis et al., 1999). In another study teachers commented that arts integration revitalized them and renewed their commitment to their teaching when they were on the verge of burnout (Bellisario & Donovan, 2012). One study documented decreases in teachers’ absenteeism (Barry, 2010).