Educators - Research Overview


Drawing arts into instructional practices can allow educators to better reach all students and create dynamic and engaging lessons that help students understand the core content and thinking skills of the disciplines they teach while helping students connect their learning to the real world and develop personal and social capacities necessary for college and career success.

The studies in this section of ArtsEdSearch focus primarily on how teachers’ practice and professional lives are affected when they integrate the arts into their curricula or participate in arts learning experiences in the context of training and professional development. Some studies also examine the effects of schools’ adoption of arts-rich curricula on arts specialists, the role they play in their school buildings, and the impact on teaching artists when they collaborate with classroom teachers to deliver arts integrated instruction.


Professional Outcomes

Professional outcomes refer primarily to skills and capacities that are necessary for career success. Most of the studies summarized in ArtsEdSearch relevant to this topic pertain to teachers and identify linkages between arts experience and successful and satisfying teaching.

  • Assessment. Through the arts, teachers gain knowledge of alternate forms of assessment to gauge students’ understanding. In one study, middle school teachers gained knowledge of authentic assessment (performance assessments, portfolios, and other assessments that directly measure demonstration of knowledge and skills). In another study, elementary school teachers who engaged in process documentation (the collection of lesson plans, students’ artworks and observations of lessons), became more reflective about both their students’ learning and the effectiveness of their own teaching.
  • Increased Instructional Capacity. rts education is connected to teachers’ improved capacity to use differentiated instruction, the practice of modifying and adapting instruction, materials, content, projects, and assessments to meet the educational needs of varied learners and to reach marginalized students. In several studies (Barry, 2010; Burton et al., 2000; Nelson, 2001; Oreck, 2004; Upitis, 1999) at various grade-levels, teachers developed awareness of student diversity and found the arts as a tool to increase student motivation. Teachers from early childhood through middle school in another study (Mason, Steedly & Thormann, 2008) developed an understanding that the arts provide multiple points of access for special needs students. 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 et al., 2001; Corbett et al., 2001; Cote, 2009; Stevenson & Deasy, 2005).
  • Professional Collaboration. Teachers who work with artists in professional development and classroom collaborations increase their ability to integrate the arts and experience increased confidence in their own teaching. Collaboration with peers and artists helps teachers to feel supported while they try new strategies in their classrooms. Whether an artist is providing arts-based professional development or partnering with a teacher in a school, or a school has forged external partnerships with museums and cultural organizations, teachers benefit from the effects of collaboration and expanded resources leading to enhanced satisfaction with their teaching. Artist and community partnership models also strengthen ties between schools and communities. Teaching artists also benefit from the experience noting that being in the classroom strengthens their teaching abilities and allows them to have increased respect for the profession.
  • Professional Learning and Leadership. Teachers who have arts experiences as part of their professional education develop greater facility in curricular integration, instructional differentiation, and the use of alternate forms of assessment. Research suggests that arts specialists often develop leadership roles within their schools when the arts become a central part of the school curriculum and provide arts-based professional development to assist their peers with arts integration. Teaching artists that experience arts-based professional development alongside classroom teachers and work collaboratively in classrooms enrich their own teaching capabilities and provide a key role in bolstering cultural partnerships in schools.
  • Teacher Engagement and Retention. Arts education experiences—in professional development and in the classrooms—help teachers to re-engage with the teaching profession. Research at various grade levels has established connections between arts education and greater teacher enjoyment and satisfaction. Studies find that when teachers integrate the arts, they experiment with their curricula and pedagogical approaches, resulting in increased engagement in their teaching. This in turn brings a new depth to their teaching practice that echoes the deep learning the arts provide students. One study found that when the arts were infused in the whole school, teachers decreased their rates of absenteeism.

Personal Outcomes

ArtsEdSearch defines personal outcomes as capacities that are critical to the development of a strong sense of identity, positive self-concept, emotional well-being, motivation to succeed, and engagement and persistence in learning, life, and work.

  • Risk-Taking. Integrating the arts with their instruction in other disciplines, studies find, provides opportunities for teachers to experiment and employ dynamic approaches in their teaching, taking risks with their curriculum, and becoming reflective in regard to their practice. When teachers participate in hands-on arts and arts integrated learning, they develop the capacities needed to provide arts instruction to students, with increased understanding of the artistic process. By taking risks themselves, they learn how to encourage their students to do the same in a safe and supportive environment.
  • Self-Awareness. Teachers in K-12 schools who engage deeply in arts experiences become self-reflective and uncover their positive attributes and areas where they need improvement. The arts present challenges with which teachers must wrestle, leading to self-discovery regarding their capabilities. This new self-awareness leads to increased confidence and excitement about teaching. In one study, teachers made connections to prior experiences through the arts and developed new ways of seeing the world, which affected their teaching approaches (Bellisario & Donovan, 2012).
  • Self-Efficacy and Self-Confidence. Teachers in schools that participate in arts-infused reform programs experience more self-efficacy and confidence in trying new instructional strategies and, consequently, they employ more dynamic, flexible, and creative approaches in their teaching. Elementary school teachers experienced increases in confidence and skills when given repeated exposure to arts-based professional development, particularly with artists. Their personal and professional growth led to increased use of the arts in their classrooms, a change they attribute to long-term in-service arts exposure.