Arts integration professional development: teacher perspective and transfer to instructional practice

Garett, J. (2010) Arts integration professional development: teacher perspective and transfer to instructional practice. Unpublished dissertation, Walden University, Minneapolis, MN.

Abstract:

This study examines the benefits of professional development in arts integration for elementary school teachers. The arts integration professional development in this study is part of the Intensive Development in Education through the Arts (IDEA) model. The researcher posed three questions: 1) how do teacher participants in Arts Integration (AI) professional development describe their experience; 2) how are teacher practices influenced by the program; 3) how are teacher beliefs and self-efficacy influenced by participation in the program? The researcher used both qualitative and quantitative data collection methods. The study found that professional development in AI helped teachers design more effective AI lessons; improved classroom management; and increased teacher self-efficacy. Participating teachers also reported that their students showed improvement in academic achievement, engagement, collaboration, and motivation. In addition, the researcher found that the IDEA training helped teachers address academic needs of a diverse population of students.

Key Findings:

Participating teachers reported that IDEA training improved their instructional practice, including their ability to design lesson plans, their assessment methods, and their effectiveness at meeting a wide diversity of student needs. Though the researcher did not directly collect student outcome data, teachers reported that their implementation of IDEA strategies resulted in positive outcomes for students in areas of academic achievement, engagement/motivation, and collaboration skills. They also reported that class management was easier because more students were actively engaged in learning and working collaboratively with both teachers and other students. Many teachers expressed that the most effective attribute of the IDEA program was the collaboration between classroom teacher and teaching artist. This collaboration offered the classroom teacher a professional learning opportunity on how to create AI lesson plans. Teachers reported that AI made learning fun for their students, which in turn created a more positive classroom environment. The researcher concluded that AI is a learning process rather than a simple transference of information from teacher to student; therefore, it requires a long-term commitment to allow the new skills to permeate the teachers’ general instruction technique. This finding supports the need for greater arts integration training for teachers.

Significance of the Findings:

This study contributes to the growing body of evidence that arts integration, when supported by teacher training and teacher-artist collaboration, is an effective method of teaching across the curriculum not only for students, but also specifically for teachers. The confidence and enthusiasm teachers gained through arts-integration professional development increased their ability to create an effective learning environment, reduce classroom management issues, and facilitate deep learning for their students.

Methodology:

A total of thirty-eight teachers already enrolled in the IDEA program volunteered to participate in this study. They represented five elementary schools in the Southeastern United States. The goal of the training was to help teachers identify natural connections between different art forms and non-art core curricular subjects. The program had three phases: exposure, modeling, and collaboration. In the exposure phase, teachers attended arts workshops that provided an overview of arts integration strategies. After the workshops, teachers were paired with a teaching artist who modeled the implementation of arts integration strategies. Finally, teachers and teaching artists collaborated for three years (approximately 40 hours per year) to adapt and improve their arts integration strategies. One-on-one interviews with participating teachers consisted of 17 questions that focused on the arts integration training and how it influenced their teaching practices. Ten teachers were interviewed individually and observed, while 33 teachers completed the survey. The researcher created a rubric to evaluate collaboration, creative problem-solving, and facilitated experiential learning. She coded qualitative data to identify recurring themes, which she analyzed in relationship to quantitative survey results.

Limitations of the Research:

The group of teacher participants already believed in arts integration as a valuable teaching method and, as a result, there was no opportunity for pre-testing teacher perceptions of AI. There was also no control group of teachers who did not use AI or who used AI but were not enrolled in the IDEA program. The researcher does not directly address prior experience in the arts as a factor in the teacher outcomes. The researcher relied on verbal reports from the teachers regarding student outcomes and did not directly collect data on student testing or academic improvement.

Questions to Guide New Research:

Would it be beneficial to include in-school teaching artists to regularly collaborate with classroom teachers? Would it be beneficial to offer refresher workshops to graduates of the program? Or to establish mentor relationships within schools such that IDEA graduates model AI for other teachers?