International Journal of Education & the Arts

Volume 2 Number 9

November 12, 2001

Images for Understanding:
Snapshots of Learning through the Arts™

Dr. Kit Grauer
Dr. Rita Irwin
Alex de Cosson
Sylvia Wilson
Faculty of Education
The University of British Columbia
Vancouver, British Columbia

In this paper we examine, in images and text, a case study of two artists and the teachers at an action research school involved in the Learning through the Arts program. We are guided by the following research question: What changes occur in the artists' and teachers' beliefs about learning and teaching as a result of this program? Emerging from the research are several themes under the umbrella of beliefs about teaching and learning: the role of the researchers and image based methodology in affecting beliefs; the role of the children's response in shaping beliefs; and integration in an arts infused curriculum. Given the rising interest in artist-in-residence programs across North America, and particularly the Learning through the Arts programs across Canada and internationally, this image based educational research contributes valuable insights into the beliefs, practices, and issues surrounding such programs.

Click on images to view larger versions
When I saw the digital pictures, I realized how engaged the kids had been, even kids that I hadn't recognized were at the time, and what a difference that work in the arts made to their learning and motivation.


During the 1970s and 1980s, artists-in-residence programs grew and became an important feature of education (e.g. Aquino, 1979; Nash, 1979). During the 1990s and beyond, programs such as these continued to flourish and in some instances became recognized as important additions to school programs witnessing reduced or eliminated programs in the arts. In other instances, these programs were viewed as important additions to already strong programs in the arts. Still other programs were created to enhance school reform efforts across the core subjects, while promoting the arts as essential subjects whenever possible. Many of these programs were brought forward as ways to enrich the overall curriculum. In Canada, many of these programs were brought in just as elementary classroom generalists were replacing specialists in the arts. Even then, the programs were often justified on the basis of their effect on non-arts subjects rather than their importance to human understanding through the arts.
In this article we examine the beliefs and practices of two artists and a group of teachers involved in a particular artists-in-the-schools program called Learning through the Arts™. This program is sponsored by the Royal Conservatory of Music (Toronto, Canada) and is designed to be a professional development model for teachers wishing to learn how to integrate the arts into all subject areas within the curriculum. The program brings three different artists into a school to work with all of the teachers at a particular grade level. Over three years, the school takes on an arts-infused curriculum model. In year one, grades one and four begin the model. In year two, grades two and five are added. In year three, grades three and six are added. By the end of year three, all of the grades, and thus classes, in each school are committed to integrating the arts throughout the curriculum. Much of this model is dependent upon a variety of factors such as: teacher and artist beliefs around art and teaching; the time and energy needed to plan appropriate curriculum together; and an inquiry-based process of understanding what it means to learn through the arts.
Although there are studies underway in the United States (Burton, Horowitz, & Abeles, 1999) and in Canada that have documented the effects of arts programs on student achievement (Wilkinson, 1997­–1998; Wilkinson, 1996), there is very little research that examines the effects of such programs on the beliefs and practices of both teachers and artists as they collaborate on developing an arts-infused curriculum.
If we look to another subject area for a moment and examine what has been learned about professional development within mathematics teacher education, it appears that four interrelated changes are manifested when teachers are challenged to build on their previous knowledge in order to develop new and more robust understandings (adapted from Nelson & Hammerman 1996, p. 5):
  • changes in their beliefs about learning
  • changes in their understanding of mathematical knowledge
  • changes in the depth and flexibility of their own mathematical knowledge
  • changes in their repertoire of instructional practices.
Nelson and Hammerman go on to suggest that change occurs more rapidly
when teachers are part of a group working collaboratively on these issues within a supportive school system; that is, when they are part of a professional culture that supports inquiry into how students' mathematical thinking develops and how to facilitate that thinking (p.5).
In this article we wish to share with you a case study of two artists and the teachers at the action research site with whom we have been working during the first year of our three-year study. In prior research into the beliefs of teachers toward art education (Grauer, 1998), we developed some insight into choosing meaningful questions. For this article we are guided by the following research question : What changes occur in the artists' and teachers' beliefs about learning and teaching?

Context and Methodology

Although each of the artists works in eight of the Learning through the Arts™ schools in the lower mainland of British Columbia, our study focuses on one of the eight schools. Teacher reform over the last decade has emphasized teaching as an intellectual rather than a technical enterprise. In fact, there has been a tremendous move toward the creation of intellectual communities of teachers, students and teacher educators (Nelson & Hammerman 1996). The schools electing to be a part of the LTTA program clearly see themselves as sites for professional development in the arts. Given the nature of the LTTA program, professional development may be emphasized for the teachers but it is clearly evident that the artists, as collaborators in the process, are also involved in their own professional development.
Viewing this program as a program that teaches children, and simultaneously provides professional development, resonates with the recent research conducted by Upitis, Smithrim and Soren (1999) who describe two models for professional development in the arts.
One model involved summer institutes complemented by autumn/winter workshops and teacher-led action research projects, in partnership with performing arts organizations and museums. Another model engages all staff members in a school in workshops and individual learning projects over the school year (p.23).
Analyzed data collected over a two-year period are synthesized to create a three-level transformation matrix. The findings suggest that both models can yield profound change in teachers, however the most lasting change seems to occur after two years of professional development.
Given that our study is a three-year study, we are hopeful that we will be able to document the changes in beliefs and practices for both the artists and teachers. This article provides snapshots of the beliefs and practices of two artists and some of the teachers at the action research school who have been involved in the LTTA program. At this site we are attempting to continue the work of Bresler (1993) in understanding teachers' and artists' knowledge of the arts and pedagogy by drawing on phenomenology, case study and action research. It is essential to establish that it is very early in our research and that the two cases presented here are part of a much larger study. What they provide is an initial window into some of the classrooms participating early in the school year. Several themes have come forward as a result of using the constant comparative method (Glaser & Strauss, 1967 and Spradley 1979, 1980) of data. The analysis is derived from interview transcripts with teachers and the artists, and transcribed data collection from debriefing sessions in which all of the researchers share reflections and field notes. What we are discovering from this early analysis is resonating with the themes that are emerging from all three sites in our larger research study and helping us refine our questions and vision.
In addition to the above methods of data collection, several strategies are employed as ways to nurture our thinking as image based educational researchers. Digitized images, taken during each session, are used as a source of images to prompt our reflections, interpretations and analysis. At our debriefing sessions, each researcher shows the digitized images taken during our observations of the artists. The technique of photo elucidation (Collier, 1967, Harper, 1998) suggests a collaborative method for research. We are trying various forms of image based analysis as groups of researchers; and as researchers, teachers and artists. As the researcher, artist and /or teacher interpret the image, a dialogue is created in which the typical research roles are reversed. Teachers also are using the visual images to trigger reflective thinking both for themselves and for their students. Artists and parents have asked to use the images to help them in their understanding. At the action research site, a Fine Arts night was planned for the whole school and community that used the digital images as a part of a computer generated slide show. Parents were able to understand their children's learning as the children described through the images their experiences with the artists. This was an exciting place for active talk and reflection generated by viewing the images.
In this way images (Prosser, 1998) become central to our work. They are a part of our methodology and part of our presentation. We are be pursuing image based educational research as a way of presenting our findings in forms that will enhance understanding.

Learning through the Arts

In the literature on arts education there is ongoing discussion on using the arts as a tool for integrating subject matter across all subject areas within the elementary curriculum. For instance, Collins and Chandler (1993, p. 199) discuss differences between arts infused curricula and an arts immersion model. For them, arts infused curricula "frequently interpret the arts as simple activities, or products, that can be "infused" into the daily curriculum (songs, crafts, television programs)." An immersion model, on the other hand, illustrates how knowledge can be "interwoven into the tapestry of human experience (p. 199)." In doing this, curricular fragmentation is avoided and viewing the arts as simply products is discouraged. Almost twenty years ago Grauer (1981, p.11) cautioned that the arts could easily become "handmaidens" to the other curriculum areas if integration occurred without value for the content of each academic discipline. Barnes (1993) wants educators to be cautious of cross-curricular work.
Whenever art is linked with other areas of the curriculum I suggest we need to understand three important issues. First, we need to understand to what extent the subject is given over to supporting subjects rather than retaining its integrity. Second, we need to know what subject learning we are fostering. Third, we need to know how this relates to the rest of the curriculum. (p. 69)
He goes on to suggest three criteria for cross-curricular links to have integrity for all subjects.
These criteria are that the cross-curricular link must: 1. benefit the particular subject areas in question; 2. develop and respect the core concerns of the subject; and 3. give coherence to an otherwise fragmented curriculum (p.71).
Music educators Wiggins and Wiggins (1997) believe that integration should take place through conceptual connections. They believe that we need to make conceptual connections rather than content connections. This can be achieved by connecting learning processes and/or affective responses through theme-based units that address cognitive and affective connections. Irwin (1993, 1998) makes the distinction between art as discipline and art as integration and looks at integration as a strategy for teaching the arts as disciplines.
Although debate exists within arts education as to the extent to which integrative activities and curriculum should be conceived and nurtured, curriculum integration is an accepted model for classroom instruction. How artists perceive curriculum integration, as they develop lessons for Learning through the Arts™, becomes an important consideration for the professional development of teachers attempting to understand cross-curricular connections.

Image-based Cases

In the following case study narratives, we detail how two artists have attempted to interpret their art forms as they design experiences for students.The Learning through the Arts™ program has been able implemented in schools for two years; however, this qualitative research study only began this past year. The two case studies presented here involve both a beginning and a second year artist and teachers involved in the first and second years of LTTA. Through these snapshots, we hope to begin to identify some of the beliefs and practices that are associated with this program.

Eric Neighbor: Sculptor

Eric Neighbor is in his second year as an artist in the Learning through the Arts™ program. His own artwork involves large sculptures and community-based projects. In this program, he developed a clay based sculptural project to be used at the grade four levels. This project involved the children creating a clay bust over three classes. The curriculum integration component was loosely identified as writing stories about the characters that the students developed in clay. The sculpture making was a very structured assignment and involved many small steps directed by the artist for the students to produce a final project.

Eric, of all the artists, was the most vocal about support for the program. However, his beliefs about what "learning through the arts" meant and his actual practice were sometimes in conflict. In the introductory session, with only the artists present, Eric spoke of the reason that he felt artists were so important in classrooms. He felt that teachers were often stale and reused many of the same teaching strategies and teaching examples that they had used for years. Artists, he insisted, provide fresh perspective to the classroom experience. They push children's creativity and introduced the arts to young people in a fresh way.
Watching Eric was always a positive pedagogical experience. He had a strong sense of himself as a teacher and was able to easily relate to the grade four students that he taught. Eric was the only artist who really emphasized what the program was about and even circled the word "through" on the blackboard. In all the classes we observed, Eric made the effort to remind the children that they were involved in something very exciting that would help them learn better in all their school subjects and that he was one of the three artists that would be visiting them this year. In his own evaluation report, the first objective discussed in every class was Learning through the Arts™—who, what, and why. He consciously planned his program to relate to the music and dance artists that would be coming next and enthusiastically attended their workshop sessions with teachers.

Eric modeled many fine pedagogical techniques. He was careful to use the children's names when he was using their work as examples; he knelt down to the children's level while going around the class to help individual students; he used a great deal of appropriate humor in describing and discussing the work that he wanted the children to do; and he was very comfortable managing both materials and classroom discipline. His metaphoric descriptions for the techniques and skills that he wanted the children to try were always child centered. He expected the children to be quiet when he was talking, and rarely needed the teacher for management purposes. His respect for children's ideas and for their work was evident. Eric had classroom experience teaching prior to his involvement in this particular program and was also involved in other school-based artist in residency programs.
In interviews, Eric spoke about his pedagogical practices. He planned his workshops so students would not be bored. Boredom was a recurring theme in his interviews, and he built his sequence of lessons so that children would be actively engaged by teacher directed instruction. This appeared contrary to his belief that the real important is of the Arts was in their ability to foster creativity and his assertion that artists would be more creative than teachers. At the end of his sessions, Eric admitted that this particular unit had more to do with following specific directions that with creativity. It his own words, "It's about 80% skill and maybe 20 percent creativity."

This was the second year that Eric had presented this unit of study. There was a very little change from his first year experience with the exception that he encouraged the teachers to do the story writing assignments after, rather than before, the clay workshop. As much as Eric talked about learning through the arts, it was difficult to see what the curriculum connections were beyond the writing assignment on characters that the children made in clay. The modification of changing some of the busts into musical instruments was not integrated with any music instruction. Eric's sessions were about learning in art. He gave the students many good suggestions on working with clay, for understanding clay as a medium, for understanding sculpture and relating the anatomy of the human face to a realistic sculptural product. His objectives had to do with developing vocabulary and processes that related to clay and sculpture.
If we look at Eric in two particular classes, we can begin to understand what impact Eric had on professional development practices of the teachers involved.

Eric and Tamara

Like Eric, Tamara was in her second year of the Learning through the Arts™ program. She is a grade 4 teacher in a French immersion classroom. Tamara already has a strong understanding of the visual arts. She had done studio art at university and taken ceramics classes there. She had been involved with Eric last year with a grade 3/4 class and this year there were some of those same students in her class. In an early interview she had suggested that she wanted to extend what Eric had previously done with her class. She also said that Eric's visit was one of the highlights of the previous year.

She had interviewed her children at the end of the year, and the majority had discussed the clay sculptures as one of the most exciting things they had done. In the first teacher workshop with Eric, Tamara was singled out as one of the most capable adults in the room. In fact, Eric used her work as an example for the other teachers and referred to her as "the gifted student in the class". In the planning session, Tamara pushed Eric to discuss the large sculptural figures that he was doing in another project. Eric refused to change his plans to include that type of work with her class. What he did suggest was to make a musical instrument or ocarina out of the clay head as an extension to the project. Although Tamara was not enamored with the idea, she did go along with the decision. Eric admitted that he had planned the ocarinas as extension to make the class more interesting for students who experience it last year. Again, his worry about boring children led him to make decisions without real consultation with the teacher or any sense of appropriate curriculum integration. Even within the program, the musician who followed never referred to the clay instruments that the children had made.

Eric and Tamara worked easily together in the classroom. Tamara was actively involved with the children while they were building. It was clear that she valued art and Eric commented on the Andy Goldsworthy sculptural pictures that were on the board. (He noticed the images after he observed the researcher taking digital pictures of the bulletin board).
It was also clear that Tamara and Eric were frustrated with the decision to make the heads into musical instruments. Tamara did extra work with her children, and their sculptures were finished by the end of Eric's second visit. The sculptures had to be taken apart in order to make the musical instruments and the success rate was not very high. Eric learned a lot about how to make this project successful from working with this class.

Afterward, he was able to make the musical instrument project work successfully in the other classrooms in other schools. Although this was a positive learning experience for the children, Tamara could have as easily taught this project as the artist. During the previous year, she had gone into other classrooms in the school and had done a similar sculptural project. For Tamara, she needed Eric to move her experience further than repeating this project. She already saw herself as an artist in this medium and wanted to extend her repertoire.
Eric needed to capitalize on his own artistic experience. He never discussed his work with the children unless he was specifically asked and then he did mention his web site and how and where the children could go to see his work as a sculptor. In his final interviews, he discussed how satisfying it was to have students ask for his autograph and to be so excited to meet a real artist. Unlike the musicians, perhaps the visual artists have more difficulty sharing their artistic selves.

Eric, Margaret and Bob

Across the hall, in Margaret and Bob's class, the situation was very different. Unlike the immersion classes, the students in this class have a number of learning difficulties and challenges. They were also younger, a 3/4 split rather than the straight grade four.

Neither Margaret nor Bob saw themselves as art teachers. In fact, Margaret was very adamant about her lack of creativity and her lack of artistic ability. Both teachers where actively involved with Eric during his teaching, however. Because of the high needs level in this class, there were as many as four extra adults in the classroom working with children. Both teachers were very excited by the results of this class. They spoke about the uniqueness of each child's work and how successful the children were in this very well planned project. There were also surprises that have to do with the individual nature of the experience. One of the children was a new immigrant to Canada from Ecuador. When he knew that a sculptor was coming to the class, he brought in some small clay figures that he had done in Ecuador.

Eric was extremely sensitive in how he approached the child. Rather than singling him out in front of the whole class, Eric spoke to him quietly in Spanish as he was going around to help the children. The child was elated and the children around him were thrilled that an artist could speak another language. The teachers were also extremely pleased by this event. In the image based interviews afterward, both teachers used this example to illustrate how important the arts were in developing childrens sense of self-esteem.

Margaret felt that she had made the greatest change in her understanding of the importance of art in the curriculum. She said that she was comfortable teaching the same unit as Eric had just demonstrated. Again she saw it more as learning in art than through art. What was obvious however, was the amount of art that Margaret was now completing in a classroom with her students. She had the children do marvelous paintings around the theme of explorers in social studies and they did musical designs relating their visual understanding to their music appreciation with the second artist. As a professional development exercise, the experience obviously paid off. Both teachers felt that the learning through the arts experience in this example was beneficial in both expected and unexpected ways. Although there were difficulties with scheduling, the clay sculptures for example went home at Christmas and were not used with the musician who is the next artist in the series, the teachers were sure that the underlying principle of learning through art was accomplished.

Fana: West African musician and dancer

Fana Soro is a drummer, dancer and musician from the Ivory Coast. He was chosen as a new artist for the grade two level. Many of the children had participated in the program in grade one but the teachers, like Fana, were assumed to be new to Learning through the Arts™. Fana came with an extensive teaching background from Africa and Norway. He speaks several languages and English is his fourth or fifth language. As with Eric, Fana was enthusiastic about the idea of learning through the arts. His understanding of what learning through the arts meant seem to have more to do with learning about the instruments that the children would be using than integrating or infusing music into other curriculum areas. Although he never specifically talked about cultural understanding through music, there was no doubt that that aspect of his work with children was extremely important.

Pedagogically, Fana was an exceptional teacher. He demonstrated very powerfully Schulman's (1993) concept of pedagogical content knowledge. His enthusiasm for his music and his ability to manage children was a powerful learning experience for the teachers.
As well as the teachers involved in the classrooms, several observers came to visit. The district music specialist that I interviewed after one observation of Fana teachings, was enthusiastic about the numerous teaching tips that she had gleaned that were related not only to music but to making the most of children's own teaching and learning styles. For example, Fana taught a simple West African greeting as an attention-gathering device. When he greeted the children with the phrase "yammo, yammo," they were immediately to respond by raising their arms in the air and shouting "ya!" He then brought them back to attention with another greeting "Enchante", which they responded by putting their hands together bowing and responding "Umba". He was a master at sensing when these greetings were needed to bring the children back on task.

Another example was his use of the children themselves as teachers. When he brought in the musical instruments that they would be playing, he divided the children into four groups, and taught the rhythm and the music to each group. The children then changed groups and taught each other their instruments. In this way, each child was both a learner and a teacher with each instrument.

As with Eric, Fana's visits followed a predictable pattern in each of the classes that he taught. He spoke afterward about adjusting his lessons to the level and ability of the children. In the classes we observed this was clearly the case. He even seemed able to challenge more able students with more complicated rhythms and musical interpretations. This was done in such a seamless manner and even the other students in the classroom were not aware that he was challenging students differently. Fana started each class with some knowledge about the West African instruments, where there were from, what they were made of, and stories about their use. He brought enough instruments into the class that each child could play. Children had made some of the instruments in another Arts initiative and some he had imported directly from Africa. In traditional dress, Fana had the children actively involved in dancing, singing and playing African music. He reviewed at the beginning of each successive class and incorporated something new into each lesson.

Fana, Genevieve and Chantal

When interviewed, the teachers had some interesting observations about what learning through the arts meant after Fana's visits. Two of the classes in the school were French Immersion classrooms. The teachers were thrilled that Fana spoke French as well as English and asked him to conduct classes in French. As Genevieve said, "I don't care what else the children learned. They saw a big black man speaking French and realized that French was not only a language spoken in elementary classrooms by white female teachers and by people far away in France." This particular teacher was also a very enthusiastic about the response of her children to Fana's teaching. The children were extremely excited about his visits and a very enthusiastic to be playing his instruments. A teacher in another school described the kind of enthusiasm Fana generated. His workshops ended just prior to Christmas and 18 of the twenty children in her class asked for and received West African drums for Christmas.

In the other French immersion class, there was not the same level of enthusiasm by the younger students. However, what this teacher did observe, was that the students who had difficulty picking up the rhythm of the music were also the children that had difficulty learning French as a second language. When asked, she wasn't sure what to do with this observation or whether it would change her instructional or her curricular practice. Chantal had much more of an integrative approach than the other teachers and she had the children writing and illustrating Fana's visits.

Fana, Shelly, and Jill

Fana's visits brought up another question with regard to the difficulty of using this program for teachers' professional development. In the English speaking class, it was a team teaching experience. The lead teacher was only in the class with Fana for one visit. However, that didn't seem to affect the artist or what the children gained from the experience.

No matter who was in the class, and it varied from the first visit with Jill, second, a substitute and final visit, Shelly and a student teacher, all teachers participated actively and so did the children. It was in looking at the digital images that Jill remarked how much more difficult it was for her to do the work of connecting curriculum and understanding the children's learning when she was absent from two thirds of the experience. The student teacher in the classroom, Darcy, suggested that watching Fana teach was the single best experience that she had during her teacher certification year. This begs the question as to whether this type of program should be introduced into teacher education programs as well as be seen as a professional development opportunity in schools. All the student teachers and teachers–on-call that took part in the program commented on the importance of the arts for children and their own lack of training in those areas.

Concluding Comments

It is still too early in our research to do more that identify some of themes and questions that we want to pursue. Several themes emerge when viewed through the lens of our research questions on artists and teachers beliefs about learning and teaching and understanding of pedagogical content knowledge. These themes are not just specific to the two artists and the teachers profiled but are emerging from the larger body of research.

Beliefs about Teaching and Learning

Professional development is a term that is part of the vocabulary of the world of education rather than the world of artists. The teachers in the program, to a larger extent, were able to view the LTTA program a professional development experience and articulate their pedagogical and artistic learning from the experience. It was more difficult for the artists and many did not see the relationship between their experiences and their emerging practice. As with the research conducted by Nelson and Hammerman (1996), we are beginning to see change in teachers' beliefs about learning, in their understanding of artistic knowledge, in the depth and flexibility of that knowledge and in their repertoire of instructional practices.They did believe that the motivational and attitudes learned by having an artist in the class was important both for the their students and for themselves. Tamara, as a beginning teacher, was given license to incorporate arts related experiences in her French immersion program. She had scheduled visits to the local Art Gallery and was doing more artwork with the children. For Margaret, it was a change in her comfort level with using art and combining it with other areas of the curriculum. In her interviews Margaret stated there was no doubt in her mind that the amount of art activity integrated into her curriculum was directly associated with her experiences in the program.
For the artists, it is the area of instructional practice that the most change appears although it is too early to speculate on whether that will be the case across time and individuals.
The structure of this program at this site works against the time needed for true collaboration between artists and teachers. The artists were in over twenty classrooms in a seven-week period and barely could know the names of the teachers, let alone their curriculum and instructional objectives. Planning time occurred with groups of teachers prior to the artists visits and had more to do with planning times, dates and supply needs than with curricular concerns. Specific children's needs were addressed if there were extremes of needs in the classroom. The artists planned units that were similar for all classrooms and made adaptations based on the learning abilities of the children but seldom on the curricular concerns of the teachers.

The role of the researchers and image based methodology in affecting beliefs

Several of the artists suggested that when researchers were in the classroom, teachers were more involved but that the children seemed oblivious to another adult presence in the class. This was apparent in taking images with the digital camera; there was seldom any concern or even acknowledgement from the children that they were being observed. The use of image based research methods seems to have some exciting possibilities for a greater involvement of the participants especially as it was used in the action research school. Many of the teachers used the images with the children as reminders of what they had learned and as ways of reflecting on the experience. The success of the computer generated slide shows at the school's Open House was another example where teachers' beliefs about the importance of the arts were positively affected. The image based interviews encouraged the teachers to comment on particular children and glimpse interactions of which they were not previously aware and to re-examine the artists' visits in ways that enhances understanding. As suggested by Harper(1998), photo elucidation techniques did blurr the distinctions between researcher and participant. This also extended Bressler's notions of case study and action research as powerful tools in undrestanding artists and teachers knowledge of the arts and pedagogy.

The response of the children in shaping beliefs

For most teachers there was no greater incentive to positively view the arts place in learning than to see successful responses from the students in their classrooms. In the image based interviews, teachers invariably discussed the engagement that they saw pictured on the faces of the children involved in the arts experiences. Motivation, expressiveness and accomplishment were categories that teachers attributed to arts activities. Teachers were encouraged that children could represent their thinking in different ways and that for some children who were not successful in language or mathematical activities could be successful through the arts. In some instances, the level of work that the children accomplished was far beyond the expectations of the teachers and caused the teachers to reassess their own beliefs about teaching and learning in and through the arts.

Integration in an arts-infused curriculum

The issue of integration in an arts-infused curriculum is far too complex to untangle at this point but it was a source of confusion between most of the participants in the LTTA program. Often the views held by the teachers and artists about integration were totally different and not well communicated. Most participants also held different views about what learning through the arts meant in the LTTA program. Teachers were often expected to make the links to curriculum areas without a clear conception of the artists' pedagogical content. Barnes (1993) distinction that the arts need to retain their integrity in the light of the curriculum links and subject learning was difficult to achieve with the lack of depth of content understanding in the partnership.
Collins and Chandler's (1993) conception of infusion rather than immersion was typical of the two case studies where many of the artists' beliefs about the program goals for integration and their own knowledge of curriculum and child development were at odds. Until both teachers and artists are more aware of what they each mean by integration, attempts to fulfil that mandate tend to be superficial.
The particularities of each artist and each classroom are bringing sets of questions that are exciting to pursue across classrooms and across time. This is a unique study where the role of the artist in pedagogical change is documented and analysed. Given the rising interest in artist-in-residence programs across Canada, and particularly the Learning through the Arts™ programs across Canada and internationally, this image based educational research contributes valuable insights into the beliefs, practices, and issues surrounding such programs.


A version of this article was presented at the American Educational Research Association Annual Conference, Seattle, Washington, April 10-14, 2001.The research reported here was supported, in part, by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada.


Abdal-Haqq, I. (1998). Professional development school: Weighing the evidence. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.

Aquino, J. (1979). What we know about artists as teachers. Contemporary Education, 51(1) 10–13.

Barnes, R. (1993). Getting the act together: It may be cross-curricular, but is it really art? Journal of Art and Design Education, 12(1), 63–72.

Bresler, L. (1993). Teacher knowledge and scholarly discourse in the visual arts: Drawing on phenomenology, case study, and action research. Visual Arts Research, 19(1), 30–46.

Brophy, J. & Allerman, J. (1991). A caveat: Curriculum integration isn't always a good idea. Educational Leadership, October, p. 66.

Collier, J.Jr. (1967). Visual Anthropology: Photography as a Research Method. New York: Holt, Rinehart and Winston.

Collins, E.C. & Chandler, S. (1993). Beyond art as product: Using an artistic perspective to understand classroom life. Theory into Practice, 32(4), 199–203.

Eisner, E.W. (1998). Does experience in the arts boost academic achievement? Art Education, 51(1), 7–15.

Glaser, B.J. & Strauss, L.L. (1967). The discovery of grounded theory: Strategies for qualitative research. Chicago: Aldine.

Grauer, K. (1981). Arts Integration: Blessing or Curse. The BC Teacher, 61 (1). 11–13.

Grauer, K. (1998). Beliefs of preservice teacher education. Studies in Art Education, 39(4), 350–370.

Harper, D. (1998). An argument for visual sociology. in Prosser, J. (Ed.) Image-based research: A sourcebook for qualitative researchers. London: Falmer Press.

Irwin, Rita L. (1993). Art as discipline and art as integration. The CSEA Journal, 24(1), 24–27.

Irwin, Rita L., & Reynolds, J. Karen. (1995). Integration as a strategy for teaching the arts as disciplines. Arts Education Policy Review, 96(4), 13–19.

Nash, L. (1979). Improving the arts in your school. Thrust for Educational Leadership, 8(3) 14–16.

Nelson, S.N. & Hammerman, J.K. (1996). Reconceptualizing teaching: Moving toward the creation of intellectual communities of students, teachers, and teacher educators. In M.W. McLaughlin & I. Oberman (Eds.), Teacher learning: New policies, new practices. New York: Teachers College Press.

Prosser, J. (Ed.). (1998). Image-based research: A sourcebook for qualitative researchers. London: Falmer Press.

Shulman, L. S. (1986). .Those who understand: Knowledge growth in teaching. .Educational Researcher, 15, (2), 4–14.

Spradley, J.P. (1979). The ethnographic interview. New York: Holt, Rinehart, Winston.

Spradley, J.P. (1980). Participant observation. New York: Holt, Rinehart, Winston.

Upitis, R., Smithrim, C. & Soren, B. (1999). When teachers become musicians and artists: Teacher transformation and professional development. Music Education Research, 1(1), 23–35.

Welch, N. & Greene, A. (1995). Schools, communities and the arts: A research compendium. Tempe, AZ: Morrison Institute for Public Policy, Arizona State University.

Wiggins, J. & Wiggins, R. (1997). Integrating through conceptual connections. Music Educators Journal, January, 38–41.

Wilkinson, J.A. (1997–1998). Learning through the arts assessment (interim report). Unpublished manuscript.

Wilkinson, J.A. (1996). Literacy, education and arts partnership: assessing principles and processes effecting a community-system level initiative to integrate the arts across the curriculum: Executive summary. Toronto: O.I.S.E. and the Royal Conservatory of Music.

About the Authors

Kit Grauer
Art Education Coordinator
Department of Curriculum Studies
University of British Columbia
Vancouver, Canada
Kit Grauer is the Coordinator of the Art Education Program in the Department of Curriculum Studies at The University of British Columbia. She is actively involved in art education organizations at the local, national and international levels and is currently the Chair of the NAEA Teacher Education Research Task Force and Past President of the International Society for Education through Art. Dr. Grauer's research interests include international issues in art education, teacher education and curriculum and instruction. For more detailed information on her work, please visit

Rita L. Irwin
Professor and Head
Department of Curriculum Studies
University of British Columbia
Vancouver, Canada
Rita is an active artist, researcher and teacher who also embraces taking a leadership role in curriculum studies and arts education. She has published widely in national and international journals, published one book and several edited volumes, exhibits her art work locally, and continues to contribute whenever possible to a number of professional organizations. For more detailed information on her work, please visit

Alex de Cosson
Alex de Cosson has worked as a professional sculptor exhibiting nationally and internationally for over twenty five years. He has an MFA from York University and an M.Ed. from Brock University and is currently a Ph.D candidate at UBC. Alex has taught art for over twenty years at various levels, teaching at The Ontario College of Art and Design since 1989 and Emily Carr Institute of Art and Design since 1999. Alex has been an active member of Inner City Angels, an organization dedicated to bringing art to school kids and has been awarded numerous grants from The Canada Council, The Ontario Arts Council and The B.C. Arts Council, and he has worked extensively with Artists in the Schools programs. His research interests include arts-based and autobiographical arenas.

Sylvia Wilson
Sylvia Wilson is a PhD student in the Department of Curriculum Studies at the University of British Columbia. She works as a research assistant with Learning Through The Arts. She also teaches art courses for pre-service teachers and is a textile artist. Her research interests include art-based research, and the relationships of experiences of loss and pedagogical beliefs and practices.

   home   |   articles   |   abstracts   |   editors   |   submit   |   subscribe   |  

You are visitor number since August 27, 2007.