ARTS INTEGRATION FOR UNDERSTANDING: DEEPENING TEACHER PRACTICE IN AND THROUGH THE ARTS
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Arts integration is promoted as a powerful instructional method to address the needs of 21st century students. Teaching in and through the arts can support learners in envisioning, constructing, and communicating deep understandings of themselves, their communities, and the world. A co-equal, cognitive style of integration requires teachers to balance learning in the arts and non-arts content areas and orient instruction toward investigations of shared concepts. While the co-equal, cognitive style dominates the literature, in practice, this style is rarely achieved. This study centers on a professional development program designed to guide teachers in striving for a co-equal style. This research investigates the instructional practices of four teachers who completed a one-year course of studies at a large, public university. Course content focused on creative processes, arts integration theory, art forms and authentic assessment. The methods for this case study research included observations, pre and post lesson interviews, focus group interviews, and analysis of arts integrated lesson plans. The findings indicate that all of the teachers were able to achieve a co-equal style, but not sustain it over the course of the lesson. The case study teachers enacted a variety of roles to orient instruction toward understanding rather than isolated skills and knowledge. They demonstrated artistic habits of mind, made creative pedagogical choices, and facilitated arts-based discourses during instruction. Yet, the teachers demonstrated challenges when facilitating student reflection in the arts and designing authentic integrated assessments. This study suggests that a co-equal style is possible and benefits both teachers and students, but greater training in how to facilitate creative processes may be needed, so teachers can account for the unique ways of knowing that occur in the third-space.