Reaching All Students, Giving Teachers New Pathways
When Arts Impact began in 1999, the program was founded on key features of successful professional development and education practices: a concept-based approach to teaching and learning, use of performance-based assessments as a shared practice between teacher and student, and employing authentic arts integration. These key features, among others, remain integral to the achievements of the teachers who complete Arts Impact.
Arts Impact defines arts-infused teaching and learning as a model of arts integration focused on conceptual integration—concepts that are identified and taught in more than one classroom discipline—sharing a common definition of the concept. The premise of arts-infused learning focuses on the opportunity for students to understand the meaning of a concept at a deep, life application level. Arts-infused learning provides more than one viewpoint, multiple examples, and complementary ways of understanding. Arts-infused examples include: symmetry (science, dance, math, visual arts); characterization (writing, theater, visual arts, reading); and narrative sequence (reading, writing, visual arts, dance, theater).
Given the limited amount of time for classroom study based on the wealth of curricula areas in standards-based education, Arts Impact chooses to focus on arts-infused conceptual integration, over contextual integration (based on thematic approaches: rain forest, migration, etc.). The project understands contextual integration provides learning applications for a given situation of time and place.
Arts Impact defines terms as follows:
- Arts-infused learning: Enables students to identify and apply authentic connections between two or more disciplines and/or to understand essential concepts that transcend individual disciplines.1
- Concept-based learning: A mental construct that frames a set of examples sharing common attributes: concepts are timeless, universal, abstract and broad.2
- Performance-based assessments: Asks students to show what they can do given an authentic task which is then judged using a specific set of criteria. Performance-based assessment provides teachers with information about how a student understands and applies knowledge. Tasks that have more than one acceptable solution lend themselves well to performance-based assessments, since they may call for the student to use higher-order thinking skills such as experimenting, analyzing or reason. According to Wiggins (1993)3 , performance assessments are developed to “test” the ability of students to demonstrate their knowledge and skills (what they know and can do) in a variety of “realistic” situations and contexts. They are deliberately designed to teach, not just measure.4
- Consortium of National Arts Education Associations: ATTE, MENC, NAEA, NDEO. “Authentic Connections: Interdisciplinary Work in the Arts.” 2002.
- H. Lynn Erickson. Stirring the Head, Heart, and Soul: Redefining Curriculum and Instruction (California: Corwin Press, 2001), 228.
- Grant P. Wiggins. Assessing Student Performance: Exploring the Purpose and Limits of Testing (California, Jossey-Bass, Inc.)
- Grant Wiggins and Jay McTighe. Understanding by Design (Virginia: Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development, 1998).