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Shannon D.

Foster 1
EDCI 517 Why the Arts? Essay - Final
Ms. Melanie Reaves
13 December 2017
Arts Integration for 21st Century Learners

Becoming a successful 21st Century adult requires children to learn certain skills, skills that are beyond those taught in
a traditional education system. I believe that children acquire these skills more readily when general content areas in their
educational experiences include an Arts Integration (AI) approach. Learning in and through the arts often challenges children
with deeper and longer-lasting learning. In this essay, I want you to see how AI is being used within the content areas of
science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM), transforming STEM to STEAM (A=Arts). Using the STEAM
approach can significantly increase student achievement in all content areas by engaging the whole child (Gullatt, 2008, p.
12). In order to educate the whole child, we must create curriculum that involves their head, hearts, and hands (Oddleifson,
1994, unnumbered) and gives them multiple access points to experience learning. An Arts Integration approach to education
addresses three specific areas in education: the cognitive and social development of children, the multiple access points that AI
makes available to all children, and how a move from a STEM focused curriculum to a STEAM focused curriculum enhances the
education of children and prepares them for the 21st century.

To begin, research shows us that both teachers and students benefit when schools adopt an Arts Integration approach
to education. According to Sousa and Pilecki, (2013) the advantages are, a) development of cognitive growth, b) improvement
of long-term memory, c) enhancement of social growth, d) reduction of stress, e) increasing appeal of subject areas, and f)
promotion of creativity (as cited by Oner, Nite, Capraro, & Capraro, 2016, p. 3). When AI is embraced and valued as a way to
strengthen curricular connections, increased student engagement, and enhance student learning (Snyder, Klos, & Grey-
Hawkins, 2014, p. 22) these benefits or advantages become evident in students as they navigate their learning environment.
Along with these benefits, students have the opportunity to engage in higher order thinking, problem solving, and creative
skills. When teachers use an AI approach to teach, students have more opportunity to self-reflect, work collaboratively, and
develop their long-term memory skills (Oner et al., 2016). These are essential skills for any future career. Besides the
aforementioned advantages, Gullatt (2008) adds that AI programs are associated with academic gains across the curriculum
as reflected in standardized test scores (p.14). In one study done in Texas, Reardon (2005), reported that public school
teachers and adminstrators in Dallas, Texas are boosting student achievement by directly integrating arts into the school
curriculum (Gullatt, 2008, p. 17). Gullatt goes on to state that initial analysis of standardized tests administered throughout
the district show that studentsachieved a 10-point gain over a control group (Gullatt, 2008, p. 17). Not only does AI
enhance cognitive development in children, but the arts can also assist students with new ways to view and appreciate
opportunities for interaction within the world around them (p. 21) thus enhancing their social development. The goal I have
Arts Integration for 21st Century Learners 2

as a21st century education professional for my students is for them to leave my classroom better prepared for their next step
in life. Eventually those steps will culminate in an adult/citizen who is willing and able to work collaboratively, participate in
social networking, negotiate cultural differences, and navigate the contradictory data they encounter (Land, 2013).

Other benefits of using an Arts Integration approach to education are the multiple access points students can use to
create personal meaning. Past research proposes several theories/modalities that support AI as a valuable approach to
teaching/learning. However, in 2015, Newton wrote a critique claiming, the existence of Learning Styles is a common
neuromyth, and their use in all forms of education has been thoroughly and repeatedly discredited in the research literature
(Newton, 2015, abstract). One article that supports the idea of Learning Styles is Snyder et al. (2014). As they pointed out,
Gardners theory of multiple intelligences was instrumental to the Arts Integration movement (p. 3). Although AI has its
roots in the early 1900s, it was not until 1983 that Gardner advanced the concept that human beings have different
intelligences (p. 3). I believe the theory of multiple intelligences dovetails well with the AI approach to education. AI makes
learning personal by providing multiple entry points with which to engage students (Gullatt, 2008, p. 22). The more
entry/access points students have for making meaning, the more likely they will be successful in learning and retaining
information and transferring those skills to other content areas. In my own teaching, I have found that if I can present
information in a variety of ways, writing it out, acting it out, or connecting a story to the information, the majority of my
students will grasp the concept quicker. There are always those students who need the extra explanation, but by using a
variety of methods, eventually the lightbulb will come on for all of them. Besides Gardners theory of multiple intelligences,
Land (2013) reduces Gardners multiple intelligences and focuses on three modalities. She states, everyone is a visual,
auditory, and kinesthetic learner (p. 549), therefore, the more ways a child experiences new information, either visually,
auditorily, or kinesthetically, the more access points they have for understanding and creating longer-lasting learning. This is
also confirmed by Land (2013) when she goes on to say, the more access points or neural pathways established, the greater
the chance of retention and recall (p. 549). Based on such research and personal experience as a teacher, I too believe the
more ways/access points a child uses to connect their learning with real life situations, the more success they will have in their
educational experiences.

Other areas to which Arts Integration can make significant contributions are the areas of science, technology,
engineering, and mathematics (STEM). When STEM areas collaborate with Arts Integration (A), STEAM emerges. According to
Wynn and Harris by integrating arts, STEAM can make mathematics less threatening while maintaining its rigor (2012, p.
54). Also, with President Obamas push to put science at the top of our agenda (Land, 2013, p. 548) and the increased funding
for STEM fields, compliments of the the America COMPETES Act of 2007 (America Competes Act, 2007), maintaining the rigor
of STEM courses is a high priority for policymakers and stakeholders (Oner et al., 2016). Yet adding the arts to STEM has
become a strong focus in this field of research and as such has been gaining momentum as a sound and important approach.
Arts Integration for 21st Century Learners 3

AI also promotes creative thinking skills, which are important for students as they build skills for future careers (Oner et al.,
2016). I agree with Kang, Jang, and Kim (Kang, Jang, & Kim, 2013) that if STEM fields included an AI approach, STEM careers
might interest more students, thus closing the gap that exists between available STEM fields and qualified applicants. Science,
technology, engineering, and mathematics are important skills that 21st century students need to face todays challenges in life.

In closing, Arts Integration has the ability to encourage 21st century skills development in children. These skills reach
beyond traditional learning outcomes. As students engage in learning, what and how they learn must help them navigate the
challenges they face as the move toward being an adult. An AI approach to education educates the whole child, preparing
the individual for the responsibilities and encounters that take place in adulthood (Land, 2013, p. 549). Along with this
preparation, the benefits of AI enhance student learning and help teachers develop lessons that will meet these challenges.
Even if there is evidence for how higher scores on standardized tests may increase a childs academic success, I believe AI
plays an important role in increasing the level of knowledge a student needs to be successful. I also presented sound research
that encourages policymakers and stakeholders to look beyond just the STEM fields of education and incorporate an AI
approach in the curriculum they adopt for their students. This combination, STEAM, makes available multiple access points for
students to create meaning, retain knowledge, and translate skills into other areas of learning. As children grow, learn, become
adults, and enter into a career, the knowledge and skills that AI adds to STEM fields will give them what they need to engage
successfully in the 21st century and in whichever career they choose.
Arts Integration for 21st Century Learners 4

Works Cited

America creating opportunities to meaningfully promote excellence in technology, education, and science act. (2007, August 9).
H.R. 2272. 110 United States Congress.

Gullatt, D. E. (2008, April - May). Enhancing student learning through arts integration: Implications for the profession. The
High School Journal, 91(4), 12-25. doi:10.1353/hsj.0.0001

Kang, M., Jang, K., & Kim, S. (2013). Development of 3D actuator-based learning simulators for robotics STEAM education.
International Journal of Robotics, Education and Arts, 3(1), 22-32.

Land, M. H. (2013). Full STEAM ahead: The benefits of integrating the arts into STEM. Procedia Computer Science, 20, 547-552.

Newton, P. (2015). The learning styles myth is thriving in higher education. Frontiers in Psychology, 6, 1908. Retrieved from

Oddleifson, E. (1994). What do we want our schools to do? Phi Delta Kappan, 75(6), 446. Retrieved from

Oner, A. T., Nite, S. B., Capraro, R. M., & Capraro, M. M. (2016, November). From STEM to STEAM: Student's beliefs about the
use of their creativity. The STEAM Journal, 2(2), Article 6. doi:10.5642/steam.20160202.06

Snyder, L., Klos, P., & Grey-Hawkins, L. (2014). Transforming teaching through arts integration. Journal for Learning through
the Arts, 10(1), 1-24. Retrieved from

Sousa, D. A., & Thomas J. Pilecki. (2013). From STEM to STEAM: Using brain-compatible strategies to integrate the arts (1 ed.).
Thousand Oaks: Corwin. Retrieved from

Wynn, T., & Harris, J. (2012, September). Toward a STEM + arts curriculum: Creating the teacher team. Art Education, 65(5),
42-47. Retrieved from