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Why and How to Integrate the Arts into American Classrooms

What is the impact of integrating creativity into our classrooms and how do we do so effectively?

Scroll through the Twitter feed or text messages of an average American high school student, and
sooner or later you’ll find something along the lines of “I hate school.” Guaranteed. Kids count down the
days to the weekends and summer break. Learning that school has been cancelled because of snow
produces a type of joy in students hard to find anywhere else. For most American children today, going to
school isn’t a privilege, it’s a chore.
Students, teachers, and researchers alike have found that much is lacking from the American
education system. Students memorize information for short periods of time instead of actually learning it.
Teachers feel restricted by curricula that only teach to the final exams. Experts say that the movement
toward standardization of education is killing the creativity of students. In its current state, the American
public school system strives to make sure all students are exposed to the same information and are able to
show that they understand it by performing well on an exam. Classes are almost entirely separate from
one another, with little connection between disciplines such as English and math. Observers have grown
increasingly critical of this approach, as they realize it is not the best model of learning.
This realization has prompted research showing that exposing children to the arts during the school day
can impact them positively with respect to test scores, attitude toward learning, and experience post-high
Initially, we were interested in the cultivation of creativity. We knew creativity was an important
and underrated trait, but it wasn’t until further into the research process that we found ways to develop it
while also developing important academic, cognitive, and social skills. Not only does arts integration
encourage creativity, it also helps students understand the material better. It allows teachers to connect
better with students and figure out their learning styles and it allows students to make connections
between themselves and the material they’re learning.
Some schools and teachers have incorporated music, painting, theater, and other arts into lessons.
For example, visual art can be used to help students understand math or science concepts. Other schools

have worked with programs outside the school using workshops and professional artists to bring the arts
to the school. Part of our goal in researching this topic is to figure out which method, if any, is most
Arts integration in schools has the potential to change the entire educational system. It even has
potential to help close the achievement gap, as arts integration has been shown to have a particularly large
effect on disadvantaged students. It allows for better teacher-student relationships. If the arts are
successfully integrated into schools, students will be exposed to them from a very early age, which is
shown to have a positive effect on the brain. This will aid in better preparing students for college, careers,
and the rest of their lives. Arts integration can change students’ perception of school from a stressful place
to a positive learning environment. Education should be seen as a positive thing, not a burden. With help
from the arts, students will be able to fully take advantage of the opportunities being afforded to them
through the educational system.
Arts integration is important now of all times because we live in a time of educational reform.
Common Core, changes to standardized testing, and other changes in education have become hot button
issues. With the current emphasis on STEM subjects, arts education is becoming increasingly
undervalued. It is a time of change for public school curricula, and we’d like to see how the arts could be
connected to core subjects to incorporate creativity into schools most effectively. For years, arts programs
in schools have been the first to go when schools try to conserve money. Now, people are beginning to
understand the importance of the arts. The natural next step is to figure out how to work them into the

Defining Creativity
This project is rooted in the idea of cultivating creativity in today’s students. Formal education
and schooling is a big part of what shapes young kids, so we decided to focus on creativity in schools,
rather than in other aspects of their lives. But creativity is a broad term with many definitions.
There are two main types of creativity: artistic creativity and creative thinking. Artistic creativity
involves use of the arts, painting, music, theater, etc., and often results in a final product. Creative
thinking is divergent thinking, being able to have ideas that are different from the traditional way of
thinking. Because the topic is arts integration, we are more focused on artistic creativity. However, we

came to realize that the two often go hand in hand. Often people who are good at on are also good at the
other. Furthermore, arts integration can spur not only artistic creativity, but creative and divergent
thinking as well.
There are also two main ways that kids can learn the about arts: arts education and arts
integration. Arts education is when students take arts classes in addition to schooling. Arts integration is
when the arts become a part of the curriculum at school. We chose integration over education because arts
education is a separate issue that isn’t as closely involved with the school system. Arts education takes
time and money and isn’t available to all students. There are many reasons why students would not want
to take additional arts classes outside of school, but arts integration provides many of the same advantages
as well as some additional ones without adding any time outside of school. It gives all students equal
exposure to art as well as helping to demonstrate concepts that the students are learning in school.

What Arts Integration Teaches Students
Habits of mind are defined as a set of cognitive competencies including elaborative and creative
thinking, fluency, originality, focused perception, and imagination. Increased exposure to the arts leads to
better developed habits of mind as compared to low arts exposure, as shown by the research. In a study
of over 2,000 students at 28 public elementary and middle schools, students in high-arts exposure groups
scored higher than those in low-arts groups with respect to creative thinking and teacher perception of
their art skills (Burton, 1999, p. 38). The connection between arts and other subjects, however, improves
upon more than just artistic skills. Interdisciplinary instruction in English, math, and the arts has a
positive effect on student literacy, math and art skills, and reflective abilities (Cunnington et al., 2014, p.
17). Integrating core academic disciplines with arts instruction effectively increases student literacy and
mathematical competency while simultaneously fostering artistic skills and ability to engage in
meaningful reflection and peer-review.
The development of academic skills can be enhanced through interaction with various art forms.
According to Critical Evidence: How the Arts Benefit Student Achievement, a report by Sandra Ruppert
for the National Assembly of State Art Agencies, “dance has been employed to develop reading readiness
in very young children, and the study of music has provided a context for teaching language skills”
(Ruppert, 2006, p. 11). While drama has been used to motivate students to learn and engage them in

reading, visual art may have different effects on certain cognitive skills. As each art form helps students
develop different skill types, students benefit most from arts integration when they are exposed to
different art forms across multiple subjects so they can tie information together in a meaningful way. For
this reason, students should be exposed to the arts across the board, incorporating different art forms into
according academic disciplines.
Arts-integrated education increases student ability to analyze information. In a case study of
eight Chicago Arts Partnerships in Education (C.A.P.E.) schools, it was shown that arts integration
facilitated student’s analytic interpretations more effectively than curricula without arts integration
(Demoss and Morris, 2002). What this means is that when students are exposed to the arts in a classroom
setting, they have a better understanding of why the information they learn is important. In non-arts
integrated classrooms in the C.A.P.E study, only 37% of students provided analytic interpretations of the
importance of the subjects they were learning, meaning that when asked about what they learned, students
merely repeated the information stated by the teacher. After receiving arts-integrated instruction,
however, 61% of students provided analyses of subject matter importance, with comments such as,
“Narrative writing might be important to maybe learn more of your inner self to express yourself, and to
help you understand what you are writing and doing.” A significant finding is that this improved ability to
analyze by arts students was seen across all levels of achievement, from students who tended to struggle
in school to typically high-scoring students (DeMoss and Morris, 2002, p. 10). The arts can promote
increased understanding in every type of student, enabling him or her to better comprehend classroom
instruction and the importance of core subjects .
Arts-integrated curricula also facilitate enhanced performance on measurements of student
learning. Firstly, when teachers incorporate the arts into classroom instruction, students perform better in
school as a whole. Students who participate in the arts are more likely to receive awards for academic
achievements and attendance, as well as perform community service and participate in extracurricular
academically-based events (Sloan, 2009, p. 3). Furthermore, students who have a background in the arts
perform better on standardized tests. According to Critical Evidence: How the Arts Benefit Student
Achievement, “multiple independent studies have shown increased years of enrollment in arts courses are
positively correlated with higher SAT verbal and math scores” (Ruppert, 2006, p. 9). Arts education
teaches students skills not only in a broader sense, but also in a way that is measurable and concrete.

Students in arts-integrated schools enjoy short-term benefits such as awards, good grades, and high test
scores, but these short-term benefits in fact can have greater future impact, such as scholarships and
acceptance into prestigious universities.
Students also find themselves more engaged in arts-integrated units. In assessments of artsintegrated educational units, students frequently explained that without arts, the material would have been
boring, but that they enjoyed the work more because of the arts component (Demoss and Morris, 2002, p.
17). Arts integration makes students more intrinsically motivated to learn, which gives them more
positive feelings toward education overall. In artistic settings, students also participate more
substantively and cohesively than in traditional classroom settings. In a case study of the Creating
Original Opera (C.O.O) program, students wrote and produced an original opera to demonstrate what they
had learned. Researchers observed and interviewed teachers and students and reviewed student work and
tapes and transcripts from classroom interactions in both a “non-opera group” and an “opera group.”
Students participated in discussion 17% more in the opera setting than in the non-opera setting (Wolf,
1999, p. 94). Student’s comments in the opera setting also provided significantly more constructive
criticism to their peers and connected more to the bigger picture of what they were learning. When
students are given the opportunity to connect to the arts in an educational setting, they see more long-term
themes in their learning and feel more inclined to participate due to their increased engagement with the
subject matter. Bringing the arts into a classroom setting also increases student collaborative efforts. In
the C.O.O program, students became active participators in discussion and learned to take turns, while
also building off of the suggestions of other students to a heightened degree (Wolf, 1999, p. 94). As a
whole, collaborative arts projects both allow for increased student engagement in their work on an
individual level, as well as enhance quality of student-to-student interactions.
The ability to make connections is crucial to a holistic education. Making connections between
academic disciplines, between concepts and between teachers and students are all factors of a
comprehensive learning environment. First of all, integration of the arts into classrooms allows teachers
to better understand their students’ learning styles. When teachers analyze students in an artistic
environment, they are better able to make observations about specific skill sets in individual students.
According to a qualitative study of six elementary school teachers in the New York City Public Schools
system, when teachers watched students learning through artistic means, they could identify “who

responded better to nonverbal stimuli, who needed to be active and move, who recognized spatial patterns
and relationships, who were leaders in musical experiences or traumatic situations” (Oreck, 2006, p. 9).
This identification allows for teachers to better interact with their students, and can assist them in creating
more individualized art projects for their students. For example, if a teacher observed that one student did
not respond well to a dance assignment, but learned about the material well while making a mural, during
a theater assignment the teacher could then assign the student to make backdrops instead of requiring
them to perform. Interactions like these improve teacher-student relationships within the learning
The arts also force students to make connections between concepts and improve their
understanding while also creating a positive experience for students and teachers. In one class, a teacher
used the dialogue from one scene of a book to begin an improvisation that acted out the rest of it. The
students would go through the scene several times and change certain things about the characters or the
story. This method served to teach students about improvisation and encouraged them to “develop an
understanding of character, story structure, and genre” (Oreck, 2006, p.12). In addition, clear connections
between academic disciplines allow for transfer of concepts and impact learning in multiple subjects.
Essentially, when conceptual and skill-based interdisciplinary connections are made in curricula, students
learn better in multiple subjects (Cunnington et al., 2014, p. 18).
Arts-integrated learning prompts students to pursue knowledge outside of the classrooms, which
means the students are more engaged in what they are learning. During units that didn’t involve the arts,
only 27% of students were interested enough in the material and wanted to learn more about it at home.
During the arts-integrated units, 80% of the students reported being inclined to seek opportunities outside
of school to continue learning about the topics they were studying at school, and 42% of those students
acted on those inclinations (DeMoss and Morris, 2002, p. 20). Often when discussing the shortcomings of
our current education system, students describe memorizing information solely for the purpose of doing
well on the test. However, findings like those from DeMoss and Morris, however, suggest that arts
integration could be the solution, since students describe enjoying the arts-integrated units more and
actually caring about the material enough to pursue more knowledge outside of school.
In our current system, it takes a specific type of student to be able to do well in school. In 2013,
only 26% of 12th grade students in the United States were at or above a proficient level in mathematics

and only 38% were there in reading. This means that the vast majority of American 12th grade students
were below proficient (NAEP Report Cards). Many students don’t do well in school because they aren’t
able to teach themselves these skills or because they don’t start their education with a solid foundation
and set of skills. However, arts integration is a promising tool for assisting students in developing and
applying a myriad of skills, such as habits of mind, reading readiness, language skills, subject analysis,
group discussion, and student collaboration, which will then assist them in improving both their
academics and their future performance when employed.

The Long-Term Impacts of Arts Integration
Arts integration fosters adaptability in students, which helps them to pick up whatever skills they
may need throughout their education and time in the workforce. Columbia University surveyed, tested,
interviewed, and observed over 2,000 students at 28 different public elementary schools that received
different levels of arts education and integration in schools. The study found that students at arts-rich
schools showed higher levels of curiosity, creativity, and originality (Burton et al., 1999, pp. 36-38).
These are qualities that will make these students appealing candidates for colleges and jobs because their
creativity and originality will make them stand out; additionally, their curiosity will give them the
motivation to master necessary skills for higher education and careers. In the modern workforce, it is
better to be multifaceted and able to adapt than gifted in a particular skill set. Thus, creativity is
conducive to success in the workforce because a creative person is one who can adapt to different work
environments and circumstances, self-motivate to complete tasks and develop skill sets, and think
independently to create solutions.
An arts-integrated curricula helps students make connections between subjects. These
interdisciplinary connections will benefit them throughout their lives. Students who went to schools that
integrated the arts were better able to use a variety of skills to make certain tasks easier, so “the
relationship between arts learning and learning in other disciplines...maybe be more dynamic and
interactive than is usually acknowledged” (Burton et al., 1999, p. 43). In the workplace, they will be
asked to use a combination of skills, not just knowledge on one subject. They will have to use knowledge
from many different areas and be able to apply it when it is necessary. An arts-integrated education fosters
this ability in students.

Exposure to the arts also helps students build confidence. Students in schools that integrated the
arts into their curriculum were much more likely than other students to “think of themselves as competent
in academics” and were more likely to “believe that they did well in school in general, particularly in
language and mathematics” (Burton et al., 1999, p. 40). Confident students make confident workers, and
confident workers are more successful. The University of Melbourne conducted a study in which
researchers interviewed 100 employees at large corporations. The participants that reported higher levels
of confidence throughout their education and time in the workforce also reported earning higher wages
and being promoted more quickly. Dr. Reza Hasmath, from the University of Melbourne’s School of
Social and Political Sciences, said, “The findings imply that we should stress confidence-building
activities at an early age. Such activities should be strongly encouraged both in formal schooling and
within the family unit” (University of Melbourne, 2012, p. 8). Arts integration builds the confidence in
students that becomes so vital later in life.
Arts integration has an especially profound impact on disadvantaged students, including students
with learning disabilities or students that come from low-income families. Students who were involved in
orchestra or band during their middle and high school years performed slightly better in math during their
senior year of high school than other students their age did. However, low-income students involved in
orchestra or band were twice as likely to be enrolled at the highest levels of math as low-income students
who were not so involved(Ruppert, 2006, p.13). Students who were at risk of not graduating high school
claim that their participation in the arts is what kept them motivated. Special education students took a
nine-week course in which they were asked to use visual expression to demonstrate their understanding of
reading assignments. At the end of this course, they had become more “sophisticated, less reluctant
readers” and they “also took a more active role in reading and began to interpret text rather than passively
reading it (Ruppert, 2006, p.14). ESOL students who were not yet fluent in English participated fully in
class for the first time while working on a play to demonstrate a unit in history class (Demoss and Morris,
2002, p. 8). Generally speaking, the arts are a significant motivator to disadvantaged students who
otherwise struggle in school and find it difficult to enjoy their educational experience. Arts integration
levels the playing field and allows all students to enjoy and feel comfortable learning.
The number of high school graduates who continued on to college was climbing for decades, but
during the mid-2010s, the number started dropping. In October of 2013, only 65.9% of high school

graduates enrolled in college, compared to the 70.1% in 2009. Moreover, out of the students that did not
go to college, the percentage of them that were employed has been dropping steadily for decades (Norris,
2014, p. 1). This is due to a number of reasons, one of them being that students are not prepared for
college and the workforce. Through all the standardized testing and busy work that students today have to
put up with, the reason students go to school seems to be getting lost in translation. Students are there to
equip themselves with skills that they will use for the rest of their lives. With the help of arts-integrated
curricula, schools can help students get there.
As we started doing literature reviews, we learned a lot of information about methods of
integrating the arts and the effects on the students, but eventually we felt that we had exhausted the topic.
From there, we had to make our own connections and add other subtopics that we hadn’t initially realized
were part of our topic. For example, we didn’t realize how much the teacher’s style affected the way the
arts were integrated, and we didn’t know the especially significant impact arts integration had on
disadvantaged students. When one literature review mentioned one of these topics, it led us to explore
others that had more information on it.
Towards the beginning of the project we knew what our question was and we knew what basic
information we needed, but it wasn’t until we started finding sources and doing literature reviews that we
got a better understanding of what our project was. What we learned as we went on changed our focus or
inspired us to add a new subtopic. For example, before reading about it in a piece of literature, we did not
know that teachers sometimes worked with outside artists. We especially did not know that there were
organizations that partnered up with schools and teachers to help them integrate the arts. Once we figured
this out, we added a new subtopic and found literature that included these methods.

Creating Arts-Integrated Lesson Plans and Curricula
There are three main models for integrating arts into the classroom that have been successfully
used in the past. The first involves a collaboration between the teacher and an artist, who typically comes
from an outside organization. The main purpose of the artist is to assist the teacher in developing lesson
plans by bringing an expertise of a certain discipline and suggesting ways to connect that discipline to the
information being taught. Typically, the two will sit down and the teacher will go over the units of study
that they need to cover, while the artist forms plans for different projects or activities involving the art

form that could enhance the lesson plans. Ultimately, the teacher has the final say in which arts activities
to incorporate in the lesson, but the integration works most effectively when the teacher and artist share
equal authority. This type of integration is utilized by the Studio in a School (STUDIO) arts in education
organization, which sends in artists to public elementary schools and collaborates with school-based
visual arts, math, and literacy specialists and classroom teachers in order to create curriculum units “to
make explicit connections between subjects, while maintaining the integrity, depth and rigor of instruction
in both subject areas” (Cunnington, et al., 2014, p. 2).
The second and third models do not necessarily involve an artist or outside organizations in the
development of lesson plans. One approach is to focus on one large, culminating project at the end of the
semester or year that encompasses a large portion of the information covered in the course or overarching
themes of the course. The project should require students to recall information from the duration of the
class, and reevaluate it in order to portray it through artistic means. For example, after learning about
different Native American cultures and the interaction between the colonists and Native Americans for a
six-week unit of study, a fourth grade teacher would then split the students into groups, assign each group
a different Native American tribe, and instruct each group to design and execute a mural depicting the
history of their assigned tribe. An example of this type of project was described by Dennie Palmer Wolf,
who noted how the Creating Original Opera (C.O.O.) program assisted elementary school students in
writing and producing their own opera. The students spent time in English class writing a script,
developing characters, learning their lines, creating sets, writing songs, and rehearsing their work, which
connected to themes they had been learning in class such as character development and tone (Wolf, 1999,
p. 93).
The final method for arts integration, described most frequently in the literature we reviewed,
takes smaller projects and activities involving multiple artistic disciplines and spreads them out over the
entire course, integrating creativity daily or close to daily. Because of the frequency of the arts
integration, the projects tend to be smaller and more casual than if the culminating project model were
used. Not all students must participate in every activity, and students are not always required to share with
the class or even graded on their artistic activities. This model creates a learning environment in which
students have time to become comfortable with creativity and implement it in a variety of different ways
throughout the duration of the class. Examples of activities described to be effective by the participating

students included a teacher ripping up bits of paper and throwing them around the classroom while asking
the students to act out a scene from the Chicago fire, and a performance based on the Mexican Revolution
(DeMoss and Morris, 2002, p. 8).
When creating arts-integrated lesson plans and curricula, it is important to consider the
characteristics of effectively integrated arts classrooms and to build plans that allow for the students to
flourish in rather than be hindered by the program. In Karen DeMoss and Terry Morris’s study of eight
Chicago Arts Partnerships in Education (C.A.P.E.) schools, some themes emerged among the classrooms
in which they found the arts integration to be the most effective. First, to even be considered “arts
integration,” rather than what they called merely “arts enhancement,” the arts projects and activities were
tightly coupled and closely related to the units of study. Creativity was not a forced afterthought, instead,
it was naturally connected to and furthered the information being taught. The art projects were also
academically substantial. For example, asking students to color in a picture of a Confederate soldier
would not provide them with useful or considerable information about the Civil War. Next, at the
beginning of the unit, the teacher clearly communicated to students the academic and artistic content
areas to be covered, and the expectations for student participation. During the unit, students developed
and followed certain procedures such as setup and cleanup, collaborative roles within their work groups,
and classroom rules (DeMoss and Morris, 2002, pp.7-8).
In classrooms that follow the artist-teacher collaboration model, the relationship between the two
educators could foster or hinder effective learning. To be successful, artists and teachers should
participate equally and allow one another to exercise authority over the students. Neither one should
prioritize their content over the other’s, as equal attention should be given to the artistic endeavor and the
classroom material. Additionally, the teacher and artist must be able to sometimes switch roles, with the
classroom teacher sometimes addressing the arts assignment and the artist continuing to connect to the
academic content. It was essential for the C.A.P.E. classrooms that the relationship between the teacher
and the artist was not a fight for the student’s attention, but modeled cooperation, coordination, and
mutual support (DeMoss and Morris, 2002, p. 8). In order to incorporate these concepts into lesson plans,
the artist and teacher must designate sufficient time to both go over the academic material and to work on
the art assignment, and neither should prioritize the execution of more traditional methods of learning or
the execution of the arts activity.

Interdisciplinary connections are also an important factor in the design of successful artsintegrated curricula. In Champions of Change: The Impact of the Arts on Learning, Judith Burton, Robert
Horowitz, and Hal Abeles compared students and teachers with a high exposure to the arts to those with a
low exposure. They found that the students with higher amounts of arts education were better able to
make connections between disciplines “when specific task demands call them into being,” and that the
relationship between arts learning and learning in other disciplines was “dynamic and interactive”
(Burton, et al., 1999, p. 43). In order to take advantage of this interdisciplinary benefit of arts integration,
curricula should be designed with the objectives of other classes in mind, by identifying similar
overarching themes in the class to a class a student may have taken previously or connecting specific
topics between two different areas of study such as English and Math.
It is also imperative to include room in the curricula for showcasing the creative work and
reflecting on the artistic process. Almost every piece of literature we reviewed that described specific
projects created by students during arts-integration included a piece about the final showcase of the work,
such as a nighttime theater performance which was attended by family members of students or students
standing in front of the classroom explaining art pieces. During many of the studies, students were able to
reflect on how they felt the art assignments impacted their learning, as well. In the C.A.P.E. schools study,
an eighth grade student said, “We put our act together and that helped us learn the most. It was a lot of
work putting the acts together and remembering the information, and he helped us a lot.” A ninth grade
student said that he got more out of the arts-integrated experience than he did the traditional classroom,
and a third grade student compared her two experiences by saying, “The artist and teacher weren’t just a
boring old history teacher saying ‘next we are going to blah blah.’” The reflection and showcase pieces
are key steps in students recognizing the importance of the arts integration, and are essential in curriculum
Overall, when designing curricula and lesson plans for arts integration, it is important to keep in
mind what the research has shown about the most effective arts classrooms. Of the three popular models
of arts integration, there is not one that has been shown to be the “best.” In fact, one of the appealing traits
of arts integration is that it can be individualized for specific students and classrooms, so it would not be
wise to select a standard arts integration model. Rather, schools should consider their means and the age
group and the preferences of their teachers in order to select which type of arts integration to use. If the

school has the resources, there are many arts education organizations to bring in artists from. If the
teachers prefer to work alone or the administrators do not want to bring in outside educators, either one of
the other method of arts integration can be equally effective. Based on the material that should be covered
in their course, teachers can decide if it would be more time efficient to do one culminating project at the
end of the class or unit or intersperse the arts throughout.
However, there are certain things that should be true for all arts-integrated curricula and lesson
planning. Teachers should not consider the arts a side note to their material, but rather see art as a means
for teaching the material. The arts activities must be incorporated into the classroom in a way that makes
sense, so that the students can clearly see the connection between the art and the information and so that
the art does not feel forced or frivolous. Whenever possible, teachers should meet between themselves to
discuss the material and arts being used in their respective classrooms and find connections between
them, so as to encourage interdisciplinary learning in students. Curricula should also be designed with
interdisciplinary connections in mind. Lesson plans must give sufficient time to both the artist and the
teacher to instruct students on their respective disciplines, so as not to cause a power struggle between the
two educators. By remembering these trends, which have been found in arts-integrated classrooms in
which students have had the most benefits, educators can design both curricula and lesson plans that
encourage creativity and learning in classrooms.

What An Arts-Integrated Classroom Should Look Like
As is true of education as a whole, the way students are taught in arts-integrated classrooms has a
significant impact on what they learn. The literature has shown that there are certain learning
environments and teaching methods that foster learning better than others.
The physical environment of a classroom is something that should not be overlooked when
answering the question of how to most effectively encourage learning and integrating the arts. It has a
large impact on the way students perceive learning, even more so than the social setting, as shown by the
analysis by Yin Cheong Cheng of a survey done on 21,622 primary school students in Hong Kong. He
found that “the quality of classroom environment may contribute substantially to students’ commitment
and loyalty to the school and positive attitudes toward their teachers, but may contribute little to the

students’ self-concept” (Cheng, 1994, p. 223). In his findings, the physical environment of a classroom
had more impact on students in terms of self-efficacy of learning and attitudes toward school than the
social environment did (Cheng, 1994, p. 229). Although the survey reviewed by Cheng evaluated the
physical environment of the classroom in terms of physical facilities, spacing, neatness, cleanliness, and
lack of pollution, other sources have suggested other guidelines for the physical environment of the
A study done by researchers from Carnegie Mellon University looked at whether classrooms that
contained many decorations on the walls and around the room affected the learning of kindergarten
students. They found that when kindergartners were taught in an extremely decorated classroom, they
were more distracted, their gazes wandered off the teacher more often, and their test scores lower than
when they were taught in a room with walls that were more bare (Fisher, et al., 2014). This suggests that
for younger students, a classroom with less clutter and ornamentation is more imperative to learning. As
students get older, though, art on the walls can serve as inspiration and stimulation. If teachers of younger
students are concerned about a lack of inspiration, they can always provide artwork specific to the project
for the students to look at.
For older students, Harrington argue, good physical work environments, although not absolutely
necessary, will certainly aid creative performance. His research actually focuses on adults in a workplace
setting, but states that creative ecosystems and environments, with availability of tools, equipment and
adequate space influence the likelihood that creative people will perform their tasks more efficiently
(Harrington, 1999, p. 323). McCoy and Evans conducted a study investigating the role of specific interior
design elements on creativity. They showed a series of photographs of workplace environments to 60
undergraduate students and asked them to rate the creativity potential of each presented environment. The
results of the study suggested that a physical environment with greater perceived creativity has complex
visual details, view of a natural environment, use of natural materials, fewer cooler colors used, and less
use of manufactured or composite surface materials (McCoy, et al., 2002, p. 410). Therefore, when
designing lesson plans, it is important that teachers consider the limitations of their physical environment
and do not plan art assignment for which they do not have adequate space or materials. Whenever
possible, teachers of middle and high school students should keep windows or blinds open and try to add
more complex visual elements to the environment by hanging art on the walls, for example.

The classroom layout should also be considered by teachers when implementing an artsintegrated model. The organization of tables and desks should lend itself to collaboration and allow for
proper presentation of the artwork. This means that if the classroom contains desks, they should be
organized in small groups facing one another. Students should change seats periodically so that they are
not always working with the same group members. Desk organization should allow for movement around
the classroom for any more physical art integration, such as theater or dance. Additionally, there should be
space for students to showcase their work or for the artist and teacher to show examples of disciplines like
theater and dance.
The personal style and methods of the teacher impacts the students profoundly. In general, a
teacher’s style of management and use of power has a direct impact on the education and attitude of the
students. In the Cheng study, the way a teacher used power influenced many different parts of a student’s
education. He classified power into four different types: reward power, which is power derived from
providing rewards; coercive power, which is power derived from exercising punishment; personal power,
power derived from the teacher’s own personality and charisma; and expert power, which is power
derived from the teacher’s professional knowledge and skills. Based on the survey, he was able to gather
that students’ self-concept was predicted by a teacher’s use of coercive power; students’ attitudes toward
school were affected by a teacher’s use of expert power, personal power, and coercive power; and
students’ self-efficacy of learning was predicted by a teacher’s use of expert power, personal power, and
coercive power (Cheng, 1994, p. 229).
A teacher’s personality also impacts the way that they teach. When studying the Meyers-Briggs
personality types of 100 teachers from the Florida League of Teachers leadership conference, Stephen
Rushton, Jackson Morgan, and Michael Richard concluded that teachers may be drawn to their profession
based on certain combinations of personality traits, and they should be aware of these personality traits
and their effects on teaching style. Almost “one-third of elementary school teachers fit the ISFJ profile
and over 57% of elementary teachers have a preference for S and J. They suggest that individuals with
this particular typology are attracted to the teaching profession, particularly the primary levels, because of
the nurturing and dependency young children require” (Rushton et. Al, 2007, p. 438). They also
determined that teachers with ENFP and ENTP personality traits were most suited to accept obstacles and
therefore preferable as teachers. However they did not conclude that people with these personality

profiles should be teachers. Rather, teachers should be aware of their own personality types and how they
impact their teaching in order to improve.
For arts integration, specifically, art in education organizations and school systems implementing
arts integration have often opted to give teachers training specific to an arts curriculum. In Cultivating
Common Ground: Integrating Standards-Based Visual Arts, Math and Literacy in High-Poverty Urban
Classrooms, researchers found that training and professional development increases teacher and art
instructor ability to engage in interdisciplinary instruction (Cunnington, et al., 2014, p. 18). Trainings are
essential for teachers who don’t have the assistance of artists from outside organizations. The trainings
can give ideas to educators about types of art and media to integrate, how to use artistic disciplines in
more succinct ways (i.e., skits instead of full-length theatrical productions), and how to guide students
while they are creating. In Artistic Choices: A Study of Teachers Who Use the Arts in the Classroom, four
of the six studied teachers participated in two-to-five week-long summer art institutes and an average of
two full-day workshops during the school year. This professional development allowed them to enter their
newly arts-integrated classrooms more prepared (Oreck, 2006, p. 8). In these trainings, teachers should
be taught about the characteristics of proper arts-integration as opposed to arts enhancement, the different
art disciplines that could potentially be integrated into classrooms and how to do so effectively, and ways
to create interdisciplinary connections through the arts in collaboration with other teachers.

Clearly we can say arts-integrated education is a good thing, even if we allow for possible bias on
our part and on the part of our sources. One possible flaw in our Review of Literature is that we started
the project assuming that arts integration was completely a good thing, so we weren’t looking for
problems with it. Indeed, there are so many positive effects of arts integration, and it doesn’t seem that
difficult to carry out, so it seems surprising that it isn’t implemented everywhere already. It’s possible that
there are good reasons for this that we are unaware of because we weren’t looking for them. Even if we
overlooked some reasons why the arts aren’t already integrated in schools everywhere, the significant
difference integration has on students is undeniable.

Another possible flaw is that most of the sources were written by people who were heavily
involved with the arts. Many of them may have benefitted from the widespread use of the arts in schools.
This means that the sources could be slightly biased. Even if some of the people who wrote our sources
might be swayed by what would benefit them, they are reliable and well-informed about arts integration.
Despite any slight biases that some of our sources may have had, it is an undisputable fact that
many students, parents, and teachers are unhappy with the way our educational system is set up today. It
seems that schooling is geared towards one kind of student instead of being reflective of the different
learning styles and backgrounds of students today. An arts-integrated curricula provides an opportunity
for all students to learn the way they do best and helps them succeed in school and in the workforce.
Arts integration fosters the development of interdisciplinary skills that improve student learning
in core subjects such as math and English. These skills enable students to perform better on standardized
tests and receive higher grades, but they also impact students as they move on to higher education and
transition into the workforce. Ultimately, students in schools where the curriculum integrates art are more
creative and more confident. The creativity of students who are taught through arts-integrated curricula
allows those students to thrive in all kinds of positions, be it that of college student, office worker or
CEO. Creative workers also have more independent thoughts that allow for effective problem solving.
The empowerment that students feel from the arts leads them to become confident, successful members of
the workforce. Teachers can work by themselves or with the aid of an outside organization or artist to
create a curriculum that teaches students through the arts.
Integrating the arts doesn’t have to come with a big change in the educational system. It doesn’t
take legislation or protesting or rallies. It’s about the little things that teachers can do to foster creativity in
their students, like using projects and assignments to help better their understanding. Arts integration is a
relatively small shift in the way that we teach but makes a big difference for students.

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