Arts integration is an approach to learning that uses dance, drama,
music, writing, drawing, and other arts to teach concepts in subjects
not traditionally associated with the arts. The American Institutes for
Research (AIR) has just released a report, Arts Integration: A Promising Approach to Improving Early Learning,
summarising the findings of a four-year, randomised controlled study of
arts integration in early childhood maths funded by a grant from the US
Department of Education.
The study examined the effects of the Wolf Trap Foundation for the
Performing Arts’ professional development programme for early childhood
teachers, teaching them to incorporate dance, drama, and music to teach
STEM concepts – with an emphasis on maths – to children aged 4-6.
Eighteen elementary schools in two cohorts in Virginia were randomly
assigned to participate in the Wolf Trap programme or to continue with
their usual practice (Year 1 = 6 schools, 3 experimental/3 control; year
2 = 12 schools, 6 experimental/6 control). Differences in student
ethnicity, native language, and socio-economic status, and in teacher
experience, existed but were not statistically significant. The AIR
study found that Wolf Trap students scored significantly higher than the
control-group students on the standardised Early Math Diagnostic
Assessment. Compared to controls, the first-year cohort’s scores were
equivalent to 26 additional days of learning (effect size = 0.17), and
the second-year cohort’s scores were equivalent to 34 additional days of
learning (effect size = 0.21).
Effects on teacher practice were analysed via teacher survey,
observations, and interviews. Wolf Trap teachers used arts integration
in 32% of observed lessons, whereas control teachers used it in 18% of
AIR also examined the research on key features of successful
professional development programmes and correlated them with Wolf Trap’s
programme. Successful attributes of the Wolf Trap Early STEM/Arts
programme included training prior to the school year, intensive
mentoring and coaching during the school year, and strategies to align
classroom practice with the schools’ goals and standards.
Source:Arts Integration: A Promising Approach to Improving Early Learning (2016), American Institutes for Research.