I thought it would be interesting to post the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts’ definition of arts integration. The JFK Center for the Performing Arts is one of the nation’s largest users of this type of Art Education.
“The John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts defines arts integration as “an approach to teaching in which students construct and demonstrate understanding through an art form. Students engage in a creative process which connects an art form and another subject and meets evolving objectives.” This entire section is downloaded from: John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts’ definition of arts integration.
The Birth of the Definition
The Kennedy Center’s Changing Education Through the Arts (CETA) program was in its initial years when it became clear that there was a wide variation in the quality of arts integration teachers were providing in classrooms. Some instruction was on target while others were not. Many heated discussions followed about what the program considered to be “on target.”
This led to a realization that the program has been offering teachers strategies for arts integration— “the how”—but hadn’t been sufficiently preparing teachers to understand the bigger picture and the parameters for what constituted quality arts integration—“the what.”
Thus, the Kennedy Center began an effort to further clarify the key ideas that formed the foundation for its work in arts integration and to draft a comprehensive definition that would provide a foundation for a shared understanding among all program participants.
The effort began with extensive research about how other organizations and programs were defining arts integration. Although many provided excellent descriptions, none totally fit CETA’s vision. After months of research and endless conversations and debates, several key ideas were identified and the definition began to take form.
Although the program strived for a shorter definition, it was decided that length was an invaluable attribute for helping others understand CETA’s perspective on arts integration. As the definition was crafted, the inclusion of every word was debated. The final version does not have a single word that wasn’t carefully scrutinized for inclusion.
Further, the discussions about the nature of arts integration led the Kennedy Center to clarify the variety of ways the arts are taught in schools. This entire section is downloaded from: John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts’ definition of arts integration.
The Arts in Schools: Three Variations
The arts find their way in to elementary, middle, and high school classrooms every day in a variety of ways. The variations can be distilled into three main categories.
• Arts as Curriculum
• Arts-Enhanced Curriculum
• Arts-Integrated Curriculum
All three variations are important, needed, and valid. All benefit from being supported by arts experiences—where students attend performances and exhibits by professional artists to engage in authentic experiences that deepen and broaden their arts understandings.
While the three variations naturally link and support each other, there are reasons why teachers and schools target one or more approaches. Understanding the differences in the approaches can help teachers and schools make informed choices about the programs they offer. This entire section is downloaded from: John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts’ definition of arts integration.
Art as Curriculum
If a school has a music, art, drama, or dance teacher, their approach is most likely and primarily Arts as Curriculum. Students develop knowledge and skills in a particular art form. Often referred to as “arts learning” or “art for art’s sake,” the programs are guided by national, state, or local standards for each of the art forms. For example, in visual arts, students learn the content, processes, and techniques for two- or three-dimensional work. They learn how the visual arts developed and changed throughout history, and engage in creating and analyzing works created in a variety of media. This entire section is downloaded from: John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts’ definition of arts integration.
When the arts are used as a device or strategy to support other curriculum areas, but no objectives in the art form are explicit, then the approach is called Arts-Enhanced Curriculum. For example, students sing the ABCs as a means to other ends—remembering the letters and sequence of the alphabet. However, students are not usually expected to learn about melody, song structure, or develop specific singing skills. This entire section is downloaded from: John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts’ definition of arts integration.
Arts-Enhanced Curriculum acts as a “hook” to engage students in learning content. Additionally, teachers need little or no training in the art form. Arts-Enhanced Curriculum is often mistaken for Arts-Integrated Curriculum or a distinction is not made between the two. This entire section is downloaded from: John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts’ definition of arts integration.
In Arts-Integrated Curriculum, the arts become the approach to teaching and the vehicle for learning. Students meet dual learning objectives when they engage in the creative process to explore connections between an art form and another subject area to gain greater understanding in both. For example, students meet objectives in theater (characterization, stage composition, action, expression) and in social studies. The experience is mutually reinforcing—creating a dramatization provides an authentic context for students to learn more about the social studies content and as students delve deeper into the social studies content their growing understandings impact their dramatizations. For Arts-Integrated Curriculum to result in deep student understanding in both the art form and the other curriculum area, it requires that teachers engage in professional development to learn about arts standards and how to connect the arts to the curriculum they teach. This entire section is downloaded from: John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts’ definition of arts integration.
Many teachers, schools, and arts programs benefit from knowing the different ways the arts can be present in schools. Without making a distinction, opportunities can be missed, programs can lack clarity, or the arts can seem like something too unwieldy to incorporate. Making a distinction among the approaches can help narrow or focus objectives as well as help educators select the most appropriate approach based on their objectives. Ultimately, students are best served when all three variations—Arts as Curriculum, Arts-Enhanced Curriculum, and Arts-Integrated Curriculum—are part of their education. This entire section is downloaded from: John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts’ definition of arts integration.