Job-Embedded Arts Integration Favorably Impacts Teacher Practice

The Rochester Arts Impact Study Enhancement (RAISE) used random assignment to choose which schools got the arts integration in K-6 classrooms in Rochester, NY. But we wanted to hear from all teachers, so we surveyed both teachers in the 11 treatment schools and teachers from the 10 control schools. Of the 612 teacher surveys received and analyzed over the four-year RAISE program, 78.9% of treatment teachers and 79.3% of control teachers indicated wanting future PD sessions. They wanted these to help improve their ability to integrate the arts, even though control teachers were unable to participate in the RAISE Program PD sessions.

Providing Professional Development for treatment teachers focusing on integrating the arts into other subject areas was the number one factor contributing to the success of the RAISE Model. Professional Development was provided to treatment teachers in two formats: A traditional model of bringing teachers to the central office, guiding them in artistic instruction, and giving them materials to try the arts integration with their students the next day.

A second professional development model that was less traditional, the RAISE Program leaders considered the informal opportunities treatment teachers had to observe and interact with teaching artists during the implementation of the integrated units as “job embedded” professional development [D. Harloff]. The teacher quotes below indicate that treatment teachers learned new teaching strategies, witnessed students using songs introduced by their TA during a test, and helped students improve reading fluency and drama skills.

  • “This is my first and only year actively participating with the grant as a classroom teacher. I thought it was wonderfully enlightening to be able to observe my class doing the planned activities with the guest Teaching Artist. I learned strategies to engage my students in a different way.” [Year 4 Kindergarten Treatment Teacher @ #X referring to Music TA]
  • “This year I use a lot of small drama activities to make vocabulary more meaningful for students. I also picked up from our visiting Teaching Artist how to help students think more in depth about a character and how that character might be feeling when we act out a small part of what we are reading.” (Year 4 Second Grade Treatment Teacher @ School #X referring to Theatre TA)
  • “Teaching Artist showing us strategies of how to use arts/art to aid in comprehension of ELA. Having children demonstrate their understanding thru art work. [Year 3 Third Grade Treatment Teacher @ School #X referring to Visual Arts TA]
  • “One part of an ELA assessment we just gave talked about similies + metaphors. At least 75% of the kids were singing the song Teaching Artist taught them!” [Year 4 Fifth Grade Treatment Teacher @ School #X referring to Music TA]
  • The lessons presented by Teaching Artist help the students to develop the skills necessary for improving reading fluency and drama.” [Year 3 Sixth Grade Treatment Teacher @ School #X referring to Theatre TA]
  • Piggybacked; EBD—Evidence Based Claim approach to poetry paraphrase/translate what the poet is really saying (stanza at a time)—from more difficult pieces of poetry. (Got that idea from Teaching Artist’s line-by-line analysis of Shel Silverstein)” [Year 4 6th grade treatment teacher response to question on a survey asking how teachers are incorporating what the TA does into their own teaching practice]

It was expected that treatment teachers would indicate the kinds of PD they wanted to be able to improve their arts integration abilities. It was a complete surprise to find that control teachers were also eager to participate in PD focused on arts integration and made specific requests for what they wanted.

  • “I would love to have someone teach me songs and art projects that align with the new curriculum.” [Year 2 Control Teacher]
  • “Reading and writing are more difficult to integrate art, so maybe strategies and ideas to use during these subjects.” [Year 2 3rd Grade Control Teacher]
  • “I need to know examples/ideas of how I can integrate arts into curriculum and what resources are available to me.” [Year 2 4th Grade Control Teacher]
  • “I would like professional development to help integrate science lessons with the arts. For example, how to integrate matter, biology, etc…” [Year 2 5th Grade Control Teacher]
  • “I really think we need Module and Common Core specific trainings for each grade level. So, you look at the 6 week lessons being done in ELA (the modules) for each grade level and set up trainings based on content & what would be appropriate.” [Year 3 5th Grade Control Teacher]

When teachers invite teaching artists into their classrooms, teaching artists are able to show teachers in convincing demonstrations of arts integration that professional teaching practice can be improved through arts engagement, overlapping skills sets and improved student achievement. The proof of this is shown to teachers when their own students do better on formative and summative assessments. When the central office also offers very hands-on, make and take, types of professional development and sends boxes of school supplies home with teachers, professional development becomes more relevant to the practical needs of teachers. But in the end, job-embedded professional development is the most persuasive key to teacher learning as teachers learn best in peer-to-peer learning relationships.