Visual arts-integrated literacy and numeracy learning is an approach to teaching and learning in which young people construct meanings and demonstrate understandings through the visual arts.
Arts-integrated learning aims to establish a pedagogical relationship between the curriculum and the arts. Practitioners working within this field have found that with the integration of arts, young people are more creative, challenged and engaged in all school subject areas. Young people involved in arts-integrated curriculum learning will also have dramatic improvements in school performance and attendance. This is supported by new Australian research released in partnership by the Australian Government, Australia Council of the Arts and the University of Sydney.
Visual arts-integrated literacy and numeracy learning is an approach to teaching and learning in which young people construct meanings and demonstrate understandings through the visual arts. In order for this to happen, young people engage in a creative process that connects the visual arts with literacy and numeracy. In this context, the creative product meets the evolving objectives of both the visual arts, and of literacy and numeracy.
A Pedagogical Approach
Through Arts’s visual arts-integrated teaching and learning pedagogy is underpinned by the belief that learning is experiential, collaborative, reflective, evolving, actively built and problem-solving centred and is aligned with constructivist practices. Constructivist practices that align with arts-integrated teaching and learning practices are:
- Accessing and extending young people’s prior knowledge.
- Providing experiential, ‘hands-on’ learning with relevant and authentic problems for young people to solve.
- Incorporating opportunities for young people to learn collaboratively in order to deepen their understandings.
- Engaging young people in reflective practices about learning processes and understandings.
- Providing opportunities for young people to revise, refine and share their work.
- Establishing a positive and safe studio environment where young people are encouraged to explore possibilities and take risks, and where a social and cooperative creative community is fostered.
Constructing Meaning and Demonstrating Understandings
Through visual arts-integration, we are able to provide multiple opportunities for young people to make sense of what they learn and make their understandings visible. When involved in our visual arts-integrated learning programs, young people go beyond learning and recalling information. Visual arts becomes a carriage for challenging young people to investigate new ways of using, representing and constructing knowledge throughout the creative process to deepen their understandings.
Visual Arts as a Catalyst Learning
Visual arts-integrated activities allows young people to show their learning and understanding through the artwork they create, rather than through the traditional means of written or verbal demonstrations of learning. The nature of the visual arts allows young people to learn through multiple modalities of learning including visual, aural and kinaesthetic. The visual arts offers various ways for young people to acquire, represent, express and engage with knowledge. Additionally, Through Art’s visual arts-integrated learning programs allow for young people to be faced with the same processes, and consequently dilemmas requiring problem solving, that professional artists face.
The Creative Process
At the core of visual arts-integration is the creative process. Through Art’s visual arts-integrated activities ask that young people do more than recall knowledge, copy ideas or follow instruction. Rather, through visual arts-integrated activities, young people create artwork that is original and of value, using higher order thinking skills.
The creative process is more than a single event or series of steps. It includes many phases that interact and integrate with each other. When young people engage in the creative process they produce an original artwork that communicates and represents their ideas and offers representations of insights, perspectives, opinions and emotions. The nature of the creative process gives young people opportunities to engage in challenging inquiry and experimentation that allows discovery and exploration.
Connecting Visual Arts, Literacy and Numeracy
A key feature of our visual arts-integrated learning programs are the interdisciplinary connections. We use different artistic mediums to make connections between visual arts practice with the specific disciplines of literacy or numeracy. Concurrently, our learning programs also aim to make connections between the visual arts and the concerns and needs of young people, schools and the community. These connections are where young people build skills in all general capabilities specified in the Australian Curriculum.
The connections that are made are strongest when they are reciprocally reinforcing. In other words, as a result of engaging in visual arts activities, both visual arts learning and literacy and numeracy learning is reinforced and extended beyond young people zone of proximal development.
Through Art’s visual arts-integrated learning programs include objectives for both visual arts practice, and literacy or numeracy. These objectives are balanced and young people are accountable for significant learning in both areas.
Just as objectives in any curriculum area evolve in order to challenge young people and deepen their understandings, so too do the objectives in our learning programs. We aim for objectives to unfold as our young participants experience and understandings develop. As young people master each objective, they become ready to master the next. We monitor young people’s progress and adjust objectives to keep them challenged, interested and motivated to learn. This way, as young people mastery grows, so do their feelings of self-efficacy and their belief that they are capable of achievement.