Creating a fair and fascinating world through Arts Immersion: improving engagement, cognition and equity in the primary school classroom using the Arts

Year: 2019

Author: Chapman, Susan

Type of paper: Abstract refereed

The Arts are integral to our lives and the benefits of Arts education are widely documented. They offer us different ways of knowing and of understanding our world. With their own semiotic systems, each Arts subject represents a rich store of understandings and skills, embracing nuance and complexity. However, the inclusion of high quality Arts education in primary schools may be threatened by the influence of high-stakes testing which, in some cases, has been interpreted through narrower test-driven pedagogy. Equity in the classroom may be compromised by narrower pedagogical approaches, the dominance of word-based texts, a ‘back to basics’ approach to teaching and learning, and the marginalisation of non-high-stakes-tested subjects in the curriculum. When learning and teaching become narrow experiences, particular learners and teachers may be favoured. One of the unintended consequences of high-stakes testing regimes is that some students may be privileged if the testing framework becomes the defacto curriculum and the classroom focus is on practicing for the test. There is a risk that this group of favoured students may tend to dominate positions of leadership in classroom learning while others are excluded and disengaged. In a socially just world, the pathways for learning and teaching should be wide, diverse and inclusive.

In this research project an Arts specialist and a generalist teacher work together in the same primary school classroom using an Arts Immersion approach to learning and teaching.Arts Immersionis the process of using the Arts as the purposeful medium through which enhanced learning occurs across disciplines to inform mutual understandings. AnArts Immersionapproach provides an opportunity to increase teacher capacity, widen the learning pathway for students, and access the Arts as the home language of the classroom. The findings from this Year 6 classroom in a low socio-economic and culturally diverse school show that an Arts Immersion approach can: enhance engagement with learning and improve focus; provide an effective strategy for professional learning; enhance equity in the classroom; use rich tasks to address to stress of an overcrowded curriculum; and offer a sustainable change in learning and teaching.

This presentation will demonstrate how an Arts Immersion approach to learning and teaching contributes to a socially just world, providing specific examples from completed PhD research on this topic.