The Role of the Visual Arts-Based Learning in the Classroom

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Art may be as old as time itself. From prehistoric cave paintings to the designs on the tombs of Pharaohs in ancient Egypt, art existed even before literacy as a way to communicate, document historic events, and most importantly, leave life lessons behind for future generations. In a world that is constantly changing and evolving, art still remains the original method of teaching that has endured the test of time (Punzalan, 2018). My topic of choice will explore the impact of visual arts in a classroom setting and how it influences students' overall academic performance and cognitive development.

Teachers constantly vie for student engagement and involvement. Benjamin Franklin once said, “Tell me and I forget. Teach me and I remember. Involve me and I learn” (Goodreads, 2019). Teachers constantly struggle with developing students’ self-expression or classroom engagement. In the classroom, children differ on many levels, whether it be their background, language, culture, or even personality. The shy child, for example, is not always presented with the opportunity to express his true self due to his shy demeanor. In the past, teachers used to emphasize the use of examinations, rigid methods of instruction, and inflexible subject matter to the detriment of many children with moderate to severe anxiety disorder (Talarico, 2019). Nowadays, more and more institutions are embracing a progressive approach to learning and teachers constantly endeavor new and innovative methods to engage student involvement in the classroom. Arts-based learning is a fundamental and time-proven tool to help students communicate, express themselves, and ultimately become masters of their understanding.

According to research and clinical studies, the utilization of visual arts in the classroom can greatly impact students' academic performances, yet, unfortunately, the study of arts has been marginalized and considered “extracurricular” in many academic institutions (Punzalan, 2018). Many educators still believe that core subjects such as math and sciences bear greater importance and do not see the added value art presents when trying to improve test scores, or guarantee academic success. The need for art integration in any curriculum is a crucial educational tool that would be greatly beneficial in retaining concepts and remembering information. Students are constantly being lectured by their teachers, and receiving information that they do not always fully understand or absorb. Visual arts such as painting, drawing, photography, crafting, sculptures, or computer design, can help students internalize the information, and can greatly improve their learning skills while simultaneously making room for self-discovery and creativity (Punzalan, 2018). When immersed in an art project, children can explore the power of their imagination, and develop their hidden creative potential. Since not all students can think abstractly like the regular teaching method demands, art is an alternative that can help students understand the material in a more personal and unique way.

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A study from the College of Education, Bulacan State University, discovered how students that incorporated visual arts in their learning performed better academically than students that used the traditional instruction method. This experiment suggested that when visual arts are used in different learning areas, it can encourage student participation, develop their self-confidence, and will allow them to ultimately learn better (Punzalan, 2018). All a teacher ever hopes for is the success of their students and being able to play a role in the achievement of their overall potential. By implementing visual arts into the school’s curriculum, teachers can help their students understand the material in their creative way, and when students are active participants in their learning, they are unknowingly self-motivating themselves and paving the road for their own personal success.

Moreover, we find that visual arts are essential for students’ learning development, self-expression, and communication. In the article, “7 Reasons to Encourage Communication Through Art and Music Therapy to Help a Child with Selective Mutism” by Alex Talarico, the author presents seven reasons why teachers should encourage communication through the practice of Art and Music Therapy, specifically in this case, to help children that suffer from Selective Mutism. It generally explains how the comfort and relaxation of music and art therapy, can allow many people to communicate and express their emotions (Talarico, 2019). Talarico describes how, “Art and music therapy can help to relieve pain and reduce stress and anxiety, resulting in physiological changes, including improved respiration, lower blood pressure, reduced heart rate, and relaxed muscle tension.” (Talarico, 2019). For children with selective mutism, who completely block themselves from the world, they find their “happy place” within art where they can freely express their emotions and communicate through color and drawings. The author states, “According to Dr. Elisa Shipon-Blum‘s S-CAT® treatment for Selective Mutism, comfort precedes communication. Art and music therapy is a great way to make your child or student feel comfortable and reduce his/her anxiety.” (Talarico, 2019)

In a classroom setting, you will notice various children with different personalities. Almost always, you will find the loud child, the troublemaker, the class clown, and the shy one in the back of the classroom. Teachers can reach all students through art because every student can actively participate while showing their creativity and adapting their learning skills. Art is a language in which the artist tells a story through a chisel or paintbrush. For the painter, each stroke of the brush is an emotion of self-expression. Similarly, students can use art to communicate and show their “true colors” or discover a God-given talent.

“The Arts are not only expressive but also cognitive.” (Baker, 2013). In the journal, “Art Integration and Cognitive Development ” a study was conducted to examine how the integration of arts in a curriculum of subject matter can promote cognitive development. The study describes how teachers, through the medium of art and by referencing “Howard Gardners’ Eight Multiple Intelligences', can adapt to each students learning styles in a positive way (Baker, 2013). The article gave an example of an art assignment asking students to identify their weakest “intelligence”, and proceed to create their very own superhero that had the power to make that area of intelligence stronger (Baker, 2013). The project included all forms of art such as creating a comic strip, dance expression, and using music to create a unique hero theme song. This project provided concrete evidence that teachers and students can greatly benefit from instruction using a thematic-based curriculum (Baker, 2013). It required students to use “planning, researching, imagination and creating individual assignments related to an overall theme”, where the student’s individuality and creativity were a prerequisite to the task (Baker, 2013).

Through art integration, any teacher can easily enhance their instructional objectives by incorporating artistic elements that will enrich the student’s sensory and cognitive experience, broaden their cultural spectrum and provide them with a colorful toolbox that will promote future academic success and intellectual development for years to come.

References

  1. “A Quote by Benjamin Franklin.” Goodreads, Goodreads, https://www.goodreads.com/quotes/21262-tell-me-and-i-forget-teach-me-and-i-may
  2. Baker, Dawn. “Art Integration and Cognitive Development.” Journal for Learning through the Arts, 1 Jan. 2013, https://escholarship.org/uc/item/9wv1m987
  3. Punzalan, Jovita F. “The Impact of Visual Arts in Students’ Academic Performance.” International Journal of Education and Research, 7 July 2018, https://ijern.com/journal/2018/July-2018/10.pdf
  4. Talarico, Alex. “7 Reasons to Encourage Communication Through Art and MusicTherapy to Help a Child with Selective Mutism.” Selective Mutism Anxiety Research & Treatment Center | SMart Center, 8 Apr. 2019, https://selectivemutismcenter.org/
  5. Tyler, Christopher W, and Lora T Likova. “The Role of the Visual Arts in Enhancing the Learning Process.” Frontiers in Human Neuroscience, Frontiers Research Foundation, 8 Feb. 2012, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3274761/
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