A Teacher’s Guide to Implementing an Art-Integrated Curriculum in the Classroom
When we think of the term ‘art’ in education, we are often reminded of the customary art and crafts lessons that students attend in school. Until a few years ago, art was considered just an extracurricular subject that students could pick as a hobby. Fast forward to today where using art in education is considered a powerful way of developing an inclusive learning environment that fosters creativity, critical thinking and self-expression.
Using art for education is a dynamic way to make lesson plans interesting and boost student engagement. However, it is more than just an engagement strategy – it is a powerful way for students to interpret and express their understanding.
In this blog, we explore the concept of art-integrated learning, effective implementation strategies for classrooms and how it benefits both students and teachers alike. Let’s start by understanding what art-integrated learning is really about.
What is Art-Integrated Learning & Why is it Important?
Art-integrated learning transcends the boundaries of textbooks and fosters a dynamic space for students to retain knowledge. It is an innovative approach that encourages students to develop a deeper understanding of complex subjects using elements such as visual arts, drama, music and other creative disciplines, making learning inclusive and enjoyable. In fact, NEP 2020 describes art-integrated learning as a cross-curricular pedagogical approach that uses different forms of art and culture as the foundation of learning.
Besides developing a creative classroom environment, NEP emphasizes on integrating Indian art and culture in the teaching-learning process to help students imbibe the Indian ethos and build a solid connection with their roots. Some of the art forms prescribed by NEP involve drawing, painting, puppetry, paper crafts, photography and performing arts, among others.
Let’s understand why art integration is an important teaching-learning model in modern classrooms.
1. Promotes deep learning: Students who participate in art integrated classes are able to focus on the deeper meaning of concepts, understand the ‘why’ behind them and therefore retain concepts with better clarity and for longer
2. Encourages self-expression: It creates space for students to imagine, explore, ideate and learn in the classrooms. This builds their self-confidence and encourages them to share their thoughts, opinions and ideas with ease
3. Builds a collaborative environment: It enables students to imbibe key qualities such as coordination, empathy, teamwork and interpersonal communication to work together and foster a sense of oneness
4. Builds inclusivity and cultural awareness: Art in education engages diverse learners and promotes cultural appreciation, which helps students become aware and solidify their understanding of Indian culture
Objectives of Art-Integrated Learning (AIL)
The NEP outlines the importance of creating a student-centric curriculum. It promotes holistic development by encouraging both students and teachers to think beyond the syllabus. The art-integrated pedagogy must be developed mindfully and should cater to students with varied learning needs, including those from weaker socio-economic backgrounds and diverse cultures. This will help students build communication and interact beyond barriers, while learning about coexistence and multiplicity of social realities.
These are the key objectives of introducing an AIL pedagogy in your classroom:
1. Experiential learning of academic content
2. Building interdisciplinary connections
3. Promote opportunities for self-expression in classrooms
4. Appreciation of cultural diversity
5. Active participation of students, irrespective of social background
6. Enhance communication, problem solving, creative and critical thinking skills
7. Foster teamwork and mutual appreciation among students
Key Strategies for Implementing Art-Integrated Learning at School
Art-integrated learning offers students a unique opportunity to understand and explore various academic themes through the lens of art. These concepts can be imbibed using visual or performing arts depending on the learning objective and nature of the subject.
Even though learning through art is a flexible approach that fosters experimentation and exploration,it is essential for teachers to be well-prepared beforehand in order to effectively implement AIL-based pedagogies at a school level.
Here is a five-step approach for teachers to implement AIL in your classroom
1. Capacity Building
Introducing art as a learning resource at school will require re-orienting previous systems to adapt art as a new pedagogical tool. Every stakeholder in the institution, including the school management should be well-prepared to understand the functionality, relevance and importance of this pedagogy. Capacity building refers to any effort that is made to help stakeholders understand and implement AIL at school.
As an educator, it is essential to undertake teacher training workshops and observation programs to learn how to bring about a paradigm shift in education through art. This will help you develop a deeper conceptual and theoretical understanding on which type of art form will work best for a specific learning module.
2. Planning of AIL-based Activities
Once you have developed a clear understanding of how to utilize the AIL methodology, the next step is to work on the dynamics of planning. Primarily, the AIL methodology involves linking art experiences to relevant subject matter seamlessly, followed by identifying methods to get students involved in group activities.
It is important for teachers to be well-prepared by familiarizing themselves with the subject at hand and effectively reviewing students’ responses. The key is to identify learning outcomes, find relevant tools and techniques for assessment and conduct activities on specific themes that can be integrated across different grades. These activities should ideally promote the use of local resources and highlight the rich cultural heritage of India.
3. Planning Time
Teachers may sometimes find it challenging to plan art-based activities around specific time frames. This could compromise the creation of an experiential learning environment. But, there are certain pre-planned time slots like morning assembly, excursions, celebration of festivals, etc. that can be used to organize mass art experiences that can be linked to the subject content.
In fact, teachers can use the 10 bagless days at school to initiate art experiences and help students learn through various enrichment activities that involve visual arts, pictorial or sculptural projects, performing arts, culinary arts and so on.
4. Planning Resources
Teachers must conduct research on the types of resources required based on the planned activities. This will help them be better prepared with a diverse archive of resources that will refine the overall AIL experience. It is important that the chosen resources are eco-friendly, locally available and culturally relevant so that students can learn and appreciate local arts and culture.
5. Classroom Management
Developing an inclusive classroom environment is a crucial aspect of AIL that can facilitate a hands-on teaching-learning experience. Teachers should ensure that suitable arrangements are made regarding attendance, display of art and seating arrangements in the classroom. They are encouraged to experiment with seating arrangement in a way that every student is involved in AIL activities. Moreover, they should create space for resource materials and dedicated display areas for artwork of students in the classroom.
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By infusing art into the learning process, teachers can transform classrooms into dynamic hubs of exploration that help students foster the necessary skills to thrive in the 21st century.