Reflections on Arts Education and the CARE Program

When I used to teach, my favorite moments were wrapped up in an energetic silence—those times when you knew a student was “working it out” in her head. Now that I am an education researcher, I have shifted from teaching into empirically investigating these moments. What exactly is happening to students’ thinking when they are exposed to the arts and how can we recognize it when it happens? 

The major question we have been asking through the CARE program is how the arts promote critical thinking. Like many others interested in this issue (See: Critical Links: Learning in the Arts and Student Academic and Social Development, for a good compendia of existing research), we have looked at indicators of critical thinking, such as, making robust observations, forming hypothesis about what is going on in a work of art, providing reasoning based on evidence, and handling multiple interpretations…and the results have been significant. For you stats geeks like me who are reading this, we’re finding p-values at less than .01 on a majority of the indicators.

So how does all this happen? Well, primarily it’s because we have a fabulous cadre of artist-instructors     who are dedicated to bringing the arts to students and teachers in schools that have no arts 

programming.  Check out Lucera Gallegos, Elizabeth Washburn, Lori Sokolowski, and James Pillar. Couple that with accepting and hungry schools and teachers like King-Chavez Academy of Excellence, Golden Hill K-8, Monarch School, and Chollas-Meade, and that makes for a pretty good combination of will, capacity, effort, and results.

CARE has a lot going on this year, and it’s worth your while (if you are connected to schools and arts education) to look into it. In addition to our school residencies, we’re working with Dr. Merryl Goldberg, a student of Howard Gardner, and Dr. Marva Cappello, a visual literacy expert, to craft a teacher institute in August 2012.  Also you should go see our student art show at the San Diego International Airport in November 2011.  Whether you engage in person or in spirit, always remember the importance of the arts in education, particularly for children who come from disadvantaged homes.

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