Teachers’ application of arts rich practice: teaching in and through the arts

The aim of this integrated study is to implement three parallel interventions – one in art, one in music and one in drama – targeted at early to mid-career primary and middle school teachers and to track the efficacy and impact of these on teachers’ application of arts rich practice. The interventions are directed towards generalist or inexperienced teachers of the arts teaching in and through the arts, rather than arts specialists with many years of training in their discipline.

As a small pilot program, there are two overarching goals. The first is to test the premise that well-designed, pedagogically driven teacher immersion in arts practices contributes to teacher confidence and agency in the implementation of arts rich practices within their settings. The second is to develop a set of measures and methods which may document the processes and progress of teachers’ application of arts rich practice in their school contexts. It is anticipated that outcomes from these case studies may be applied in further, scaled-up professional l earning interventions and research for teachers and schools.

Methodology

Through ethnographic-style case studies, 10 to 20 early-mid career teachers will be invited to participate in each of the three arts discipline professional learning immersion courses. Of these participants, 3-6 teachers will be selectively sampled from each of the 3 disciplines to participate in focused cased studies, located in specific educational contexts. The focus of the study is on teachers’ communities of practice. However, students, principals and parents will also participate to enrich the understanding of contextual factors and their possible influences. The participants’ journeys will be documented and data will be triangulated to investigate how pathways are constituted, focussing on the following questions:

  • Did the interventions alter the teachers’ beliefs and attitudes about arts rich practice?
  • Did the application of arts rich practices in schools have an impact on the teachers’ and/or students’ agency (i.e., confidence, motivation, engagement, attendance) and conversely did any changes in teacher agency impact on their capacity to apply arts rich practices in their teaching?
  • What influence, if any, do demographics have on the effectiveness of arts rich practices in particular schools? (e.g., teacher education, community SES, family engagement with arts, classroom environment, support structures, time allocation for the art discipline)?

Methods that will be used to track changes over the period (pre-intervention, mid-point and end-point) include surveys with teachers (background/experience, school context, broader community, beliefs and attitudes), case studies of teachers (observation, online mentorship), semi-structured interviews (teachers and principals on beliefs, attitudes, agency, and pedagogy), focus group discussions (students and parents on agency, beliefs and attitudes and impressions of the program), artefacts (student artworks and performances and school brochures), reflections (teachers’ diary/blog entries) and field notes (researchers). Quantitative data (surveys) will generate frequencies and percentages; all other methods are qualitative and data will be analysed through content analysis. Themes will be examined and triangulated across data sources.

Outcomes

  • A set of measures/methods which may be applied in further, scaled-up research and professional learning interventions for teachers and schools
  • Data tracking of the processes and progress of teachers’ application of arts rich practice in their school contexts
  • Flagship programs for others to emulate (e.g., students in teacher education programs, early-middle-late career teachers, partnership schools)
  • Ongoing communities of practice for teachers applying arts rich programs in their schools
  • Publications and conference presentation arising from the research.