Process Model

The early years of Arts at the Center consisted of whole school change and developing a culture for the arts within the school. The arts were introduced to transform the culture of the learning environment and to create a space where children could explore their vast potential. Teaching artists worked with classroom teachers in developing units that would engage students through art-making activities. The work of our predecessors was focused on experiential learning and providing a new lens for students to access content learning.

Inquiry-based learning appeared in many arts-integrated and experiential-based learning models in the mid 1990s as a way to reintroduce constructivist learning into the classroom. The inquiry cycle provided the structure for our arts-integrated framework. The inquiry sequence of frontloading material, asking questions, gathering information, constructing knowledge, making learning visible, sharing responses, and starting the cycle over by further questioning was central to our work, as the art-making process mirrors this journey.

The inquiry cycle manifested as a process for allowing teachers and teaching artists to develop investigations aimed at opening up student thinking. Due to time constraints in scheduling, various levels of buy-in, and other factors, some of these investigations did not fully develop. After many years of using inquiry-based learning and over one thousand arts-integrated
units later we are now beginning to more directly focus on the student's voice and thinking processes, placing student work and ideas at the center of learning.

In our process model we use the arts specifically to address and open up challenging content areas for students. We use the learning standards as a compass to guide and align content and art learning. Assessment throughout the unit or lesson is used to measure how the student is learning content through the arts and art through the content. In this case, the process- based artifacts (journals, sketches, improvisations, preliminary designs, etc.) and product- based artifacts (choreographed sequences, musical compositions, finished paintings, plays/ performances, etc.) become critical information to inform both the teacher and student how learning is occurring. The student artifacts provide clear evidence of what has worked or not worked, and these artifacts give us feedback into the development of the whole child.

Our work continues to look at the arts as a sophisticated way of thinking. For the past four years, we have pushed our practice to use the arts to assess content learning and develop meta-cognitive thinking behaviors. Interested in looking at student knowledge artifacts to gain insight into what students are thinking and learning, our focus turned to students' thinking processes and listening to their voice. This was informed by our research of the pedagogical principles of the Reggio Emilia approach, which emphasizes exploration of materials, values children's multiple symbolic languages, and uses reflective documentation to make learning visible, as well as the thinking habits of a studio arts practice as articulated by Lois Hetland in Studio Thinking: The Real Benefits of Visual Arts Education.

We have to start to ask students what they are thinking if we are truly interested in the process over the final product. What are they thinking during the art-making process? Why are they thinking it? Why did they make that choice? By asking such questions, clues are given as to whether students understand not only the material covered in a lesson, but also how they arrived at that understanding. We determined that we needed firsthand accounts of the student artist's voice in order to nurture the artist as an intellectual being who has to articulate his/her process. For the arts to be validated in the present day school system, there has to be valuable skill development occurring, other than an increase in art knowledge or engagement. By providing students with the opportunity to meta-cognitively respond to the art-making process, thinking behaviors and language development are translatable across disciplines and content areas.

Our process model has changed as well with the shift in our thinking and vision of arts- integration. The model is evolving as we speak. Working with our long-time external evaluator Cynthia Gehrie, consultant Lois Hetland, 25 teachers from a Professional Development for Arts Educators grant, and various other critical friends, we are beginning to develop a whole new language for describing our approach. Which demonstrates the dynamics and qualities of successful arts-integration.

The center of our process model now focuses on the "transfer" that occurs in effective pairings of content and art. In this model, arts-integration is the transfer of knowledge that happens within the parallel process of connecting multiple content areas. These moments of transfer are articulated in student-created knowledge artifacts that demonstrate students' ability to make meaning, create, and think meta-cognitively. We are identifying pairings of specific content concepts with an appropriate art form (e.g., number fractions and musical notation). Arts-integration is the product of the mechanisms (isms) that connect content and art. These isms include teaching strategies, art-making activities, assessments and other teaching tools that facilitate students' ability to break down individual thinking processes and understand the connections between disciplines. The integrative structure builds on parallel process mechanisms that are shared by both content and the arts (Weiss, 2008). Our model of arts-integration is supported by the framework that the arts provide students with the opportunity to make personal connections and understand multiple perspectives.

The process model continues to evolve based on continuing work in multiple school districts, adapting to current mandates, and ongoing discourse with teachers and leaders in the field of education.