What is Arts Integration?

Arts Integration

The John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts define arts integration as “an approach to teaching in which students construct and demonstrate understanding through an art form. Students engage in a creative process which connects an art form and another subject area and meets evolving objectives in both” (Silverstein & Layne, 2010). Arts integration has also been defined as “using the arts in content area lessons to deepen understanding in disciplines other than art” (Donahue & Stuart, 2008). In other words, arts integration is using an art form to teach students about a non-arts subject (ex: math, science, history, etcetera) thereby the students learn and grow in both subjects.

Arts integration should not be confused with arts enhanced learning. Arts enhanced learning is when an art form is used to strengthen learning in a non-art form subject, but does not strengthen learning in the art form. One example of arts enhanced learning is The ABC Song. In this example, music is used as a tool to enhance the language learning of children, but the learners do not learn more about music in the process.

The Impact of Arts Integration

Many studies demonstrate the benefits of arts integrated learning including positively impacting child development and improving test scores. Some positive impacts of arts integration include increased fine-motor skills and vocabulary in pre-kindergarten and first-grade (Hancock & Wright, 2018); as well as increased academic achievement (May, 2013). One teacher even found that “[t]he more I integrated art, the more I noticed my students’ increased engagement, homework completion, and achievement. After integrating math with music, at least 90 percent of my students showed a learning gain on the statewide assessment” (Wiley, 2018). The Turnaround Arts Initiative had 85% of teachers integrate the arts into their classroom at eight different schools across the country. They found that over three years there was a 22.55% improvement in math proficiency and a 12.62% improvement in reading proficiency (Turnaround Arts Initiative Summary). Arts integration helps young people to perform better in school.

Improving test scores and proficiency are not the only beneficial factors that motivate teachers to integrate the arts; arts integration can improve student attendance, engagement, and social emotional development. The Turnaround Arts Initiative program found arts integration improved attendance rates (Turnaround Arts Initiative Summary). Other benefits include strengthened students’ attention spans (Hancock & Wright, 2018) and self-concept (May, 2013). Many teachers have observed that arts integration increases student engagement as well (Hancock & Wright, 2018) (May, 2013). Others have found that their students have become more accepting and work more cooperatively with each other (Buck & Snook, 2018). The arts are naturally a collaborative work which can help students to feel part of something bigger so that they want to come to class, participate and collaborate well with others. Finally, one of the greatest benefits of arts integration is that allows a variety of students to be successful in new ways. Liora Bresler, an associate professor in the Department of Curriculum and Instructions of the University of Illinois at Urbana Champaign, found that after interviewing teachers that arts integration provides “different modes of representations so that different students can succeed” (1995). Imagine the social emotional impact this has on a young person, especially a young person that struggles with the traditional, factory-like education model. Arts integration does not only provide a variety of modalities so learners can grow, but provides a variety of modalities so learners can truly be successful.

New to arts integration?

Arts integration can be intimidating at first. If you have any questions about how to implement arts integration, connect with STEAM Horizons. STEAM Horizons is here to support and guide educators and organizations through the world of arts integration.


Bresler, L. (1995). The Subservient, Co-Equal, Affective, and Social Integration Styles and their Implications for the Arts. Arts Education Policy Review, 96(5), 31-37. doi:10.1080/10632913.1995.9934564

Buck, R., & Snook, B. (2018, February 5). Arts integration: Turning teaching on its head. Retrieved from https://nzareblog.wordpress.com/2018/03/05/arts-integration/

Donahue, Dave, & Stuart, Jennifer. (2008). Working towards Balance: Arts Integration in Pre-Service Teacher Education in an Era of Standardization. Teaching and Teacher Education: An International Journal of Research and Studies, 24(2), 343-355.

Hancock, D., & Wright, R. (2018). Enhancing Early Childhood Development 

Through Arts Integration in Economically Disadvantaged Learning Environments. The Urban Review, 50(3), 430-446.

May, B. (2013). Arts Integration: What’s the Problem? General Music Today, 26(2), 5-8.

Silverstein, L. and Layne, S. (2010). Defining Arts Integration”. [online] Kennedy-center.org. Available at: http://www.kennedy-center.org/education/partners/defining_arts_integration.pdf [Accessed 17 Aug. 2018].

Turnaround Arts Initiative Summary of Key Findings. (n.d.). The Kennedy Center. Retrieved from https://dcps.dc.gov/sites/default/files/dc/sites/dcps/publication/attachments/TurnaroundArtsPhase1FinalEvaluation_Summary.pdf.

Wiley, M. (2018, May 11). 9 Ways a School-Wide Arts Integration Program Inspires Everyone. Retrieved from https://schoolleadersnow.weareteachers.com/school-wide-arts-integration/

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