Art: The Secret Ingredient

Cindy Dashnaw

from Spring 2016

Common Core State Standards outline what to teach students so they can graduate. What the standards don’t address is how to do that.

In this void, College of Education (COE) Professor Arthur Hochman saw an opportunity for Butler to influence the way teachers teach and students learn for decades to come.

Art Meets Education

We know today that the arts improve educational performance. But it wasn’t until 2002 that a first-of-its-kind research study showed that students exposed to arts education scored higher on standardized tests, developed better social skills, and had more motivation than their counterparts.

Hundreds of studies since have reached the same conclusion: Integrating the arts with other subjects improves the performance of K-12 students. 

Why, then, haven’t schools changed? 

“In 2002, teachers weren’t being taught to teach this way,” Hochman said. “And they still aren’t, for the most part—frankly, because standardized tests don’t emphasize it.” 

Teachers who might want to add an arts component to lesson plans are on their own.

“They have only their own experience to draw from. And think about that: all of us—teachers—included, grew up doing sums on the board, not moving in front of the class,” Hochman said. “So how can we expect them to naturally integrate an art form into the way they teach?” 

Hochman’s solution began with his creation of the Arts Integration (AI) course.

Art for All

Hochman recruited Tim Hubbard, Arts Integration Specialist, to help teach the required course in 2004. AI ensures that future teachers get a base of knowledge about successfully marrying the arts with other subjects. 

It’s our responsibility as an educational institution, Hochman said. 

“We always hear that the arts are for everyone, but they’re not. When families cannot afford to take their children to a performance or exhibit, school is their only chance,” said Hochman. “We want to make sure teachers know how to give students what they need.”

The arts can be integrated into any subject—math, for example. Twenty students solving the same equation may come up with the same answer. But when they can use their bodies to express their thought processes, Hochman said, individuality, retention, and attitudes soar. 

“The arts are inherently personal. They demand our own interpretation. So when I, as a student, connect math with the physical movement of my body, the math becomes a personal expression of me. After all, what am I more connected to than me?” he said.

Effective Arts Integration

The approach intrigued Superintendent of Kokomo-Center Consolidated School Corporation Jeff Hauswald. He asked Hochman and Hubbard for help in developing an arts-integrated elementary school. Thanks to exceptional community support, the Wallace School of Integrated Arts opened in 2012 with a waiting list. Eleven of its 14 teachers are Butler graduates. 

One of those is Veronica Orech ’14, who wrote in an email that Butler transformed her ideas on how to be a teacher. She also saw the approach at the Indianapolis Public Schools/Butler University Lab School 60, a COE partner. 

"The arts are inherently personal. They demand our own intepretation."

“No matter the subject, arts integration is my favorite way to teach. The overall experience is more rewarding for everyone involved because everyone is more motivated to take ownership of their learning experience—myself included,” she wrote. 

For more information, visit the Wallace School of Integrated Arts