Impact: Students benefit from high quality arts education.

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Impact and Value

Impact and Value
The 'arts-rich' school

In order to maximise the benefit and impact of arts education, research points to the success of schools that are 'arts-rich', where student engagement in the life of the school is high and where students can thrive in all subject areas, creating a rewarding environment for learning. In their 2009 landmark report The Qualities of Quality: Understanding Excellence in Arts Education (Seidel et al), Harvard's Project Zero team acknowledged that there are 'multiple purposes of arts education' and that high quality arts programs 'tend to serve several purposes simultaneously'.   

The group concluded that to provide arts-rich experiences, it was necessary that school administrators, teachers and their communities should focus their arts education to:

  • foster broad dispositions and skills, especially the capacity to think creatively and the capacity to make connections
  • teach artistic skills and techniques without making these primary
  • develop aesthetic awareness
  • provide ways of pursuing understanding of the world
  • provide a way for students to engage with community, civic and social issues
  • provide a venue for students to express themselves
  • help students develop as individuals.

The supporting documents elaborate on these requirements. In particular, Sir Ken Robinson, originally a drama teacher in the UK, sets a challenge to all teachers, school leaders and parents in his talk entitled 'How schools kill creativity'.

Arts-rich schools are built strategically over time and result from the commitment of key stakeholders. However, success comes through layers of engagement as stakeholders complement each other to support the mission of the school. Arts-rich schools emerge when the following stakeholders are actively and collaboratively engaged:

  • school principals and school administrators
  • specialist arts teachers (including teaching-artists), as well as generalist teachers who can collaborate and work across discipline boundaries. Such teams develop quality resources to meet the demands of each art form and an arts integrated curriculum
  • teachers in tune with advances in technology and a curiosity to apply these critical resources to teaching the arts
  • regional arts coordinators or leaders of clusters of arts teachers in schools with the budget and means to deliver relevant professional learning opportunities for teachers
  • influential and committed segments of the school’s community who shape and support the implementation of arts programs in their school 
  • education departments with their management structures of regional offices 
  • external arts organisations such as museums, galleries and orchestras who have a particular and ongoing relationship with the school and its children. 

And, of course, the students. Experience tells us that when stakeholder priorities align, all students benefit; as does the school and the community, for the imaginative power and liveliness of the students acts as the glue for greater school cohesion and the energy to maintain arts momentum into the future.

This project is funded by the Australian Government Department of Education, Employment and Workplace Relations.