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February 9, 2010 / compassioninpolitics

Arts Education, Neuroscience Research, and Advocacy Resources

(credit: gaetan lee)
Neuroeducation: Learning, Arts, and the Brain: John Hopkins University Summit 2009
Along with innovation in education, I’ve been fascinated with brain based education and brain based learning. Along those lines I picked up “Neuroeducation: Learning, Arts, and the Brain: Findings and Challenges for Educators and Researchers from the 2009 John Hopkins University Summit” from the Dana Foundation. This volume summarizes the big research questions and challenges facing art education teachers, advocates, and scientists as they look to identify a vision forward. It includes analysis by leading scientists and experts in the area of neuro-education including the work and vision of professor Jerome Kagan from Harvard along with insight from Guy McKann, Susan Magsamen (of the John Hopkins Neuro-intitiative), Mariale Hariman, Janet Eilber (Martha Graham Center of Contemporary Dance), and many many others.

The collective intelligence of speakers and participants created amazing insight and inspiration:
• “Art and music require the use of both schematic and procedural knowledge and, therefore, amplify a child’s understanding of self and the world.” Jerome Kagan, PhD in the department of psychology at Harvard University
• “Arts curriculum…allows a number of children to work as a cooperative unit, as when they compose a mural or play in the school band or orchestra.” Jerome Kagan, PhD in the department of psychology at Harvard University
• “The human conscience relies on empathy for others and the anticipation of anxiety, guilt, or shame for violating a community norm. Children need a deeper understanding of these feelings and the arts contribute to this goal.” Jerome Kagan, PhD in the department of psychology at Harvard University
• “What we advocate today in education are two representational languages, math and reading; maybe we should be educating kids to have multiple representational abilities.” Cunningham, PhD and director of the National Endowment for the Arts’ Division of Arts Education as well as the National Arts Alumni Project, the Network of State Education Agency Directors of Art Education, and the NEA Education Leaders Institute
• Discussion highlighted the importance of Brain Targeted Teaching based on the work of Mariale Hardiman
• The rise of the social and emotional teaching model. (see Edutopia article on social and emotional learning as well as delicious links on social and emotional learning)
• The work of Dr. Schlaug and Dr. Winner on the exposure of children to music was likewise mentioned.
• Janet Eilber pointed to the work of Alice Wilnder, Ed D and creator of the interactive and educational program Blues Clues and Think it-Ink It.
• Keri Smith pointed to her book Living out Loud–Activities to Fuel a Creative Life and Kathy Hirsch-Pasek pointed to her work Celebrate the Scribble: Appreciating Children’s Art
• The work of Kurt Fisher at Harvard School of Education and the insight of Dr. Patricia Wolfe and Ellen Galinsky on brain education.
• The work of Dr. Wandell (Dr. Wandell at Stanford’s Vista Lab), Dr. Posner, and Dr. Spelke.
• For five examples of sample studies check out pages 64 and 65 (similar ideas and models may help in arts/creative assessment as well)
The Partnership for 21st Century Skills
• “We can no longer just teach process and skills. The 21st century classroom is a laboratory for the creation of intellectual content where teachers are actively promoting higher-level thinking.”
• “Educators, policy makers, and researchers also agree that bringing parents into this conversation has the potential to change children’s skills, attitudes, and outcomes.”
• An article by Susan Magasmen at DANA on the John Hopkins’ Neuroscience and the Arts summit points out:

Kurt Fischer, director of Harvard’s Mind, Brain, and Education program, said at the summit,“Everything points to the critical link between schools and home that bridges performance arts, arts appreciation, and arts integration. This link needs to be nurtured so that the arts can contribute fully to the development of future skills, including collaboration and creativity.” He continued, “Without this consistency and integrated support between school and home, it is very difficult for children to succeed in learning the many skills and strategies that they naturally learn from the arts.”

Susan Magsamen continues:

Home is where the arts are typically introduced to children. From lullabies to bedtime stories, finger painting to bucket bands, home is where the arts are used to translate values, ethics, habits, and cultural rituals and traditions. Home is where safe, rich environments are created to allow children to explore, create, and make mistakes. Families and parents bring art experiences to their children through endless interpretations. If parents could be informed how the arts can enhance learning, then researchers, families, and community educators could join together to expand the impact of the arts in the community.

It is the everyday moments at home that offer golden opportunities for parents and families to employ the arts to enhance learning, support homework, gain valuable insight, develop perseverance, reduce stress, and more.

• TS Elliot’s insight that “Anything worth doing is at first impossible” is a metaphor of sorts to understand the collective work in this area–including the Neuro-education Initiative and the Neuro-education Indisciplinary Research Model.

Core Arts Education Advocacy Documents Highlighted at the Neuroscience Summit
Critical Links: Learning in the arts and student academic and social development (2002) (free PDF download)
Involvement in the arts and human development: general involvement and intensive involvement in music and theatre arts (1999) (full document in Google docs)
Champions of Change: the impact of the arts on learning (pdf in browser)
The Power of Art Study (pdf which loads in your browser)
Elements of a High Impact Arts Program for Teens from the Surdna Foundation of NYC (pdf in browser).

National Agencies and Organizations Highlighted in the 2009 Summit Book

Americans for the Arts
Arts Edge (@ the Kennedy Center)
Arts Education Partnership
The Dana Foundation
Grantmakers in the Arts
Keep Arts in Schools
Lincoln Center Institute
The National Association for Music Education
National Assembly of States Arts Agencies
National Endowment for the Arts
Neuro-Education Inititative
Project Zero (Howard Garner on the Arts)
State Education Agency Directors of Arts Education
UC Irvine Center for Learning Through Arts and Technology
US Department of Education and the Office of Innovation and Improvement
Young Audiences Arts for Learning

Related Arts Education and Brain Research Resources I’ve Identified:

Summary of Arts and Neuroscience Research from DANA as well as their arts education research. (Teacher Development Resources Sponsored by the Annenberg Foundation)
Arts Advocacy Resources from the Arts Education Partnership
How People Learn (available for free via the National Academies Press and Google books)
Connecting Brain Research with Teaching, MM Hardiman (2003)
Flow by Csikszentmihalyi (summary of flow theory)
Howard Garner: Multiple Intelligences: New Horizons in Theory and Practice (free on Google Books)
Grantmakers in the Arts Blog
Teaching with the Brain in Mind from PBS
A Whole New Mind, by Dan Pink (Discussion Guide)
Brain Based Teaching Resources from New Horizons
Sharp Brains: Brain Fitness for All
21st Century Skills Book



Leave a Comment
  1. kathryn pure / Apr 9 2010 10:37 am

    This is an outstanding article. As a textile Honours Student did my paper on “The Science of Knowing & The Art of Living” in 1998 only scratching the surface on belief systems/current status of education/Learning environment/Right brain-Left brain=creating a thinking generation


  1. The case for arts & creative education in k-12 schools « Compassion in Politics: Christian Social Entrepreneurship, Education Innovation, & Base of the Pyramid/BOP Solutions

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