What is Inquiry-based Learning and Arts Integration?

What is Inquiry-based Learning and Arts Integration?

I have just finished a residency at a school when a boy comes up to me and says, “I wish you could stay.  I love learning this way…it is so much better then reading and writing about it.”  Often, boys are my most expressive students in drama and movement.  Just like in sports, boys learn through movement and being socially engaged with peers.

“It is in Apple’s DNA that technology alone is not enough—it’s technology married with liberal arts, married with the humanities, that yields us the results that make our heart sing.”–Steve Jobs, in introducing the iPad 2 in 2011

We worry about our students as future leaders in the world. The emphasis on teaching “the soft skills” is critical but how do we do it all? How do we go about teaching the “soft skills?” Let’s consider an integrated approach. Build the necessary skills while teaching the curriculum. And, have fun-filled, productive days with our students!

The so-called, “soft skills” are really “core skills” for success. Here are a few that can be learned through an innovative methodology, integrating the arts.

  • self-regulation
  • empathy
  • collaboration
  • problem-solving
  • communication skills
  • innovation
  • public speaking and presentation skills
  • relationship building
  • flexibility and adaptability

These are basic skills often lost in this digital era. However, they are critical in the business world and CEOs in the business world are noticing a lack of these skills in young employees.

For many students, infusing the arts into the curriculum is the heart and soul of who they are and they have an opportunity to express their ideas, thoughts, and feelings fully. Eric Jensen, who integrates neuroscience with classroom practices, says that teachers have control over students states of mind so we must make sure they are engaged and inspired as learners.

States of mind includes emotional states. When students are engaged emotionally, they can learn easily. Dr. Sherry Kerr says,

“When you do a drama, it causes you to feel; so your brain reacts just the same as if it’s real.”

Children learn best through inquiry and discovery. They come into the world this way. Process drama, often called educational drama, capitalizes on their natural curiosity. Problem-solving in role allows students to work hard “through play.” When learning through drama and movement, many areas of the brain light up and students are totally engaged in their learning. After a drama experience, students are inspired to write and the quality of their writing is remarkable! For example, they may write advocacy letters to the government persuading them to take down the candy factory in their neighborhood that is causing so much pollution.
Learning through drama gives students a rehearsal for real life without the real-life consequences. Students are constantly debriefing their learning both in and out of role. Metacognition is clear and rich in these discussions.

Margaret Boersma consulting supports teachers with active literacy tools and strategies to integrate other content areas authentically. Students are engaged in their learning and help direct the drama. The creative process allows students to develop their work just like the creative writing process. The emphasis is on process but students are often excited about sharing their learning with a presentation they create expressing their thoughts and feelings on a topic. Creating a presentation flows easily out of the process work.

“Arts education aids students in skills needed in the workplace: flexibility, the ability to solve problems and communicate, the ability to learn new skills, to be creative and innovative, and to strive for excellence.”
– Joseph M. Calahan, Director of Cooperate Communications, Xerox Corporation