William S. Griesar
Date of Award
Bachelor of Science (B.S.) in Biology and University Honors
Arts -- Study and teaching, Interdisciplinary approach in education, Cognitive learning
As a result of disparities in the educational system, numerous scholars and educators across disciplines currently support the STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Art, and Mathematics) movement for arts integration. An educational approach to learning focusing on guiding student inquiry, dialogue, and critical thinking through interdisciplinary instruction, STEAM values both the proficiency of knowledge and understanding. Despite extant literature urging for this integration, the trend has yet to significantly influence federal or state standards for K-12 education in the United States.
This paper provides a brief and focused review of key theories and research from the fields of cognitive psychology and neuroscience outlining the benefits of arts integrative curricula in the classroom. Cognitive psychologists have found that the arts improve participant retention and recall through semantic elaboration, generation of information, enactment, oral production, effort after meaning, emotional arousal, and pictorial representation. Additionally, creativity is considered a higher-order cognitive skill and EEG results show novel brain patterns associated with creative thinking. Furthermore, cognitive neuroscientists have found that long-term artistic training can augment these patterns as well as lead to greater plasticity and neurogenesis in associated brain regions.
Research suggests that artistic training increases retention and recall, generates new patterns of thinking, induces plasticity, and results in strengthened higher-order cognitive functions related to creativity. These benefits of arts integration, particularly as approached in the STEAM movement, are what develops students into adaptive experts that have the skills to then contribute to innovation in a variety of disciplines.
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Townsley, Kayla G., "From STEM to STEAM: the Neuroscience Behind the Movement Towards Arts Integration in K-12 Curricula" (2017). University Honors Theses. Paper 446.