Why Study Art? A Case for Arts Integration and Visual Literacy

Uncategorized Nov 11, 2020

Photo caption: Arts integrated educational programs that teach students skills, like drawing, prepare students for the new creative economy. Image by stud/7217 from Pixabay.

Here are some interesting - and maybe sobering - statistics for you.

Teens spend up to seven hours a day on devices

Most people, including students, receive much if not all of their information via visual means

People remember 65% of the information they learn if it’s accompanied by visuals

The brain takes in images faster than any other stimuli (It needs just 13 milliseconds.)

So, what does all of this mean? It means that in an increasingly visually-mediated society, instruction in how to read information in images is important. It’s an argument to art and art history instruction a central component to education.

Here’s what you need to know.

What Is Arts Integration?

Educational programs that include arts integration includes instruction in both art and another subject, like literature, math or science. These programs typically allow students to incorporate art elements into their assignments to demonstrate their understanding of the subject matter. 

This type of curriculum satisfies the core requirements for both art and the other subject being taught and is embraced by the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts. Overall, student achievement levels go up when they have arts integrated lessons.

Current research suggests that skills like drawing help people to improve their concentration and memory. People who doodle consistently have been shown to retain 30% more information than those who don’t.

While some teachers may frown upon students who draw pictures in the margins of their class notes, the concern appears to not be necessary. By drawing out their thoughts, these students are actually helping themselves remember more of the lesson.

What is Visual Literacy?

To understand this question, it’s important to look at why author Thomas Friedman says in his book “The World is Flat,” “Integration is the new speciality.” A recent Forbes article says that most people see between 4,000 and 10,000 ads a day. People are literally bombarded with images all day long on their phones, tablets, computers and TVs. 

Visual literacy instruction allows them to make sense of an increasingly visual world. Some educators even go as far to say that it is a staple 21st-Century skill.

That is to say that students who have a high degree of visual literacy are able to:




and understand 

concepts that are presented to them in the form of symbols, visible actions and objects. 

Video caption: Martin Scorsese on the Importance of Visual Literacy

Visual Literacy and Arts Integration

These standards are written into today’s Common Core lessons, according to Edutopia

For example, teachers are expected to integrate visual information, like graphs, illustrations, maps, videos, collages, graphic novels and comic books, storyboards, slideshows or photos, into their lesson plans. Lesson plans in general should be planned so that they include a diversity of media and learning formats.

It’s also critical to point out that mastering visual literacy means that students can also create image-based pieces of information to convey concepts and ideas. Students who receive training in the arts learn to develop the skills they need to be visually literate. 

Some educators suggest that the ability to draw is critical for those who wish to become visually literate.

Additionally, the National Art Education Association says that students must learn about the mechanics of graphic design and other art subjects, like animation or videography, in order to be visually literate. 

The students who have the 




innovation skills

are set to thrive in the  new creative economy. As such, schools and educators must put arts education in a critical position in their curriculum planning.

Video caption: George Lucas on Teaching Visual Literacy and Communications

Arts Integration Challenges Facing Schools 

Few would question that students engage with arts based learning. As has already been pointed out, classroom instruction that includes arts education and arts integration is more effective than instruction that doesn't include it.

However, according to ASCD Express, many teachers from elementary school on up don't know enough about arts-based learning to add art instruction to their daily instructional content. While they can take coursework that expands their professional development in this direction, there is still a gap. 

In other words, arts integrated instruction would help their students today, but acquiring additional knowledge in their own subject areas, as well as the arts, takes time. One of the ways that some teachers have gotten around this is by bringing teaching artists into their classrooms.

In this model, the teaching artist might come in once or twice a week to teach the visual art or music component of a lesson. This allows inexperienced teachers to include the arts in their lessons while they continue their professional learning by taking a beginner art program or attend a weekend art workshop.

A lack of funding and administrative support is another challenge for many educators who would like to add the arts to their content area. Often garnering support from school administrators is a matter of education. In other words, when teachers and other education professionals are able to show the benefits of the arts, administrators will often come around.

As for funding for arts programs in schools, some people suggest that arts integration coupled with STEM subjects or literature is a way to still include the arts in classroom instruction.

Learn More About Arts Education Below

The Secret to Creating Expert Art Compositions 

Art Fun Facts: Famous Portrait Artist Influenced Wonder Woman Film

Art Schools in Georgia: What You Need to Know

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