Arts Integration Professional Development: the Higher Order Thinking (HOT) Schools approach
Landley, Lisa Aldin
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The arts have the power to expand cognitive potential through the development of higher order thinking skills, the use of the imagination, forms of self-expression and pathways to self-knowledge. When teachers are educated to integrate the arts in their classrooms, the result is transformation of the learning environment. In this qualitative case study I examined teacher experience in the Higher Order Thinking (HOT) Schools Arts Integration (AI) Professional Development (PD) program. While my research was informed primarily from the perspectives of arts specialist teachers, classroom teachers, and teaching artists, it also includes the voices of other stakeholders in the HOT educational community including administrators, HOT program directors, and parents. I obtained data through questionnaires, interviews, and observations in which I documented teacher experience during various forms of HOT AI PD and their implementation in the classroom. Teachers reported professional growth and described how HOT AI PD had transformed their teaching practice. This was accomplished through experiential and ongoing PD that teachers found inspiring and relevant to their teaching. The various forms of PD included a weeklong residential summer institute with professional teaching artists and various presenters, weekend mini-institutes to reinforce the summer institute content and to share best practices, administrator PD, and various one-day events on different topics. The HOT Schools program is a supportive network providing help and guidance throughout the school year. Emergent themes were related to teacher benefits, student benefits, PD strategies, and how the HOT program builds community. Teachers expressed satisfaction with hands-on PD strategies focused on student-centered learning, with emphasis on process rather than product, encouraging deep learning through the arts. Participants’ narratives highlighted the effectiveness of PD strategies utilizing teachers as instructors for their peers, and collaborative residencies with professional teaching artists in the schools. Teachers enjoyed enhanced collegiality resulting from collaborative work when creating arts-integrated curricula, and arts specialists teachers appreciated the respect they received from classroom teachers who recognized the value of the arts as modes of inquiry. Teachers demonstrated enthusiasm for the program and expressed how they had experienced professional renewal and satisfaction in their teaching as a result of their participation in HOT AI PD.