Understanding Students: The Role of Students' Backgrounds in Curriculum Development
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The intent of this research was to determine how including the backgrounds of students in the curriculum affects student engagement in learning and improvements in teaching. Participants in the study were grade three art students at Skinner Road Elementary School, a heterogeneous student group. Research data was obtained through a literature review, student survey, teacher interview, teacher journals, engagement sweeps, students’ reflections, and a case study that included the implementation of a lesson plan. In the case study two groups of students were compared to determine whether or not student engagement was increased by the inclusion of personally meaningful subject matter, if the students want to make art about their own lives, and how knowing student background information affects the teacher’s ability to instruct the students. Data collected through this research has revealed that the study group students did not want to use their personal background as subject matter and were less engaged in learning than those students that used their dreams as subject matter. Students that used their dreams as subject matter were more engaged, enjoyed making the artwork, and expressed that they felt good while making the artwork. The researcher has learned that art teachers should not try to include students’ background information in lesson plans. Students, specifically those who come from disadvantaged backgrounds, do not want to make art about their families, homes, neighborhoods, and cultures. They would rather use art as a means to escape from their difficult lives.