Why Arts Integration?

Explaining Why

Creating a rationale for arts integration


If arts integration is a part of your approach to teaching or a significant school-wide effort, you will be faced with the need to answer two questions for administrators, families, and other teachers:

  • What is arts integration?
  • WHY do you believe arts integration benefits students?

The first question, the “what” question, is answered by providing a definition and examples.

The second question, the “why” question, is critical if you want to gather support for your efforts.

Answering the ‘why’ question requires that you develop a rationale. A rationale describes the reasons for doing something. In this case, you identify the reasons or using arts integration as an instructional strategy. The purpose of a rationale statement is to convince others of the importance of this proposed approach. It is written in clear, concise language appropriate to those with whom you are communicating.

Some confuse a rationale and a mission statement. They are different. A mission statement identifies the school’s vision and values. A rationale explains why you are using this particular approach to teaching.

Why take time to craft a rationale for arts integration? There are two reasons:

  • First, crafting a rationale provides an opportunity for you and your colleagues to develop a shared understanding of the outcomes you expect from your engagement with arts integration. These outcomes become the foundation for your arts integration program.
  • Second, having a rationale at your fingertips will help you communicate with and gain support for your efforts from colleagues, administrators, and families.

To craft a rationale, you will need to read some of the literature and research about the benefits of the arts and arts integration. Here are a few resources to get you started:

Linda Crawford’s (2004)1 offers six reasons for arts integration (accessed 8/4/2014):

  • The arts make content more accessible.
  • The arts encourage joyful, active learning.
  • The arts help students make and express personal connections to content
  • The arts help students understand and express abstract concepts.
  • The arts stimulate higher level thinking.
  • The arts build community and help children develop collaborative work skills.

Laura Stevenson and Richard Deasy (2005)2 describe the impact of the arts on students. The arts:

  • Connect students to authentic learning that matters to them.
  • Provide opportunities for all learners—even struggling learners—to be successful.
  • Develop feelings of self-efficacy.
  • Increase intrinsic motivation to learn.
  • Develop students’ abilities to apply learning to new situations and experiences.

Daniel R. Scheinfeld (2004)3 explains why arts integration activities show promise for learners (accessed 8/4/14). Arts integration:

  • Motivates students to engage more fully with the related subject area.
  • Extends how learners process and retain information because it combines several learning modalities (visual, aural, and kinesthetic) and thus reach a wider range of students.
  • (Focused on drama and reading comprehension) “Strengthens students’ visualization of the text and their emotional engagement with it, both of which contribute to greater retention and understanding.”

Luke Rinne and colleagues (2011)4 examine how arts integration may build long-term memory of content.

  • Arts integration naturally involves several ways of processing information that may have positive effects on long-term memory.

The Arts Education Partnership outlines research findings about a range of outcomes of arts education (accessed 8/4/14).

  • Academic Outcomes: Literacy and language development, Math achievement, Overall academic achievement, Underserved students
  • Cognitive Outcomes: Creative thinking, Critical thinking, Problem solving and Reasoning
  • Personal Outcomes: Engagement and persistence, Positive behavior, Self-awareness, Self-concept, and Self-expression, Self-efficacy and self-confidence
  • Social and Civic Development: Arts participation, Collaboration and communication, Community-building, Community and civic engagement, Cross-cultural understanding, and Social development.

Get busy reading, thinking, and writing your rationale!



Lynne B. Silverstein
Senior Program Consultant
The John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts

Editors & Producers

Amy Duma
Director, Teacher and School Programs
The John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts

Kenny Neal
Manager, Digital Education Resources


Image via Creative Commons; flickr.com user Poughkeepsie Day School

Works Cited

  1. Crawford, Linda. (2004) Lively Learning: Using the Arts to Teach the K-8 Curriculum. Greenfield, MA: Northeast Foundation for Children.
  2. Stevenson, L.M. & Deasy, R.J. (2005). Third Space: When Learning Matters. Washington DC: Arts Education Partnership.
  3. Scheinfeld, D.R. (2004). Arts integration in the Classroom: Reflections on Theory and Application. Applied Research in Child Development. Number 5, Spring 2004. Erikson Institute, Herr Research Center, 1-10, p. 4.
  4. Rinne, L., Gregory, E., Yarmolinskaya, J., & Hardiman, M. (2011). Why arts integration improves long-term retention of content. Mind, Brain, and Education, 5(2), 89-96(8). Mind, Brain, and Education Society and Blackwell Publishing, Inc.

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