Supporting student learning through the Arts

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The Department of Education and Training Victoria (2016) defines assessment as the ‘ongoing process of gathering, analysing and reflecting on evidence to make informed and consistent judgements to improve future student learning’.

Student learning through the arts is a process ‘of experience, through educative movements, [where] we come to know more about each other, the world and ourselves’ (Shields et al., 2016). Measuring this experience is both difficult and contentious.

Authentic assessment does not seek to measure this experience, instead it focuses on formative techniques, aiming ‘toward upcoming learning experiences, not summing up past ones’ (Davis et al., 2015). To borrow from the DE&T Victoria, assessment should allow both the student and the teacher to reflect on the evidence of a student’s learning to guide the future learning experiences of that student.

Davis et al. (2015) describe authentic assessment where ‘the words teaching and assessing might be considered synonymous….by pointing and reminding, the teacher helps the learning to focus attentions, hold details in consciousness, explore implications of new associations – in brief, to notice possibilities that might not have been previously noticed.’

Education through the Arts implies that ‘arts strategies can be used as pedagogical tools to facilitate learning, to foster the capacity for creative and flexible thinking, as well as to provide a way of coming to understand and make connections across different kinds of knowledge’ (Ewing, 2010, p. 7).

A study carried out by Burton et al. (2000) found that students exposed to a high amount of arts-based learning from grades four through to eight were rated higher on expression, risk-taking, creativity-imagination, and cooperative learning than students with low exposure.

Beyond the intrinsic benefits for the individual student, Ewing (2012) in a study of several reports since 1999 found that “students who engage in quality art processes and experiences achieve better grades and overall test scores, are less likely to leave school early, rarely report boredom and have more positive self-concept than those students who are deprived of art experiences” (p. 11).
Education through the Arts can open students up to many experiences that may lead to all kinds of inspiration. By developing student outcomes policies through an arts-based approach, The Alice Miller School has ensured that its policies are not only achievable, but are inspiring and grounded by research.

Closing the gender gap can result in a higher standard of living for all members within a society (ACS, 2015). Embracing and educating all genders in the technology and innovation fields enhances social and economic equity (United Nations, 2011).

‘The arts…can release our imaginations to open up to new perspectives, identify alternatives. The vistas that might open, the connections that might be made, are experiential phenomena; our encounters with the world become newly informed.’

(Greene, 1995, p. 18).


Burton, J. M., Horowitz, R. & Abeles, H. (2000). Learning In and Through the Arts. Studies in Art Education. 41(3). 228-257

Davis, B., Sumara, D. & Luce-Kapler, R. (2015). Engaging Minds: Cultures of Education and Practices of Teaching (3rd edition), New York, NY, USA : Routledge

Department of Education and Training Victoria (2016, May 22). Assessment Advice. Retrieved from advice.aspx

Ewing, R. (2012) Competing Issues in Australian Primary Curriculum: Learning from International Experiences, Education. 40(1) 97-111

Ewing, R. (2010). The Arts and Australian Education: Realising Potential. Camberwell, VIC: Australian Council for Educational Research

Shields, S. S., Guyotte, K. W. & Weedo, N. (2016). Artful Pedagogy: (En)visioning the Unfinished Whole from International Journal of Pedagogy and Curriculum. 13(1). pp. 44-66.