In This Article Expand or collapse the "in this article" section Integrating Art across the Curriculum

  • Introduction
  • Art as a Discrete Discipline within Art Integration
  • Art Integration, Creativity, and Cognitive Development
  • Art Integration for Diverse Learners, Equitable Access, and Social Justice
  • Art, Visual Culture, and Material Culture Integration
  • Art and Technology Integration
  • Advocacy, Questions, and Policy Implications of Art Integration
  • Art Integration and Educational Leadership
  • Art Integration and Teacher Training/Professional Development
  • Art Integration in Primary School
  • Art Integration in Secondary Education
  • Curricular Models and Approaches for Arts Integration
  • Multicultural Populations and Art Integration
  • Theoretical Frameworks and Resources for Art Integration

Education Integrating Art across the Curriculum
Cathy Smilan
  • LAST REVIEWED: 21 April 2021
  • LAST MODIFIED: 25 February 2016
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780199756810-0137


Art integration across the curriculum addresses studies, theory, anecdotal writings, and reports on teaching in and through art in primary and secondary education, including teacher training and professional development. Concepts represent a sampling of issues largely directed by grant-funded ventures, calls for scholarly papers, and district initiatives. This bibliography contains a selection of papers and volumes on themes discussed by noted scholars, studies by arts organizations and partnerships, and articles by practitioners detailing art integration experiences in their classrooms. Art integration theory and process is an important concept in the field of art education. Dating back to John Dewey’s Art as Experience (1934), art-based constructivist learning has been simultaneously embraced and viewed with contempt in the field. Often lauded as superheroes of public education reform, many art educators fear that utilizing art as a subservient handmaiden will compromise the validity of art in schools and jeopardize the position of the certified art teacher. While this document is intended to identify various approaches to and models of art integration, one must carefully consider the rhetoric versus the tested models presented here. The selections include an overview of definitions of art integration (AI)—what it is and what it is not, as well as often interchangeably misused terminology of interdisciplinary, multidisciplinary arts-infused and art-integrated curriculum. Commentary on studies and theoretical models of art integration are provided by their respective authors, many of whom present reports of art-integrated frameworks, studies, and lived exemplars. The article includes literature on various aspects of art integration, including maintaining visual art as a discrete discipline in art integration, theoretical underpinnings of pedagogical approaches, and successful models of school-wide art integration. Other essential factors for successful, systemic art integration, however, are teacher training, continuing professional development, administrative training and support, advocacy, and policy recommendations. This bibliography identifies literature on these pertinent topics, and presents the STEM to STEAM movement from the perspective of including “Art” with a capital “A.” Finally, additional resources in the form of study compendia, meta-analyses of the literature, and funded executive summaries are referenced. Few actual studies showing statistical significance attributable to art integration are available, and many in the field question the authenticity and integrity with which visual art content is addressed in integrated curriculum, much of which is still being taught outside the purview of certified art teachers. Further structured and systematically analyzed study is needed to ensure a sustainable renaissance of art in education.

Art as a Discrete Discipline within Art Integration

A significant concern about integrating the visual arts into other subjects across the curriculum generates from the fact that not all art integration lessons are developed to honor the integrity of the visual arts as a discipline, equally viable with other core academic subjects. Exacerbating this problem is the all too common occurrence of classroom teachers taking it upon themselves to “teach” and “assess” art as part of their classroom assignments, although they have little or no training on how to develop art skills and techniques, let alone the qualifications to provide feedback and grades on visual art content. An additional concern for educated and certified art teachers is the inclusion of teaching artists in lieu of art teachers in many such AI collaborations. The articles in this short section are written from the perspective of certified art teacher and higher education art educators and scholars. Bickley-Green 1995 presents a discussion of models for curriculum planning and instruction that consider the visual arts and math as equally significant subjects in schools. Rather than using the arts to support mathematical learning, Bickley-Green presents an approach to promoting complementary learning in both disciplines. Guyotte, et al. 2014 proposes teaching STEAM subjects to integrate learning through the visual arts as a holistic, social practice. Marshall 2006 suggests that if the arts are a substantive component of art integration and not just a curriculum embellishment, then a quality arts education can be accomplished through the integrative process with other disciplines. And finally, Rocher and Lovano-Kerr 1995 cautions against compromising the integrity of quality art programming and provides examples of how to avoid various pitfalls when integrating art across the curriculum.

  • Bickley-Green, C. A. 1995. Math and art curriculum integration: A post-modern foundation. Studies in Art Education 37.1: 6–18.

    DOI: 10.2307/1320488

    Congruent aspects of art and math are examined in this paper, which takes the position that neither subject is more significant than the other. Bickley-Green presents historical information on the fields of art education and math education, providing a theoretical base for the ideal, the instructional, and the operational curriculum domains. Through extensive review of pedagogical and curricular models in each domain, she presents a model for coordination of math and art concepts through integrated curriculum to promote complimentary learning.

  • Guyotte, K. W., N. W. Sochacka, T. Costantino, J. Walther, and N. N. Kellam. 2014. STEAM as social practice: Cultivating creativity in transdisciplinary spaces. Art Education 67.6: 12–19.

    The authors consider the concept of investigation math, science, engineering, and technology through humanistic practices of art making, exploring the larger concept of holistic education as a social practice. They provide a framework for incorporating STEAM as social engagement for teachers and learners. Focus is on authentic engagement with the visual arts.

  • Marshall, J. 2006. Substantive art integration = exemplary art education. Art Education 59.6: 17–25.

    Marshall adds discussion about art-integrated curriculum, suggesting that teaching connected concepts and core discipline ideas produces exemplary art education where students develop discrete skills and understand content connections to global concerns. Her argument counters the position that integrating art detracts from art education, stating that contemporary art and learning theory demand new approaches. Integrative art education models and classroom examples provide avenues for such learning.

  • Rocher, N., and J. Lovano-Kerr. 1995. Can the arts maintain integrity in interdisciplinary learning? Arts Education Policy Review 96.4: 20–25.

    DOI: 10.1080/10632913.1995.9934554

    Rocher and Lovano-Kerr present strategies for high-quality arts integration that does not compromise the integrity of teaching discrete arts disciplines. Arguments are made for the need to maintain rigorous learning in the arts in addition to providing arts integrated opportunities in academic subjects.

back to top

Users without a subscription are not able to see the full content on this page. Please subscribe or login.

How to Subscribe

Oxford Bibliographies Online is available by subscription and perpetual access to institutions. For more information or to contact an Oxford Sales Representative click here.