|Interest in curriculum integration (CI) has resurged in recent years as schools seek to bring together knowledge from separate curriculum areas to create a more holistic and integrated learning experience for students and as a means to address the demands of ‘twenty-first century’ learning. As the educational sciences deliver new research on the role of the arts in cognitive development, educators are also refreshing their perspective on what is termed ‘arts integration’ – that is, “the effort to build a set of relationships between learning in the arts and learning in other subjects of the curriculum” (Deasy 2003, p. 2).
There is significant research from the primary school sector surrounding the implementation of CI and suggested approaches and models for doing so; however, there is a need for this type of research within the secondary school sector. There also appears to be very little research in New Zealand (NZ) regarding arts integration and the particular approach to CI. Much of the research hails from the United States of America and is pitched at a primary or intermediate level. This study aims to help bridge the research gap into whether it is possible to implement a model of arts integration (and subsequently CI) in the NZ secondary school sector, and make suggestions as to how the secondary school learning model could be adapted to provide for more meaningful CI. This study primarily looks at the potential to introduce an Arts Integration model, namely ‘arts integration as collaborative engagement’, firstly at an Arts level, advocating that it should be wider than the arts.
The participants in this study include six International Baccalaureate (IB) students (all aged seventeen) taking dance, music, or visual arts and three teachers (one music, one visual arts one dance). The students worked collaboratively in pairs, with the teachers adopting the role as facilitators in the project. Although the IB model is used for the context of this study, this model is relevant and could be adapted to suit any curriculum.
A thematic analysis helped identify the overarching themes evident from the data collection process, suggesting the key aspects contributing to the collaborative experience are compromise, a different approach to learning, real world application, and personal gain and empowerment.
The findings from this study indicate that collaborative learning became a powerful strategy for enhancing student’s social and motivational skills, specifically that of compromise. For a Curriculum Integration model to succeed in secondary schools there needs to be a paradigm shift in the way that secondary schools structure their timetables and their learning environments. It is time to adjust the systems to create learning environments for the twenty-first century learner and ensure our young people can become “confident, connected, actively involved, lifelong learners” (Ministry of Education, 2007, p. 7).