September 9-15 is National Arts in Education Week. This week is designated to highlight the role arts education plays “producing engaged, successful, and college- and career-ready students.” Becoming career-ready is a complex process. Employers want employees who have communication, collaboration and critical thinking skills. They want employees who show creativity, can work in teams and can solve problems. Arts education develops these important traits.
The National Association of Colleges and Employers says that the ability to work well on teams, decisive problem solving, and effective communication are employers’ top priorities when they recruit employees.
Each of these skills is an example of deep learning – learning that goes beyond recall of facts and information. In deep learning opportunities students master core academic content, think critically and solve complex problem. They also work collaboratively, communicate effectively, and learn how to learn. Bolstering Deeper Learning Through Arts in Education, a report from the Education Commission of the States, shows that arts in education is an opportunity to strengthen the development of deep learning skills.
To learn these skills students need opportunities to draw inferences, work with others and solve problems. When students create, evaluate, analyze, re-create and collaborate, they think critically and solve problems, just like they will as employees on the job. Each process teaches students how to be self-reliant. Finding solutions to problems that are open-ended challenges students in ways that will help them develop into employees who can find solutions to business situations. David B. Oxtoby, president of Pomona College, says that “art-making, rehearsal, and performance all contribute to critical intelligence by developing people’s ability to express, imagine, interact with, and reinterpret the work and human experience.”
Developing effective workers starts with effective education. “America’s future economic growth depends on the strength of our world-class education system,” states the Arts Education Partnership (AEP), a center within Education Commission of the States. A survey of U.S. executives shows the relationship between business profitability and skills developed by arts in education. When workers don’t have the creative, communication and collaborative skills that are necessary it impacts businesses; 34 percent of executives think their business lacks product development, 45 percent think they miss out on growth opportunities and 30 percent think company profits are being hurt.
Product development, growth opportunities and company profits are all the results of an education that exposes students to wide experiences. The Education Commission of the States says that arts in education benefits both students and society. Students gain “powerful tools for:
• Understanding human experiences, both past and present
• Teamwork and collaboration
• Creatively making decisions and solving problems when no prescribed answers exist
• Adapting to and respecting others’ diverse ways of thinking, working and expressing themselves
• Understanding the influence of the arts and their power to create and reflect cultures
• Analyzing nonverbal communication and making informed judgments
• Communicating effectively.”
Students who understand human experiences and respect diverse ways of thinking and expression will become employees who can envision new solutions and products. As new technology introduces change, people will be pushed to find multiple and varied ways to adapt. People who have experienced arts in education will be able to provide leadership for business. Oxtoby says, “Innovation and creativity are core goals of the twenty-first-century economy. It is a truism that success in the future will involve making new connections and coming up with new ideas, not simply using one’s training in a well-defined career.”
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