H.E.A.T in the Arts Classroom
In the previous months, we’ve spent time exploring the LoTi and TPACK models. These models give us ideas for increasing student achievement by looking at how we integrate technology into a more student-centered learning environment. This month, we’ll look at H.E.A.T., which stands for Higher-Order Thinking, Engagement, Authenticity, and Technology. If we attend to each of these, we can increase the learning that takes place for our students. In a February 2010 article on H.E.A.T. and LoTi, Dr. Chris Moersch said, “Increasing the H.E.A.T in the classroom can make a huge difference by elevating the LoTi level, promoting greater rigor and relevance, and, most important, engaging digital natives trapped in a Teach 1.0 learning paradigm.”
Higher-order thinking takes place when the emphasis is on process, not product. When students are engaged in thinking through problems, making decisions, and then reflecting on those decisions, they are using higher-order thinking skills like synthesis and evaluation. In a music ensemble setting, students might propose a different way to express a passage of music. Students in a visual arts classroom might choose to work in a medium they’ve never tried before. Students in a dance classroom might experiment with different styles of movement. Students in a theatre classroom might change vocal inflection or movement. The key to utilizing higher-order thinking skills in these situations is to encourage reflection; what effect do these changes have? Is the result more effective or not? How do we incorporate what we’ve learned to improve our artistic process?
The “H” in H.E.A.T. also fits nicely with Pennsylvania’s Academic Standards for the Arts and Humanities, especially 9.3: Critical Response. When we ask students to discuss the quality of works of art, we are asking them to evaluate. I’ve had discussions with educators who feel they don’t have time to have discussions about quality, because they’re too busy teaching students the vocabulary and techniques of the art form. When we ask students to make and defend judgments about quality, they are forced to use vocabulary and reflect on technique. When I asked my third grade music students if John Cage’s music was good, they had to use words like form, rhythm, and melody to answer that question. They also had to understand what structure was, how Cage used – or didn’t use – structure in his music, and what effect that had on the quality of the music. The students were learning; they were just learning in a way that was different from having me stand at the front of the room and drill vocabulary or technique into them.
Engagement doesn’t just mean that students are actively involved in making, discussing, or critiquing works of art. Engaged learning also means that students have input in designing their learning. At younger ages, this might involve giving students choices between two options; as they get older, students can have more input into the activities and assessment processes that comprise learning.
Engagement also encompasses collaboration. When students are truly engaged in learning, they make connections to people and organizations outside of the school. I recently communicated with a visual arts teacher who lives in one of the counties in Intermediate Unit One. His community has a number of blighted properties in its downtown area. His students, tired of the message that these run-down buildings were sending about their community, approached the local governing body with a proposal to use the buildings as canvases for their artwork. They collaborated with local businesses to revitalize the downtown buildings with works of art until the buildings can be sold or torn down.
Authentic learning experiences are linked to the real world. Often, as educators, we begin at the youngest grades with “the classics” or with traditional works of art. While it is necessary for students to understand what has come before, it is just as important for them to understand what is happening in the world of the arts right now. When we engage students in making connections between and among contemporary works in dance, music, theatre, and visual arts, we can help them make better connections between and among works from the past.
The second hallmark of authenticity is that students create works that have use beyond the classroom. When we ask students to create works based on events in their lives or in the larger world, we are asking them to make connections beyond the walls of the school. In a “flat” or digitally-connected world, it is both easier and more important than ever to assist students in seeing the connection that works of art have to daily life.
The “T” in H.E.A.T. is closely linked with the LoTi and TPACK models. We cannot teach or learn technology on its own. It needs to be linked to content in a way that is authentic and engaging. Technology needs to be an integral part of learning. Additionally, students needs to be equipped and empowered to experiment with technology and make decisions about which pieces of hardware and software meet their needs. For example, students in a dance classroom might be interested in experimenting with multimedia as part of an original piece. After working in groups to think about how to incorporate technology, students list all of the media available to them. One group decides to create a movie and project it on the dancers during a performance so that the dancers become part of the movie. Another group decides to use technology during the rehearsal process to better imagine how different pieces of choreography might look. By allowing students to experiment and choose the pieces that best meet their needs, the teacher is supporting a high level of technology use.
H.E.A.T. in Your Classroom
I encourage each of you to think about how you structure learning experiences for your students. Do you provide opportunities for them to use higher-order thinking skills, be engaged in authentic learning experiences, and use technology to meet their needs? Below are some resources that will encourage you to continue turning up in the H.E.A.T. in your classroom.
LoTi Framework HEATS Up, an article by Dr. Chris Moersch
More HEAT resources from PDE’s SAS site
A matrix for LoTi and HEAT, from Western Kentucky University’s website