• Teachers and students are research partners with strong intuitions about what works.
  • Teacher modeling and messaging to take creative risks is a key factor and must be supported.
  • The beliefs and mindsets that underlie creative action must be considered.
  • Artistic modalities are powerful levers to understand and enable equity, justice, and inclusion at every level of education.
  • Mixing different research methods can provide a richer understanding about the complexity of creativity, teaching, and learning.


We have found a multi-tool to be a fitting metaphor for the diverse teaching skills that arts integration cultivates. Through practice, teachers can incorporate their creative tools in new responsive and adaptive ways that fuel their curiosity and catalyze their learning. That process models for students how our hands, our voices, our bodies, and our senses for observation can be valuable creative resources. Process-oriented and equity-driven arts integration cultivates those creative learning tools for learners of all ages.

We conceptualize creative teaching in arts integration as the combination of the knowledge, skills, and beliefs necessary to generate learning experiences that build students’ creative and academic agency, metacognition, and resilience. Our research across 8 years focused on diverse teachers, students, and school communities and resulted in more than a dozen published studies and led to our understanding of how to support teachers and students best. We have found that a blend of online and face-to-face training in creative teaching for arts integration can support the creative development, professional growth, and overall well-being of teachers in their profession. That teacher development is essential for students’ creative, academic, and agentic growth.

A Dramatic Confrontation of Frames:
The two powerful factors to leverage teacher engagement and sustainability in arts integration are teachers self-beliefs about their own potential as creative teachers, their observations of students’ creative engagement, and a school organizational culture that values and supports the creativity of teachers and students.

Cultivating Sustainable School Culture:
Schools implementing arts integration schoolwide benefit from the time and effort to develop a unifying framework highlighting the most valued aspects of student development, such as creativity. Arts integration training can contribute to increased professional enjoyment and openness to growth and enhanced relational trust across faculty and administration.

Mistakes Can Be Beautiful:
Creative engagement in arts integration is both internal for the student and interpersonal across a whole class, presenting important opportunities for self-expression, taking risks and making mistakes, and developing greater motivation and engagement in learning.

Creative Ideation Meets Relational Trust:

There is a strong link between students’ creative ideation and their sense of support and positive relationship with their teacher; however, the link is twice as strong for creative ideation related to literary ideas when compared to non-academic inventive creative thinking. Students’ relationships with teachers may be strengthened if teachers encourage and recognize creative ideation about non-academic content and topics.

Creative Engagement and Embodied Metaphor:

By branching out into multiple disciplinary perspectives, including affective neuroscience and educational psychology, our notion of student engagement in education should include the creative meaning-making process and incorporate embodied and affective experiences. To build a sense of autonomy, belonging, and competency, let students use their bodies and creative thinking to grapple with the meaning of complex and abstract ideas across content areas, such as science, math, and history.

ArtCore Project Final Grant Report:

According to project evaluation findings, arts integration experiences across Grades 6–8 in different subject areas, especially English Language Arts and Social Studies, resulted in a substantial and statistically significant 23% improvement in English language arts proficiency and double the average growth compared to peers who did not receive arts integration.

Reflection on the Creative Process:

Students’ creative self-efficacy, self-concept, and metacognition linked various aspects of their creative potential to their successful creative production of novel imaginary creatures. Developing students self-beliefs and their understanding of and practice with the creative process is a key to their creative development in arts integration.

Becoming Creative Agents:

The majority of students demonstrated a decline in creative thinking across early adolescence in middle school. Students demonstrating growth also had stronger academic and creative outcomes, higher engagement in school, and a stronger sense of agency in school.

Student Agency at the Crux:

Students’ sense of agency across the middle to high school transition was a strong protective factor against disengagement and poor attendance and for higher academic achievement. 

Creative Engagement in Drama-based Instruction:

Embodied and dramatic enactment in learning across middle and high school grades and subject areas (from science to health) activates all aspects of creative engagement. Students’ creativity and belonging are consistent across grade levels, and autonomy and competency appears more gradually as students age

Middle Level Educators Using Drama:

When teachers engage in theater-based arts integration training, it is a highly emotional experience from feeling fear and embarrassment to excitement and pride. Students feel the same full spectrum of emotions, but overall enjoy it. Teachers’ emotional experience in training is essential to understand the scaffolding needed, conditions that need to be set, the risks that students take to creatively engage, and benefits experienced of deepening relationships with one another and connections to the content.

Generating Buoyancy in a Sea of Uncertainty:

During the COVID-19 pandemic, teachers’ self-efficacy, growth mindset, and affect toward creativity, and their sense of support for creativity in their schools all contributed to higher levels of resilience, lower stress, and more positive emotions and less negative emotions in school. Through online training, teachers developed and adapted new ways to integrate creative teaching and learning into comprehensive distance learning.

How am I a Creative Teacher:

Through a blend of online and face-to-face training teachers developed stronger growth mindset beliefs about creativity and greatly reduced their fixed mindsets. They also enhanced their creative self-efficacy in teaching and reduced their creative anxiety. Those factors set the stage for implementing new creative routines and lessons in their classroom, taking bigger creative risks with their students, and observing students’ engagement in learning increase.


Creative Engagement Lab research is led by Dr. Ross C. Anderson. Download his Curriculum Vitae here and watch his recent TEDx talk to get to know him and his work. 

If you are looking for a research partner or collaborator to study, evaluate, or design educational or workplace programs aimed at creative development, reach out to us and start a conversation. Our team and collaborators are skilled in qualitative and quantitative methodologies to address a variety of questions. We pride ourselves on being adaptive and responsive to each partners’ unique context, and we aim to empower communities with creative agency.

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We work with teams of all sizes--and all disciplines--to facilitate experiential creative learning.

Creativity is for everyone.

Creativity is for everyone.