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Why Arts Integration Improves Long-Term Retention of Content


Luke Rinne, School of Education, Johns Hopkins University, 2800 N. Charles Street, Baltimore, MD 21218; e-mail:


Advocates of the arts agree that the K-12 curriculum should include dedicated time for arts instruction. Some have argued further that knowledge and skills acquired through the arts transfer to nonarts domains. Others claim that evidence of this kind of transfer is limited and instead argue that the arts cultivate valuable dispositions that help students succeed both in and outside of school. Another potential benefit of the arts has received little attention, however. Arts integration—the use of the arts as a teaching methodology throughout the curriculum—may improve long-term retention of content. A variety of long-term memory effects well known in cognitive psychology are reviewed, and it is argued that arts integration naturally takes advantage of these effects while promoting student motivation. This review of findings and applications provides an example of how existing research from neuroscience and cognitive science can inform the work of practicing educators.