The Visual Arts-Based Experiences of Students with Learning Disabilities: Two Multiple-Perspective Case Studies
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Visual arts-based tasks have been used and continue to be used by educators to help support the learning needs of many students. Research findings pertaining to visual arts-based education have concluded that visual arts-based tasks can help to improve students’ social communication skills, support their learning in academic subject areas, and increase their learning engagement. In recognition of the potential benefits of integrating the arts into the curriculum, the Learning Through the Arts (LTTA) program provides students with opportunities to engage in arts-based activities. In 2003, the results of a national longitudinal study on the LTTA program revealed a strong relationship between students’ involvement in the arts and their learning and engagement. The investigators recommended that further research in this area was required; through my research, I sought to contribute to this area of study. It is within the setting of a visual arts-based LTTA program that this study was conducted. Data were collected to construct two multiple-perspective case studies—each involving a Grade 7 student with learning disabilities. Each multiple-perspective case study involved the student’s mother, classroom teacher, and LTTA artist-educator in order to explore the following research question: In what way did visual arts-based tasks incite the student’s learning attitude, engagement level, and feelings of academic self-efficacy within the subject area(s) being explored? Overall, the findings suggested that visual arts-based tasks incited positively each student’s learning attitude, engagement level, and feelings of academic self-efficacy within the respective subject area that the students identified as being one of their least favourite. Most notably, their engagement in the visual arts-based tasks activated each student’s meaningful processing skills and fostered their emotional engagement in the task and their learning. Limitations of this study and future research directions were considered.
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