In this issue and upcoming VSA Updates, we are highlighting presenters at the 2016 VSA Intersections: Arts and Special Education Conference and sharing information about their sessions. This month, we feature Dr. A. Helene Robinson, whose session is entitled, “Arts Integration Collaborations for Diverse and Exceptional Pre-Kindergarten Students.”
Office of VSA and Accessibility: Tell us a bit about yourself and your work in this field.
Dr. A. Helene Robinson: I am a professor in the College of Education at the University of South Florida Sarasota Manatee. Before moving into higher education in 2007, I worked in the field of special education for 14 years with students with severe emotional disturbances, emotional disabilities, and autism. My research focuses on arts integration with an emphasis on culturally diverse and struggling learners, on reading development of students with exceptionalities, and on arts integration efforts in higher education.
VSA and Accessibility: What can conference-goers expect to learn or experience in your session?
Robinson: In our session, participants will learn about a collaborative effort to plan and implement arts integration at the preK level. Our collaboration involved school district personnel, school principal and teachers, four pre-service elementary education major teacher candidates, two visual art teaching artists, a local community foundation, and a regional campus of a large state university. This relationship evolved over time when all partners involved realized that arts integration could help preK students with disabilities and other diverse students increase engagement. Along with my own presentation, two of the collaborating pre-service teachers will share their experiences with the program.
After hearing about the details that were involved in creating this multi-collaborative effort, conference-goers will brainstorm how they can apply the model in their own communities. A time for questions and answers, as well as small group interaction throughout the presentation, will be included.
VSA and Accessibility: As you know, a primary focus of the Intersections conference is to advance the field of arts education and special education. What do you view as the most important driver in this work?
Robinson: If we are to further advance the field of arts education and special education, it is so important that we build these multi-collaborative efforts to document and provide evidence for the impact of arts integration on children with disabilities. By establishing these efforts, we are able to connect training for our pre-service teachers in working with children with disabilities and in using arts integration to differentiate instruction for all students. We can also introduce pre-service teachers to the expertise that community teaching artists and in-school arts educators provide. Connecting universities with local schools and with community organizations provides stakeholders that can each play an important role for curriculum development, for training, for research, and for teacher preparation.
VSA and Accessibility: What is the most meaningful learning you’ve taken away from previous Intersections conferences?
Robinson: Making connections with other stakeholders with whom to build collaborations for research and arts integration implementation.