Five Emerging Trends and Future Directions in Arts Education and Special Education

By Sharon M. Malley and Jean B. Crockett

Learning from emerging trends and issues in arts education and special education can lead toward a common vision and a more promising future for students, schools, and communities. In the last chapter of our book, The Handbook of Arts Education and Special Education (published January 2018), we identify and discuss trends and issues that are likely to impact progress toward equitable access to high quality arts education for all students, especially those with disabilities. Here we share five overlapping demographic, educational, and social trends and their impact.

  1. Growth in the population of individuals living with some form of disability. This trend influences how people think about and respond to issues of disability and identity, and how disability is expressed through the arts.
  2. Personalization of learning. This trend represents an area in which arts educators and special educators contribute accumulated expertise. Arts educators express the need to address the “whole child” within the context of a well-rounded education. Special educators provide specially designed instruction, as required by the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), to adapt the content, methodology, or delivery of instruction to meet a student’s disability-related needs and ensure access to the arts curriculum.
  3. Emphasis on innovation. This trend highlights the responsibility of education to bring about ingenuity and stimulate creativity. Arts educators primarily should be teaching for creativity. The maker movement, using innovative technologies and materials in collaborative teaching across disciplines, allows arts educators equal importance within the curriculum.
  4. Ongoing need to clarify the scope of arts education. This trend addresses the depth and breadth of arts education, and the need to continually clarify the purposes of curriculum, instruction, and assessment in arts education.
  5. Appreciation of the value of well-being and personal meaning in a fast-paced society. This trend emphasizes the potential contribution of the arts to the creation of a meaningful and balanced life, and the importance of advocating for improved educational opportunities that support the life-enhancing value of the arts for all youth in schools and communities.


Sharon Malley and Jean Crockett will present “Emerging Trends and Future Directions in Arts Education and Special Education” at the 2018 VSA Intersections: Arts and Special Education Conference on Wednesday, August 8, at 2:45 p.m.


Sharon M. Malley, Ed.D., is an arts and special education consultant who has worked on projects of national significance with the National Coalition of Core Arts Standards and the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts.

Jean B. Crockett, Ph.D., is Professor of Special Education at the University of Florida, who studies special education leadership and policy, and the education of students with disabilities in and through the arts.

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