MCLA Prof Publishes Book Series


NORTH ADAMS, MASS. - Lisa Donovan, Ph.D., an associate professor in the Fine and Performing Arts Department at Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts (MCLA), recently published a series of five books that she co-edited -three of which she also co-authored - that instruct teachers on how to bring the arts back into their classrooms.

Published by Shell Education, the series includes "Integrating the Arts across the Content Areas" (2012), "Strategies to Integrate the Arts in Mathematics" (2013), "Strategies to Integrate the Arts in English Language Arts" (2013), "Strategies to Integrate the Arts  in Social Studies" (2013) and "Strategies to Integrate the Arts  in Science" (2013).

Full of arts-based activities and strategies to use in English language arts, mathematics, science, and social studies instruction, the books help teachers gain a better understanding of why and how to use the arts to reach and engage students.

According to Donovan, the arts are a natural fit with Common Core expectations, and engage both teachers and their students in learning.

"This series is designed so that teachers can begin reading anywhere in the book and be inspired and able to implement the flexible arts-based strategies using the suggested lessons, or in their own unique plans," she said. "The arts catalyze learning by providing new points of entry for exploring curricular ideas that move beyond worksheets and what teachers often refer to as 'drill and kill' exercises."

For example, students in a fifth grade class exploring Amelia Earhart's character traits used a drama technique called "tableaux," in which they created frozen pictures using their bodies to create scenes where Earhart demonstrated a particular character trait.

"Students returned to the text again and again to understand her character, and to decide on what traits she had and what evidence there was of these traits," Donovan explained. "They translated these ideas into frozen scenes that allowed them to discuss how to portray the characteristics, and engaged the rest of the class in deciphering the image."

The result, said Donovan, is deep learning from an activity students enjoy.

Students spend more time on task, develop ownership of the content, and also express their own ideas as part of translating ideas from the text into new form, as they work collaboratively, critically reflect, communicate their ideas and use their creativity, she said.

In June, Donovan facilitated a series of professional development offerings throughout the region, including "Exploring Links between the Arts and Common Core," which she presented both at MCLA and at Berkshire Community College (BCC).

In July, she headed to Wesleyan University in Connecticut to present "Arts Integration: The Cure for the Common Core," and then to Westford, Mass., where she presented a two-day professional development course on "Integrating the Arts across the Content Areas" for the state's Department of Elementary and Secondary Education.

A theater artist, educator, administrator and researcher, Donovan previously served as the director of the Creative Arts in Learning Division at Lesley University. She has a broad range of experience in a variety of arts organizations including: Jacob's Pillow Dance Festival, the Berkshire Opera Company, Barrington Stage Company, University of Massachusetts Department of Theater, as well as Boston University's Theater, Visual Arts, and Tanglewood institutes. 

In addition, Donovan was the executive director of the Massachusetts Alliance for Arts Education. She served as co-principal investigator of a research project funded by the Ford Foundation that focused on teachers' perspectives on the relevance of arts integration. 

She has taught internationally in Japan and Israel, and throughout the United States.

Donovan holds a Ph.D. from Lesley University (2005), a masters in Communication from Boston University and a BA in Psychology from SUNY Oneonta (1982).

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