by Susy Watts
In the fall of 2002, Arts Impact of Tacoma, Washington, received a three-year U.S. Department of Education Model Arts in Education Development and Dissemination grant. In addition to supporting research on three parallel but distinct two-year teacher training models, which prepare classroom teachers to teach dance, theater, and the visual arts, the grant supports research on arts-infused learning for students.
Arts Impact and the Tacoma School District planned and worked together to create a five-week, 60-hour summer school program for 105 students in the second, third, and fourth grades at two school sites, with one class at each grade level. The Title I students were identified by their teachers as functioning below their academic grade level and needing summer school instruction to master crucial academic concepts in reading, writing, and mathematics. The purpose of the program is to offer a rigorous, arts-based curriculum to students and to demonstrate the effect of integrated instruction on student achievement in literacy and mathematics.
Conceptual Integration: A Focus on Literacy and Math
From its initial planning stages, and based on Arts Impact teaching philosophies, the program chose to ground its process for teaching students in a conceptually integrated learning approach. Curriculum directors from Arts Impact and the Tacoma Public Schools worked together to identify thirty-two concepts shared by the arts with reading, writing, and math. Six classroom teachers, graduates of the Arts Impact teacher-training program, and three Arts Impact artist-mentors reviewed and contributed to the learning concepts, teaching strategies, and curriculum. These nine teachers and artists became the teaching faculty for the summer school. An average of two hours of instruction time is devoted to each concept.
Concept selection depended on identifying the viable, independent existence of each concept in both an arts discipline and in literacy or math. Examples of concepts found in literacy and the arts include: character attributes, story setting and context, sequential story events and points of conflict, story structure (beginning, middle, and end), and character actions defined through verbs and adverbs. Parallel concepts found in math and the arts include: fractions, equations, number strings, symmetry, approximate measurement, and geometric shapes.
Arts Impact is committed to documentation of its curriculum through lesson plans that include a group of key components: a problem to solve, a big idea, clear and assessable targets with associated performance-based criteria, teaching strategies, and multiple assessment strategies and documentation. The curriculum is shared with families through letters that introduce and emphasize learning concepts.
Teachers embed assessments into their teaching, and review student work with those who are the primary assessments audience: the students. Assessment strategies include a review of each student's work through criteria-based checklists and rubrics, self-reflection, and criteria-based peer reflection and critique.
Assessment strategies investigate and compare a student's artistic response side-by-side with his or her literacy or mathematical responses. Students are required to demonstrate comprehension of taught concepts in two ways: artistically and by oral or written presentation. In some cases the traditional and artistic response are the same.
Artist-mentors work with teachers and an assessments liaison to summarize student learning for students, parents, and program evaluation. Evidence of student learning is documented by photography and video footage of student art and performances.
Summative learning is reported out to students and their families through progress reports. The progress reports identify growth levels, both in students' traditional classroom responses as well as their artistic responses. Students also take home a comprehensive portfolio of their summer school work.
During the course of the DOE grant, the program is supported by an in-depth review by a program evaluator. Evaluation questions for the student learning Arts-Infused Summer School program focus on successful arts integration associated with improved academic achievement.
Evaluation efforts for the Arts Impact Arts-Infused Summer School focus on three areas: the collection and analysis of evidence of student learning, comparisons with control classes at three other sites through standardized testing, and review of program dynamics related to student achievement as reported by teachers, artist-mentors, program staff, and key family members.
Three schools were chosen as control sites. Control Site One was asked to teach the same math and literacy concepts as the Arts-Infused Summer Schools, and to teach any visual arts lessons of their choice from the Tacoma Public Schools art curriculum. Control Site Two was asked to teach the same concepts as the Arts-Infused Summer Schools. Control Site Three was asked to teach whatever they would normally teach in their summer school curriculum.
An initial attempt to compare student summer school progress reports with student school-year report cards did not correlate closely enough to justify continuing the evaluation process. However, based on the 2003 interim evaluation report, the triangulation of the three data sources provides a reasonable estimate of the type of student learning that takes place during the program. Arts-Infused Summer School 2004 includes the introduction of new, field-tested mathematics pre- and post-tests that are aligned with the summer school curriculum.
A final Arts-Infused Summer School evaluation report will be published in October 2005, reporting trends and conclusions for student learning in an arts-infused program. The Arts Impact staff is particularly interested in students' abilities to show conceptual understandings in two ways, through an arts discipline and traditionally.
Partnerships in the Arts
Tacoma Art Museum, the Broadway Center for the Performing Arts, and the Museum of Glass all partner with Arts Impact to support both the student and teacher learning components of the program.
Arts-Infused Summer School students transfer and deepen their understandings of concepts at the Tacoma Art Museum. Teachers reference works of art from the permanent collection of the museum in the classroom. Then, on a study trip, students seek and identify original works of art in the museum galleries that exemplify new contexts for understanding shared concepts. This ability to transfer understandings suggests greater potential for concept mastery.
Program and Curriculum Replication
One of the chief aims of the Department of Education Model Arts in Education Development and Dissemination grant is to achieve the common goal of Arts Impact: sharing the challenges and successes of ongoing work in arts education. The ability of ongoing arts education projects to report trends found in their research seems synonymous to growth in our field.
Arts Impact looks forward to the continued sharing, collegial review, and possible replication of the following aspects of the Arts Impact programs:
· Key lesson components for planning, teaching, and assessment;
· Vital arts teaching strategies;
· Distinct and shared roles of artist-mentors and classroom teachers in teaching the arts;
· Strategies for data collection, analysis, and evidence, using photography and video;
· Viable and comparable arts and traditional learning assessment report formats that describe student learning gains to students and families;
· Authentic pre- and post-tests that are aligned with arts learning concepts;
· Infused concepts shared by the arts, literacy, math and other classroom disciplines.
Susy Watts is the Arts Impact Director for Curriculum and Assessments. She is a national consultant in arts curriculum, assessment and museum education. She won national recognition for her design of the Education Galleries at Nashville's First Center for the Arts and was former Education Curator at the Tacoma Art Museum. She is a faculty member teaching art education at Pacific Lutheran University. Contact Susy by email: firstname.lastname@example.org
For more information or examples of lesson plans, assessment strategies, or evaluation reports contact:
Sibyl Barnum, Arts Impact Program Director, 253.926.6815 x5008, email@example.com
or Susy Watts, Arts Impact Director for Curriculum and Assessments, 360.943.1097, firstname.lastname@example.org
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