Embracing the Burden of Proof: New strategies for determining predictive links between arts integration teacher professional development, student arts learning, and student academic achievement outcomes

Scripp, L., & Paradis, L. (2014). Embracing the Burden of Proof: New strategies for determining predictive links between arts integration teacher professional development, [...]. Journal for Learning through the Arts. 10(1). 1-17.

Abstract:

This study uses statistics to demonstrate the results of a three-year arts integration project conducted by the Chicago Arts Partnerships in Education's (CAPE) Partnership in Arts Integration Research (PAIR) project in Chicago public schools. The project looks at student outcomes in arts learning and academic achievement after three years of the implementation of an arts integration program and compared students in treatment schools (those receiving the program) with students in control schools (those not receiving the program). Analysis linking the impact of teacher professional development, arts learning, and academic outcomes demonstrate that students at schools with an arts focus combined with arts integration programming scored higher on state academic tests than students who received only conventional academic and arts learning instruction. The data also revealed that the achievement gap between students designated into low, average, and high achievement categories had narrowed or disappeared. A key component of this study was to develop a research design that would allow the researchers to determine statistically causal connections between the various elements of the arts integration program.

Key Findings:

By year three of the project, data analyses revealed that:

  • The arts integration program had a positive statistically significant effect on student standardized state test scores as compared to control schools.
  • Schools that provided equal focus on both arts and arts integration programs outperformed schools that focused primarily on one or the other.
  • The arts integration program decreased the achievement gap among previously rated high, average, and low achieving students compared to control schools.
  • The arts integration program’s teacher professional learning outcomes based on degree of participation and productivity in professional development sessions correlated with student achievement in both arts learning and academic performance outcomes.
  • The arts integration program’s student performance assessment ratings based on outside expert facilitation and analysis of video recorded "arts plus arts integration portfolio conferences" were linked to teachers’ professional development outcomes and correlated with student academic achievement scores.
  • Stepwise regression methods also determined that arts integration learning outcomes were more predictive of academic performance than were demographic factors such as gender, ethnicity and socio-economic status.

Significance of the Findings:

These findings are significant for the successful application of quantitative research methods to arts programming. The use of multi-variate statistics methods allowed researchers to identify the sequence of factors that was most predictive of achievements in student outcomes. Not only were student learning outcomes significantly better in treatment schools, but researchers could identify the process by which those results came about.

Methodology:

Researchers studied the effect of arts integration programs over three years matched demographic randomly selected students from four categories of schools.

1) Academic cluster focus with conventional arts instruction;

2) Arts cluster focus with conventional academic instruction;

3) Academic cluster focus with conventional arts instruction plus arts integration program;

4) Arts cluster focus with conventional academic instruction plus arts integration program.

Metrics for analysis included: ratings of teacher professional development, teacher survey responses, years of teacher participation in the arts integration program, student interviews, outside expert facilitated and coded student performance assessment portfolio conferences, student survey responses, and standardized state ISAT test scores.

Limitations of the Research:

The primary limitation on this study was the lack of student work data due to unreliable documentation methods of the student portfolios. Relying solely on teacher-reported data may make the replication of these effects difficult.

Questions to Guide New Research:

The methodology and tools presented here lay the groundwork for the institution and evaluation of the effects of arts integration practices on a broad range of arts and arts integration teaching and learning practices. These include the positive impact of arts integration practices on school performance, and the connections between professional development, arts, and academic learning outcomes.