Kaleidoscope: Profile of an arts-based early childhood program. Final Report

Collins, R. C., Colker, L. J., & Copple, C. E. (1994). Kaleidoscope: Profile of an arts-based early childhood program. Final Report. Vienna, VA: Collins Management Consulting, Inc.

Abstract:

Researchers conducted an outside program evaluation on Kaleidoscope, an arts-integrated early childhood program that combines visual arts, music, dance and language arts with other subjects. Kaleidoscope’s program objectives include: providing children and families with quality education; creating and implementing arts-integrated curricula; and to research the impact of arts-integrated curricula on cognitive, academic and social development on low-income inner-city students. The findings indicated that Kaleidoscope provides a high-quality, developmentally appropriate program. The children in the program improved more on two tests of cognitive and language functioning over a two-year period when compared to the children in the control group. Although there was still room for improvement, the study results indicated that the Kaleidoscope model held considerable promise for replication. Recommendations on how to improve the program were also provided by the researchers.

Key Findings:

Overall, the Kaleidoscope program is well conceived and developmentally appropriate. Over a two-year period, children in the Kaleidoscope program improved more on the two tests of cognitive and language functioning, compared to the children enrolled at a nearby day care center (comparison group). Kaleidoscope appeared to reverse the typical pattern of low-income children showing declining scores on standardized tests of intellectual functioning over time. Children who participated in the Kaleidoscope program showed markedly higher levels of socio-dramatic play, compared to the children in the control group. Children in the Kaleidoscope program seemed to play more interactively, developed more effectively sustained make-believe situations, used more language, elaborated their play to a greater extent, and engaged in social and practical problem solving. The majority of the parents whose child was in Kaleidoscope praised the program. Parents indicated that their children were well cared for during the day, were receiving a quality preschool education experience, and were being exposed to the arts at an early age.

It was recommended that the physical environment of Kaleidoscope be upgraded and that further steps should be taken to continue to integrate the arts with other early childhood curriculum components including improving the depth of training and involvement of artist-teachers. More steps can be taken to improve parent involvement as well.

Significance of the Findings:

The findings validated Kaleidoscope’s underlying conceptualization, basic program design, and curricular strategy. Kaleidoscope provided a framework for ongoing program evolution and further improvement. The program demonstrated impressive accomplishments in a short period of time. Given that few early childhood programs focused on low-income and at-risk populations of preschool and kindergarten children, those students in this program showed a comparable record of success in producing significant educational outcomes. The Kaleidoscope model holds considerable promise for replication.

Methodology:

Researchers adopted quasi-experimental research design for the program evaluation. They assessed all students (both Kaleidoscope and control pre-school in the same neighborhood) with the Kaufman Assessment Battery for Children (K-ABC) and Peabody Picture Vocabulary Test (PPVT) from 1990 to 1993. The evaluation team observed all homerooms and the three artist studios in the program and assessed a total of 60students between the ages of two and a half to six years, with a standardized observation tool to determine their intellectual functioning. The researchers then conducted repeated measures analysis of covariance on the data collected from three time points. The students were also assessed in terms of their socio-dramatic play. Researchers conducted interviews and a focus group with the program coordinator and eleven of the teaching staff. Two focus groups were held with parents of children participating in the Kaleidoscope program. A sample of the parents were also interviewed to examine the program benefits on parents.

Limitations of the Research:

The sample size is relatively small for a quasi-experimental study design, which can compromise the generalizability of this research, however the research was intended to be a specific program evaluation. All interview protocols relied on self-reports and the guidelines for administering the parent interviews were not standardized. It seemed that these parents sensed the purposes of the study and it was not clear how to control the effects of social desirability.

Questions to Guide New Research:

How can other programs use the information collected on this Kaleidoscope program to build or improve their arts-based early childhood program? What specific curricular components lead to the successful student learning outcomes? What results would a longitudinal study yield after following the students of this program through elementary and secondary education?