On the road to Durban: Using empowerment evaluation to grow teacher's arts and culture curriculum knowledge

Glass, D.L. (2008). On the road to Durban: Using empowerment evaluation to grow teacher's arts and culture curriculum knowledge. Johannesburg, South Africa: Unpublished dissertation.

Abstract:

South Africa engaged in an outcomes-based curricular innovation that included Arts and Culture as a new subject area for all young people. Using a small sample of new grade 7 Arts and Culture teachers in a high inequity, low capacity township setting that participated in an adaptation of Empowerment Curriculum Evaluation (ECE) to gather qualitative data over a 1.5 year period, this study examines an arts education professional development intervention (e.g., hands-on arts ed workshops with a follow-up professional learning community and instructional coaching) that integrates curriculum design and evaluation into the on-the-ground implementation of the national arts and culture standards in South Africa. The main focus of the study is understanding the growth of the arts content and arts pedagogical content knowledge of general educators who were using the arts in their classrooms for the first time.

Key Findings:

  • Increased Instructional Capacity: Teachers used a more iterative process to design curriculum with varied influences from hands-on arts practice, learning support materials, and policy, rather than a linear backwards design process starting with learning outcomes.
  • Professional Collaboration, Leadership, and Self-efficacy: Empowerment Curriculum Evaluation (ECE) was associated with curriculum knowledge growth and increased self-determination for the teachers who had some initial experience with the arts before participating in the study.
  • Assessment Design: Gaps in knowledge and common misunderstandings by novice teachers about the use of outcomes, the integration of the arts, and assessment design are identified and analyzed.

Significance of the Findings:

This study's qualitative methods and findings provide insights into how novice teachers can meaningfully implement standards into practice in low capacity, high inequity systems. Professional development providers may find this study can provide illuminating opportunities to make authentic connections to their work in helping educators implement standards.

Methodology:

This qualitative study features a small sample of teachers who collaboratively participated in an adaptation of Fetterman's (1996, 2001) Empowerment Evaluation focused on building curriculum design and evaluation capacity. Over a 1.5 year period, data was collected through self-growth ratings, curricular documents, participant observations, interviews, and student work samples. Data was organized into time-ordered displays and growth narratives that were then pattern coded for evidence of knowledge growth and self-determination.

Limitations of the Research:

This study was small in scope and exploratory in nature. The use of a collaborative and participatory method may have introduced potential bias which was adequately addressed by the researcher and mediated with multiple triangulated data sources. The study takes place in South Africa, which may limit comparative value for other contexts.

Questions to Guide New Research:

Could a larger-scale study of teacher groups at similar knowledge levels provide insights into what types of facilitation and coaching would be most effective at various levels of pedagogical content knowledge growth? Are there research designs that explicitly empower and build the capacity of teachers, grow out of professional communities of practice, and are used to test and inform practice and policy?