Teaching literacy through art.

Korn, R. (2007). Teaching literacy through art. New York: Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum Visitor Studies, Evaluation & Audience Research.

Abstract:

This study is an evaluation of the outcomes—for students, teachers and teaching artists—of participation in the Solomon Guggenheim Museum’s Learning Through the Arts (LTA) program, a teaching artist residency program implemented in New York City during the 2004-2006 school years. Using quantitative and qualitative measures, researchers compare: a treatment group of two schools where students receive LTA programming; a treatment group of two schools where students receive LTA programming and teachers receive LTA professional development; and two control group schools where neither students nor teachers participated in LTA programming. Numerous outcomes are cited concluding that treatment students showed more positive attitudes toward museums and exhibited better literacy skills during interviews. Classroom teachers and teaching artists also expressed positive experiences from participating in LTA.

Key Findings:

  • While all students had relatively positive attitudes toward museums, treatment students had more positive attitudes and were more likely to go with their families to a museum than control students.
  • Treatment students provided interview responses using language associated with higher grade levels and with more words than control students.
  • Treatment students regarded art as a process by which they engage in problem solving while non-treatment students felt frustration when their art didn’t turn out as they desired. Treatment students also saw artists as people with “good ideas” who “experiment with different materials” while non-treatment students viewed them as people who made beautiful objects.
  • Classroom teachers in both treatment groups believed that most teaching artists’ lessons were connected to the curriculum and that they learned new strategies to integrate art into their lessons.
  • Classroom teachers who received professional development found it enhanced their teaching, increasing their experience and confidence in using inquiry to look at both art and literacy texts.
  • Overall, statistically significant differences between treatment and control students on the ELA test were not found. However, treatment students were more likely to have higher ratings of artistic engagement.
  • There were increases in critical thinking and literacy skills among students who participated in LTA.
  • Teaching artists felt that their participation in LTA led them to change their teaching practice by trying new things with students, especially finding strategies to reach below average students.

Significance of the Findings:

The study found that the Guggenheim’s model for using inquiry as a means to learn about both art and literacy impacts students, their teaching artists, and the classroom teachers involved. Those looking to have similar impacts on students and teachers could incorporate elements of LTA into their own art integration programs.

Methodology:

The evaluation used a quasi-experimental methodology consisting of both quantitative and qualitative methods studying participation and non-participation in the 20-week LTA program. There were four participating schools in the Bronx and Queens, NY. Two schools provided LTA programming to 215 students. Two schools provided LTA programming to 215 students and professional development to their teachers. Two hundred students from among these schools comprised a control group. Students filled out questionnaires, participated in interviews and took the New York Citywide English Language Arts Test (ELA) at yearend. In addition, four students who were identified as either high achieving or low achieving were selected as in-depth case studies which involved observations and in-depth interviews with students, teachers, teaching artists and parents. Teachers were also given questionnaires and interviewed. Teaching artists additionally were observed. Data was compiled by two research assistants who coded and analyzed data independent of one another to test inter-rater reliability. Analysis of qualitative data from interviews consisted of identifying significant themes and patterns. Similar patterns and themes were grouped together and categorized. In addition, multiple methods of quantitative analysis were utilized.

Limitations of the Research:

While study participants were randomly assigned to control and treatment conditions, there is little valid comparison between the two groups. There is only comparison between the groups on the city-wide third grade ELA tests taken at the end of the year, and no pretest data are factored into the analysis. Comparisons of students’ responses on the questionnaire and interview are biased because control students took the questionnaire and were interviewed at the beginning of the year while treatment students engaged in these activities at yearend. It is difficult to say whether differences between the two groups are attributable to LTA or expected academic growth after a year of schooling.

Questions to Guide New Research:

What aspects of the LTA program contributed to building students’ skills in analyzing texts and artwork? What approach is most effective in providing professional development to teaching artists participating in arts integration programs? What elements of the collaboration between teaching artists and classroom teachers impact student growth and learning?