Powell, D. (2007). Arts in the Classroom Professional Development Program: Final Evaluation Report. Santa Clara County, CA: Arts in the Classroom Consortium.
This study is an evaluation of The Arts in the Classroom Program which engaged 91 Kindergarten through sixth grade classroom teachers from a single school district in order to build their capacity to deliver standards-based interdisciplinary arts instruction to their students. The teachers received extensive professional development as well as individual coaching in the development of an interdisciplinary arts unit. The evaluation found that the program positively impacted teachers’ beliefs, confidence, and capacity to develop and implement interdisciplinary art units. The evaluation also found that benefits to the teachers, in turn, positively impacted their students’ cognitive, emotional, and social capacities.
The Arts in the Classroom program had two central goals: 1. build teachers’ knowledge, skills, and confidence in the arts, and 2. build teachers’ capacity to develop and implement interdisciplinary arts instruction. Researchers found:
- Teachers’ capacity to provide standards based interdisciplinary arts instruction improved overall
- Teachers benefitted from networking and peer collaboration
- The program resulted in the engagement and development of students’ cognitive, emotional, and social capacities, as reported by their teachers.
Significance of the Findings:
The Arts in the Classroom Professional Development program was identified as an arts education model by the U.S. Department of Education for study and potential replication. As such it is significant that the model proved to be successful and information about how to successfully replicate this program can be disseminated. This study also contributes to a growing body of literature on the impact of professional development in the arts for teachers on student learning outcomes.
Teachers were recruited for the program from 22 schools which had been identified as “high priority” by the state of California. This designation indicates a low level of student academic performance and high percentages of students from low-income families and students who are English Language Learners. Teachers from these schools self selected to be in the program and to participate in either the first or second year of the program although researchers sought a balance of grade levels taught, years of teaching experience, and school based information for each year. While 91 teachers began the program only 63 (68 percent) completed all program components. The program evaluation employed a mixed-methods design. The data collection instruments included surveys, interviews, and field notes conducted before, during and after the program over a span of two years. Researchers sought a before-after program completion comparison within each of the two groups and between groups.Additionally seven teachers were identified through random sampling to serve as case study participants in order to provide a more in-depth look at teacher experience and learning through the program. Student learning was assessed using the teacher developed interdisciplinary art lesson units. Teachers recorded their classroom observations and analyzed student work created during the units. Survey data was analyzed through the statistical analysis software while qualitative data, such as written reflections, field notes and interview transcripts, were coded and categorized using inductive analysis related to the core concepts of the program. All data collection procedures corresponded with the objectives and content of the program being evaluated.
Limitations of the Research:
Because of attrition, the year one and year two groups did not have matching characteristics. The inability to compare the experience of two matched groups is a limitation of this study. Attrition, as well as programmatic changes made after the first year, led to diverse experiences for each group which impacts the validity of the study. All student data in this study was teacher reported. This study is also limited in by its primary role as a program evaluation in that only the success of core concepts of the program were measured.
Questions to Guide New Research:
Teacher characteristics such as years of teaching experience were recorded as part of this study but the data was not disaggregated to show the impact of these characteristics on the outcomes. Future research could identify teacher characteristics that contribute to effective collaboration with peers and with arts integration coaches. Future research could also use empirical data collection methods to report on the cognitive, emotional, and personal impacts of arts integration on students. This information can be difficult to measure, but this study encourages further research in those areas.