Infusing Art Education into the Elementary Curriculum - Evaluation of Art in Action

October 1st, 2010 | General »

Art in Action is a program designed to infuse the arts into the curriculum of elementary schools.

Researchers at KeyStone Research Corporation, Joyce A Miller, Ph.D. and Tania Bogatova, MBA, ABD, are pleased to announce a new evaluation project they will be undertaking over the next four years (2010-2014). This research is a comprehensive process and outcome evaluation of Art in Action, a program funded through the Arts in Education Model Development and Dissemination Grant Program of the US Department of Education, PR/AWARD Number U351D10 0138. The Arts Council of the Erie (ArtsEriwe), PA was awarded this grant after a highly competitive review process.

Art in Action is a program designed to infuse the arts into the curriculum of elementary schools. The program consists of training teachers on arts-infused instructional methods and establishing artist residencies where teacher-artist teams develop and implement arts-infused lesson plans. It is hypothesized that Art in Action will improve both the quality of teaching in the classroom, as well as student academic achievement, student learning habits, and student engagement in the learning process.

In strengthening the quality of teaching, participating teachers and artists will participate in Edinboro University’s graduate course Language, Movement, and Music in the Classroom, program-wide planning retreats, and individual artist-teacher lesson planning. Together, the combined effect will strengthen the quality of the relationship between artist and teacher and facilitate high-quality collaborative planning. This will result in high quality lesson plans and a partnership in teaching activity that will improve both student achievement and student engagement.

The Art in Action program will be delivered to participating classrooms through nine week artist residencies in randomly-selected classrooms of students in grades PK-6. Residencies are designed to infuse arts-based instruction into the broad curriculum in ways that boost student achievement and student engagement in the learning process.

As designed, this evaluation plan will examine outcomes of the Art in Action program with respect to the quality of teaching and lesson plans developed by the teacher and artist, as well as the impact of instruction on student achievement and student engagement. The data collected will be specific to each classroom residency, along with comparable data from non-participating classrooms. Classrooms will be randomly assigned to either a participating or non-participating classroom. Moreover, the evaluation effort will provide a quarterly assessment by of the progress the program is making toward achieving intended outcomes.

The overall objectives of the Art in Action program are as follows:

  1. To improve the quality of teaching in all participating elementary classrooms through strategies and lesson plans that:
    1. Offer instruction in a variety of different methods that engage different learning styles and modalities,
    2. Coordinate partnerships between teaching artists and teachers in classroom instruction in a way that brings out the best of what each teaching partner has to offer, and
    3. Are the product of an effective team planning approach to teaching and learning.

The quality of teaching will be assessed through:

  1. A content analysis of participating teacher & artist lesson plans, one plan randomly selected for each residency and analyzed via a scoring rubric used by trained field researchers.
  2. An observation of teacher and artist behavior in participating classrooms, pre-residency (teacher only) and at the end of residency (teacher and artist), via a scoring rubric used by trained field researchers.
  3. An interview of teachers and artists in participating classrooms, pre-residency (teacher only) and at the end of residency (teacher and artist), via a structured teacher interview schedule used by trained field researchers.
  4. A satisfaction survey of participating teachers and artists via a structured questionnaire administered by KSRC through the Web at the end of residency.
  5. An observation of teacher behavior in nonparticipating [control group] classrooms during the quarter when the matched classrooms have a teacher-artist residency, via a scoring rubric used by trained field researchers, which will be compared to the observation of participating teachers.
  1. To improve the academic achievement of participating students as compared to non-participating students as measured by:
    1. Individual student performance on quarterly academic reports for math and reading (report cards), and
    2. Individual student performance on annual standardized student academic assessments (e.g., the Pennsylvania System of School Assessment).1
  2. To improve the quality of engagement in the learning process for students in participating classrooms as measured by pre- and post-residency observation by trained field researchers using a scoring rubric that assesses student engagement behaviors, across the entire classroom. Student engagement in non-participating [control group] classrooms will be assessed during the quarter when their matched participating classroom has an artist-residency.
  3. To improve key learning habits associated with the arts as measured, collectively, for the students in participating classrooms by an assessment that is completed by classroom teachers (pre-residency) and teachers and artists (post-residency) using a scoring rubric that assesses.

Progress toward reaching these objectives will be tracked and assessed on a quarterly basis as data specific to each nine week residency is collected and analyzed. This periodic assessment of progress will facilitate continuous improvement in the program as knowledge about program outcomes and the implementation process is reported.

The evaluation will be designed, implemented, and managed by KeyStone Research Corporation of Erie, PA. Joyce Ann Miller, Ph.D. will serve as principal investigator for the project and will be assisted by Tania Bogatova. A team of retired classroom teachers will be recruited and trained as objective observer/data collectors in the participating and control classrooms.

The evaluation design for the Art in Action program involves both a random assignment experimental design and a carefully matched comparison group design. Random assignment is assured across the three school districts in that a schedule of participating classrooms will be developed annually based on a random selection of classrooms to participate out of the universe of teachers who indicate a willingness to participate. For instance, each participating school has up to four classrooms per 7 grade levels (two schools have grades K-6, one school has grades PK-5). Of these 28 possible participating classrooms in each school, 12 classrooms will be able to participate annually, for a total of 36 classrooms across the 6 semesters this program is operating between January 2011 through December 2013. This is based on the program model of 2 residencies per semester in each school, with each artist in residence working with up to 3 classrooms at the same time. The participating classrooms, or 108 classrooms across the three districts throughout the entire Art in Action program, will be randomly selected from a stratified list (based on grade level) of the total number of classrooms whose teachers indicate a willingness to participate in the program.

The control group classrooms will be selected from other carefully matched elementary schools within the same school district ( two of the participating districts, Central Crawford and Penncrest, have multiple elementary schools that can offer carefully matched comparison control group classrooms) or a neighboring school district with a comparable student population (Union City has only one elementary school, therefore the matched comparison classrooms will be selected from another comparable elementary school in a neighboring district not participating in the program.

The research instruments associated with teachers and artists that are developed and used in this evaluation will consist of data elements that provide evidence with respect to:

  1. The extent to which the professional development and planning activities shared by the artist and teacher contributed to the development of lesson plans and teaching strategies that infused the arts throughout the curriculum, as objectively measured by: (1) observation of teacher and artist instruction, (2) interview of teachers and artists to further elaborate on/clarify the observational data, and (3) a content analysis of lesson plans.
  2. The extent to which the professional development and joint planning activities was (1) perceived as mutually beneficial and (2) contributed to the development of high quality plans, as well as a synergy and teamwork in the classroom that resulted in high quality, multi-modal instruction (as self-reported by teachers and artists via a survey).

The research tools used to determine the extent to which Art in Action improved academic achievement and student engagement, will consist of:

  1. Participating and non-participating student academic grades in math and reading, as reflected in their quarterly report cards.
    1. Participating and non-participating student academic achievement in math and reading, as shown by the results of standardized academic assessments such as the Terra Nova, the PSSA, or another district-wide skills assessment administered annually.
    2. Participating student engagement behaviors within the entire classroom, as indicated by participation in discussion, hand-raising, eye contact, voice inflection, and the like, which will be observed by field researchers.
    3. Participating student learning habits such as willingness to take risks, willingness to revise and move toward perfection, ability to work effectively in teams or groups, ability to project voice and persona, etc., as reported for individual students by teachers and artists.

The KSRC research team will develop all research instruments at the beginning of the project period so that they can be introduced to the program participants at the initial program planning retreat prior to the commencement of services. While the content and format of the research instruments may not be finalized by the first retreat in mid-October, draft copies of the forms will be introduced to the participants.

Field research assistants who are hired as data gatherers and observers for the evaluation will be trained in observation techniques and data collection methods. Furthermore, KSRC will establish the inter-rater reliability in the beginning of the project so that observations can begin with the first scheduled nine week residencies.

Other than the standardized academic assessment data, which is only available annually, all other data will be collected on a quarterly basis then aggregated and analyzed in the month following the conclusion of each academic quarter. Once analyzed, the results will be shared with ArtsErie and participating school personnel no later than six weeks following the conclusion of each residency quarter to monitor program progress, accountability, and to determine if established program objectives have been met.

Cumulative academic year data that combines the results of all nine week residencies will be aggregated and analyzed during the summer months and made available at the August/September planning retreat for new project participants and school personnel prior to the commencement of services in fall of the 2011, 2012, and 2013 academic years.

In the final year of the program, the KSRC team and ArtsErie will compile the cumulative data provide an overall assessment of the Art in Action program and its impact. These results will be incorporated into the material used for project dissemination.


1 The annual Pennsylvania System of School Assessment (PSSA) is a standards-based, criterion-referenced assessment used to measure a student's attainment of the academic standards, while also determining the degree to which school programs enable students to attain proficiency in standards-based knowledge and ability.  Every Pennsylvania student in grades 3 through 8 and grade 11 is assessed in reading and math.  Every Pennsylvania student in grades 5, 8 and 11 is assessed in writing. (http://www.pde.state.pa.us/).


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