Arts Learning – Education and Advocacy, Week 8

The Executive Summary of the Champions of Change report provides a useful snapshot of the content of the report. In so doing it condenses the findings into bullet points that advocates can use in lobbying. The Critical Evidence document from the National Association of State Arts Agencies takes many of these same bullet points and packages them to make the case for arts education. The report is a summary of the results from a separate research report called Critical Links, which is a compendium of 62 peer-reviewed studies and serves “the needs of arts professionals and nonprofessionals alike for accurate and concise information that reflects the current state of knowledge about arts learning and student achievement” (pp. 2). This being said,  I’m not sure, however, who the audience is for this document. The graphic treatment seems too funky to be for legislators and parents and teachers and administrators already know these points. So, this seems for arts professionals.  If so, it’s interesting to see how they’ve decided to present the material to turn artists into arts education advocates.

The Fundamentals chapter on evaluation is a good summary of terms, steps, and best practices. I used to work the evaluation unit for Wisconsin State Extension and so am familiar with a lot of this content. There is nothing here that feels specific to an arts program as opposed to some other type of initiative. I would raise the construction of evaluation questions earlier in the process. Their goal of doing an “outcome-based approach” simplifies the process. The major evaluation question is whether the program achieved the outcomes. But evaluation questions can be anything, and my experience is that thinking broadly about what you really want to know coming out of an evaluation is useful.

Looking at the sample ArtsCorps program evaluation, it made me think how important having independent research is to back up a position. It is so easy for advocates to made unsupported assertions or take figures out of context to get their point across. Having third-party and peer-review of research and evaluation findings is something to point out and make a big deal when getting into advocacy. Any legislator worth his or her salt should be skeptical of anything an advocate says. I think strength in advocacy comes with information that appears unassailable.

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