Final post and thoughts…

I think I have a fairly good grasp on the direction I want to take with the final paper in this course, and I hope I have an opportunity to actually implement my research plan next semester.  The blog environment has been good for capturing various aspects of the research class as we’ve covered them, along with my reflections regarding their applicability in my own future research.

Qualitative Methods… Again!!

I’m so glad we finally got to a chapter devoted entirely to qualitative study… but it all felt like review, considering that I’ve been steeped in the concept all semester.

I find myself still wavering on the direction I should go in my final research plan, and am wanting (and really probably needing) to do both a community needs assessment and a case study of educational and relationship outcomes for students participating in Bring Back the Music.  The case study will likely have more import and relevance if I can actually get the visual arts program I’m proposing funded… going to have to wait a couple of months to find out status on that.

Guess I’ll work on making a decision over the next few days.  Maybe I’ll draw straws.

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I guess my literature review is already well underway… I’ve been reading everything I can get my hands on about tax disparity in school funding, comparing local school districts in terms of spending and educational outcomes, arts integrated education, and the creative fusion of art and science… scholarly articles, books, websites, news articles… I’m collecting information from any source that has relevant information that can be applied to my interest in developing programs to increase access to arts education for students from low-income school districts.

Noah has done a literature review, too.  He reviewed “Stupid Sock Creatures.”  If you’d like to see how many pezzes he awarded this book and a couple of others, you can check out his review here.  (Hint:  He gave this book his highest “5 pezzes” rating, plus a bonus Cheeto).  You should read this book.  It’s awesome!

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Key Terminology…

I find myself torn on how to proceed in developing the final project… do I continue with the idea of designing a qualitative survey to assess community needs, or do I shift the focus of the final project to be reflective of the research I’ll be beginning next semester at Bring Back the Music if I can secure funding for the Visual Voices project?  I hate to abandon the path Ive been laying the groundwork for all semester… and the needs assessment would certainly help to inform the basis for the project at BBTM.  Regardless which direction I choose, my narrative will address:

  • Disparity in public school funding
  • Unequal access to the arts for children
  • Educational neglect
  • Low-income school districts
  • Disproportionately poor outcomes for children of color

There are probably dozens more, but these are the areas that currently come to an exhausted mind… these will be defined both quantitatively from scholarly literature and state educational sources, and qualitatively from interviews with schools that have flourishing arts programs in comparison with those who have diminished or non-existent programs.

Conducting a Pilot Study…

Conducting a community needs assessment will serve as a pilot study to determine if there are schools in the Oklahoma City metro that are integrating the arts into their curriculum, and to what degree.  I’m hopeful that I’ll be able to obtain information on the efficacy of such programs.  This study will be purely exploratory, but it is my hope to be able to develop a strong narrative that supports such curriculum integration for children from low income schools; schools that have either seen their arts programs severely cut or eliminated altogether.  (Oops!  Did that sound biased?)

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In conducting a community needs assessment regarding the need for arts education, it’s clear the best sampling methodology will be to use purposive sampling.  Interviewing key informants from area schools that have excellent programs incorporating arts education into their curriculum will begin to establish a basis for “what works.”  Conversely, obtaining interviews with key informants from low-income districts where programs are limited or non-existent will help to identify what is lacking in these areas.  Interviews need not be limited to school personnel; in fact, obtaining the perspective of community leaders and those involved in other aspects of arts education such as private classes and community after-school programs, as well as those active in the arts community can provide valuable insight into both the problem and potential solutions to address it.

What I’m most interested in finding, however, are programs that have broken from the norm – alternative education settings that focus on educating children from a creativity perspective, incorporating art, music, and movement into the entire education process.  If such programs can be identified, I think that much can be learned from using a deviant case sampling approach to determine what might be most effective in developing a local arts-centered alternative to the traditional classroom setting.  Determining the funding source for such entities will also prove invaluable… are a majority of quality innovative programs based on a parent’s ability to pay private tuition, or are these organizations working on a non-profit basis, receiving a majority of funding from grants, corporate donations and other private funding sources, thus enabling programs to be accessible to children from low-income families?

In non-research related news, Halloween is almost here!  Have you picked out your pumpkins yet?  Noah has carved an excellent sock monkey jack-o-lantern.  If you want his tutorial, you can check it out here!

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Assessing Community Needs

I think a community needs assessment is vital to finding what is working in some area schools, what is missing in others, and why.  I know that many of the Oklahoma City public schools have experienced a dramatic improvement in their arts programs in recent years; part of this is due to MAPS for Kids funding, but much of it has to do with community action groups who are actively raising funds to improve their local schools.  Many of these schools are in areas which have experienced gentrification over the past couple of decades, and they have the financial resources within the community to make significant contributions to school improvement.  The same does not hold true for independent districts such as Millwood or Star Spencer.

I think identifying key informants from schools who have excellent programs is a good place to start.  Asking questions regarding curriculum innovations, how their program has evolved, what improvements are planned for the future, and success rates relating to attendance and grades are valuable pieces of information for communities who have limited or no programs that encourage development in the arts.  A harder task will be identifying key informants in schools with limited or nonexistent programs, because the reluctance to talk openly about areas in which students are not being served will likely exist.  It may be a matter of networking with a local program director who has already established relationships with the leadership staff at many of the independent Title I schools that have diminished arts activities for children.  I’d like to get their viewpoints on why their programs have dwindled, how diminished arts programs have affected the students, and how we might begin to go about mobilizing the community in ways that would help to increase access to the arts for students from low-income schools.  While marginalized communities will clearly not have the community financial resources that have benefited many of the Oklahoma City public schools, these communities possess their own assets and strengths.  I want to determine what information that I collect from schools that have excellent programs can be applied to working with the students in Millwood, Star Spencer, or other low-income independent school districts.