Educators, U.S. Officials Hammer Out Arts-Research Agenda

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Federal officials and educators in the arts last week hammered out a wide-ranging agenda intended to guide research in arts education over the next decade.

"I think this is the first attempt to have a common research agenda that can be broadly communicated to the field,'' Francie M. Alexander, a deputy assistant secretary in the Education Department's office of educational research and improvement, said in an interview.

The agenda was the product of a four-day conference, held in Annapolis, Md., that was sponsored jointly by the department and the National Endowment for the Arts. It included groups representing theater, music, the visual arts, and dance.

The participants identified more than 70 questions they would like to see addressed. A final list, which was being pared down late last week, has not yet been released.

Ms. Alexander said the final agenda will be disseminated to colleges and universities doing research in the field and to school systems whose teachers may wish to take on such projects themselves.

She said the research questions address six broad areas: curriculum, instruction, assessment, media and technology, teacher education, and policy and advocacy in the field.

"They wanted to know, for example, what new and inventive arts activities will we be implementing in the classroom based on new media technology,'' Ms. Alexander said. "They want to look at assessment, and will that have an impact on art experiences in the classroom.''

"Can students be engaged in assessment, possibly assessing their own work and the work of others?'' she said, citing another research question identified by the groups.

In multicultural education, Ms. Alexander said, the groups called for research on ways in which teachers can decide how to balance information about the contributions of minorities with more traditional studies.

The groups also urged research on the effects of the school-restructuring movement on arts education.

Reflects New Strategy

The Annapolis conference was part of a new Administration strategy for strengthening arts education unveiled in March. (See Education Week, March 25, 1992.)

The initiative, known as the "America 2000 arts partnership,''
came amid criticism over the limited attention given to arts education in national reform efforts. Critics contend, for example, that the national education goals, by focusing only on English, geography, history, mathematics, and science, make it easy for schools to ignore the arts.

Conference-goers said that last week's meeting was a good first step toward bringing arts education into the mainstream.

"But holding a couple of conferences also does not substitute for putting arts education in the America 2000 agenda,'' added Thomas Hatfield, the executive director of the National Art Education Association, referring to President Bush's education plan.

Participants said that federal officials had offered no new funds for research in their fields.

Vol. 11, Issue 36

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