Investigating the Work and World of Teaching Artists

By Zar, Rachel | Dance Teacher, December 2011 | Go to article overview
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Investigating the Work and World of Teaching Artists


Zar, Rachel, Dance Teacher


"There has been a lot of research showing that arts education programs are making a difference in the lives of public school children, and I wanted to shine a light on the people-the human resources-who are responsible for making that difference," says Nick Rabkin, principal investigator for the Teaching Artists Research Project, a study by National Opinion Research Center (NORC) at the University of Chicago. Conducted over three years, the study is the most comprehensive examination of the effects of teaching artists to date.

Rabkin and his team chose a dozen U.S. communities-from large cities to small rural areas. In each site, they developed lists of teaching artists and program managers and invited them to take a survey, ultimately collecting about 3,500 responses. They then followed up by interviewing 200 "key informants," including teaching artists, program managers, funders of programs and teachers and principals in schools where teaching artists work.

Their research reaffirmed that teaching artists are critical to the future of arts education and to improving the quality of schools. Rabkin was surprised by some of the statistics. "The majority of teaching artists studied didn't start teaching until their mid-30s," he says. "I had anticipated that most would have jumped into teaching artistry soon after graduating school as a way to provide income while trying to break into the performing or visual arts, but I was wrong.

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