What Data can do for Your Music Program
Many music educators look out at their classrooms to see students glued to their smartphones and begrudge teaching in an era where technology has come to influence so much of our daily lives. This feeling of frustration is understandable, but, as it turns out, technology is changing music education in profound ways, from helping to improve the performance of individual music programs to shedding light on areas of need within arts programs nationwide. Specifically, new ways to collect and reflect data in music education are helping educators and program leaders learn from other experts, advocate for more resources, and measure the performance of their students in ways like never before. In this article, we’ll show you how data can improve your music program and what it’s doing for music and arts education nationwide.
Data and education––the big picture
Since every classroom and music program is completely unique, educators often feel like they’re working in their own private universe. Habits are formed, daily battles are fought, and the small worlds teachers and program directors live in are built and reinforced year after year. Though educators sometimes attend conferences and workshops, it can be difficult to get a bigger picture of what’s happening in music education in America.
Access to music education data helps educators see past their own programs to get an idea of how other programs function and perform. Instead of relying on opinions and assumptions, educators can delve into powerful information that will shape their programs for the better.
According to the Arts Education Data Project, gathering and disseminating arts education data is something profoundly important not only for individual programs, but for American arts education as a whole: “It is our belief in order to expand access to arts education in our schools and communities we absolutely have to know where we stand. This is THE most elusive knowledge in our field and the most fundamental question that must be answered before arts education in this nation can move forward in any meaningful and strategic way. Simply put: to get to where we want to go we must understand where we are.”
Powerful initiatives like the Arts Education Data Project aim to improve arts education by placing individual students and programs in a broad context. This is done by discovering which schools have access to arts education, which ones don’t, how many students are served, and how the status of arts education in America has shifted over time.
How broad national arts education data can increase your program’s funding and participation
- Broad national arts education data shows how your programs stacks up against others locally, regionally, nationally
- Detailed analytical data can be used to advocate for more funding
- Successful statewide arts education policies can be mirrored and implemented
- Educators can learn how and why comparable programs have higher student participation rates
Without being able to look at the data, understanding your unique music program in a broader context is a difficult, if not impossible, task. But luckily, more and more educators are sharing their data and learning from others with the goal of bringing more attention, resources, and participation to their music programs. This all reflects the big picture that collected information can show about arts education, but the benefits of educational data don’t stop there.
What data can do for your music program on a personal level
Data is doing incredible things to reveal important truths about arts education and increase opportunities and resources for educators in the process, but it’s also a powerful tool that can improve the crucial day-to-day work you do in your program. The Data Quality Campaign is an American organization focused on education data policy and use. From keeping parents informed to gleaning a far more accurate picture about how students are performing, the Data Quality Campaign views data as a priceless educational asset. “Data is one of the most powerful tools to inform, engage, and create opportunities for students along their education journey—and it‘s much more than test scores. Data helps us make connections that lead to insights and improvements. Everyone has an important role to play in helping all students succeed in their own individualized ways.”
How data can improve the day-to-day functions of your music program
- Combines metrics like discipline, attendance, and test scores to deliver an accurate representation of a student’s performance and engagement
- Provides clear information to inform parents
- Can help educators better advocate for their programs within schools and districts
- Shows music students what their strengths and weaknesses are in the classroom
- Helps shape short and long-term program goals
- Data can be presented through apps and reports that deliver new insights and correlations
According to the Method Schools program, integrating data into your everyday teaching duties is a massive asset modern teachers can’t do without, but that doesn’t mean doing so is always easy. They recommend keeping data integration simple at first, enlisting the help of students and other staff, and making sure to take the time to reflect and a properly analyze your methods to make sure you’re getting the most out of your efforts.
Data integration in the classroom
What does data look like in the day-to-day life of a music program? This question is a bit like asking how to cook an egg because every program is so different. On a specific program level, educators have always had access to data, but things like test scores, attendance and behavioral records, and information that could cross-reference programs in other schools were all in different places. This made putting data to good use a massive challenge on top of a job that’s already challenging in itself. Many educators today rely on apps and other digital platforms to help them view and understand data in ways that are far better than they used to be.
Depending on your unique style and specific needs, data might be something you think about during staff meetings, or it could be a daily fixation that shapes the way you interact with your students. Some educators adopt a bare bones approach that refers to data when needed, but an increasing amount of others are opting for a data-driven teaching style using smartphones and laptops. Like teaching itself, there is no wrong or right way to use data in the classroom, but teachers who fail to take it seriously miss out on crucial opportunities and methods that can make their jobs as educators easier and more effective.
How Music & Arts can make your job as an educator easier
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