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Quantitative Studies

Evaluation Report Of Storybridge Program 2004-05

by M. Parks and D.S. Rose, 2005

Keywords: elementary education

Executive Summary
Stagebridge’s 2004-2005 Storybridge Program, part of the U.S. Department of Education’s Arts in Education Model Development & Dissemination Program, provided direct instruction and teacher training to eight 4th and 5th grade classes in three schools in the Oakland Unified School District.

Senior storytellers modeled storytelling for students and teachers in these classrooms once a week for six weeks. Next, professional storytellers worked with the students and teachers biweekly for eight weeks to help them gain an understanding of storytelling principles and skills. At the end of the program, students were given the opportunity to tell a story on stage in front of peers.

Additionally, three teacher workshops were held during the program to further develop the teachers’ knowledge and skills in storytelling and its use as a classroom tool.

Stagebridge established goals and objectives for the program related to each of the participating groups, namely students, teachers and storytelling artists.

Evaluation Methods
Multiple methods were used to evaluate the wide range of program goals. Student impact was evaluated using an experimental research design to examine impact on student Language Arts achievement. Classrooms at participating schools were randomly assigned to either a treatment or a control group. The instruments used were Standardized test scores (English-Language Arts and Writing) and scores on the Bader Reading and Language Inventory (3rd Edition) – Listening Comprehension Subtests. The two groups were compared at the end of the program to determine whether participating students were helped to achieve higher academic achievement than non-participating students.

In addition, teachers were surveyed regarding teacher training. They also participated in classroom observations to assess whether they improved their confidence, knowledge and skills for using storytelling in the classroom.

Project Objectives and Progress

Objective 1: Students will increase their awareness and understanding of storytelling as an art form.
• Students attended Stagebridge’s “Grandparent Tales” performance, a specially written play for school audiences based on children’s literature. By seeing the play, students gained a deeper appreciation of storytelling and theatre and saw a story “come alive”, encouraging them to develop their imagination when developing a story or reading a story.

Objective 2: Students will improve their creative artistic ability.
• Participating students wrote stories patterned after stories told in the classroom by the senior storytellers and storytelling artists and submitted their written stories to Stagebridge’s “Grandparent Tales Writing Contest”. The judges were surprised by the quality of the writing, showing the impact of the senior storyteller’s performances on the artistic and creative writing skills of the students. Students later performed their stories on the school stage in front of other participating classes, school staff, parents, grandparents and Stagebridge storytellers. 100% of students told a story.

Objective 3: Students will improve core subject matter knowledge, particularly in the areas of language arts and listening comprehension.
• Scores for the 2005 California Standards Test did not reveal any program impact on language arts scores. However, there were some limitations of the data provided by the district that weakened the ability to examine impact with this test.
• Scores on the modified version of the Bader (the Story Recall Test) did reveal significantly greater improvement for the program participants compared to the control group. Specifically, Storybridge students showed greater gains in 1) the ability to correctly segment a story into the beginning, middle and end, 2) the quantity of details recalled from a story, and 3) the quality of recalled details.

Objective 4: Teachers will increase their awareness and understanding of storytelling as an art form and its impact on core subject matter curriculum.
• To determine whether teachers learned about storytelling and its relevance to their classroom teaching, they were asked to complete a survey at the end of each teacher training workshop they attended. 100% of the teachers who participated in the workshops indicated that they learned new knowledge and skills that were relevant to their teaching and that they would likely use in their classrooms.

Objective 5: Teachers will improve their skills of implementing storytelling within their curriculum.
• Survey and observational data suggested that teachers improved their skills of implementing storytelling within their curriculum. Survey responses indicated that 100% of teachers learned new storytelling knowledge and skills and gained greater openness to using these in their teaching. Observations suggested that while some of the teachers may need more practice and experience with storytelling techniques before being able to consistently integrate them with their curriculum, at least half of them were able to begin to do so during this school year.

Objective 6: Senior storytelling artists and professional storytelling artists will increase their awareness and ability to use storytelling and the Performing Arts Standards to teach core content standards.
• Storytelling artists were provided with ongoing training in storytelling techniques. They learned classroom management, effective modes of communication with students, and the role of storytelling in the school curriculum. The feedback from the senior storytellers indicated that these trainings gave them a better understanding of their role in the Storybridge program and increased their awareness of how to integrate the storytelling into the curriculum.

Objective 7: Collaboration will be improved between artists and teachers.
• Storybridge brought classroom teachers, professional storytellers, and senior storytellers together in workshops to improve collaboration.

Conclusions
• Stagebridge’s 2004–2005 Storybridge program was implemented as planned. The program was also well received by both student and teacher participants. Students enjoyed and looked forward to the storytelling mentoring and residency. Teachers appreciated the program’s intergenerational focus, the opportunities provided for public speaking, and the ties to oral fluency and language arts.
• Students gained a greater awareness and understanding of storytelling as an art form during the program. They also had opportunities to improve their creative artistic ability. Students showed improvement in language arts and listening comprehension skills as a result of the program. Specifically, Storybridge students showed greater gains in 1) the ability to correctly segment a story into the beginning, middle and end, 2) the quantity of details recalled from a story, and 3) the quality of recalled details.
• Participating teachers gained a deeper awareness and understanding of storytelling as an art form and its impact on core subject matter curriculum. They were actively involved in the storytelling mentoring and residency, as well as the teacher training. They also showed greater ability to implement storytelling within their curriculum.
• Stagebridge storytelling artists improved their work in the classroom. They increased their awareness and ability to use storytelling and the PerformingArts Standards to teach core content standards.

Parks, M., & Rose, D.S. (2005). Stagebridge 2004–2005 Results: Student Test Score Analyses. 3D Group Technical Report #8294. Berkeley, CA: Data Driven Decisions, Inc.

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