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The Learning Conference 2003

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Presentation Details


Literacy Learning Intervention for At-risk Students through Arts-based Instruction: A Case Study of the Imagination Quest Model

Gail Humphries Mardirosian, Lynn Fox.

This presentation shares the results of an Imagination Quest (IQ) teaching and learning intervention project designed to enhance literacy learning in third grade at-risk students. The project encompassed the application of creative and performing arts-based instructional strategies to the regular third grade curriculum of third grade classes at Mildred Green Elementary School in the Anacostia section of the District of Columbia. Teaching residencies, funded through various foundations, were conducted by a team of artist-teachers, working in close collaboration with classroom teachers. In addition, six professional development workshops were implemented for all of the teachers (gradesK-5) at Mildred Green. Preliminary evaluation data generated by the student intensives demonstrated some impact of the intervention on the reading and writing skills of the students. Students made significant gains on assessments of their knowledge and comprehension of the story used in the intervention. Evaluation of the project suggests the need for more intensive interventions with more sophisticated evaluation procedures to fully understand how the use of arts-based teaching and learning may promote the development of literacy among at-risk students. Preliminary evaluation of the impact of the training for the classroom teachers also indicated gains in teacher understanding and application of arts-based techniques, tools and mechanisms.

The workshop will provide participants with specific examples of the literacy learning activities used in the classroom and with the teachers to further use of arts-based teaching for literacy learning. Lesson plans focusing on brining the text to life to further vocabulary building, comprehension, and creative writing will be shared with participants.

Results of research from other project sites will also be examined briefly.


Gail Humphries Mardirosian  (United States)
Chair, Department of Performing Arts
College of Arts and Sciences, Department of Performing Arts
American University

Dr. Gail Humphries Mardirosian is the Chair of the Department of Performing Arts at American University, where she is now in her 19th year as a professor of theatre. She has directed 101 productions to date including musicals, serious drama, the classics, children's theatre and cabaret performances. She has received several awards for her college directing including an Outstanding Directing award from the American College Theatre Festival. She is also an arts education consultant, having recently completed the Business Plan for Educational Programming for Imagination Stage, a new multimillion dollar professional theatre and center for the arts for children. Gail has also directed over 50 special events at venues that include: the U.S. Department of Treasury, the National Museum of Women in the Arts, the National Press Club, the Cosmos Club, the Metropolitan Club, the International Club, Ford's Theatre, National Theatre, The Princess Hotel in Acapulco, Mexico, U.S. Presidential Inaugural Ball at the Mayflower Hotel, and the French Embassy. She has served the local arts community as a member of the theatre panels of the D.C. and Alexandria Commission for the Arts, as well as the Maryland State Arts Council, as a past Board member of Imagination Stage and the Potomac Theatre Company, and as a current Board member of the D.C. Arts Collaborative. She is past national president of Theatre as a Liberal Art, the Association for Theatre in Higher Education (ATHE), and past national chair for the Association's Task Force on Theatre at the Core at Education Reform. She continues to serve as the organizational representative for the Arts Education Partnership. Gail is also a speech and presentation skills consultant, with clients including agencies, corporations and leaders in business, government and education. She is currently Team Leader and Director for an initiative in teacher training and arts education residencies entitled Imagination Quest (IQ), funded to date with grants from the Fowler Foundation, the Mead Family Trust Foundation, the BWF Foundation, Lockheed-Martin Corporation, PEPCO, PG & E, the Bernstein Foundation, McDonald's Foundation, the National Endowment for the Arts, and the Maryland State Arts Council. Past publications include: "Enhancing Teacher Effectiveness through the Application of Theatre Techniques"; "Have Your Roared Today?" a handbook for classroom teachers; an article in the Journal of Teaching Psychology entitled "The Psychology of Teaching/The Theatre of Psychology; a commissioned paper for the Office of Educational Research and Improvement entitled "A Case Study of Arts-based Teaching as a Literacy Learning Intervention for At-risk Students"; and her doctoral dissertation entitled "A Case Study of a Professional Development Model Linking Arts-based Teaching Practices to Classroom Instruction."

Lynn Fox  (United States)
College of Arts and Sciences, School of Education
American University

Dr. Lynn Fox--I began my professional career as a middle school mathematics teacher. As a doctoral student in the Psychology Department at Johns Hopkins University, I helped found the Study of Mathematically Precocious Youth with Professor Julian Stanley. I then founded the Intellectually Gifted Child Study Group in the Division of Education at The Johns Hopkins University where I created a master's program in gifted education. I am currently serving as Dean of the School of Education at American University. Throughout my career my research, publications, and teaching have focused on applied educational psychology. As an educational psychologist, I apply principles of human growth and development, learning and cognition, and psychological assessment to many different populations and educational settings. Most of my work has centered around three themes:
- Gender differences;
- Gifted education, including the at risk gifted child; and
- Measurement and program evaluation

As a result of my long history of research and involvement in issues of gender equity, in the Spring of 1996, I was chosen to serve as the Chair of the Sub-panel on Mathematics, Science and Technology of the Gender Equity Expert Panel for the United States Department of Education. The expert panels were mandated by Congress to be a priority activity for the Office of Research and Educational Improvement in the U. S. Department of Education. The panels examined the evidence of effectiveness and quality of a variety of programs developed to promote gender equity in education at all levels. In recent collaborations with Dr. Gail Humphries-Mardirosian in the Department of Performing Arts at American University, I have been looking at ways to assess interventions in literacy learning in the early elementary school years targeting students attending schools with large numbers of children considered "at risk." The particular interventions that we have been studying involve teachers or teachers partnering with artists to use arts-based teaching strategies, particularly active learning strategies drawn from the performing arts and their impact on student learning.

  • Literacy learning
  • Arts-based instruction
  • Professional development

(60 min Workshop, English)