Scope and Sequence: Who’s Got the Monopoly?
I’ve been thinking about “scope and sequence” lately. A passionate arts specialist used the phrase repeatedly in a recent conference presentation and I started to worry it was something the education community had a monopoly on, that the arts community got left behind this time. But then I started to second guess myself: Why should only schools and certified teachers provide scope and sequence?
Is scope and sequence possible outside a school setting? Obviously, schools are ideally situated to deliver meaningful scope and sequence with mandatory attendance for (hopefully at least) 170 days a year, (generally) consistent contact with the same group of students for that time and a trained, professional educator leading the charge. But does that preclude community organizations from also offering a scope and sequence, on their own scale?
Having just reviewed state-wide grant applications for arts learning funding, I can tell you that in Oregon, at least 75% of arts organizations offer educational programming that represents significant scope and sequence. In fact, I would say that it is nearly impossible to provide meaningful arts education without scope and sequence. With the exception of a pure field trip model where students are bused in and out of a performance, every arts education activity includes some scope and sequence.
A good educator, regardless of their teaching environment or certification, will assess the skill level of their students at the start of instruction. Activities build on existing knowledge and increase in complexity as students move through the session or series. How could they not?
But maybe that isn’t really the most important question. Here’s what I really want to know: IS THE STUDENT RECEIVING A COMPREHENSIVE , MULTI-DISCIPLINARY ARTS EDUCATION WITH A SIGNIFICANT SCOPE AND SEQUENCE OVER THE COURSE OF THEIR SCHOOLING?
And that’s where community organizations and schools disconnect. When planning time is sacrificed to budgetary challenges, scope and sequence suffers. A visiting program might duplicate efforts that specialists and classroom teacher have already begun. Or the difficulty of the project may be above the skill level of the students, causing the visiting artist to back-track to teach beginning skills, reducing the quality of the end product.
So to get back to the most important question, how do schools and community organizations work together to assure scope and sequence?
A School Arts Map, such as this example from the Kennedy Center’s Any Given Child Program, is a good starting place. It can help bring everyone, including parents, school board members and funders, onto the same page about the scope and sequence of a given school year. And if you could compare one year to the next, you could start to project where there were gaps that needed to be filled and plan program delivery accordingly. Now that would be something.
But in order for a map to be really useful, there has to be some sense of where you’re trying to go. If a community can articulate what they want students to know and be able to do in the arts, then we’re talking. When I see something like The Chicago Guide for Teaching and Learning in the Arts, with clear articulation of students' developmental needs at each age and what skills they are expected to know, then, for the first time, I start to think arts education is easy.
How do schools and community organizations interface in your area? What tools has your community used to make arts education easy? What shared values make for more effective delivery of scope and sequence?