College Learning in the ArtsPrepared by the College Board for the National Coalition for Core Arts StandardsPhase 1 of 2College Standards Phase I - final report-1.pdfSeptember 2011The College BoardOffice of Academic Initiatives45 Columbus AvenueNew York, NY 10023National Coalition for Core Arts Standards800-587-6814Prepared by:Amy Charleroy, The College Board, New YorkIndividuals are encouraged to cite this report and its contents. In doing so, please include the following attribution:
The College Board, College Learning in the Arts: A Summary and Analysis of Recommendations and Expectations for ArtsInstruction at the College Level. New York, NY, September 2011.


The first phase of research is a summary and analysis of accreditation standards – specifically those standards related to course content and instruction -- for schools offering two- and four-year degrees in the arts. The second portion is a review of course goals for all AP courses in the arts, including AP Studio Art, AP Art History, and AP Music Theory. Finally, a survey of college textbooks in the arts is presented, in an effort to identify which types of arts information and content are most widely available on college campuses.

Most of the material that was reviewed was rather broad in its treatment of the standards, and consequently the analysis of these resources is equally broad. This review offers a general overview of the types of content and ideas that are being emphasized in the arts at the college level, but fewer insights as to what specific student expectations are, or how college-level achievement in the arts is measured.


Key findings

Each phase of the research involved examining sources that are clearly very different from one another, as they were developed for different audiences and different purposes, but common ideas and themes emerge when they are considered as a whole.

The findings of all three segments of research emphasized the importance of the building of technical skill in the arts –learning to sight-read music, for example, or study choreography techniques, or understand the elements and principles of art – but each set of standards and recommendations applied similar importance to the study of history, theory, and analysis of works of art in each discipline. Across all phases of research, it is a clearly held belief that rigorous study of the arts necessarily involves far more than production of one’s own works of art.

Particularly in the study of the accreditation standards and AP course descriptions, there seems to have been a concerted effort to highlight cognitive abilities of analysis and critical thinking as they relate to arts-based learning. The AP standards in particular offer clear descriptions of technical abilities that students are to achieve in these courses, but they also explicitly refer to the importance of students analyzing works of music and art in a thoughtful way, and making careful and informed decisions in creating works of art.

Based on the textbook analysis, courses in the history of the arts (especially survey courses) seem to be the most widely available strand of study in the arts, but different arts disciplines approach the study of history in different ways. All emphasize the importance of being able to put works into historical and social contexts, but others, particularly music, appear to make a fairly regular practice of integrating the analysis of great works of music into the teaching of music theory concepts, blending history and practice in ways that other disciplines may not.

The resources examined in all three reviews offered insights into artistic techniques and discipline-specific skills that are emphasized at the college level, but the specificity of these standards and guidelines varied quite a bit between disciplines. Standards and resources for the visual arts offered very general guidelines about the effective use of the elements and principles of art; in contrast, the music standards and textbook descriptions were much more detailed in describing what types of skills (sight reading, composition, improvisation, etc) students were to master. The guidelines (particularly the accreditation standards) for dance were similarly specific, and this discipline’s accreditation standards even prescribed the number of hours per day that college students majoring in dance should be engaged in technique-based courses. There appears to be a difference in philosophies between disciplines, as to the amount and types of content that are considered essential to a rigorous study of that discipline.


Plans for Further Research
The study of accreditation standards, AP course descriptions, and textbooks offer useful and varied views into what constitutes college-level arts learning, but there is potential to review further sources of information that might allow for a more in-depth understanding of the nature of college learning in the arts. An examination of syllabi of college courses in the arts is being undertaken as a second phase of research, to allow for deeper research into the types of content, skills, and habits that are addressed in college courses in the arts, and how these skills and understandings are assessed.