NYSCA Common Ground; Transforming Your New Thinking

For ten years, the SchoolWorks Lab worked with the New York State Council on the Arts. This state arts funding group was responsible for handing out millions of dollars and supporting arts activities around the empire state. In this Common Ground workshop outlined below, Amy Chase Gulden, Phil Alexander and I worked on translating the latest thinking of Evidence of Teacher and Student Learning (ETSL) into researched stories that could be shared with others:

Transforming your New Thinking A Common Ground Workshop On Transforming ETSL Units Into Public Discussions In order to Sustain Your Partnership

March, 2010, Rob Southworth, Amy Chase Gulden, Phil Alexander

What is My Story Now?

Now that you have started, or are in the middle of, or even completed your ETSL template unit, the obvious question is,

“Because ETSL has generated new thinking for me about my work, I have a new story to tell and how will I convey this new thinking to others?”

Conveying your new thinking to outside audiences requires you to transform your thinking into ways that others can hear you, evaluate your new thinking and possibly use it in their lives to make their decisions.

New Thinking Into New Formats

The central strategy for this Workshop is to practice transforming your new thinking into new stories and new formats for new audiences. Sustaining your partnership is also going through a transformation. Previously your partnerships may have been sustained through telling the story of the act of integrating art in education. Telling stories is very powerful work.

New Formats for New Thinking

Now, in lean times, with funding threatened from all sides, sustaining your partnerships may benefit from transforming your arts integration work into stories that pursuade others to join you in your work or even fund your work!

Telling the story of your work

Story format in the ETSL Template Unit

Assessment stories

Findings…the learnings about the story

Conclusions…the new thinking about the story

Reporting Out…telling others about our new story

Short Report…telling short stories

Longer Report…telling longer stories


Before you start working on the details of your report, determine the audience and the purpose of speaking with this audience.

Who is this story for? Friends, colleagues, boards or funders?

Do they need a short story, a short report, a long report, documentation?

What new thinking do you want to convey?

What is the best format for that?

Telling Stories

Introduce the story, tell the story, sum up the story

Intro: Describe the background, introduce the new thinking

Main: Advance the action of the new thinking with student performance

Conclude: Review new thinking, student performance, and advance new thinking


Intro: Students used a variety of project methods to complete their arts integration of science and art called, “Learning About Constellations.”

Main: Students were required to display their learning about the stars through a concentration on one constellation, but using any of several project methods to complete the task. These methods included presenting a poster about the constellation, teaching others to use a telescope to learn about constellations, etc. Teachers used portfolios and performance tasks to accomplish their assessment of the work.

Conclude: Teachers allowed the use of a variety of project methods. Teachers specified two types of assessments, portfolios and performance tasks, with one common rubric, in order to align all the different student work. Students demonstrated higher engagement with a variety of project method curricular choices and 83% met or exceeded standards in both arts and Science.

How to Turn Stories Into More Formal Reports

Actually this is the process of research, formalizing a set of actions you took with students and detailing what you found out. When you are studying your own students, it is called “action research.”

Use a Cover Page and divide into sections

Intro to Your Essential Question, background of the students, etc.

Identify your Objectives, goals and standards

Identify assessment, data collected, and your findings

Conclude with your new thinking and make recommendations



Introduction to Research

List the factors that motivated you to conduct this research in the first place. By stating the reasons behind the research, your audience will have a better understanding of why the research was conducted and the importance of the findings.

Identify research objectives

Itemize the goals and objectives you set out to achieve. Before you constructed your survey, you had a plan as to the information you needed to get from your respondents. Once you had those goals in mind, your survey questions were chosen. Did your respondent’s answers give you the information you sought after when you designed the survey? Make a list of the objectives you set out when you started, those objectives that were met and those that were not, and any other information relating to the planning process.

Explain the data collection process

Specify how your data was captured. For the purposes of this article, we are referring to a survey for collecting the data. But be specific as what type of survey you used – online, telephone, or paper-based. Also consider who and how many it was sent to, and how the analysis was conducted.

Describe your findings

Explain findings discovered in your research, especially facts that were important, unusual, or surprising. Briefly highlight some of the key points that were uncovered in your results. More detail will be revealed later in the presentation.

Finalize your thoughts and make recommendations

Summarize findings in concise statements so that an action plan can be created. Your conclusions and recommendations should be based on the data that you have gathered. It is from these final statements that management will make their decisions on how to take action on a given situation.

Structure your report

The background information of your survey research may need to be fine-tuned into a structured report format for a polished presentation. Survey research reports typically have the following components: title page, table of contents, executive summary, methodology, findings, survey conclusions, and recommendations.

Title Page

State the focus of your research. The title should what the report is about, for example, “Customer Satisfaction in the European Market.” Also include the names of who prepared the report, to whom it will be presented, and the date the report is to be presented.

Table of Contents

List the sections in your report. Here is where you give a high-level overview of the topics to be discussed, in the order they are presented in the report. Depending on the length of your report, you should consider including a listing of all charts and graphs so that your audience can quickly locate them.

Executive Summary

Summarize the major findings up front. Listed at the beginning of your report, this short list of survey findings, conclusions, and recommendations is helpful. The key word here is “short” so no more than a few complete sentences, which may be bulleted if you wish. This summary can also be used as a reference when your reader is finished the report and wants to just glance over the major points.


Describe how you got your data. Whether you conducted an online, paper or telephone survey, or perhaps you talked to people face to face, make sure you list how your research was conducted. Also make note of how many people participated, response rates, and the time it took to conduct this research.


Present your research results in detail. You want to be detailed with this section of the report. Display your results in the form of tables, charts and graphs, and incorporate descriptive text to explain what these visuals mean, and to emphasize important points. eSurveysPro’s charts are fully customizable so you can display your data in a variety of ways, such as bar or pie charts, or even tables. The chart legends can also be adjusted to suit your needs. This flexibility allows you to be creative when displaying your results. However you arrange your results, it is helpful to have a close correlation between the text and visuals so that your audience will understand how they are related. For example:

Survey Conclusions

Summarize the key points. This concise collection of findings is similar to the Executive Summary. These conclusions should be strong statements that establish a relationship between the data and the visuals. Remember that thoughts expressed here must be supported by data. You may also mention anything that may be related to this survey research, such as previous studies or survey results that may prove useful if included.


Suggest a course of action. Based on your conclusions, make suggestions at a high-level, as to what actions could be taken to help the survey project meet the research objectives. For example, if you concluded that customers are not satisfied with customer service from the support staff, you may recommend that management should monitor support staff calls to assure quality customer service standards are met.

Making a recommendation doesn’t necessarily mean that action is going to take place, but it provides management with a baseline from which to make their decisions.

Dr. Robert A. Southworth, Jr.

Dr. Robert A. Southworth, Jr.

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