Susan Riley | August 2014

SLOs in the Arts: Setting Goals with the Arts in Mind

As we begin a new school year, many schools are implementing Student Learning Objectives (SLOs) as part of defining student growth and teacher evaluation.  Unfortunately, the arts can be left out of this dialogue. Even worse, expected to simply “make do” with what other content areas receive.  We’ve done a lot here on EdCloset with SLOs. In addition to, helping empower arts educators to use SLOs as a way to target a specific area where students often struggle. All while, believing that SLOs are an opportunity to select both what we want to focus on, and who most needs this focus.

SLOs in the Arts

In an effort to provide arts educators with resources and tools, we’ll be featuring new SLO tools here over the next few weeks.  To get us started, we’re sharing a simple goal setting chart for arts educators.  The first step of the SLO process is looking at previous student data and determining who most needs your focus. In addition to, what you need to focus on for those students to succeed.  This is simply setting a goal!  Figuring out what you want to accomplish with your SLO is a critical first step towards building an SLO that makes a difference.

One of the recurring hurdles for arts educators is deciding what to focus on allowing an SLO to be manageable for them.  Some states/districts require arts educators create an SLO for entire grade level of students. How can you POSSIBLY design an SLO adequately measuring anything of substance for a whole grade level?

Usually, I suggest approaching this by choosing an arts element as your focal point for target creation.  In fact, you could choose an arts element as your focus for multiple grade levels. Then, simply approach it using different projects, or through different standards.  This way, you have a standardized baseline of measurement for growth. Yet, you still have flexibility to change how you approach it with different classes or grade levels.

Keep in mind – this is just one way to get started.  Obviously, there’s many different levels of creating high-quality SLOs.  But if you’re just getting started, this is a way to being without being overwhelmed.  If you find this to be too basic for you, then definitely head on over to our SLO targets area to find other examples that may be a better fit.

SLO Goal Chart

We’ve create an SLO Goal Chart for Arts Educators to help you think and work through the process of deciding what you want to use as a focus for your SLOs.  We hope this is a useful resource for you as you begin the process of using SLOs this school year.  If you’d like more resources like this, be sure to review all of our SLO examples in our SLO workshops series online.

SLOs in the Arts, Education Closet


About the Author

Susan Riley is the founder and CEO of The Institute for Arts Integration and STEAM. She focuses on teacher professional development in arts integration, STEAM, 21st century learning skills, and technology. She is also a published author and frequent presenter at national conferences on Arts Integration and STEAM education. Susan holds a Bachelor of Music degree in Music Education from the prestigious Westminster Choir College in Princeton, NJ and a Master of Science in Education Administration from McDaniel College in Westminster, MD. She lives in Westminster, MD with her husband and daughter. Email Susan