Study Design

The Arts Engagement Project applied for and received exempt status after an IRB review (HUM00036642), restricting our subject selection to students 18 years of age or older.

The study design initially was imagined to offer 5 surveys to undergraduate students over their expected 4 years at U-M. The first survey, referred to as Freshman 1 (FR1) was offered to ~4000 randomly selected incoming students in October of their first year. This survey was designed to capture baseline one-time demographic data (personal, family, and high school) and their high school arts experiences. The four subsequent surveys were administered in March of each year to capture arts engagement over the previous two semesters (type, frequency, depth of engagement) and to have the student predict their level of arts engagement in the coming year.

There were a number of one-time questions, most often in the FR1, Sophomore (SO) and Senior (SR) surveys. In FR1 we asked about general demographics, though left off those statistics we could garner from central registrar inquiries. In SO we asked about childhood arts experiences, to identify potential precursors to arts engagement and to better capture the life-long connection students might have to the arts. In the JR survey we asked students to begin to reflect on their time in college as it related to their arts engagement. And in the SR survey, we asked students to again reflect on their college participation and its impact on their college experience and personal development, and then speculate on their post-college arts engagement related to career choice, worldview and other anticipated activities and behaviors.

There were also a number of questions we asked in each of the annual March surveys relating to arts participation in the previous academic year (in an attempt to capture any longitudinal changes or developments), how they expected to be involved in the arts in the in in the next year, how they rated themselves on a list of personal characteristics, and how and if they identified themselves at that moment as an artist or designer (I-Test). We also administered the I-Test on the F1 to understand how artist identities were brought into college and what may happen to them during college.

Because it was unclear at the beginning of the study whether we would receive enough funding to survey a full cohort of students across 4 years (and we were actually able to survey 2 full cohorts by survey’s end), we elected to do what were called “late” surveys for sophomores, juniors and seniors that first year. We wanted to capture a “snapshot” of their experiences from wherever they were in their arts engagement journey, and were able to increase response rates to certain questions areas – those that would not change over time such as their demographics, high school experiences, or childhood arts experiences. We were also able to increase the pool of sophomore, junior and senior responders, as once they entered the survey protocol they were automatically contacted to continue with the following appropriate annual survey.

Finally, we decided as we approached the end of the first full cohort of student respondents, we added an optional “exit interview” to capture some more detailed responses to our questions as well as make up for some inherent study limitations or areas we reconsidered over the course of the study.