The Artful Truth–Healthy Propaganda Arts project was developed by The Wolfsonian–Florida International University, as part of the Florida Department of Health, Division of Health Awareness and Tobacco programs. The program provides participating educators with a instructor manual, student workbooks, visual aids, and financial resources. The curriculum consists of a set of hands-on activities that help children develop a conceptual framework and vocabulary for analyzing or “reading” visual images and design. These skills are first developed using images from the Wolfsonian collection and then applied more specifically to analyzing the underlying purpose and methods of tobacco advertising.
The Artful Truth curriculum is organized around a set of critical concepts for understanding advertising images. One of these critical concepts is that visual images have a communicative intent. The program activities are intended to heighten student awareness of the communicative intent of images in their environment. The curriculum also attempts to provide students experience with, and vocabulary for, identifying the tools for communicating through images (signs, symbols, logos, fonts, slogans, etc.). The underlying assumption of Artful Truth is that making students more sophisticated and critical consumers of the advertising images and their environment will provide them with the tools to deconstruct and resist the appeals of tobacco advertising.
Artful Truth is intended for use with 4th, 5th, and 6th grade students. Most of the programs are located in public schools. The others sites include museums, after-school programs, arts councils, and other community-based organizations.
Educators were provided with a draft version of the Artful Truth Curriculum Pack components (which was being produced during the year). These materials included the revised Instructor Manual in conjunction with the student workbook called Blast from the Future developed in Year Two. The Instructor Manual provided a series of lesson plans, hands-on activities, and visual materials intended to teach manipulation through the arts and visual culture in a sequence that parallels the themes presented in the student workbook. Participating educators were required to deliver to The Wolfsonian feedback on the materials developed, which were made available in print. The project culminated in a virtual exhibition that was posted on the Artful Truth Web site in June 2001.
To address the program’s effectiveness in transmitting new knowledge and skills in interpreting the messages contained in visual images and the effect of the program on participants’ attitudes toward tobacco and tobacco use, this evaluation focused on the following questions:
1. To what extent does participation in the Artful Truth Program affect students’ ability to interpret visual images. (Can students do a better critique of a tobacco advertisement after going through the program?)
2. To what extent does participation in the Artful Truth Program affect students’ attitude toward tobacco and students’ use of tobacco?
3. To what extent do visual literacy skills affect students’ attitude toward tobacco and students’ use of tobacco?
There were two sets of identical pre and post-test assessments administered to project participants. One is a modified version of the Florida Youth Tobacco Survey with two questions added to assess knowledge about advertising and one question on their assessment of the Artful Truth class. The other was an open-ended essay called the Artful Truth Visual Literacy Assessment. For this assessment, students were provided with two different real tobacco advertisements and were asked to respond to two questions.
A holistic scoring procedure was developed to score the visual literacy assessment, and a Scoring Rubric was developed based on six descriptive categories. During the 2000-2001 project year, the same scorers were used as in the previous year. Their familiarity with the process resulted in high levels of rater agreement. These raters were selected because they came from similar backgrounds and had prior experience in holistic scoring. The interrater reliability was .71 on the visual literacy pretests.
Some of the significant findings from the study are as follows:
· Forty-two percent of the students who were active tobacco users at the beginning of the project had quit using tobacco after the Artful Truth Project. Less than one percent of the students took up smoking during the course of the Project.
· The Artful Truth anti-tobacco message reached an additional 23,584 students for Program Year 2000-2001, over and above the 1,295 students directly served, according to instructor estimates.
· Of students who scored 50 percent or lower on the Visual Literacy pretests, the average improvement was almost 2 points, out of a possible score of 12. Sixty percent of these students gained more than 2 points.
· Girls were less likely to be current users of tobacco than boys. Thirteen percent of boys were tobacco users, compared to only 8 percent of girls.
· Older children (age 12 and above) were more likely to be current tobacco users than children under 12. Seventeen percent of students 12 and over used tobacco compared to only 7 percent of children under 12.
· African American children were more “attracted” to tobacco use than other groups.
The significant recommendations for future action relating to the Artful Truth Project were as follows:
· The program should be expanded and more funds directed towards program implementation.
· The Artful Truth program should consider placing an even greater emphasis on low-performing students than they have in the past.
Given the proven effectiveness of the Artful Truth program, the curriculum should be widely disseminated.
A copy of the full Program Evaluation Report is available on request