What’s the Big Deal

Looking for big ideas? Then look to the learning standards developed by the Illinois Arts Learning Standards Initiative.

Click here to review the recommended standards and submit your comments to the Illinois State Board of Education (ISBE).

The standards include approaches that can help educators organize teaching and learning. “Enduring understandings” are a case in point. Betsy Quinn and Elisabeth Westphal, two educators who serve on the initiative’s Steering Committee, explain:

The recommended standards are structured around enduring understandings – the “big ideas” or major themes unique to each artistic discipline. For example, the theatre standards include the big idea that “theatre artists share and present stories, ideas, and envisioned worlds to explore the human experience.”

Feb3, AC, Chicago PhotoBetsy Quinn and Elisabeth Westphal speaking to the initiative’s Advisory Committee: (February 3, 2015)

Why are big ideas important? Brain research shows that learning improves when students are able to organize information around big ideas. Students gain understanding more effectively when they can develop their own “mental filing systems,” the ability to group, recall, and connect information around broader concepts. In addition, big ideas have lasting value because they help students understand why particular content is meaningful and encourage connections across subject areas (NCCAS).

At the same time, big ideas give teachers flexibility. Because enduring understandings are broad, teachers can approach them in a variety of ways. Through the initiatives’ community forums and online surveys, teachers overwhelmingly emphasized the usefulness of enduring understandings.

Show your support for the recommended Illinois standards: Submit your comments to ISBE today! The standards promote quality arts education and underscore that the arts are essential to a complete and competitive education for all Illinois students. Now that’s a big idea!


Jonathan VanderBrug