Curriculum

Arts Programs Enhance Some Skills, Study Says

By Kathleen Kennedy Manzo — May 22, 2002 3 min read
  • Save to favorites
  • Print

Studying the arts in school may help strengthen children’s academic and social skills that can, in turn, aid them in learning other subjects, concludes a new review of arts education studies. The review found arts education particularly beneficial for young children and those who are economically disadvantaged or struggling academically.

“Critical Links: Learning in the Arts and Student Academic and Social Development,” from the Arts Education Partnership. (Requires Adobe’s Acrobat Reader.)

Strong arts programs are also linked to improving certain communication and critical-thinking skills, as well as student motivation for learning and school climate, the analysis released last week found.

“There’s ample evidence that arts programs improve reading, language development, and writing skills, and that certain forms of music instruction improve spatial-reasoning skills that are important in learning mathematics and reading and writing,” said Richard J. Deasy, the director of the Arts Education Partnership, a coalition of arts education, business, and government organizations based in Washington.

Much more research is needed, though, to determine to what degree arts education directly affects student achievement, the report says.

The compendium, “Critical Links: Learning in the Arts and Student Academic and Social Development,” is the result of a three-year review of research literature on dance, music, visual arts, drama, and multiarts education. The 62 studies featured in the report were selected from among thousands of research documents because they attempted to quantify whether instruction in the specific arts arenas affected student achievement.

Few Causal Links

Much of the research revealing that benefits were derived from arts programs did not establish a causal link. The arts, in general, may be just one factor in the positive outcomes documented.

One study, for example, showed a correlation between strong arts programs and an increase in students’ creativity and positive perceptions of their academic ability. But the study could not determine whether the benefits resulted from the arts program or other factors, such as the presence of more innovative teachers at arts-rich schools.

The studies were selected and reviewed by James S. Catterall of the University of California, Los Angeles; Ellen Winner, a psychology professor at Boston University and a senior research associate at Harvard University’s Project Zero; and Lois Hetland, also of Project Zero, a research group that aims to improve arts learning. The analyses of other researchers are also included in the report.

Ms. Winner, who has been critical of claims over the past few years that arts education improves test scores in other disciplines, said the project allowed a diverse group of researchers to scrutinize existing studies.

She cautioned, however, against generalizing about the direct benefits of arts education when those established by the research are specific to drama and certain kinds of music instruction. She also disagreed with the conclusions drawn by other contributors that she says overstate the link between the arts and improved academic skills.

“We don’t want to make claims that are not warranted by the research,” Ms. Winner said in an interview. “I don’t think the arts have been shown to cause academic improvement,” and claims in the report that specific groups of students “uniquely” benefit from arts instruction are not based on research, Ms. Winner said.

The report concludes that more research is needed to gauge the direct impact of arts education on learning in other subjects, as well as the effects of such instruction over time. More work is also needed, the report says, in studying how best to teach the arts.

Related Tags:

A version of this article appeared in the May 22, 2002 edition of Education Week as Arts Programs Enhance Some Skills, Study Says

Events

This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
Student Well-Being Webinar
Stronger Together: Integrating Social and Emotional Supports in an Equity-Based MTSS
Decades of research have shown that when schools implement evidence-based social and emotional supports and programming, academic achievement increases. The impact of these supports – particularly for students of color, students from low-income communities, English
Content provided by Illuminate Education
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
Student Well-Being Webinar
A Whole Child Approach to Supporting Positive Student Behavior 
To improve student behavior, it’s important to look at the root causes. Social-emotional learning may play a preventative role.

A whole child approach can proactively support positive student behaviors.

Join this webinar to learn how.
Content provided by Panorama
Recruitment & Retention Live Online Discussion A Seat at the Table: Why Retaining Education Leaders of Color Is Key for Student Success
Today, in the United States roughly 53 percent of our public school students are young people of color, while approximately 80 percent of the educators who lead their classrooms, schools, and districts are white. Racial

EdWeek Top School Jobs

Teacher Jobs
Search over ten thousand teaching jobs nationwide — elementary, middle, high school and more.
View Jobs
Principal Jobs
Find hundreds of jobs for principals, assistant principals, and other school leadership roles.
View Jobs
Administrator Jobs
Over a thousand district-level jobs: superintendents, directors, more.
View Jobs
Support Staff Jobs
Search thousands of jobs, from paraprofessionals to counselors and more.
View Jobs

Read Next

Curriculum Librarians Fight Back Against Efforts to Ban Books in Schools
Book defenders have employed a variety of strategies, including petition drives, protests, and direct pressure on school board members.
David Montgomery, Stateline.org
8 min read
Amanda Darrow, director of youth, family and education programs at the Utah Pride Center, poses with books that have been the subject of complaints from parents in recent weeks on Thursday, Dec. 16, 2021, in Salt Lake City.
Amanda Darrow, director of youth, family and education programs at the Utah Pride Center, poses with books that have been the subject of complaints from parents.
Rick Bowmer/AP Photo
Curriculum From Our Research Center The Topics That Lead Book Ban Requests, According to School Leaders
A new survey of teachers, principals, and district leaders sheds some light on book ban and censorship requests.
3 min read
Image show a page of fiction with black marks hiding sentences or words.
Getty
Curriculum Opinion The Evidence-Based, Broadly Appealing Way to Teach Kids How to Succeed
There is broad-based support for teaching that getting a degree, job, and married—before kids—makes one more likely to avoid poverty.
3 min read
Image shows a multi-tailed arrow hitting the bullseye of a target.
DigitalVision Vectors/Getty
Curriculum Opinion Data Science Is the Future. Let's Start Teaching It
The subject needs to be part of rigorous math prep leading to college and careers, argues Freakonomics author Steven D. Levitt.
Steven D. Levitt
4 min read
Conceptual illustration of a data being examined through a smart phone
Ben Currie for Education Week