School Day - Early Childhood

List of Studies

Academic Outcomes

  • Literacy and Language Development. A significant body of research demonstrates a positive relationship between literacy and the arts, specifically drama. Dramatic play provides pre- readers and writers an active context for learning about literacy, using literacy skills, and exploring new and abstract concepts. In addition, drama instruction where students act out a structured plot increases success in measures of oral language development and contributes to word fluency, keys to early literacy. Other research demonstrates a positive relationship between arts integration programs and standard measures of emergent literacy, cognitive and language function.
  • Reading and Writing Readiness. Structured drama instruction leads to increased measures of reading readiness through plot and story understanding. The self-directed dramatic play meta-behaviors of stepping out of role, thinking about, and questioning or attempting to direct players are also associated with higher levels of story understanding, which increases enthusiasm for writing, independent of verbal ability. In addition to drama, phonological awareness through music perception skills also enhances reading acquisition.
  • Reading Comprehension. Dramatic play (teacher-guided or self-directed) leads to deeper comprehension of story, more effective recall over time, and cohesive, explicit, and thorough retelling of the story. Students also have deeper engagement and a more thorough understanding of story components when attending a theater performance, if their preparation focuses on theater conventions.
  • Mathematics Achievement. There is some research to suggest a positive relationship between music training and improvement in mathematics performance in early childhood (Harris, 2007; Vaughn, 2000).
  • Underserved Students. Arts integration programs relate to positive achievements toward demonstration of school readiness for at-risk and low-income students.

Cognitive Outcomes

  • Creative Thinking. Studies find that arts education provides young children opportunities to develop their creativity. One study, for example, found that dance education motivates students to use their body as a sensory base to explore creatively and spontaneously, and provides a psychologically and physically safe environment where they feel a sense of ownership (Bond & Stinson, 2000).
  • Problem Solving and Reasoning. Research demonstrates a positive relationship between music instruction and performance on abstract reasoning and spatial tasks. Specifically, students who studied vocal music and glockenspiel (sequential training that develops kinesthetic, aural, and visualization skills) were better able to perform abstract reasoning tasks as measured by a standardized testing method (Bilhartz et al., 1999). Additionally, the smaller the student teacher ratio during music instruction, the more advanced the spatial cognitive performance (Hetland, 2000). Students receiving keyboard music instruction showed statistically significant growth in spatial-temporal reasoning (Rauscher & Zupan, 2000; Rauscher, et al.1997).

Personal Outcomes

  • Engagement and Persistence. Studies show a relationship between participation in the arts and increased student engagement in learning. Specifically, studies find that participation in dance relates to positive student engagement, attitudes, and emotions about the self and the art form (Bond & Stinson, 2000; Bond & Stinson, 2007), and that Suzuki violin instruction is positively related to increased attention and perseverance (Scott, 1992). Early childhood educators who teach at arts-rich schools like the A+ schools in Oklahoma, research also finds, are more engaged in their teaching leading to greater effectiveness in the classroom and decreased absenteeism (Barry, 2010).
  • Positive Behavior. Research finds that young children who participate in arts instruction, specifically music and dance, are better able to self-regulate their behavior compared to those who do not participate in arts programs.

Social and Civic Outcomes

  • Social Development. Student participation in the performing arts positively relates to social development in early childhood. Specifically, self-directed dramatic play contributes to the development of students? social skills and social problem-solving ability, while guided dramatic play enhances psychological, intellectual, and emotional development related to social roles (Williamson & Silvern, 1992, Fink 1976). In one study, dance also facilitated the development of social skills, particularly for at-risk students who improved their social skills and had fewer behavioral problems as a result of participation in dance lessons (Lobo & Winsler, 2006). Finally, studies find that both music and dance improve students? communication skills.

Professional Outcomes

  • Increased Instructional Capacity. Looking at early childhood student artwork provides educators insights into how children express their knowledge. In one study of Reggio Emilia early childhood educational practices, researchers found that pre-service teachers learned to recognize art as both a process and product and became more aware of how art is a reflection of how students think (Ede & Da Ros-Voseles, 2010). The teachers also learned that using the arts with early childhood students provides opportunities for open-ended and divergent learning that mines students? knowledge. Another study found that the arts provide teachers with a vehicle to have special needs students express themselves and make choices about their learning, opportunities often lacking from the early childhood curriculum for special needs students (Mason et al., 2008). Research also finds that when the arts are integrated across the curriculum in the context of whole school reform, teachers? teaching becomes more dynamic. In a study of the Oklahoma A+ schools, for example, teachers were more inventive in their curriculum, took risks, and were more focused about their practice (Barry, 2010).
  • Professional Learning. Teacher training and professional development in the arts and arts-integrated instruction help teachers develop capacities needed to provide arts-integrated instruction to their students. One study, (Tselfes & Paroussi, 2009), found that when pre-service candidates participated in in-depth arts activities they gained an appreciation of the value of arts in the early childhood curriculum and a keener sense of how to bring the art forms they learned into their classrooms. When they experienced arts-integrated instruction in science and theater integration, their knowledge of both the art form and science discipline were strengthened (Tselfes & Paroussi, 2009).