School Day - Elementary School

List of Studies

Academic Outcomes

  • Literacy and Language Development. A significant body of research demonstrates a positive relationship between arts education and literacy and language development at the elementary level, particularly drama. Many studies find that students participating in drama and/or drama integration programs develop sophisticated expressive language abilities. For example, one study found that students were more confident in speaking and using complex language after participating in a drama program (Brouillette & Jennings, 2010). In another, drawing helped students to be more precise and to express their ideas as metaphorical stories (Heath & Wolf, 2005).
    • Reading Comprehension. Participation in arts education, especially drama-integrated instruction, improves students? reading comprehension levels. Some studies find, for example, that elementary students who participated in drama-based reading programs improved their reading ability at a faster rate than students in general reading instruction programs (Ingram & Meath, 2007; Ingram & Reidel, 2003). In other studies, the deeper exploration of the meaning of words experienced by students in dance and theater-based reading programs contributes to gains in overall reading comprehension (Brouillette, 2010; McMahon et al., 2003).
    • Writing Skills. Studies find that drama-integrated writing instruction helps students develop their writing skills, including developing better focus in their writing, making better use of details, navigating meaning from multiple perspectives more effectively, and writing more persuasive arguments.
  • Mathematics Achievement. Research identifies a relationship between arts learning, particularly in music, and mathematics achievement at the elementary school level. For example, studies find that students receiving arts-integrated mathematics instruction or participating in music instruction outperform control group students in mathematic computation, application, comprehension (Smithrim & Upitis, 2005), and estimation skills (Spelke, 2008). One study found that the degree of impact increased over time, suggesting that sustained participation in arts-integrated instruction has a greater positive impact on mathematics achievement (Smithrim & Upitis, 2005).
  • Overall Academic Achievement. Research suggests a positive relationship between arts learning and overall academic achievement, including gains in intelligence (IQ), grades, and performance on standardized tests. For example, elementary students in schools with art, music, and physical education taught by specialists do better on state standardized tests than their peers (Wilkins et al., 2003). Studies of whole school reform initiatives in which elementary schools bring the arts centrally into the curriculum as a strategy for school improvement, find that such initiatives have either a positive effect on student performance on standardized tests of mathematics and English language arts (Corbett et al., 2001; Barry, 2010) or no effect (Seaman, 1999). These studies suggest that increased instructional time spent on the arts may enhance but does not detract from student test scores in other subjects.
  • Underserved Students. Studies find that students from low socio-economic backgrounds, English language learners, and students with special needs?often underserved in public schools? realize particularly strong benefits through arts education. In particular, research finds that the communications skills of elementary English language learners (ELL) benefit to the greatest degree from arts-integrated instruction. Especially in elementary schools, where students may encounter English-only classrooms for the first time, studies find that arts education programs provide ELL students with an environment that supports risk-taking and helps students to practice and expand their English language skills (Brouillette & Jennings, 2010; Brouillette, 2010; Carger, 2004; Montgomerie & Ferguson, 1999; Spina, 2006).

Cognitive Outcomes

  • Creative Thinking. A growing body of research suggests in-school arts education develops and encourages elementary students? imagination and creativity. In one study, for example, tension in process drama storylines stimulated students? creativity and ability to apply artistic principles to create stories. Students identified the play, innovation, and freedom experienced in arts programming as integral in developing their imaginations (Lin, 2010).
  • Critical Thinking. Arts education helps elementary students develop critical thinking skills that are essential to a student?s ability to apply knowledge and visualize solutions. One study, for example found that elementary students who participated in a process drama program developed competencies necessary for critical thinking such as awareness and exploration of multiple and alternative viewpoints (Montgomerie & Ferguson, 1999).
  • Problem Solving and Reasoning. Research suggests a positive relationship between arts education and arts integration, and the development of abstract reasoning and problem solving skills. One study found, for example, that visual arts activities promoted problem-solving solving strategies with real-world application (Carger, 2004). Another study found that by looking at and discussing art, students increased in their ability to use evidential reasoning, and decreased in their use of circular reasoning (Tishman et al., 1999). Studies also find that elementary students participating in visual arts integrated programming are also more likely than their peers to be intentional in their decision-making and to approach problems with patience and persistence (Korn, 2010), and to view art as a process for problem solving (Korn, 2007).

Personal Outcomes

  • Engagement and Persistence. Studies find that experiences in both the visual and performing arts help students develop concentration, focus, and commitment to follow through with tasks. One study found that these habits of mind transferred to students? general studies classrooms, and helped students develop the stamina necessary to complete standardized testing (Heath & Wolf, 2005). Multiple studies found that students who did not usually participate in class participated more frequently in arts learning. Educators who teach in and through the arts have increased enthusiasm and experience a deeper commitment to their profession. Teachers find that integrating the arts into their classrooms pushes them to try new things resulting in an excitement about teaching. In one study, teachers on the verge of burnout found that arts integration revitalized their passion for teaching and recharged them personally and professionally (Bellisario & Donovan, 2012). Increased enthusiasm for teaching in one study translated to decreases in teacher absenteeism (Barry, 2010).
  • Self-Awareness. By engaging deeply in arts activities, teachers experience challenges, which in turn lead to self-discovery and shifts in their beliefs about their own capabilities. The arts, studies find, for example, allow teachers to become more self-reflective and discover their strengths and artistic and pedagogical potential (Patteson, 2002; Upitis et al., 1999). Research finds that the arts also allow teachers to uncover and consider their perspectives on complex social issues. In one study, for instance, teachers experienced dramatic arts that led to new insights about poverty and awareness of their own beliefs about poverty, which in turn transformed their views and impacted how they taught often-difficult related content (Gallagher & Service, 2010).
  • Self-Efficacy and Self-Confidence. Elementary students who participate in arts programs develop a belief in their own abilities to accomplish goals. One study found, for example, that students showed increased confidence and sense of self-worth after participating in drama (Luftig, 2000), and another found that more students who participated in a visual arts program made significant gains in self-efficacy as compared to a control group of students who did not participate in the arts program (Catterall & Peppler, 2007). Pre-service and in-service teachers who receive in-depth and long-term arts-based professional development and coursework, gain increased knowledge and skills which leads to shifts in their perceptions abut their abilities to integrate arts in their classrooms. This increased self-efficacy and self-confidence translates into more depth and frequency of arts education and integration in the classroom.
  • Leadership. At arts-rich schools, research suggests, arts specialists can discover new roles as leaders, creating enhanced arts opportunities for students. In one study, arts specialists became leaders in their schools when given opportunities to conduct arts-based professional development for their non-arts peers. Their peers recognized the contributions that the arts make to student learning, leading to increased collaboration and wider school awareness of the arts (Burnaford, 2009).
  • Motivation. Research suggests that elementary students are more motivated to learn when they are participating in arts and arts-integrated learning experiences. In one study, for example, students who received arts integration instruction reported a greater intrinsic motivation to acquire more knowledge (DeMoss & Morris, 2002).
  • Risk-Taking. At arts-rich schools, research finds, teachers employ dynamic approaches in their teaching by integrating the arts, taking risks with their curriculum, trying new things and becoming reflective of their practice. By taking risks themselves in their teaching they encourage their students to do the same, leading to innovative and effective learning. In one study, for example, teachers took risks by sharing their personal artwork with students, which encouraged students to more openly share and discuss their own work (Upitis et al., 1999). In another study, researchers found that arts integrated training and professional development required teachers to take risks, and that teachers reported that as a result of their own participation in arts integrated learning, they were better equipped to support students in taking the risks required in learning new material, both in the arts and in other subjects (Bellisario & Donovan, 2012).

Social and Civic Outcomes

  • Collaboration and Communication. Arts education at the elementary level is associated with increased capacity for collaboration and teamwork, positive interactions with peers and adults, and increased understanding of diverse cultures. Studies find that drama programs in particular help students empathize with various perspectives.
  • Positive Behavior. Research suggests arts education is associated with decreased behavioral and emotional problems in elementary students. For instance, a drama-based youth violence prevention program halted the progression of aggressive and violent behavior in participants, while control group students? aggressive behavior increased over time. Participants in the drama program also developed self-control and assertiveness and decreased in hyperactivity (Kisiel et al., 2006).

Professional Outcomes

  • Increased Instructional Capacity. In environments that are arts-rich, elementary teachers try new things, take risks, and learn from the process. This dynamic cycle leads to increased efficacy in their teaching. Elementary teachers who teach and integrate the arts in their classrooms also develop an increased awareness of differentiated instruction and use the arts to reach each student. In one study, the arts also provided an opportunity for teachers to assess teaching and learning in new ways through process documentation, the collection and assessment of curricular materials and student arts products (Burnaford, 2009). Another study found that art specialists who practice their own art are more equipped to model arts learning for their students. By wrestling with their own artistic problems, learning from mistakes, experiencing how they push and pull ideas, they gain a deeper understanding of the processes their students will go through. Teachers who are artists also understand the importance of play as part of the artistic process for elementary students as a means for children to discover their own ideas (Graham & Zwim, 2010).
  • Professional Collaboration. Elementary teachers and teaching artists who collaborate on arts-based activities in the classroom learn from each other. Teachers have pedagogical and curricular expertise and teaching artists bring arts knowledge and skills. Together, they provide inventive arts integrated instruction to support student learning. When they are receptive and reflective in this practice, they also learn from their students. Teachers who work with teaching artists in professional development, and who partner with teaching artists in their classrooms, increase their abilities to integrate art in their classrooms. In addition, in one study creative partnerships led to enhanced literacy skills in elementary students (Wolf, 2008).
  • Professional Learning. Research finds that in-service elementary teachers gain skills, knowledge, and confidence when they experience in-depth and long-term arts-based professional development. Such professional development, studies find, enhances teachers? instructional capacities and leads to more effective teaching. Arts-based training and professional development and learning through partnerships with arts specialists and teaching artists, research finds, also motivate and equip teachers to integrate the arts in their classrooms more frequently and in greater depth. In one study, for instance, when teachers participated in the creative process themselves in the course of their training and professional development, they were better able to provide similar experiences for their students (Bellisario & Donovan, 2012). Pre-service teachers, research also finds, gain knowledge, skills, and confidence when they are provided with a comprehensive arts methods course and opportunities to practice teaching in real-world classroom and community settings.