School Day - Middle School

List of Studies

Academic Outcomes

  • Attendance. Research suggests a positive relationship between middle school students? involvement in arts study and better attendance rates. One study, for instance, found that students who received drama-integrated language arts curricula were absent fewer days than students in comparison groups (Walker et al., 2011). Similarly, in a study of an arts-integrated school reform initiative, teachers and administrators reported better attendance for students and teachers as one of the benefits of integrating the arts throughout the curriculum (Barry, 2010).
  • Literacy and Language Development. A significant body of research demonstrates that art integration?and drama integration in particular?is positively associated with growth and achievement in literacy and language development, especially related to English language arts, writing, spelling, and vocabulary. One study, for example, found that participation in a drama-integrated language arts program increased the likelihood a student would pass the state assessment for language arts by 77 percent (Walker et al., 2011). Other studies found that when drama was integrated with writing and reading exercises, students? writing was more focused and effective (Cremin et al., 2006) and they nearly doubled the vocabulary acquisition of their peers (Keehn et al., 2008).
    • Reading Comprehension. Studies suggest middle school students involved in arts integration are better readers. For example, in one study, when reading and drama were integrated, students outperformed a control group in their ability to read text accurately, quickly, and with expression (Keehn et al., 2008). In another study, students took a more active role in reading and began to interpret text when reading exercises included visual arts components, which allowed readers to see and picture what they understood as they read (Wilhelm, 1995).
  • Mathematics Achievement. Research suggests that arts education is positively related to learning in mathematics in middle school. One study in particular, found that music training is effective at predicting mathematics performance (Wetter et al., 2009). Additionally, another study found students to be 42 percent more likely to pass state assessments in mathematics after participating in a drama-integration program (Walker et al., 2011). Another study found visual arts, dance, and music students to be better at geometry tasks than students studying other art forms (Spelke, 2008).
  • Overall Academic Achievement. Research studies find a significant positive relationship between arts study and middle school students? overall academic achievement, including higher grades. One study found the relationship between arts study and academic achievement to be strong even for low socio-economic students (Catterall et al., 1999). Studies of whole school reform initiatives in which middle 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. For example, in one study, English language learning (ELL) students? comfort and proficiency in speaking English and their vocabulary grew through discussion and dialogue of their artwork. These essential communications skills helped the ELL students advance in all areas of school (Craig & Paraiso, 2008).

Cognitive Outcomes

  • Creative Thinking. A growing body of research suggests that participation in visual and performing arts develop creative thinking skills. Specifically, arts learning was found in several experimental design studies to relate to higher achievement in figural creativity, or creativity with pictures and images (Moga et al., 2000; Burton et al., 2000). Additionally, when creativity was deliberately included in dance curricula, students scored higher on the creative skills assessment than students who took regular dance classes, suggesting that the quality of arts learning is an important factor in the development of creative skills (Kim, 1998).
  • Critical Thinking. Discrete and integrated arts instruction in middle school is associated with increases in critical thinking skills that are essential to the ability to apply knowledge and visualize solutions. In one study that examined the benefits of whole-school arts-integration, teachers reported that students improved in their ability to think critically about classroom material (Corbett et al., 2001).
  • Problem Solving and Reasoning. Studies find that arts-integration, and music and visual arts are associated with the development of abstract reasoning and problem solving skills. For example, in one study, students? expressive use of language in a drama-integrated program helped them to develop abstract thinking skills (Schaffner et al., 1984). Furthermore, listening to music was found to enhance students? ability to visualize and mentally manipulate patterns, a skill necessary for solving multi-step problems (Hetland, 2000).

Personal Outcomes

  • Engagement and Persistence. Research suggests that students who participate in arts learning at the middle school level demonstrate higher levels of engagement and persistence. For instance, students in arts-integrated classes improved their ability to turn perceived barriers into opportunities and were more motivated to continue learning than students in traditional learning environments (DeMoss & Morris, 2002). In a similar arts-integration study, students who were typically less likely to participate in class were found to be more likely to participate in arts-integrated classes (Ingram & Meath, 2007). Educator studies find that teaching through the arts pushes and enables teachers to try new things resulting in increased excitement about and joy in teaching. They also find that as a result of integrating the arts into their classrooms, teachers experience rejuvenation and a deeper commitment to teaching. In several studies, for example, teachers who taught at arts-rich schools expressed increased happiness and satisfaction derived from their use of arts integration in their classrooms (Barry, 2010; Burton et al., 2000; Cote, 2009; Stevenson & Deasy, 2005; Upitis et al., 1999). In another study teachers reported that arts integration revitalized them and renewed their commitment to their teaching when they were on the verge of burnout (Bellisario & Donovan, 2012). One study documented decreases in teachers? absenteeism (Barry, 2010).
  • Risk-Taking. At arts-rich schools where teachers have more flexibility and support to use the arts in their classrooms, they are able to take risks, try new things, and be reflective about their practice. In some cases teachers pursued their own art, taking risks by sharing their work with their class, a move that inspired students to pursue their own art (Burton et al., 2000; Upitis et al., 1999).
  • Self-Awareness, Self-Concept, and Self-Expression. Teachers who participate in long-term arts-based professional development and use of the arts discovered qualities and capabilities about themselves which over time led to their ability to make personal connections to prior experiences through art, in some cases to pursue their own art forms and helped them to develop new ways of seeing (Upitis et al., 1999). In another study, through arts-based professional development, teachers discovered unknown artistic capacities, developed the ability to see social issues from multiple perspectives and became inspired to reinvent themselves as teachers (Bellisario & Donovan, 2012).
  • Self-Efficacy and Self-Confidence. Arts study during the middle school years develops in students a belief in their own ability to succeed at tasks without assistance, and develops a sense of self-confidence. In one study in particular, ELL students experienced an increased sense of accomplishment and self-confidence that translated to success in other content areas after unstructured art periods were included in their classroom settings (Craig & Paraiso, 2008). Studies also find that middle school teachers who experience long-term arts-based professional development have increased self-efficacy. In one study, for example, teachers noted that their perceived lack of self-efficacy in the arts inhibits their use and frequency of arts integration in the classroom, and the researcher found that repeated, long-term exposure to arts in professional learning built their self-efficacy and self-confidence, leading to increased use of the arts in their classrooms (Oreck, 2004).

Social and Civic Outcomes

  • Arts Participation. Research suggests that middle school students who participate in arts education are more likely to support and engage with the arts later in life. A study comparing arts education and arts participation (attending an arts performance or activity) found that students who took two or more forms of art education were three times more likely to participate in the arts than their peers without any arts education, and were more likely to personally create or perform art later in life (Rabkin & Hedberg, 2010).
  • Cross-Cultural Understanding. Studies find that participation in arts education, particularly drama and performing arts, encourages and develops cross-cultural understanding among students. For example, middle school girls who participated in a drama program gained skills that helped them consider other perspectives and develop respect for those that differed from their own (Holloway & LeCompte, 2001). In another study that examined the impact of attending arts performances, teachers reported noticing a stronger sense of harmony and cultural understanding among students (Schiller, 2005).
  • Community and Civic Engagement. Research finds students who participate in arts education develop habits and competencies of active, independent citizens. One study found, for example, middle school students who participated in an arts-integrated community service project developed a greater understanding of the issues in their community and their power to contribute to creative solutions as artist, designers, and architects (Krensky, 2001).

Professional Outcomes

  • Assessment. The arts provide middle school teachers forms of authentic assessment (performance assessments, portfolios, and other assessments that directly measure demonstration of knowledge and skills) to assess students? understanding. In one study, drama was a particularly effective form of authentic assessment at the middle school level (Morris, 2001).
  • Increased Instructional Capacity. The arts provide avenues for increasing teaching effectiveness with the potential to reach all learners. The arts provide opportunities for teachers to be innovative in their instructional approaches and allow them to make new connections about their students? learning styles. In several studies, teachers developed an awareness of student diversity and the need for improved motivation that enjoyable experiences in the arts can provide middle school students (Barry, 2010; Burton et al., 2000; Nelson, 2001; Oreck, 2004; Upitis et al., 1999). Teachers from another study developed an understanding that the arts provide multiple points of access for special needs students, giving them opportunities to express themselves (Mason et al., 2008). At arts-rich schools where the arts are integrated across the curriculum as a tool for school reform, studies find that the arts provide opportunities for teachers to innovate, experiment, and make their teaching more dynamic (Adkins & McKinney, 2001; Corbett et al., 2001; Cote, 2009; Stevenson & Deasy, 2005).
  • Professional Collaboration. Studies find that teachers who collaborate with peers and artists develop increased satisfaction and contentment in their teaching. Studies also find that partnerships between teachers and arts specialists and teaching artists, result in enhanced arts integrated instruction. In studies of arts-rich schools where the arts are integrated across the curriculum as a tool for school reform, for example, researchers found that teachers developed connections with peers in their schools and districts and with local arts and cultural organizations that led to increased collaboration in the delivery of arts education and more effective arts integrated instruction in classrooms. Studies also find that school-wide arts integration can lead to increased leadership roles for arts specialists.
  • Professional Learning. Studies find that through arts-based professional development and partnerships with arts specialists and teaching artists, in-service middle school teachers gain skills, knowledge, and confidence in the arts, and enhance their instructional capacities both in the arts and in other disciplines they teach. In one study, teachers who experienced arts-based professional development felt a sense of community that empowered their learning and acquired new perspectives on teaching, exploring new media, making connections to prior experiences, and increasing their willingness to take risks (Upitis et al., 1999). Teaching artists who collaborate with teachers to implement arts integrated instruction, experience positive impacts on their own artwork. In one study, their participation in arts integrated instruction not only strengthened their individual studio practice, but also changed their beliefs about the benefits of arts for students and broadened their perceptions of the issues teachers face in their work (Upitis, 2005).