Students - Early Childhood

List of Studies

Academic Outcomes

  • Literacy and Language Development. A significant body of research demonstrates a positive relationship between arts education, particularly in drama, and young children’s literacy and language development. 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 (Podlozny, 2000). 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. One study shows how 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 (Williamson & Silvern, 1992). In addition to drama, another study shows phonological awareness through music perception skills also enhances reading acquisition (Anvari et al., 2002).
    • Reading Comprehension. Studies find that 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 One study shows 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 (Aram & Mor, 2009).
  • 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. Studies find that 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).
  • 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.