Why the arts matter in education or just what do children learn when they create an opera

Wolf, D. P. (1999) Why the arts matter in education or just what do children learn when they create an opera. In E. Fiske (Ed.), Champions of change: The impact of the arts on learning (pp. 91-98). Washington, DC: The Arts Education Partnership and The President’s Committee on the Arts and the Humanities.

Abstract:

This study examines how the Creating Original Opera (COO) program affected student collaboration. In the program, elementary students form a company to write and produce an opera. Researchers used qualitative methods to compare the cooperation of students in the program while engaged in group work related to opera (opera setting) to when students were doing other group work not related to opera (alternative setting). Findings indicate that students in the opera setting participate in more meaningful ways in group interactions than students in the alternative settings. When the researcher compared student collaboration across three time periods, student collaboration increased with time.

Key Findings:

Findings suggested that students in the opera setting participated in more meaningful ways in group interactions than students in the alternative settings. When the researcher compared student collaboration across three time periods, student collaboration increased with time.

Significance of the Findings:

The study describes the effects of the opera program on student collaboration and why the effects occurred. Findings indicate that students may benefit from collaboration on an arts-related project. Educators may wish to use the arts as a way to build collaboration and cooperation skills among students.

Methodology:

To investigate what is learned in an opera company, researchers focused on four classrooms where the COO program was fully implemented. Evaluators assessed the level of student collaboration while engaged in group work related to opera as well as engaged in group work not related to opera. Evaluators used qualitative data sources such as classroom observations, teacher and student interviews, student ethnographies, activity logs, and student work.

Limitations of the Research:

The researcher did not provide a description of the students or the school(s) involved in the study. The lack of description brings into question the possible generaliziblity of the results. The author also did not provide many reasons to link collaboration to other student outcomes.

Questions to Guide New Research:

Does involvement in other art forms also contribute to greater student collaboration? Why/how is student collaboration important to other student outcomes? Would the findings be replicated in a study with an experimental design?