Walton, C.W. “It Just Made Me Want to Do Better for Myself”: Performing Arts Education and Academic Performance for African American Male High School Students.” International Journal of Education & the Arts, V. 21 No. 13 (2020): 1-42.


The abstract for this article, as well as the complete article, is available on the International Journal of Education & the Arts website.

Supports for the Findings:

This study used an interpretive case study method to examine the relationship between performing arts education, school performance, academic self-concept and potential effects of race on school experiences. These constructs were linked to the African American Male Academic Identity (AAMAID) Framework, developed by the researcher, that combines elements from academic self-concept theory and critical race theory. The researcher used purposive criterion sampling to identify five African American male students who had graduated from the same performing arts high school, four of whom had gone on to college; and conducted two rounds of in-depth, semi-structured interviews with the subjects. Through constant-comparative analysis of interview transcripts, data was triangulated, and three themes were identified: 1) students experienced a positive school climate, 2) performing arts education had a positive impact on academic achievement, and 3) for African American males, arts-based performance contributed to a positive racial identity.

Implications of the Findings:

This article includes an extensive literature review that provides background and identifies the need for studies such as the one described; few have examined connections between school-based arts engagement and academic identity development in African American males. The case study approach allows an intimate understanding of the ways in which African American male students’ arts-based experiences in a standards-driven school contributed to their artistic and academic self-concept and achievement, as well as their development of a positive racial identity. The framework used, which links academic self-concept and racial identity and experience, shows essential elements that apply across contexts. This study can serve as a guide for future studies, both qualitative and quantitative, that can identify connections between performing arts engagement, cognitive development and academic achievement for African American male youths in pre-kindergarten through 12th grade.

Limitations of the Findings:

This study was a small, qualitative study with five subjects who all attended one high school, which limits the study’s generalizability. Future research building on this across age levels would be beneficial in further exploring these connections. Understanding how this study’s framework and findings apply in arts-based learning experiences in other settings and levels of schooling could be very useful to the field’s understanding of the role of arts-based learning for African American male youths more broadly.


*This article is part of an expedited review cycle that AEP conducted in the spring of 2021. Members of the ArtsEdSearch Review Panel provided the content (edited by AEP staff) in this summary.