Impact: The arts increase student participation and engagement in school.

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  • Date :  Feb 20, 2013
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Impact and Value

Impact and Value
Student Motivation and Engagement

In her 1998 study, Stanford researcher Shirley Brice-Heath was surprised to find that those students who were involved in arts education for at least nine hours per week were four times more likely to have high academic achievement and three times more likely to have high attendance at school. This impact of the arts on student participation and engagement is the focus of this discussion.

Research has consistently shown that participation in the arts brings intrinsic benefits such as increased self-confidence as well as heightened levels of enjoyment and creativity. Furthermore, students from low-income families who take part in arts activities at school 'tend to perform more like average higher-income students'.  The motivation for all these students to apply themselves to other non-arts learning tasks is the direct result of an appreciation gained through the experience of effort and persistence for success within arts related tasks (Israel, 2009).

The report Reinvesting in Arts Education by the  U.S. Presidents Committee on the Arts and the Humanities acknowledges a cluster of benefits from arts learning in schools to the development of life skills. For example, there is a better understanding of the consequences of one's behaviour as a result of improved empathy; an increased ability to work in teams; a greater ability to accept constructive peer critique; and adoption of pro-social behaviours. This supports the US Department of Justice's study reporting participation in arts programs leads to decreased delinquency and drug use, increased self esteem and more positive interaction with peers and adults.

There appears to be a pay off for teachers also working within an arts integrated curriculum. The Montgomery County Evaluation (Real Visions, 2007) observed that almost all (79%) teachers agreed they had 'totally changed their teaching' and 94% stated that they had gained 'additional ways of teaching critical thinking skills'. The benefits for students experiencing an arts integrated curriculum are evidenced in better attendance records, fewer discipline problems, increased graduation rates and improved test scores. Arts curricula also were motivating students who were otherwise hard to reach, whilst still providing challenges for more academically successful students (Fiske, 1999).

This support material on this page details the benefits of arts education on student engagement and includes the research evidence for these claims.

This project is funded by the Australian Government Department of Education, Employment and Workplace Relations.