What the Research Shows
Critical Links are available at
Learning in the Arts and Student Academic and Social Development
finds that the arts provide critical links for students to develop crucial thinking skills and motivations they need to achieve at higher levels.
The research studies further suggest that for certain populations—students from economically disadvantaged circumstances, students needing remedial instruction and young children—the effects of learning in the arts may be especially robust in boosting learning and achievement. “I urge education leaders throughout the country to read this compendium and pay close attention to its findings,” said G. Thomas Houlihan, Executive Director of the Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO), the association of leaders of state departments of education.
Reading and Language Development
Basic Reading Skills: Certain forms of arts instruction enhance and complement basic reading instruction by helping children “break the phonetic code” that unlocks written language through the association of letters, words and phrases with sounds, sentences and meanings.
Literacy: Young children who engage in music and dramatic enactments of stories and text improve their reading comprehension, story understanding and ability to read new materials they have not seen before. The effects are even more significant for children from economically disadvantaged circumstances and those with reading difficulties in the early and middle grades.
Writing: Spatial reasoning skills inherent in learning music are needed for planning and producing writings. In addition, dramatic enactments by young children are shown to produce more effective writing. Learning experiences in dance also lead to the development of expressive and reflective skills that enhance writing proficiency.
Certain music instruction, including comprehensive instruction that includes training in instrumental music or keyboard skills, has been shown to develop spatial reasoning and spatial-temporal reasoning skills, which are fundamental to understanding and using mathematical ideas and concepts.
Motivation to Learn
Motivation and the attitudes and dispositions to pursue and sustain learning are essential to achievement. Learning in the arts nurtures these capacities—active engagement, disciplined and sustained attention, persistence and risk- taking—and increases attendance and education aspirations.
Effective Social Behavior
Studies of student learning experiences in drama, music, dance and multi-arts activities show student growth in self- confidence, self-control, self-identity, conflict resolution, collaboration, empathy and social tolerance.