Why Should Children Study the Arts?

Why Should Children Study the Arts?

Psychology June 28, 2013 / By Thalia Goldstein
Why Should Children Study the Arts?

Does learning in the arts transfer to non-arts skills? "Arts for Art's Sake" explores when and when not!

Why should children study the arts? 
When and how should the arts be taught in schools? Are the arts only an important topic of study as they are related to math, IQ, reading, and test scores?

In a new book published through OECD, Ellen Winner, Stephan Vincent-Lancrin and I review the empirical evidence on the impact of arts education on cognitive and social skills. Arts education is often defended in schools as a way to boost academic performance, academic motivation, and creativity, rather than as valuable in its own right. The question we reviewed is whether or not arts education actually leads to these kinds of transfer. 

In this review of the existing literature in Dutch, English, Finnish, French, German, Italian, Japanese, Korean, Portuguese, Spanish and Swedish, we focus on well-conducted, scientific studies of arts: both integrated into the curricula and as afterschool programs. We look to cognitive, social, creative, emotional and brain-based outcomes as a result of visual arts, theatre, dance, music and creative writing classes.  A comprehensive and thorough look at the evidence and reasons why art is important for its own unique benefits as well as possible transfer effects to other areas, this book will be of interest to artists, educators, policy makers and academics. 

We find that multi-arts classes do not show a significant causal impact on education outcomes, but that music education strengthens IQ (intelligence quotient), academic performance, word decoding and phonological skills; We find that theatre education (in the form of enacting stories) strengthens verbal skills and social skills and that dance improves visual-spatial skills.  Importantly, even with these findings, more experimental, longitudinal, well-controlled studies are needed. 

However, we argue firmly that arts education should not need to be justified in terms of its effect on non-arts skills. The arts are important in their own right, for all students to learn, which is why we called our book Art for Art’s Sake. 

For more information, please:
Read the book on line, download the English or German overview, or order a copy for more findings about creativityempathyperspective taking and about the impact of visual arts and dance education. Comment on our blog and related posts and podcasts.


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