ASCD Whole Child Bloggers

Benefits of Arts Education Experiences

Post submitted by Janet Rubin. Rubin, with John Ceschini, facilitates the ASCD Arts in Education Professional Interest Community, which works to elevate the status of the arts as an important curriculum component. It provides a forum for educators to share ideas and activities for teaching the arts and fosters liaisons with other arts-in-education groups and curriculum specialists.

In the 21st century, young people will require an education that addresses the whole child. Today's learner will need to acquire critical thinking and creative competencies. The work place will demand skills in problem solving, innovation, adaptation, working collaboratively, demonstrating initiative, productivity, taking responsibility, and leadership. The complex world in which today's students will live requires that they communicate clearly, understand social and cultural contexts, and have the ability to be flexible in the face of challenges and changing circumstances. The arts give students opportunities to develop and refine these critical skills.

Research supports the benefits of arts education. The Dana Foundation, for example, has sponsored summits and posted research on its website that notes connections between arts training and learning, cognition, focus on task, memory, creative thinking, and general intelligence. Training in music, for example, correlates with the ability to differentiate and manipulate sounds—a predictor of reading fluency—and training in drama and theatre suggests better social skills, increased motivation, and improved memory. Another connection addresses equity, as socioeconomically disadvantaged students have benefited significantly from arts education experiences.

On the website and in publications of the Arts Education Partnership (AEP), resources and research further the case for the arts. AEP's mission centers on the essential role of the arts in students' success. In addition to the Dana Foundation and AEP, many other professional organizations, government agencies, foundations, and research institutes are sources for arts education support and advocacy. Anecdotal evidence also abounds, not the least of which are the heartfelt testimonials of students whose lives have been enriched through the arts.

The arts engage students in ways that other subjects may not, providing ways into learning that compliment learning styles and encourage creative risk taking. The arts are process-oriented, facilitate inquiry, and promote self-expression. Through the arts, children can see themselves as creators who value their own ideas and respect the ideas of others. This gateway to learning helps them to understand that there is not always a right answer to a question or that there may be multiples ways to address a problem. The arts allow them to learn both from their successes and from their mistakes. The positive results are tangible, both in terms of arts content learning and in the ability to understand and communicate meaning across disciplines. In addition, the arts can make positive social changes as they open doors to knowledge. Through arts experiences, students learn to value their own ideas and to respect the ideas of others. Their talents are nurtured as their potential is realized.

Ten Arts Education Benefits

  1. Improve academic performance
  2. Result in better attendance and lower dropout rates
  3. Level the playing field for students from disadvantaged socioeconomic backgrounds
  4. Build self-esteem
  5. Foster self-confidence and self-expression
  6. Improve academic and performance skills for children with learning disabilities
  7. Improve literacy skills
  8. Foster motivation
  9. Create empathy for and understanding of others
  10. Improve oral and written communication skills

In what other ways do arts education experiences benefit students in your school and community?

ASCD Professional Interest Communities are member-initiated groups designed to unite people around a common area of interest in the field of education. Flexible, fluid, and based on the needs of its participants, each professional interest community is operated independently and provides different resources to its members.

Comments (2)

John Abodeely

October 26, 2010

Great information! Thanks John and Janet. There’s good information online about local advocacy help too:

James Palmarini

October 26, 2010

Janet and John, This is great support piece for ASCD’s recent endorsement of the arts as part of a well-rounded curriculum. Thanks,

Jim Palmarini
Director of Policy
Educational Theatre Association

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