Educational Research and Innovation

Centre for Educational Research and Innovation

ISSN :
2076-9679 (online)
ISSN :
2076-9660 (print)
DOI :
10.1787/20769679
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This series of books from the OECD's Centre for Educational Research and Innovations provides the results of OECD work on innovation in education.

Also available in: French
 
Art for Art's Sake?

Art for Art's Sake?

The Impact of Arts Education You do not have access to this content

Centre for Educational Research and Innovation

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Author(s):
Ellen Winner, Thalia R. Goldstein, Stéphan Vincent-Lancrin
Publication Date :
14 June 2013
Pages :
268
ISBN :
9789264180789 (PDF) ; 9789264180772 (print)
DOI :
10.1787/9789264180789-en

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Arts education is often said to be a means of developing critical and creative thinking. Arts education has also been argued to enhance performance in non-arts academic subjects such as mathematics, science, reading and writing, and to strengthen students’ academic motivation, self-confidence, and ability to communicate and co-operate effectively. Arts education thus seems to have a positive impact on the three subsets of skills that we define as "skills for innovation": subject-based skills, including in non-arts subjects; skills in thinking and creativity; and behavioural and social skills.

This report examines the state of empirical knowledge about the impact of arts education on these kinds of outcomes. The kinds of arts education examined include arts classes in school (classes in music, visual arts, theatre, and dance), arts-integrated classes (where the arts are taught as a support for an academic subject), and arts study undertaken outside of school (e.g. private music lessons; out-of-school classes in theatre, visual arts, and dance). The report does not deal with education about the arts or cultural education, which may be included in all kinds of subjects.

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    Foreword

    As skills become the global currency of the 21st century, education systems should equip students with the skills required by our global, knowledge-based economies. In particular, education has to foster the skills that fuel innovation in the economy and society: creativity, imagination, communication and teamwork to name a few. Arts education is particularly likely to foster these very skills. Some have argued that training in the arts also leads to better foundational skills such as reading or mathematics.

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    Acknowledgements

    This book was co-authored by Ellen Winner (Department of Psychology, Boston College), Thalia R. Goldstein (Department of Psychology, Pace University) and Stéphan Vincent-Lancrin (Directorate for Education and Skills, OECD). It is an output of the Centre for Educational Research and Innovation (CERI) project titled "Innovation Strategy for Education and Trainning" led by Stéphan Vincent-Lancrin.

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    Executive summary

    Artists, alongside scientists and entrepreneurs, are role models for innovation in our societies. Not surprisingly, arts education is commonly said to be a means of developing skills considered as critical for innovation: critical and creative thinking, motivation, self-confidence, and ability to communicate and cooperate effectively, but also skills in non-arts academic subjects such as mathematics, science, reading and writing. Does arts education really have a positive impact on the three subsets of skills that we define as "skills for innovation": technical skills, skills in thinking and creativity, and character (behavioural and social skills)?

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    The impact of arts education

    This chapter sets the context, the research questions and the methodology of the book. We show that policy makers put renewed emphasis on skills for innovation and mobilise arts education as part of this policy agenda. Similarly, arts education advocates sometimes find that arts education is endangered and claim strong impacts of arts education on non-arts skills. The purpose of the book is to show which of these claims are supported by strong research evidence. We present the scope of our report, discuss the concept of transfer, and summarise the goals and methods of the report. We then preview our conclusions.

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    Cognitive outcomes of multi-arts education

    This chapter reviews evidence that multi-arts education is positively associated with some form of non-arts cognition. Studies on "multi-arts" education did not examine the effects of specific art forms, but compared students receiving a wide variety of kinds of arts classes (e.g. visual, music, etc.) to those receiving few or no arts classes. We show that these studies find a positive correlation of multi-arts education and general academic achievement, but that there is no evidence yet to claim that multi-arts education causes this improved academic achievement.

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    Cognitive outcomes of music education

    This chapter reviews the research on the effects of music learning on cognitive outcomes: general academic achievement, intelligence quotient (IQ), reading and phonological awareness, non-native language learning, mathematics, visual-spatial skills, attention, and memory. Research shows that music lessons improve children’s academic performance, IQ, phonological awareness, and word decoding. We can understand the relationship between music training and phonological awareness since both involve listening skills. Since phonological awareness is related to word decoding, we can also understand why music training might facilitate word decoding skills in young children. But how can we understand the effect of music lessons on IQ and academic performance? We propose the most plausible explanations in the chapter.

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    Cognitive outcomes of visual arts education

    This chapter discusses the habits of mind that are potentially trained in strong visual arts classes, and then reviews the research on the effects of visual arts learning on cognitive outcomes: general academic achievement, reading, geometric/spatial reasoning, and observational skills. The one area where transfer has been shown – and only from one study – relates to visual observation skills, and this is one of the habits of mind that visual arts teachers often emphasise. The other area which we believe is promising is the relationship between visual arts education and geometry – since spatial reasoning is used in both visual arts and geometry. Thus far, though, only correlational links have been found, even if one ongoing study is now examining the effects of visual arts on geometry with a quasi-experimental design.

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    Cognitive outcomes of theatre education

    This chapter reviews the research on the effects of theatre education on cognitive outcomes: general academic achievement and verbal skills. There is clear causal evidence that training in classroom drama improves a wide range of verbal abilities, including reading and story comprehension.

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    Cognitive outcomes of dance education

    This chapter reviews the research on the effects of dance education on cognitive outcomes: general academic achievement, reading, and visualspatial skills. There is a small amount of evidence that dance education enhances visual-spatial skills. But research has yet to examine whether these spatial strengths allow dancers to perform better than nondancers in academic areas in which spatial reasoning is important, such as geometry or physics.

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    Creativity outcomes of arts education

    In this chapter we review the effects of arts education on creativity, examining separately the effects of multi-arts education as well as music, visual arts, theatre, and dance. Despite the common assumption that arts education teaches creativity, we found little evidence for this hypothesis in the area of multi-arts and visual arts education. We did, however, find some support for this hypothesis in the area of theatre and dance. We suggest that the lack of support for this hypothesis may be due to the limited way in which creativity is measured, to the small number of studies, and to the fact that not all arts teaching pushes students to think creatively.

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    Motivational outcomes of arts education

    In this chapter we review the effects of arts education on academic motivation. The notion that arts education strengthens students’ academic motivation is a common assumption. We review studies showing that when students are in arts classes they show high motivation, and showing that students who study the arts tend to have higher academic aspirations than those who do not. However, these are correlational findings and we cannot conclude from these that the arts training causes academic aspirations to rise. It is equally possible that students with high aspirations choose to study the arts. Experimental research on this question is needed.

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    Social skills outcomes of arts education

    In this chapter we review the evidence for the impact of multi-arts education and education in specific art forms on social skills: self-concept and general self-esteem, social behaviour, empathy for others, emotion regulation, and perspective taking (understanding of others). The only evidence thus far that arts education improves some form of social behaviour/social understanding comes from the domain of theatre. There is some quasi-experimental evidence that theatre education improves empathy, perspective taking, and emotion regulation. We can explain such findings by pointing to the fact that theatre education asks children to step into the shoes of others, feel their feelings, and understand their mental states. In addition, theatre education teaches children to express emotions. More research is needed before we can draw firm conclusions about the power of theatre to affect these very important kinds of social skills.

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    Brain outcomes of arts education

    In this chapter we discuss how a growing body of neuroscientific research explores the links between arts education and brain outcomes. We give a few examples of the types of research carried out but argue that brain stimulation or changes are not a good outcome per se, which is why we have decided to present the findings of this important research body in the other chapters, according to outcomes that we consider as more meaningful.

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    Why arts education? Summary and conclusions

    In this concluding chapter, we summarise the methodology and main findings of the report, propose an agenda for future research and explore some policy implications of our findings. The first section sets the policy context and gives a brief overview of the skills needed in innovation-driven societies. The second section presents the main findings of our review of the impact of arts education. The third section suggests an agenda for future research on arts education. And the final section argues that the main contribution of arts education to innovation societies lies in its development of broad habits of mind. We conclude by arguing that the value of the arts for human experience is a sufficient reason to justify its presence in school curricula.

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