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Art for Art's Sake?

The Impact of Arts Education

image of Art for Art's Sake?

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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Motivational outcomes of arts education

Centre for Educational Research and Innovation

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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