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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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Social skills outcomes of arts education

Centre for Educational Research and Innovation

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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