New Studies Show Benefits of Arts-Focused Field Trips



By 03/18/2019

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Last week was a busy week, with the publication of an op-ed by me and Rick Hess in the Wall Street Journal and a study in Education Next documenting the monolithic partisan composition of education reform advocates and those who conduct research on those efforts. One might think that folks committed to evidence-based decision-making would be very interested in facts about their field, but their social media response has generally been counterproductive and fact-free. Those responses have focused on how they are not to blame, how Republicans are icky anyway, and how many of their best friends are Republicans. I’m not bothering to link to those responses because there really is no point. If folks are happy with a uniformly Democratic movement, then they are welcome to keep it… as long as someone continues to be willing to pay for this party. Given the groupthink and political ineffectiveness that is likely to result from this lack of heterodoxy, I can only wonder why and for how long funders will subsidize it.

Lost in the shuffle of that busy week, some graduate students and I released two new studies of the medium-term effects of students receiving multiple arts-focused field trips to the Woodruff Arts Center in Atlanta. We randomly assigned school groups to a treatment that involved three field trips per year to visit an art museum, see live theater, and listen to the symphony, or to a control condition. Among the treated students, some received 3 experiences over 1 year and some received 6 experiences over 2 years.

We split the analyses into two separate reports. The first, led by Heidi Holmes Erickson, found that these arts-focused field trips improved school engagement, as measured by disciplinary infractions and survey responses, as well as increased standardized test scores in math and reading. These benefits persisted even one year after treatment ended for the first cohort in the study.

The second study, led by Angela Watson, examined social-emotional outcomes. It found that exposure to multiple arts-focused field trips increased social perspective taking and tolerance. It also found evidence of an improvement among treated female students in their conscientiousness, as measured by survey effort.

Heidi and Angela will be presenting these results at the Association for Education Finance and Policy conference this week. Please attend their sessions to learn more about this research and to provide suggestions for improving their papers. And if folks at AEFP are also interested in engaging in a productive discussion of how to improve the intellectual and ideological diversity of the organization, that would also be wonderful.

Jay P. Greene is endowed chair and head of the Department of Education Reform at the University of Arkansas.

This post originally appeared on his blog.




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