Continuing my effort to study how cultural experiences affect students, I am conducting an experiment in which school groups can win free tickets to see live theater performances. Since I expect that there will be more demand for these free tickets than supply, the school groups will be awarded the tickets by lottery — allowing for a rigorous random-assignment analysis that compares outcomes for students whose groups won the tickets by lottery to those who did not. The purpose of this experiment is to learn about how seeing live performances with their school may affect student understanding of great works of dramatic literature as well as influence their values (particularly tolerance and empathy) and their taste for future cultural consumption (e.g., going to the theater in the future, going to art museums, participating in theater, choir, etc…)
The project was announced yesterday in conjunction with TheatreSquared, a nationally recognized theater company based in Fayetteville, Arkansas. TheatreSquared will be adding 8 weekday matinees of its performances this season of A Christmas Carol and Hamlet, allowing almost 1,400 students to see these plays on school field trips. To apply for these free tickets, school groups can complete. My students and I will study the impact of these performances on students.
This theater experiment follows on a study my colleagues, Brian Kisida and Dan Bowen, and I conducted on the effects of field trips to the Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art. We similarly conducted lotteries to determine which school groups could visit the museum and studies how the experience affected students. It also follows a natural experiment we examined in which students affected by the redrawing of school attendance zone boundaries were essentially randomly assigned to schools that went on more or fewer field trips to see live performances at the Walton Arts Center. The results of those experiments will be published by Education Next on September 16.
-Jay P. Greene