Impact and Value
Improved Student Achievement
Research undertaken internationally and nationally now unequivocally identifies the benefits that arts education has to learning and student achievement generally. The outcomes of this research have provided the grounds upon which leading Australian educators and the Australian Government has ensured an arts education entitlement for all students in years F–10.
Until fairly recently, arguments for improving learning outcomes through the arts were in the domain of intrinsic benefits such as stimulating and refining feelings, engaging the imagination, self-discovery and improved capacities for self-expression. While these arguments are not to be denied, they have often been proposed in somewhat flabby ways, frequently supported by anecdotal evidence and tales from the classroom. As a result, the priority of the arts class was too often seen as an expressive space only, a moment of relief from the hard subjects, and a place where the less able (as judged by traditional ‘intelligence’ testing methods) could feel more capable and experience a measure of success.
Now the impact of the arts on student achievement, drawn from extensive empirical studies and quantifiable evidence, supports the contention that all of the established art forms – dance, drama, media arts, music and visual arts – improve the grades of those students with access to quality arts experiences (Fiske, 1999). Studies have concluded:
nourishing students' creative skills does have a positive impact on learning outcomes (Burton, Horowitz and Abeles, 1999)
higher order thinking skills and cognition are increased as a result of arts learning (Deasy, 2002)
fostering students' capacity to connect with the world and each other is greatly improved for those with arts learning opportunities (Fiske, 1999).
After sampling data from 25,000 students across the USA, Catterall, Chapleau and Iwanaga (1999) found that students with high levels of arts learning experiences earned higher grades and scored better on standardised test measures than those with little or no arts involvement, regardless of their socioeconomic background.
As we move from a service economy to a knowledge and information based economy, there are increasingly loud calls for arts education to develop the creative thinking skills which are fundamental to build healthier communities and better understandings and tolerances for a more complex global future.