Study Shows Arts Field Trips Improve Test Scores and Social-Emotional Skills

While many arts advocates have stressed the importance of arts experiences outside the classroom, little data has been available on the subject. Until now.  

New research has found a link between arts field trips and higher levels of social-emotional skills, stronger school engagement, and higher standardized test scores. 

In a study conducted by the University of Arkansas' National Endowment for the Arts Research Lab with Atlanta's Woodruff Arts Center and Atlanta Public Schools, fourth and fifth graders (selected through a randomized process) received three field trips in a single year to each of the Woodruff's arts institutions: the Alliance Theatre, Atlanta Symphony Orchestra and the High Museum of Art. Some students received three additional arts field trips in the second year, for a total of six. A control group of students within the same schools and in adjacent grades did not receive the treatment arts field trips. 

In a first for arts field trip research, the authors were able to connect student survey responses with student performance indicators like attendance, disciplinary infractions, GPA, and standardized test scores. The results were noteworthy.

Students who were randomly selected to attend the field trips showed:

• Higher standardized test scores in math and English Language Arts than students in the control group

• Positive academic gains and more interest in school overall

• Significantly higher levels of social-perspective taking and higher levels of tolerance primarily through the survey item “I think people can have different opinions about the same thing”

• Female students who attended the field trips become more conscientiousness, those who attended six field trips in two years showed even higher levels of conscientiousness, showing a compounded effect

“Because social-emotional learning is currently such an important topic in education discussions, this evidence of important gains in social-emotional skill acquisition is particularly relevant and encouraging,” said Angela Watson, lead author on one of the working papers and a Distinguished Doctoral Fellow at the University of Arkansas. “We also found that students in the treatment group have more positive school engagement. They are less likely to agree that ‘school is boring’, and they have fewer disciplinary infractions in middle school than their control group peers. Equally exciting are the study results on academic outcomes. With the ever-present focus on increasing standardized test scores and strengthening student engagement, schools should consider the importance of field trips and arts experiences in a well-rounded education.”

Improved emotional intelligence AND test scores? Share this information far and wide! This is huge win for the field of arts education. 

More information on the University of Arkansas study 

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