Researchers at the University of Arkansas’ National Endowment for the Arts Research Lab have released two papers with some significant implications for classroom teachers and parents: students who attend multiple arts field trips have higher levels of social-emotional skills, stronger school engagement, and higher standardized test scores.

Dr. Jay P. Greene led the research study at the University of Arkansas.  Dr. Greene is a senior research fellow at The Heritage Foundation and was previously a distinguished professor and head of the Department of Education Reform in the College of Education and Health Professions and the director of the University of Arkansas NEA Research Lab.  For this study, the University of Arkansas partnered with a large public school district and the Woodruff Art Center in Atlanta, Georgia, which houses a theatre group, a symphony, and a museum.

Researchers randomly assigned fourth and fifth-grade students to receive three field trips to each of Woodruff’s venues in a single year. Some students received three additional field trips in the second year, for a total of six.  A control group of students in the same schools and adjacent grades did not receive the treatment arts field trips.

All students in the study were then given surveys.  Responses were gathered and analyzed.

Significant Findings:

  • Students who were randomly selected to attend the field trips showed 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.
  • Students who attended the field trips also showed positive academic gains and more interest in school overall.
  • Students who attended multiple arts-related field trips had higher standardized test scores in math and English Language Arts than students in the control group.
  • Students who attended the field trips had more positive school engagement. They are less likely to agree that ‘school is boring,’ and have fewer disciplinary infractions in middle school than their control group peers.

These findings underscore the profound impact of exposure to the arts on students’ academic and social-emotional development. Educators can foster a more engaging and enriching learning environment by integrating regular arts field trips into the curriculum. This research highlights the immediate benefits and suggests long-term positive outcomes in students’ academic performance and behavior.

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Originally published August 2018, updated June 2024.