Doing WELL and Doing GOOD by Doing ART (Part II)


Photo courtesy Kentucky Governor's School for the Arts

In my last post, I talked about new research in arts education conducted by UCLA researcher Dr. James Catterall. His new book, Doing WELL and Doing GOOD by Doing ART was published in early October 2009 and is a 12-year longitudinal study of education in the visual and performing arts with more than 12,000 students.  The study shows powerful correlations between later-life results and participation in what he terms “arts-rich” school environments over the 12 years.

The study targeted low socioeconomic students specifically, but also looked at results for those students from high income families.  The study’s guiding questions were “Do the arts matter, just how, and for whom?”

Dr. Catterall summarizes his finding as follows:

  • Intensive student involvement in the arts during middle and high school associates directly with higher achievement levels and college attainment
  • Intensive student involvement in the arts during middle and high school associates directly with many indicators of positive social behavior such as volunteerism and political participation
  • English language learners benefit from arts-rich schools in various and unique ways, including going further academically and bonding more firmly to positive social values
  • Arts-rich schools exhibit characteristics including a climate for achievement as well as instructional practices, which may account for their advantages over other schools

Arts and Athletics

Another interesting aspect of the research is his comparison of students who participate passionately in the arts to those who participate passionately in athletics.  While results are clear that intensive involvement in both lead to certain substantial benefits, the outcomes differ somewhat.  High student engagement in the arts associated more with college-going, certain volunteer activities and pastimes like reading books and newspapers.  High engagement in sports was found to boost some college outcomes and more volunteer work with youth and sports associations as well as an adult life with considerably more athletic activity.

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