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Impact of arts education on the cognitive and non-cognitive outcomes of school-aged children. A review of evidence

See, B.H.; Kokotsaki, D.

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This literature review was commissioned by the Education Endowment Foundation (EEF) to assess the evidence of impact of arts education on cognitive and non-cognitive outcomes of children from pre-school to compulsory school age (ages 3 to 16). In this review, we considered arts education to include a broad range of subjects including the traditional fine arts (e.g. visual arts, music, dance, performing arts, theatre and dance) as well as modern dance and movement, hip hop, poetry and creative writing. The EEF was looking to identify arts activities that have evidence of promise, as well as an overview of those where the results are inconclusive or which have not been evaluated. The summary results in this section pull together all the studies to arrive at an overall judgment of the strength of evidence. No high quality single studies were found. It is therefore difficult to state conclusively what the evidence of impact of arts activities in education might be. However, given that a large number of weak or medium quality studies do suggest positive effects more work in this area, taking into account the most promising avenues, would be justified.  A total of 199 relevant studies were identified from a search of eleven educational, psychological and social sciences databases. The vast majority of studies were about music education and a combination of arts forms. Most of these studies were conducted with primary school aged children. Very few involved pre-school aged children.  The review found no convincing evidence that demonstrated a causal relationship between arts education and young people’s academic and other wider outcomes.  There were a few interventions that showed evidence of promise. Pilot studies, or efficacy trials, could be conducted to improve the evidence base for these interventions. These largely relate to primary school age group.  Music (instrumental, music education and music integration) shows promise across all age groups.  The evidence for integrating multi-arts for primary school children is weak largely because the positive studies found were small scale (under 100) or lacked randomisation. They also tended to compare arts-focused schools or arts-trained teachers with non-arts specialist schools and teachers (who may differ in more than their subject expertise). There is potential here for more robust studies.  Kindermusik, Orff and Kodaly methods of learning music have been shown to be effective on the cognitive development of young children. 4  There is little evidence that visual art (painting, drawing, sculpture) had any positive effect on academic outcomes.  More research is needed for the pre-school aged children as there are few studies for this age group.  Few empirical studies were found about the use of poetry for school-aged children, especially for pre-school and primary school children. Although rhymes and rhythms are routinely taught in preschool, its impact on children’s literacy has not been evaluated. The gap means that this could be an area worth exploring.  Most studies about poetry were about the beneficial effects of poetry in general or for older pupils and undergraduates or about the methods of teaching poetry, or about the author’s or pupils’ experience with poetry. The majority of empirical work about poetry in schools was conducted pre 1980 and was largely about the teaching and assessment of poetry  Few studies have been conducted on creative writing as an activity to support general literacy at school. Most research in this area was either on creative writing as an outcome or for older students in higher education. It could be valuable to explore if creative writing has any impact in developing literacy for primary and secondary school pupils.  Successful arts activities often involve professional artists. For successful implementation, professional training of teachers is needed on how to effectively integrate the arts activities be it drama, visual arts or music in the classroom.  There is some suggestion that the mechanisms or factors that contribute to the learning processes in most arts education are related to elements of enjoyment, engagement and extension (e.g. DeMoss and Morris 2012). Otten et al. (2004) reported that the effect of dramatic art on acquisition of history knowledge was mediated by enjoyment. which in turn, predicted future performance on standardised tests.


See, B., & Kokotsaki, D. (2015). Impact of arts education on the cognitive and non-cognitive outcomes of school-aged children. A review of evidence. [No known commissioning body]

Report Type Project Report
Acceptance Date Jul 15, 2015
Online Publication Date Nov 13, 2015
Publication Date Nov 13, 2015
Deposit Date Aug 27, 2015
Publicly Available Date Jan 5, 2016
Publisher URL
Additional Information Department Name: School of Education
University Name: Durham University
Publisher: Education Endowment Foundation
Type: monograph
Subtype: project_report


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