Home' Teacher : Jan-Feb 2011 Contents 26 teac her january/f ebruary 2011
academic performance in these schools.
Catterall’s 2009 Doing Well and Doing
Good by Doing Art also demonstrated that
the effects of experiencing an arts educa-
tion hold true within as well as between
socioeconomic groups and that these effects
are cu mulative, i ncreasing as students with
lower socioeconomic status gain more expo-
sure to the arts.
A study by Shirley Brice Heath, with
Adelma Roach, of the impact of commu nity-
based arts programs in which performances
were planned, created and presented, also
showed that arts education effects are evi-
dent in students from low-i ncome commu-
Judith Burton, Robert Horowitz and
Hal Abeles in ‘Learning in and through the
arts: Curriculum i mplications’ found that
students with more exposure to arts instruc-
tion had scores averaging 20 points higher
than their less-exposed peers on creative
thinking measures, as well as fluency, origi-
nality, elaboration a nd resistance to closure.
Attitudinal and behavioural benefits
Attitudinal and behavioural benefits that
are grouped together include the effects of
improved self-discipline and self-efficacy,
and are associated with improved school
attendance a nd reduced drop-out rates.
Also included in this cluster of benefits are
the development of life skills such as better
understanding the consequences of one’s
behaviour as a result of improved empathy;
the increased ability to work in teams; a
greater abilit y to accept constructive peer cri-
tique; and adoption of pro-social behaviours.
The health benefits or so -called therapeutic
effects of the arts include improved mental
and physical health. This category is attract-
ing increasing interest in Australia and
overseas, with a range of current projects
reporting successful outcomes. For exa m-
ple, clinical studies by Joe Verghese and col-
leagues have demonstrated that the onset of
Alzeimher’s disease can be delayed or the
risk reduced through arts therapy.
Soothing music, such as the Hush Collec-
tion developed by the Royal Children’s Hos-
pital’s Dr Catheri ne Crock in Melbourne,
and clowning, as established by Clown Doc-
tors, are being used to calm children with
cancer or undergoing painful procedures.
Art therapy is being used with mental health
An evaluation guide for assessing the
impact of community arts on community
wellbeing was developed by Arts Victoria
with VicHealth, Darebin City Council and
the City of Whittlesea.
Many case studies explore the outcomes of
community participants engaging in arts
activities together to pursue shared goals.
Ensuing social benefits include the creation
of a sense of community identity, and the
building of social capital and organisational
Studies about the economic benefits of the
arts are the most numerous and relate to
employment in the arts as well as the gen-
eral attraction to places where the arts are
available due to an appreciation of the con-
tribution the arts make to the quality of life.
McCarthy and co. argued that the contri-
butions of both intrinsic and instrumental
benefits of involvement in the arts need to be
better u nderstood and recognised by practi-
tioner researchers a nd policymakers. They
believed that intri nsic benefits play a central
role in generating all the benefits that can be
realised through the arts.
Caveats on the research findings
A range of caveats can be found in the
res earch literature about the benefits.
Perhaps one of the most often cited and
serious caveat is that no common , system-
atic or longitudinal approaches exist for the
evaluation of the impact of arts initiatives
In response to these concerns, one must
first recognise that the unique features of
many arts programs, and how differently
they affect participants in specific contexts,
by their very nature make comparisons of
findings or replication across different con-
texts extremely difficult. It’s this significant
participant-based variability and attention
to specific contexts that represent their
strength as progra ms , and it’s precisely for
this reason that case-study methodology
is often the most appropriate research
approach, as it enables individual responses
to be best reported. Where case study is the
most appropriate methodology for a given
study it shouldn’t be regarded as being of an
inferior nature to other forms of resea rch.
Some of the caveat critique reflects a par-
ticular epistemology and hence, a preference
for traditional positivist research orientation.
As Mike Fleming, Christine Merrell and Peter
Tymms com ment, ‘extreme advocates of one
or other research paradigm make mistakes
about the nature of truth and knowledge.’
As in most social and classroom research,
it’s not always possible, desirable or ethi-
cal to establish a research control group to
compare one group experiencing an arts
program with a similar group who are not.
Therefore, direct comparisons may not be
possible or appropriate.
Ellen Winner a nd Lois Hetland’s 2000
meta-analysis of cognitive benefit stud-
ies during the 1990s found that of 1,135
studies reviewed, only 32 used a quasi-
experime ntal design c riteria regarded as
nece ssary for testing effects. E xperimental
or even quasi-experimental resea rch designs
are not well suited to assessing the impact
of an intervention in classrooms.
Attributing a direct causal relationship
between study in, through or of the arts and
improved outcomes in other a reas is prob-
lematic because there are so many other
variables in classroom learning that cannot
be controlled. While a correlation between
arts involvement and certain effects in study
participants has been established in a nu m-
ber of large studies, documented by Fiske
and by Deasy, there’s no demonstration that
the arts experiences caused the effects. It’s
not possible to prove whether improvement
in a test score is aided by the learning in
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