highlights from key national research on arts education

Music

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Preschoolers who were given music keyboard lessons improved their spatial-temporal reasoning. A peer group, who were given computer lessons, showed no improvement. Spatial-temporal reasoning is the abstract reasoning that is used for understanding relationships between objects such as calculating a proportion or playing chess. Spatial-temporal reasoning is important in subjects such as mathematics and science.

source: Educational Leadership, November, 1998, p. 39
Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development
article: "The Music in Our Minds"
Norman M. Weinberger, Professor of Psychobiology at the University of California, Irvine, referencing research of F.H. Rauscher, G.L. Shaw et al, 1997, Neurological Research , 19, 2–8


First graders who received instruction in music listening had significantly higher reading scores than those first graders who did not receive the instruction but were similar in age, IQ and socioeconomic status. The same teacher taught reading to all the students. Those given music instruction were taught for 40 minutes a day for 7 months and learned to recognize melodic and rhythmic elements in folk songs. They scored in the 88th percentile for reading performance and the non-instructed control group scored in the 72nd percentile.

source: Educational Leadership, November, 1998, p. 38
Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development
article: "The Music in Our Minds"
Norman M. Weinberger, Professor of Psychobiology at the University of California, Irvine, referencing research of Hurwitz et al, 1975, Journal of Learning Disabilities, 8, 45–51


Elements of music and reading are highly related in first graders. Students were tested on various elements of music and reading and a strong relationship was found between a student's awareness of pitch and their ability to sound out material in reading--material that included standard language and phonetic material.

source: Educational Leadership, November, 1998, p. 39
Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development
article: "The Music in Our Minds"
Norman M. Weinberger, Professor of Psychobiology at the University of California, Irvine, referencing research of S.J. Lamb and A.H. Gregory, 1993, Educational Psychology, 13, 19–26


Second grade students given piano instruction in addition to spatial reasoning instruction improved more in spatial reasoning than those given spatial reasoning instruction only, English language training instead of piano, or no special instruction.

source: Critical Links: Learning in the Arts and Student Academic and Social Development, 2002, p. 110
study: Enhanced Learning of Proportional Math Through Music Training and Spatial-Temporal Training


Fourth grade students considered "emotionally disturbed" improved their writing quality and quantity when given music to listen to (via headphones) versus writing in silence. 

source: Critical Links: Learning in the Arts and Student Academic and Social Development, 2002, p. 118
study: Listening to Music Enhances Spatial-Temporal Reasoning: Evidence for the "Mozart Effect"


"Juvenile Delinquent" males ages 8–19 who were given instruction in and performance opportunities on the guitar improved both their self-confidence in terms of their musical ability and general self-worth versus other "juvenile delinquent" males of the same age group given instruction but no performance opportunities.

source: Critical Links: Learning in the Arts and Student Academic and Social Developments, 2002, p. 119
study: The Effects of Musical Performance, Rational Emotive Therapy and Vicarious Experience on the Self-Efficacy and Self-Esteem of Juvenile Delinquents and Disadvantaged Children


A high level of involvement in instrumental music co-related to high achievement in math proficiency. This held true among all students and among those students in the lowest socio-economic (SES) quartile. More than twice as many 12th grade, high music-involved, low SES students performed at high levels of math proficiency as non music-involved, low SES 12th grade students. Instrumental music involvement also related to high-music, low SES students closing the math achievement gap with higher SES students. In 8th grade, high-music, low SES students closed the expected achievement gap that low SES students would usually have with the average student. By 12th grade the high-music, low SES students had pulled significantly ahead of the average student in math proficiency (33.1 percent to 21.3 percent).

source: Champions of Change, 1999
p. 11, figures 8 and 9
p. 12, text and figures 10 and 11
Graduate School of Education & Information Studies, University of California at Los Angeles
study: Involvement in the Arts and Human Development: General Involvement and Intensive Involvement in Music and Theater Arts


The opportunity to be instructed in music or dance disciplines offered a variety of compelling social benefits for students in addition to the knowledge and skill of an art. For some of the underprivileged students offered this opportunity to be treated as gifted and talented, the participation in the art form was an emotional safe haven from family turmoil. The art forms were an assimilation tool for recent immigrants and other new kids. Achievement in the art and friendships built in that process bolstered students as they entered new situations of various kinds. Performances brought the broader community together in pride. Horizons were broadened through access to classes at studios and trips to theaters outside of students' immediate neighborhoods and offered a glimpse of the broader cultural world. "Ultimately the skills and discipline students gained, the bonds they formed with peers and adults, and the rewards they received through instruction and performing fueled their talent development journey and helped most achieve success both in and outside of school."

source: Champions of Change, 1999, p.77–78
National Research Center on the Gifted and Talented
University of Connecticut, Storrs
study: Artistic Talent Development for Urban Youth: The Promise and the Challenge


The various approaches to music instruction that were found to support learning in spatial-temporal reasoning reflect the same approaches included in the national standards in music education. Learning traditional music notation led to even stronger results than other music instruction.

source: Critical Links: Learning in the Arts and Student Academic and Social Development, 2002, p. 114
study: Learning to Make Music Enhances Spatial Reasoning


In a review of many studies, the "Mozart-effect" was found valid and important for educators in an unexpected way.  The positive effect of listening to Mozart's, and others', music on spatial reasoning (mentally visualizing, moving and relating objects without any present) helps contradict some current ideas about learning that consider different learning functions in the brain to be distinct and unconnected.  The "Mozart effect" shows that areas of the brain used for spatial reasoning are also used for processing music.

source: Critical Links: Learning in the Arts and Student Academic and Social Development, 2002, p. 116
study: Listening to Music Enhances Spatial-Temporal Reasoning: Evidence for the "Mozart Effect"


A student making music experiences the "simultaneous engagement of senses, muscles, and intellect. Brain scans taken during musical performances show that virtually the entire cerebral cortex is active while musicians are playing." Different areas of the brain perform different functions from directing movement, to thinking, to feeling, to remembering including many sub-regions within those areas that relate to more specialized activities. Making music engages, and is increasingly seen to strengthen, a vast array of brain power.

source: Educational Leadership, November, 1998, p.38
Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development
article: "The Music in Our Minds"
Norman M. Weinberger, Professor of Psychobiology at the University of California, Irvine