Kid with painted hands

How does art help students academically?

In today’s increasingly results-driven educational environment, where the emphasis is on STEM skills like math and science, is there still a reason to study the arts? There are some who would see subjects like music, drama, and art removed from the curriculum. However, those who teach the arts are adamantly opposed to this and believe that there’s still a place for art subjects in today’s schools.

Art is critical to students’ personal and educational development. Many art teachers would go as far as to say that the arts should hold equal weight to academics in today’s learning environments. This can ensure that students gain a well-rounded education so they understand not only their world but also themselves and their role in it.

6 ways art improves school performance

1. Teaching the whole child

The arts encourage an improved understanding of self and a greater sense of confidence among students. Art also introduces students to varied avenues of self-expression and allows them to use the more creative side of their brain. The arts play a much more important role by creating humans who are more successful in every aspect of their lives.

Schools that are founded on a dual academic and arts curricula give young people the best chance at a well-rounded education. By preparing students to enter professional artistic careers and also equipping them with all the content knowledge and skills they need to be successful in college, such institutions offer a number of benefits to students of all ages.

2. Instilling a growth mindset

By learning about the arts, students can develop a range of essential skills. Unlike more practical subjects like science or math, the arts require pupils to become emotionally involved. Drama, art, and music all require students to reach inside themselves and to use their own feelings, thoughts, ideas, and emotions. Teaching arts subjects involves critiquing pupils’ work, and students must learn to appreciate constructive criticism of their own creativity and expressiveness and learn not to take it personally — something that will benefit them in the future when they receive criticism both in the workplace and in social settings.

Additionally, the arts encourage a willingness to persevere and to master a craft as well as to excel academically and become more successful in life, not only in high school but also beyond.

If students are truly going to progress and grow, they must eventually reach the stage where intrinsic and extrinsic motivation come into balance. When students are in the earliest stage of learning a specific art form, they engage with that activity simply because they find it fun. This is intrinsic motivation. Yet this type of motivation only allows progression to a certain level. That’s when extrinsic motivation must be employed to continue their growth, which could take the shape of tests, assessments, or auditions. By engaging with art in this manner, students can truly grow.

Although both extrinsic and intrinsic motivation are productive and helpful, the best results can be achieved by combining the two. Students won’t just practice or study for the external reward they may receive; they’ll do so because they find satisfaction and enjoyment in the activity itself.

3. Improved self-confidence

Many people assume that those who study the arts are naturally extroverted or self-confident. But this isn’t necessarily the case. In fact, some students long to come out of their shell but struggle to find the confidence to do so. By extended participation in artistic activities through ongoing encouragement from teachers and peers, it’s possible for even the shyest individual to let down their barriers and insecurities and allow themselves to blossom. As they develop new artistic skills, they grow into an accomplished individual who has increased self-confidence and who has found their own voice and talent.

4. Improvement in cognition

Evidence has shown that learning music isn’t just about the notes — it also helps to improve verbal memory, reading ability, executive functions, foreign language fluency. When students are immersed in an arts education, they can be drawn into a multifaceted, complex endeavor that combines several subject areas — including science, language, history, and mathematics — while also being tied uniquely to culture.

How does this work in practice? Well, imagine a student who is playing a musical instrument. If they’re going to play tunefully, understanding how sound waves work and mastering the principles of musical acoustics can be helpful. Imagine a student who is performing a Shakespearean monologue. To give an inspirational performance, they must have an understanding of the historical, cultural and social events that were taking place at the time the text was written.

The arts aren’t only valuable as stand-alone subjects; they are, in fact, an ideal link between every subject in your school’s curriculum. Not only that, but they are also a fantastic form of delivery for those concepts, too. Just look at the correlation we see between geometry and drawing, or between musical time signatures and meters and the mathematical concept of repeating patterns or fractions.

5. Improved communication

Communication is an indispensable skill at the core of humanity. Students can learn a variety of powerful communication skills by studying the arts.

For example, if students participate in a choir or music ensemble, they need to learn how to communicate emotionally, physically, and verbally not only with their peers and conductor but also with their audience.

If students appear in a play, they must communicate via spoken word to their audience but also effectively express the script’s underlying emotions and meaning. Art can be a form of expression that transforms emotions and thoughts into the unique communication form of art itself.

6. A deeper cultural understanding and a greater awareness of self

Art education isn’t just about having a positive impact on student learning or dipping a brush in some paint and calling it a day. Culture cannot exist without art. Art lies at the core of human identity, and this is why the most important gift a teacher can give their students is an appreciation and understanding of art as well as the ability to create it for themselves.

Consider the burning of the Notre-Dame in France in early 2019 — the whole world grieved at seeing this beautiful historical monument in flames. Art is about much more than just a canvas; it communicates humans emotions, values, and experiences in ways that other forms of expression cannot. It’s everywhere around us.

Giving your students a love of the arts

Teachers are tasked with improving the lives of the students they teach. What better way to do this than by helping them to develop a love of the arts?

Art in all its forms — whether through theater, music, sculpture, or painting — is something that should be cherished and appreciated by everyone young and old, and developing this passion for the arts begins in childhood.

It’s a key part of any teacher’s role to promote a deeper understanding of the arts so that students become more self-aware and self-confident, begin to broaden their horizons and develop a wider range of skills and abilities.

Photo: Sharon McCutcheon/Pexels

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