A recent query on LinkedIn by Jen Sumner asked for examples of hard evidence of the impact of drama programmes. In the light of current campaigns around the EBacc and the national curriculum, this material is important. The responses were encouraging; I include a precis here as a summary resource.
DICE (“Drama Improves Lisbon Key Competences in Education”) was an international EU-supported project. In addition to other educational aims, this two-year project was a cross-cultural research study investigating the effects of educational theatre and drama on five of the eight Lisbon Key Competences. The research was conducted by twelve partners (leader: Hungary, partners: Czech Republic, Netherlands, Norway, Palestine, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Serbia, Slovenia, Sweden and United Kingdom). All members are highly regarded nationally and internationally and represent a wide variety of formal and non-formal sectors of education. Educational theatre and drama practitioners have believed in the efficacy of their work for a long time, but until now it has rarely been measured with scientific tools. In the DICE project, several dozen educational theatre and drama practitioners from twelve countries, with the widest theoretical and professional background, have allied forces with academics (psychologists and sociologists), to measure the impact of educational theatre and drama.
Research at Manchester University – the Centre for Applied Theatre Research has a list, although the link appears to be broken at the moment.
Over in the States, work has been done as part of the No Child Left Behind project: http://www.nasaa-arts.org/Research/Key-Topics/Arts-Education/critical-evidence.pdf
page 10:CRITICAL EVIDENCEThe research compendium Critical Links contains a diverse collection of studies that examine how arts learning experiences affect the academic achievement and social development of children and youth. It includes summaries of studiesconducted in five major art form areas: dance, drama, visual arts, music and multi-arts. As the title implies, the research provides critical evidence linking study of the arts with student achievement and success.More than 65 distinct relationships between the arts and academic and social outcomes are documented. They include such associations as: visual arts instruction and reading readiness; dramatic enactment and conflict resolutionskills; traditional dance and nonverbal reasoning; and learning piano and mathematics proficiency.Based on these findings, the compendium has identified six major types of benefits associated with study of the arts and student achievement:1. READING AND LANGUAGE SKILLS2. MATHEMATICS SKILLS3. THINKING SKILLS4. SOCIAL SKILLS5. MOTIVATION TO LEARN6. POSITIVE SCHOOL ENVIRONMENT
ArtsEdSearch currently includes summaries of over 200 research studies, syntheses of the major findings of these studies, and implications of the collected research for educational policy.ArtsEdSearch focuses on research examining how education in the arts—in both discrete arts classes and integrated arts lessons—affects students’ cognitive, personal, social and civic development, as well as how the integration of the arts into the school curriculum affects educators’ instructional practice and engagement in the teaching profession.
ArtsEdSearch does not include research studies about how to teach the arts well or about how to assess student content knowledge and technical skill in the arts. These topics are of great importance to ensuring that students receive a high quality arts education and are the subject of other clearinghouses devoted to research on teaching and learning within particular arts disciplines.
ArtsEdSearch acknowledges that through arts education, students not only develop the technical capacity to create, perform, and respond to works of art, but also learn about and engage the arts as media for individual and collective expression, communication, connection, and for bringing into the world something that did not previously exist. The studies collected in ArtsEdSearch primarily examine outcomes of these and related facets of learning in and through the arts. Whether considered intrinsic to the arts or extrinsic to the arts, ArtsEdSearch acknowledges such outcomes as an important part of the enduring role that the arts play in schools and societies, and includes studies that explore their ramifications for student success in school, life, and work.
From Australia, research from the Song Room National Research Project:
With funding from the Macquarie Group Foundation, The Song Room has commissioned the largest non-government funded, independent research project to examine the impact of such arts based intervention programs on disadvantaged children in Australia.
Click here to read more about The Song Room Research
Nearer home, there is evidence from individual projects. In Doncaster, the Otherwise Creative project has published a 1 year evaluation, Breaking the Cycle of Failure: the Arts and Inclusion
Perhaps one of the most interesting comments,at least to me, was from Xan S. Johnson, Ph.D.
“I’m a Ph.D. in Child Drama and lecture internationally on the practical and theoretical connections between Drama/Theatre and Social Cognitive Neuroscience. ….. Basically brain researchers have validated Vygotsky’s Social Learning Theory where the innate building blocks are emotion, imitation, empathy, social dramatic play, and moral reasoning. These are also the innate building blocks of drama/theatre, especially during childhood. One quote from a recent fMRI brain scan study – “Cognition materializes in an interpersonal space.”