This paper discusses evidence from research undertaken for the Commonwealth Government and the Australia Council, by the Australian Council for Educational Research (ACER). The study focused on the following research questions: What is the impact of each arts program on participating students' academic progress, engagement with learning and attendance at school?; Are empirical or anecdotal examples of improved learning outcomes substantiated?; and; What are the attributes of arts programs that are of particular benefit to students? Four arts programs in schools were treated as case studies. Each program was different in terms of age groups, cultural backgrounds of students, strands of the arts (drama and music) and approaches to the arts. Thus different methods were selected to try to capture the character and contribution of each program, using, wherever possible, objective, evaluative data. Two drama programs and two music programs were studied. There is discussion of the kinds of learning important for young people at the beginning of the twenty-first century and of the difficulty of gathering evidence of the arts' contribution to these kinds of learning. Data from the research suggest that involvement in the drama and music programs investigated did enhance students' learning, but only one example of 'hard' data was found to be statistically significant. The research is seen as a starting-point for exploring the impact of arts programs on students' learning. The paper concludes with suggestions for furthering this research.
Available at: http://works.bepress.com/jennifer_bryce/27/