As explained by a team of researchers from Johns Hopkins University, artistic experiences “elicit emotional cognition, employ creative thinking pathways, and recruit cognitive processes that inherently facilitate long-term recall.” Thus, it stands to reason that integrating artistic elements into non-arts classes could enhance learning.
To test this hypothesis, the psychologists conducted an experiment involving 350 fifth grade students and exposing them to two different kinds of classes on four scientific topics (astronomy, life science, chemistry, and environmental science.) Half of the classes were taught with conventional methods, which included lectures, PowerPoint presentations, videos, as well as text reading. The other half integrated an artistic dimension: teacher delivery of content and student demonstration of knowledge both made extensive use of visual arts elements and performing arts activities (such as singing, dancing, drawing, and more.)
At the end of each unit, the students were assessed with difficult 30-item multiple choice questions. Interestingly, results showed that the integration of arts benefited struggling students the most: those identified as basic readers retained three times more content with this treatment compared to the control conditions, while proficient and advanced readers performed at the same level.
The authors conclude: “We offer the findings of this study as more evidence that learning through the arts might offer another vehicle for students with limited language or lower academic achievement to demonstrate mastery of academic content, perhaps as one more tool to close the achievement gap between struggling and proficient learners.”
Reference: Hardiman, JohnBull, Carran and Shelton (2019), “The Effects of Arts-Integrated Instruction on Memory for Science Content”, Trends in Neuroscience Education, 14, pp. 25-32