Impact of Arts

Studies Show Classroom Residencies Make a Difference

Science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) are an education priority at the local, state, and national levels. In response, Wolf Trap adapted the Institute’s model for arts-integrated professional development to concentrate on STEM skills development for young children.

A recent independent study1—funded by the US Department of Education and conducted in Fairfax County, VA—indicates that teachers using Wolf Trap Institute’s arts-integrated early childhood strategies had a significant, positive impact on children’s learning in math. In fact, a new analysis released in 2016 shows that students in the classrooms of Wolf Trap-trained teachers gain the equivalent of more than a month of additional math learning.

See Wolf Trap Institute activities come to life and learn more about the arts and STEM.

Measuring the Impact of Arts-Integrated Learning

In the experimental program in Fairfax County studied by AIR, pre-K and kindergarten teachers paired with Wolf Trap-trained, professional teaching artists to receive intensive professional development in how to apply arts-integrated techniques to math curricula. Then, the teaching artists visited their teachers' classrooms for in-class sessions with the children—transitioning from classroom leaders to coaches as the teachers learned to integrate performing arts into their own instruction.

Residencies focused specifically on using the arts to improve math skills—the foundation of STEM—and bringing lessons to life in innovative ways. Teachers participating in the Early STEM/Arts program developed skillsets to engage students in performing arts learning experiences (music, dance, drama) that develop early childhood mathematics learning skills in number and number sense, measurement, geometry, algebra, data analysis, statistics, and probability.

Students in the classrooms of teachers who participated in the Early STEM/Arts program in the first year received the equivalent of 1.3 additional months of learning, or 26 additional days, compared to their peers in the control groups. In the second year, AIR found a sustained impact amounting to 1.7 additional months of learning, or 34 additional days, even though not all students in the second year continued in classrooms with teachers participating in the program.

Additional Key Findings

  • Teachers trained in Wolf Trap Institute techniques offered more opportunities for arts integration, and demonstrated higher levels of arts integration, particularly with respect to linking arts and math.
  • The program demonstrated six features of effective, high quality professional development (PD). In measuring Wolf Trap Institute’s model against standards of effective PD, research confirms that Wolf Trap provides high quality PD by thoroughly integrating form, duration, collective participation, content, active learning, and coherence.
  • Teachers said the use of music, dance, and drama was beneficial for all students, but in particular for students who were shy, who had never been to school, or who were speaking another language.

1 “Findings from the Evaluation of the Wolf Trap Arts in Education Model Development and Dissemination Grant,” Drs. Ludwig, M. & Song, M., American Institutes for Research.