Fostering Creativity

Tuesday, 07 Jun 2022

In the United States, the visual and performing arts have been removed from the curriculum in many schools to place a greater focus on literacy, numeracy, science and sports and also rationalise their budgets. I am pleased to report that this educational philosophy is not shared in Australian schools and in fact, in some schools, their practice is based on evidence-based decision making around student growth in both cognitive and social domains.

The positive effects of students involved in the creative and performing programs include higher achievements in reading comprehension, language and mathematical development, increased higher-order thinking skills, increased school engagement, and improvements in social skill development. 

Correlation between Music and Maths and Reading Achievement
I could list as many research articles that link musical ability to mathematical attainment as those that do not. The current consensus could be stated as unclear, however, it is easy to note that learning to play music relies on understanding concepts such as ratios and fractions together with other cognitive aspects such as building determination and persistence and memory skills. A 2021 study evaluated more than 1000 middle school students and allowed for background variables such as grade level, gender, educational attainment of parents, ethnicity, and urbanity. The study noted a strong correlation between musical ability and reading and mathematical achievement. Anecdotally, I regularly see music students over-represented on stage during school academic awards events. 

Links between Drama and Reading Comprehension
Several studies have demonstrated a correlation between drama involvement and academic achievement. One study with Year 6 and 7 students noted higher standardised test scores by students who participate in drama programs. There was a positive correlation linking drama with improved reading comprehension, maintaining better attendance records, and staying more engaged in class.

Links between Visual Arts and Critical and Creative Thinking
All children are entitled to a school curriculum that includes critical and creative thinking involving expression and the opportunity to create ideas and feelings in a visible material form. A 2013 OECD report entitled, Art  for Art’s Sake, stated that “Most people, including policy makers, believe that arts education fosters creativity and possibly others skills conducive to innovation. In knowledge-based societies, innovation is a key engine of economic growth, and arts education is increasingly considered as a means to foster the skills and attitudes that innovation requires, beyond and above artistic skills and cultural sensitivity.” This certainly is a strong endorsement for the 21st century skills our youth need.

Links between Dance and Human Culture
Utilising dance in academics fosters childhood development in the “4Cs” - creativity, communication, critical thinking, and collaboration. Through the creative process, students of all ages are encouraged to use their imagination, collaborate with their peers and solve problems. Dancing is a whole body activity, similar to sport, but also has an element of human cultural endeavour that builds and rewards dancers with social and emotional growth and awareness. A 2016, Spanish study, noted significant correlations between students who were involved in dance programs in primary years and school grades in Language and Mathematics. 

In essence, our visual and performing arts are not just essential for their intrinsic cultural value, they are essential to support our students to grow academically and socially to become well rounded citizens. 

Nick Johnstone

Bergee MJ, Weingarten KM. Multilevel Models of the Relationship Between Music Achievement and Reading and Math Achievement. Journal of Research in Music Education. 2021;68(4):398-418. doi:10.1177/0022429420941432

Inoa, R., Weltsek, G., & Tabone, C. (2014). A Study on the Relationship between Theater Arts and Student Literacy and Mathematics Achievement. Journal for Learning through the Arts, 10(1). from