Effects of Art Instruction on the Scholastic Achievement of Fourth Graders

One of the favorite targets of politician seeking to cut back on school funding has been, and continues to be art instruction programs. There is substantial evidence to suggest that contrary to the notion of art instruction being an expensive academic “frill,” it is actually a profound motivational tool, and students receiving such instruction tend to do better in multiple areas of academic life (Burger& Winner, 2000, Calverley & Grafer & Hauser Michelle, 2002, Hanson, 2002, Nikell, 2003).

Statement of the Problem
The purpose of this mixed method research is to describe how the inclusion of regular art instruction in Fourth Grader’s curriculum affects rates of attendance, grade point average, scholastic achievement test scores, and student enjoyment of schooling.

Review of the Related Literature
There is extensive evidence that art instruction positively impacts students in a number of academic areas. It has been shown to be useful in teaching students to read (Burger & Winner, 2000, Nikell, 2003), and to write (Nikell, 2003). It has been demonstrated to improve memory retention (Calverley & Grafer & Hauser, 2002). It has even been shown to be of enormous benefit in educational areas thought to be more dominated by linear logic, math and science (Hanson, 2002).

Statement of the Hypothesis
The inclusion of art instruction in the curriculum of Fourth Grade students will result in a higher grade point average, higher scores on standard scholastic achievement tests, lower absenteeism and a greater enjoyment of the educational experience.



Participants for this study will be Fourth Grade students attending classes in the Los Angeles Public School District in Los Angeles, California. Six classes will be selected and divided into two groups.

The effectiveness of including art instruction into the daily curriculum of Fourth Grade students will be measured by an examination and comparison of the two groups on grade point average, scores on standardized scholastic achievement tests, and attendance record. An additional post study interview process will be developed and administered to compare student reflections on their attitudes towards school and determine if there is a significant difference in positive feelings expressed by students receiving art instruction.

There will be two groups, each comprised of three classes. Students in both groups will be post interviewed after one semester, and their grade point averages, scholastic achievement test scores and attendance records will be compared at that time.

The methodology for this mixed study will employ a quasi-experimental approach. At the beginning of the semester, six classes of Fourth Graders are to be randomly selected from the Los Angeles Public School District. Three of these classes will receive regular art instruction for a period of one semester; the other three classes will receive no such art instruction, thus making them the control group for comparative purposes. At the end of the semester, comparisons will be made between the two groups of attendance records, grades and achievement test scores, providing a quantitative research basis for conclusions. This is to be augmented by qualitative interviews with students from both groups for the purpose of their describing their attitudes, feelings and reactions to their scholastic experience, and to determine if there is a significant difference in the enjoyment of the scholastic experience, and positive attitudes toward the educational process, among the students receiving the art instruction.

The dependent variable in this research is which of the two groups a class is assigned to; the independent variable is the inclusion or exclusion of art instruction.

Data Analysis
Statistical analysis will be made comparing the grade point averages, standardized scholastic achievement test scores and attendance records of the two groups. An analysis of the post semester interviews will be made, based on student responses, identifying prevalent attitudes and issues. These responses will also be computer encoded to provide a detailed statistical analysis.

Time Schedule
In addition to the one semester devoted to conducting the study, three weeks will be spent in conducting qualitative interviews. Concurrently, the statistical analysis of the quantitative data will be conducted. Following that will be a period of four weeks spent in analyzing the qualitative data and preparing a comprehensive research report. The total number of weeks to complete the study is estimated to be twenty seven.

The costs for this study will include a singular interviewer’s salary to conduct the qualitative interviews and comparisons of the quantitative instruments, computer encoding of student responses to open-ended question in the qualitative interview process, and printing of materials. An actual monetary figure is not available at this time.

Significance of This Research
The implications for improving the educational experience, and the scholastic performance of students is of major significance. If the data shows the hypothesis to be correct, then a valuable new tool in education will be made readily evident to anyone reading the research results. It is possible that we can enhance the education of thousands of students and improve test scores, attendance and the enjoyment of children’s lives in our classrooms. I know of no more significant goal for a research project.


Burger, Kristin, & Winner, Ellen, (2000) Instruction in Visual Art: Can it Help Children
Learn to Read?, Journal of Aesthetic Education, v34, pgs 277-293

Calverley, Ann, & Grafer, Bonnie, & Hauser, Michelle, (2002) Using Instructional and
Motivational Techniques in the Art Classroom to Increase Memory Retention, St. Xavier University and Skylight Professional Development Field Based Master’s Program (ERIC Document Reproduction Service No. ED 465698)

Hanson, Joyce, (2002). Improving Student learning in Mathematics and Science Through
the Integration Of Visual Art, St. Xavier University and Skylight Professional Development Field Based Master’s Program, (ERIC Document Reproduction Service No. ED 465534)

Nikell, Brian, (2003) Improving Oral Fluency, Written Accuracy and Reading
Comprehension in the Third Grade Using Visual Art, St. Xavier University and Skylight Professional Development Field Based Master’s Program, (ERIC Document Reproduction Service No. ED 479867)

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