Study finds link between extracurricular arts activities and improved grades

A study conducted in Japan examined how participation in after-school music and visual arts activities affects students’ academic performance. The researchers found that participating in these activities was associated with better overall academic performance.

Participation in music activities initially had a negative effect on grades in the first year. After two years, however, a positive effect became apparent. The study was published in npj science of learning.

It is often assumed that arts education encourages creativity. Many see it as a supplement to general education that is intended to prepare for a career and the world of work. Aside from developing artistic skills, arts education encourages self-expression and creates a lifelong appreciation for art. In Japan, students have regular art classes throughout the year. You can also join cultural clubs that focus on artistic activities outside of regular school hours.

Previous studies have examined the connection between music, visual arts and academic performance. While some studies have shown a positive association, there is still debate about the nature of this association. It is also unclear how skills developed in music and visual arts translate to academic achievement.

The researchers, Chiaki Ishiguro and colleagues, wanted to delve deeper into the relationship between academic achievement and music and visual arts education. They expected that participating in these activities would indirectly lead to better academic performance through better performance in music and art classes. They believed that excellence in these subjects would then have a positive impact on overall academic performance.

They conducted a two-year survey of middle school students in Japan that focused on engaging in art as an extracurricular activity. Participants were 488 students from five public middle schools in Sapporo, the prefectural capital of Hokkaido in northern Japan. The students were between 12 and 13 years old when they started their studies. 229 of them were female.

Researchers conducted a two-year survey of middle school students in Japan. The participants came from five public schools in Sapporo, Hokkaido. They collected data on the academic performance of the students at the beginning of their studies and two years later. They also assessed students’ socioeconomic status and collected information about their grades in various subjects, study habits, and participation in extracurricular activities at different times.

They tested a statistical model that indicated that participation in extracurricular music activities directly affected grades in music, which in turn affected overall academic outcomes calculated from the five majors. They tested a similar model for visual arts. The results showed that such influence models are indeed possible.

However, while the model suggested that fine arts activities had a positive impact on overall academic performance simply by linking them to fine arts grades, music activities also had a direct impact on overall academic performance. In the first year, this effect was negative, meaning that participation in music activities impaired academic performance.

However, in combination with the positive indirect effect, the overall effect became neutral in the first year. By the third year, the association became positive, suggesting that participation in music activities was associated with better academic performance.

“Why did being involved in music clubs have a negative impact on academic performance? Musical associations such as choirs and brass bands are reported to be the most represented cultural associations; Such clubs require students to practice extensively to learn instrumental playing and choral skills,” the researchers write. “As such, the stress placed on students in the first year after joining a club can negatively impact their learning of majors.”

“But after about two years, the students have become accustomed to the activities and have sufficient skills. Such music learning through club activities can have a positive impact on their academic performance over time. These results demonstrate that in previous studies, the positive effect of extracurricular music activities on general academic performance was not explained by participation, but rather by the outcome of learning music.”

It is important to note that the study did not collect detailed data on the specific activities in which the students were involved. Furthermore, the students who participated in these extracurricular activities were self-selected and represent only a small part of the student body. Finally, the study design does not allow for definitive cause-and-effect conclusions.

The study, “After-school music and visual arts activities are associated with improving academic performance in school-age children” was authored by Chiaki Ishiguro, Toru Ishihara, and Noriteru Morita.

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