A Well-Rounded Education

In addition to developing academic skills, much of the public expects schools to furnish students with experiences that nurture aptitude in critical thinking, problem solving, teamwork, etc. Further, schools are also expected to include arts, music, and other enrichments within their curriculm. Research has consistently demonstrated the value of spending time in enrichment activities and courses for developing these broader set of skills and interests. In the arts, for example:

  • A report from RAND highlighted the considerable value in promoting underlying attributes associated with being well-prepared for life, such as creativity, persistence, and the ability to communicate and collaborate.  
  • A study of more than 2,000 middle-school students by researchers at Columbia University found that students who had participated in at least three years of in-school arts instruction scored significantly higher on an instrument measuring creative thinking and that these students self- reported much higher rates of positive attitudes towards school and learning than did their peers who had experienced less arts education. 
  • A smaller-scale evaluation of a six-month program that involved youth in drama reported that these participants demonstrated less aggressive and violent tendencies, while also exhibiting more pro-social behaviors like cooperation and self control compared to before participating. 
  • Scholars from Project Zero, an arts education institute at the Harvard Graduate School of Education, write of the definitive connection between the quality of arts experiences and the quantity of time devoted to engagement in them.

On participating in physical education:

  • A study by research kinesiologists found that students showed improved cognitive ability after participating in moderate exercise.
  • A meta-analysis that took into account 44 studies that had sought to identify correlations between physical activity among children and their cognitive performance concluded that there is a significant relationship. 

To access more research on expanded learning time and a well-rounded education, we recommend the NCTL publications: