The research agenda will begin with three interrelated keystone studies, each stemming from the expertise of the central research team and in partnership with nonprofit arts partners.
Study 1 (Dr. Winsler) involves a large scale (N ≈ 40,000) analysis of data from the Miami School Readiness Project. The data set involves five cohorts of children who were assessed for school readiness in preschool between 2002-2006 and have been followed longitudinally as they progress through high school. This study will examine selection questions about which students take arts elective courses in high school, and whether taking arts courses (controlling, of course, for all selection effects observed) is linked to better academic performance.
Study 2 (Dr. Goldstein) is a laboratory experimental study with 10-year-old children, focused on a possible mechanistic explanation for previous findings linking theatre experience with higher levels of social skills. We will test for emotional granularity (the ability to describe and name the variety and complexity in emotional experience) as a possible mediating skill gained through acting leading to higher social understanding. Participants will be randomly assigned to various theatrical techniques and then engage with a text, to test whether using such techniques leads to better social understanding, and whether previous theatre experience moderates this finding.
Study 3 (Dr. Sheridan) examines the dynamic relationship between studio teaching, learning, and learners’ sense of agency in arts learning contexts. The study involves developing an observational tool to assess how, when, and to what degree arts education environments support learners’ autonomy. We will conduct a minimum of 20 hours of field observation and recoding and contextualize these observations with insights of the instructor. Analysis will involve coding on autonomy-supportive pedagogy and emergent categories identified by the researchers and arts educators. Together, these studies answer questions about the causal and mechanistic relationship between arts engagement and social-emotional development, as well as predictors and outcomes of engagement in the arts in school contexts.