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The Play's the Thing: Experimentally Examining the Social and Cognitive Effects of School Field Trips to Live Theater Performances

27 Pages Posted: 3 Sep 2017  

Jay P. Greene

University of Arkansas - Department of Education Reform

Heidi Holmes Erickson

University of Arkansas - Department of Education Reform

Angela Watson

University of Arkansas - Department of Education Reform

Molly Beck

University of Arkansas - Department of Education Reform

Date Written: August 31, 2017

Abstract

Field trips to see theater performances are a long-standing educational practice, however, there is little systematic evidence demonstrating educational benefits. This article describes the results of five random assignment experiments spanning two years where school groups were assigned by lottery to attend a live theater performance, or for some groups, watch a movie-version of the same story. We find significant educational benefits from seeing live theater, including higher levels of tolerance, social perspective taking, and stronger command of the plot and vocabulary of those plays. Students randomly assigned to watch a movie did not experience these benefits. Our findings also suggest that theater field trips may cultivate the desire among students to frequent the theater in the future.

Keywords: arts education, drama based education, experimental design, informal learning, school field trips

Suggested Citation

Greene, Jay P. and Holmes Erickson, Heidi and Watson, Angela and Beck, Molly, The Play's the Thing: Experimentally Examining the Social and Cognitive Effects of School Field Trips to Live Theater Performances (August 31, 2017). EDRE Working Paper No. 2017-13. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3030928

Jay Greene (Contact Author)

University of Arkansas - Department of Education Reform ( email )

201 Graduate Education Building
Fayetteville, AR 72701
United States

Heidi Holmes Erickson

University of Arkansas - Department of Education Reform ( email )

201 Graduate Education Building
Fayetteville, AR 72701
United States

Angela Watson

University of Arkansas - Department of Education Reform ( email )

201 Graduate Education Building
Fayetteville, AR 72701
United States

Molly Beck

University of Arkansas - Department of Education Reform ( email )

201 Graduate Education Building
Fayetteville, AR 72701
United States

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