Inside the Black Box: Stakeholder Perceptions on the Value of Arts Field Trips

47 Pages Posted: 18 Feb 2020

See all articles by Angela Watson

Angela Watson

University of Arkansas - Department of Education Reform

Date Written: May 1, 2019


This descriptive, qualitative study, an extension of an experimental primary study, documents stakeholders’ experiences and perceptions of attending multiple field trips where urban elementary students in fourth and fifth grades were randomly assigned to receive three arts field trips including an art museum, a live theater performance, and a symphony concert. Evidence of declining K-12 attendance to educational cultural or arts field trips has been mounting for decades. Further, minority students in struggling schools and their teachers report attending fewer field trip experiences, as well as limited access to arts experiences in their schools. The full impact of this declining and restricted access to arts and culture on social-emotional learning (SEL) as well as on other academic outcomes is unknown. However, rigorous empirical evidence supporting the educational benefits of culturally enriching field trips continues to amass. I find that adult as well as student stakeholders report the importance of experience and exposure as the main impacts of educational arts field trips. Additionally, I find that classroom teachers support and advocate for experiential field trips for their students and consider it an important part of the job of educating students in their schools and community. Further, students make meaning from these experiences and articulate that meaning in intricate detail months after the field trips occur. Students also recall field trips from years past, connecting new experiences to prior learning, thus indicating that these are important and memorable experiences for them. I also find evidence of student-to-student connection via common experience, and shared meaning and learning. Lastly, students advocate for these experiences for themselves and for their peers, and articulate the importance of these experiences with poignant and compelling detail.

Keywords: Educational equity, cultural capital, social mobility, school field trips, arts education

Suggested Citation

Watson, Angela, Inside the Black Box: Stakeholder Perceptions on the Value of Arts Field Trips (May 1, 2019). EDRE Working Paper No. 2019-14, Available at SSRN: or

Angela Watson (Contact Author)

University of Arkansas - Department of Education Reform ( email )

201 Graduate Education Building
Fayetteville, AR 72701
United States

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