From the Field

Impact of Art Museum Programs on K–12 Students

October 5, 2018

The National Art Education Association (NAEA) Museum Education Division and the Association of Art Museum Directors have completed a large-scale impact study investigating  the benefits of facilitated single-visit art museum programs, guided by inquiry-based pedagogies, for students in Grades 4-6.

This study builds on, and significantly amplifies, the limited prior research that existed about the impact of art museum programs on participants. The goal has been to explore, on a large scale, how engaging directly with original works of art within the distinctive physical and social setting of art museums and through constructivist pedagogies, might lead to or heighten a range of student capacities. The findings of this study are now available in a Summary Report and Technical Report

The results demonstrate that there are a variety of educational benefits to classroom visits to art museums, across four areas:

As students observe works of art, they formulate questions and practice key critical thinking and communication skills. Inquiry-based approaches prompt student dialogue that activates collaborative learning and demonstrates how questions function as tools to surface meaning.

Multiple Interpretations
A facilitated, inquiry-based single-visit art museum program can encourage students to practice listening and respectful debate and discover different interpretations of art objects.

Physicality of Art
Little compares to experiencing works of art in a museum. Seeing original works of art and participating in a facilitated, inquiry-based art museum program engages the senses, holds students’ attention, and stimulates questions about artists’ choices and creative processes.

Emotive Recall
The emotional impact of first-hand encounters with works of art in a museum setting can inspire greater recall and more detailed description, which can lead to more complex interpretations.

Six AAMD museums served as sites for this study:

  • Columbus Museum of Art, Columbus, OH
  • Hammer Museum, Los Angeles, CA
  • Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, Houston, TX
  • Orlando Museum of Art, Orlando, FL
  • RISD Museum, Providence, RI
  • The Walters Art Museum, Baltimore, MD

This project was made possible in part by the Institute of Museum and Library Services and the Samuel H. Kress Foundation.

The results of this study will be presented at a Symposium at the Detroit Institute of Arts on Saturday, October 13, 2018. The Symposium will also be streamed live – check our Twitter @MuseumDirectors for a link closer to the date.

After the symposium, a web-based Study User Guide will be published here for museum and education communities to share the value of and promote facilitated single-visit art museum programs, and apply the research results within their practice.

READ MORE:  Summary Report of Impact of Art Museum Programs on K–12 Students
READ MORE: Technical Report of Impact of Art Museum Programs on K–12 Students
READ MORE: October 13 Symposium at the Detroit Institute of Arts
READ MORE: Full details on the NAEA website


Image: students on a field trip to the Detroit Institute of Arts. Photo by Alison Wade