The Educational Value of Field Trips

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Taking students to an art museum improves critical thinking skills, and more

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WINTER 2014 / VOL. 14, NO. 1

Crystal Bridges; Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art; School Tour © 2013 Stephen Ironside/Ironside Photography
Bo Bartlett – “The Box” –  2002 • Oil on Linen • 82 x 100 – Photographer is Karen Mauch

The school field trip has a long history in American public education. For decades, students have piled into yellow buses to visit a variety of cultural institutions, including art, natural history, and science museums, as well as theaters, zoos, and historical sites. Schools gladly endured the expense and disruption of providing field trips because they saw these experiences as central to their educational mission: schools exist not only to provide economically useful skills in numeracy and literacy, but also to produce civilized young men and women who would appreciate the arts and culture. More-advantaged families may take their children to these cultural institutions outside of school hours, but less-advantaged students are less likely to have these experiences if schools do not provide them. With field trips, public schools viewed themselves as the great equalizer in terms of access to our cultural heritage.

Today, culturally enriching field trips are in decline. Museums across the country report a steep drop in school tours. For example, the Field Museum in Chicago at one time welcomed more than 300,000 students every year. Recently the number is below 200,000. Between 2002 and 2007, Cincinnati arts organizations saw a 30 percent decrease in student attendance. A survey by the American Association of School Administrators found that more than half of schools eliminated planned field trips in 2010–11.

The decision to reduce culturally enriching field trips reflects a variety of factors. Financial pressures force schools to make difficult decisions about how to allocate scarce resources, and field trips are increasingly seen as an unnecessary frill. Greater focus on raising student performance on math and reading standardized tests may also lead schools to cut field trips. Some schools believe that student time would be better spent in the classroom preparing for the exams. When schools do organize field trips, they are increasingly choosing to take students on trips to reward them for working hard to improve their test scores rather than to provide cultural enrichment. Schools take students to amusement parks, sporting events, and movie theaters instead of to museums and historical sites. This shift from “enrichment” to “reward” field trips is reflected in a generational change among teachers about the purposes of these outings. In a 2012‒13 survey we conducted of nearly 500 Arkansas teachers, those who had been teaching for at least 15 years were significantly more likely to believe that the primary purpose of a field trip is to provide a learning opportunity, while more junior teachers were more likely to see the primary purpose as “enjoyment.”

If schools are de-emphasizing culturally enriching field trips, has anything been lost as a result? Surprisingly, we have relatively little rigorous evidence about how field trips affect students. The research presented here is the first large-scale randomized-control trial designed to measure what students learn from school tours of an art museum.

We find that students learn quite a lot. In particular, enriching field trips contribute to the development of students into civilized young men and women who possess more knowledge about art, have stronger critical-thinking skills, exhibit increased historical empathy, display higher levels of tolerance, and have a greater taste for consuming art and culture.

Design of the Study and School Tours

The 2011 opening of the Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art in Northwest Arkansas created the opportunity for this study. Crystal Bridges is the first major art museum to be built in the United States in the last four decades, with more than 50,000 square feet of gallery space and an endowment in excess of $800 million. Portions of the museum’s endowment are devoted to covering all of the expenses associated with school tours. Crystal Bridges reimburses schools for the cost of buses, provides free admission and lunch, and even pays for the cost of substitute teachers to cover for teachers who accompany students on the tour.

Because the tour is completely free to schools, and because Crystal Bridges was built in an area that never previously had an art museum, there was high demand for school tours. Not all school groups could be accommodated right away. So our research team worked with the staff at Crystal Bridges to assign spots for school tours by lottery. During the first two semesters of the school tour program, the museum received 525 applications from school groups representing 38,347 students in kindergarten through grade 12. We created matched pairs among the applicant groups based on similarity in grade level and other demographic factors. An ideal and common matched pair would be adjacent grades in the same school. We then randomly ordered the matched pairs to determine scheduling prioritization. Within each pair, we randomly assigned which applicant would be in the treatment group and receive a tour that semester and which would be in the control group and have its tour deferred.

We administered surveys to 10,912 students and 489 teachers at 123 different schools three weeks, on average, after the treatment group received its tour. The student surveys included multiple items assessing knowledge about art as well as measures of critical thinking, historical empathy, tolerance, and sustained interest in visiting art museums. Some groups were surveyed as late as eight weeks after the tour, but it was not possible to collect data after longer periods because each control group was guaranteed a tour during the following semester as a reward for its cooperation. There is no indication that the results reported below faded for groups surveyed after longer periods.

We also assessed students’ critical-thinking skills by asking them to write a short essay in response to a painting that they had not previously seen. Finally, we collected a behavioral measure of interest in art consumption by providing all students with a coded coupon good for free family admission to a special exhibit at the museum to see whether the field trip increased the likelihood of students making future visits.

All results reported below are derived from regression models that control for student grade level and gender and make comparisons within each matched pair, while taking into account the fact that students in the matched pair of applicant groups are likely to be similar in ways that we are unable to observe. Standard validity tests confirmed that the survey items employed to generate the various scales used as outcomes measured the same underlying constructs.

The intervention we studied is a modest one. Students received a one-hour tour of the museum in which they typically viewed and discussed five paintings. Some students were free to roam the museum following their formal tour, but the entire experience usually involved less than half a day. Instructional materials were sent to teachers who went on a tour, but our survey of teachers suggests that these materials received relatively little attention, on average no more than an hour of total class time. The discussion of each painting during the tour was largely student-directed, with the museum educators facilitating the discourse and providing commentary beyond the names of the work and the artist and a brief description only when students requested it. This format is now the norm in school tours of art museums. The aversion to having museum educators provide information about works of art is motivated in part by progressive education theories and by a conviction among many in museum education that students retain very little factual information from their tours.


Recalling Tour Details. Our research suggests that students actually retain a great deal of factual information from their tours. Students who received a tour of the museum were able to recall details about the paintings they had seen at very high rates. For example, 88 percent of the students who saw the Eastman Johnson painting At the Camp—Spinning Yarns and Whittling knew when surveyed weeks later that the painting depicts abolitionists making maple syrup to undermine the sugar industry, which relied on slave labor. Similarly, 82 percent of those who saw Norman Rockwell’s Rosie the Riveter could recall that the painting emphasizes the importance of women entering the workforce during World War II. Among students who saw Thomas Hart Benton’s Ploughing It Under, 79 percent recollected that it is a depiction of a farmer destroying his crops as part of a Depression-era price support program. And 70 percent of the students who saw Romare Bearden’s Sacrifice could remember that it is part of the Harlem Renaissance art movement. Since there was no guarantee that these facts would be raised in student-directed discussions, and because students had no particular reason for remembering these details (there was no test or grade associated with the tours), it is impressive that they could recall historical and sociological information at such high rates.

These results suggest that art could be an important tool for effectively conveying traditional academic content, but this analysis cannot prove it. The control-group performance was hardly better than chance in identifying factual information about these paintings, but they never had the opportunity to learn the material. The high rate of recall of factual information by students who toured the museum demonstrates that the tours made an impression. The students could remember important details about what they saw and discussed.

Critical Thinking. Beyond recalling the details of their tour, did a visit to an art museum have a significant effect on students? Our study demonstrates that it did. For example, students randomly assigned to receive a school tour of Crystal Bridges later displayed demonstrably stronger ability to think critically about art than the control group.

During the first semester of the study, we showed all 3rd- through 12th-grade students a painting they had not previously seen, Bo Bartlett’s The Box. We then asked students to write short essays in response to two questions: What do you think is going on in this painting? And, what do you see that makes you think that? These are standard prompts used by museum educators to spark discussion during school tours.

We stripped the essays of all identifying information and had two coders rate the compositions using a seven-item rubric for measuring critical thinking that was developed by researchers at the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum in Boston. The measure is based on the number of instances that students engaged in the following in their essays: observing, interpreting, evaluating, associating, problem finding, comparing, and flexible thinking. Our measure of critical thinking is the sum of the counts of these seven items. In total, our research team blindly scored 3,811 essays. For 750 of those essays, two researchers scored them independently. The scores they assigned to the same essay were very similar, demonstrating that we were able to measure critical thinking about art with a high degree of inter-coder reliability.

We express the impact of a school tour of Crystal Bridges on critical-thinking skills in terms of standard-deviation effect sizes. Overall, we find that students assigned by lottery to a tour of the museum improve their ability to think critically about art by 9 percent of a standard deviation relative to the control group. The benefit for disadvantaged groups is considerably larger (see Figure 1). Rural students, who live in towns with fewer than 10,000 people, experience an increase in critical-thinking skills of nearly one-third of a standard deviation. Students from high-poverty schools (those where more than 50 percent of students receive free or reduced-price lunches) experience an 18 percent effect-size improvement in critical thinking about art, as do minority students.

Click to enlarge

A large amount of the gain in critical-thinking skills stems from an increase in the number of observations that students made in their essays. Students who went on a tour became more observant, noticing and describing more details in an image. Being observant and paying attention to detail is an important and highly useful skill that students learn when they study and discuss works of art. Additional research is required to determine if the gains in critical thinking when analyzing a work of art would transfer into improved critical thinking about other, non-art-related subjects.

Historical Empathy. Tours of art museums also affect students’ values. Visiting an art museum exposes students to a diversity of ideas, peoples, places, and time periods. That broadening experience imparts greater appreciation and understanding. We see the effects in significantly higher historical empathy and tolerance measures among students randomly assigned to a school tour of Crystal Bridges.

Historical empathy is the ability to understand and appreciate what life was like for people who lived in a different time and place. This is a central purpose of teaching history, as it provides students with a clearer perspective about their own time and place. To measure historical empathy, we included three statements on the survey with which students could express their level of agreement or disagreement: 1) I have a good understanding of how early Americans thought and felt; 2) I can imagine what life was like for people 100 years ago; and 3) When looking at a painting that shows people, I try to imagine what those people are thinking. We combined these items into a scale measuring historical empathy.

Students who went on a tour of Crystal Bridges experience a 6 percent of a standard deviation increase in historical empathy. Among rural students, the benefit is much larger, a 15 percent of a standard deviation gain. We can illustrate this benefit by focusing on one of the items in the historical empathy scale. When asked to agree or disagree with the statement, “I have a good understanding of how early Americans thought and felt,” 70 percent of the treatment-group students express agreement compared to 66 percent of the control group. Among rural participants, 69 percent of the treatment-group students agree with this statement compared to 62 percent of the control group. The fact that Crystal Bridges features art from different periods in American history may have helped produce these gains in historical empathy.

Tolerance. To measure tolerance we included four statements on the survey to which students could express their level of agreement or disagreement: 1) People who disagree with my point of view bother me; 2) Artists whose work is critical of America should not be allowed to have their work shown in art museums; 3) I appreciate hearing views different from my own; and 4) I think people can have different opinions about the same thing. We combined these items into a scale measuring the general effect of the tour on tolerance.

Overall, receiving a school tour of an art museum increases student tolerance by 7 percent of a standard deviation. As with critical thinking, the benefits are much larger for students in disadvantaged groups. Rural students who visited Crystal Bridges experience a 13 percent of a standard deviation improvement in tolerance. For students at high-poverty schools, the benefit is 9 percent of a standard deviation.

The improvement in tolerance for students who went on a tour of Crystal Bridges can be illustrated by the responses to one of the items within the tolerance scale. When asked about the statement, “Artists whose work is critical of America should not be allowed to have their work shown in art museums,” 35 percent of the control-group students express agreement. But for students randomly assigned to receive a school tour of the art museum, only 32 percent agree with censoring art critical of America. Among rural students, 34 percent of the control group would censor art compared to 30 percent for the treatment group. In high-poverty schools, 37 percent of the control-group students would censor compared to 32 percent of the treatment-group students. These differences are not huge, but neither is the intervention. These changes represent the realistic improvement in tolerance that results from a half-day experience at an art museum.

Interest in Art Museums. Perhaps the most important outcome of a school tour is whether it cultivates an interest among students in returning to cultural institutions in the future. If visiting a museum helps improve critical thinking, historical empathy, tolerance, and other outcomes not measured in this study, then those benefits would compound for students if they were more likely to frequent similar cultural institutions throughout their life. The direct effects of a single visit are necessarily modest and may not persist, but if school tours help students become regular museum visitors, they may enjoy a lifetime of enhanced critical thinking, tolerance, and historical empathy.

We measured how school tours of Crystal Bridges develop in students an interest in visiting art museums in two ways: with survey items and a behavioral measure. We included a series of items in the survey designed to gauge student interest:

• I plan to visit art museums when I am an adult.

• I would tell my friends they should visit an art museum.

• Trips to art museums are interesting.

• Trips to art museums are fun.

• Would your friend like to go to an art museum on a field trip?

• Would you like more museums in your community?

• How interested are you in visiting art museums?

• If your friends or family wanted to go to an art museum, how interested would you be in going?

Interest in visiting art museums among students who toured the museum is 8 percent of a standard deviation higher than that in the randomized control group. Among rural students, the increase is much larger: 22 percent of a standard deviation. Students at high-poverty schools score 11 percent of a standard deviation higher on the cultural consumer scale if they were randomly assigned to tour the museum. And minority students gain 10 percent of a standard deviation in their desire to be art consumers.

One of the eight items in the art consumer scale asked students to express the extent to which they agreed or disagreed with the statement, “I would tell my friends they should visit an art museum.” For all students who received a tour, 70 percent agree with this statement, compared to 66 percent in the control group. Among rural participants, 73 percent of the treatment-group students agree versus 63 percent of the control group. In high-poverty schools, 74 percent would recommend art museums to their friends compared to 68 percent of the control group. And among minority students, 72 percent of those who received a tour would tell their friends to visit an art museum, relative to 67 percent of the control group. Students, particularly those from disadvantaged backgrounds, are more likely to have positive feelings about visiting museums if they receive a school tour.

We also measured whether students are more likely to visit Crystal Bridges in the future if they received a school tour. All students who participated in the study during the first semester, including those who did not receive a tour, were provided with a coupon that gave them and their families free entry to a special exhibit at Crystal Bridges. The coupons were coded so that we could determine the applicant group to which students belonged. Students had as long as six months after receipt of the coupon to use it.

We collected all redeemed coupons and were able to calculate how many adults and youths were admitted. Though students in the treatment group received 49 percent of all coupons that were distributed, 58 percent of the people admitted to the special exhibit with those coupons came from the treatment group. In other words, the families of students who received a tour were 18 percent more likely to return to the museum than we would expect if their rate of coupon use was the same as their share of distributed coupons.

This is particularly impressive given that the treatment-group students had recently visited the museum. Their desire to visit a museum might have been satiated, while the control group might have been curious to visit Crystal Bridges for the first time. Despite having recently been to the museum, students who received a school tour came back at higher rates. Receiving a school tour cultivates a taste for visiting art museums, and perhaps for sharing the experience with others.

Disadvantaged Students

One consistent pattern in our results is that the benefits of a school tour are generally much larger for students from less-advantaged backgrounds. Students from rural areas and high-poverty schools, as well as minority students, typically show gains that are two to three times larger than those of the total sample. Disadvantaged students assigned by lottery to receive a school tour of an art museum make exceptionally large gains in critical thinking, historical empathy, tolerance, and becoming art consumers.

It appears that the less prior exposure to culturally enriching experiences students have, the larger the benefit of receiving a school tour of a museum. We have some direct measures to support this explanation. To isolate the effect of the first time visiting the museum, we truncated our sample to include only control-group students who had never visited Crystal Bridges and treatment-group students who had visited for the first time during their tour. The effect for this first visit is roughly twice as large as that for the overall sample, just as it is for disadvantaged students.

In addition, we administered a different version of our survey to students in kindergarten through 2nd grade. Very young students are less likely to have had previous exposure to culturally enriching experiences. Very young students make exceptionally large improvements in the observed outcomes, just like disadvantaged students and first-time visitors.

When we examine effects for subgroups of advantaged students, we typically find much smaller or null effects. Students from large towns and low-poverty schools experience few significant gains from their school tour of an art museum. If schools do not provide culturally enriching experiences for these students, their families are likely to have the inclination and ability to provide those experiences on their own. But the families of disadvantaged students are less likely to substitute their own efforts when schools do not offer culturally enriching experiences. Disadvantaged students need their schools to take them on enriching field trips if they are likely to have these experiences at all.

Policy Implications

School field trips to cultural institutions have notable benefits. Students randomly assigned to receive a school tour of an art museum experience improvements in their knowledge of and ability to think critically about art, display stronger historical empathy, develop higher tolerance, and are more likely to visit such cultural institutions as art museums in the future. If schools cut field trips or switch to “reward” trips that visit less-enriching destinations, then these important educational opportunities are lost. It is particularly important that schools serving disadvantaged students provide culturally enriching field trip experiences.

This first-ever, large-scale, random-assignment experiment of the effects of school tours of an art museum should help inform the thinking of school administrators, educators, policymakers, and philanthropists. Policymakers should consider these results when deciding whether schools have sufficient resources and appropriate policy guidance to take their students on tours of cultural institutions. School administrators should give thought to these results when deciding whether to use their resources and time for these tours. And philanthropists should weigh these results when deciding whether to build and maintain these cultural institutions with quality educational programs. We don’t just want our children to acquire work skills from their education; we also want them to develop into civilized people who appreciate the breadth of human accomplishments. The school field trip is an important tool for meeting this goal.

Jay P. Greene is professor of education reform at the University of Arkansas, where Brian Kisida is a senior research associate and Daniel H. Bowen is a doctoral student.

Additional materials, including a supplemental study and a methodological appendix, are available.

Comment on this article
  • Ze'ev Wurman says:

    A beautiful study!

  • Cyd King says:

    Great idea by the University of Arkansas to contemplate the creation of a center that conducts this type of research. This study was very telling and could be applied to many of the arts institutions sprouting in our region.

  • […] learn more about the findings and research methodology, read the article in Education […]

  • Laura says:

    Is this the whole study including the methodological appendix?Will the study be published in another form.

  • Jay P. Greene says:

    Hi Laura,

    Separate articles focused on each of the outcomes described here are currently under review at journals. This is a summary of the combined results.



  • […] great article and analysis of field trips in the outstanding education journal EducatinNext this morning.  It describes a study in which authors Greene, […]

  • Ryan Collay says:

    This is great! We need to refine the meaning and role of enrichment in education as OST has a huge role to play in improving students learning and their abilities to connect and engage in the classroom. We miss a lot when we focus only on factoid assessments of learning and must be reminded that context, connection, “people and Places” matter to young people. And this plays out in creativity, inspiration, and their learning to be learners.

  • George Peternel says:

    The article reminds me of the days when I accompanied school groups from my school in the suburbs to the various museums in Chicago. Often, I would notice school-age children from Chicago roaming around in the museums, unaccompanied by anybody or anything but their own intellectual curiosity. They were obviously skipping school, but I couldn’t help but feel that they were hardly “truant” from learning.

  • Douglas Worts says:

    Kudos to the researchers! Interesting stuff.
    As a museum educator and audience researcher for more than 30 years, I can tell you that this kind of research is sorely needed. Some museums do have audience researchers, but most do not. And it is even rarer when an museum audience researcher manages to have their work taken seriously enough to affect planning processes.

    One flag I would like to raise is that the article could have stressed more emphatically the difference between those students who were part of a tour and those who did not have a facilitated experience. Tours help to bring focus to an environment where focus is often absent. As well, tours can help viewers to personalize images and bring important contexts (historical context certainly, but also contemporary issues that are linked to historical realities). These kinds of connections are often absent in the experiences of visitors who do not have facilitated experiences. All of this points to some systemic shortcomings of museum practice that one would be wise to recognize.

    For example, there is great value in much of what museums collect – but there is much that ends up in museums for reasons other than public or cultural relevance. Related to issues of large collections is the museum tradition of displaying hundreds, if not thousands, of objects in permanent collection galleries. Because most museums charge admission (I realize that it is not the case here), most occasional visitors want to see everything (one of those ‘value for money’ rationalizations that are not always true). Frequently, the result is that many visitors see virtually nothing (at least in any substantive way) as they look at thousands of objects. Yes, occasionally people focus enough to become inspired – but as a museum researcher, this has always seemed much more rare than museums like to believe. Also, the choice of objects (in this case, 5 artworks that were carefully chosen to make meaningful impacts) is essential.

    Large museums often encourage people into, what audience researchers call, ‘grazing’ behaviour – moving slowly past a very large number of objects, rarely stopping or spending more than 5 to 10 seconds focused on individual works. A skilled tour guide makes a huge difference! And in this museum, the guides sound like they have been well trained. At many museums, the norm for touring remains a ‘fact dump’, with few redeeming qualities for anyone.

    So, I was happy to see this research report here. But I would be cautious about extrapolating too much about the role and value of museum visits for students. Rather, I would suggest that the conditions for the success that was identified here be clearly laid out, so that ‘museum visits’ are not seen as monolithically good for students.

  • John S. Green says:

    Wonderful and important research. Logic would dictate more field trips for students. Quantitative backings are a bonus for initiating more for all ages. Well done.

  • kiante says:

    If the rote learning enterprise across the U.S recognize that the study, application of theories of “Multiple Intelligences,” must infuse didactic teaching strategies, then the clones we produce will have little from which to draw from when they sit to take a test. We have all the research and know what to do, but those viewed as inferior often do not have the resources to sustain as the educational mandates are drill and test. If we use less chalk and talk and create a hybrid of what is taught in the classroom, there is no doubt the various learning styles will benefit from learning activities which requires use of the senses.

  • Chris Myers Asch says:

    Excellent! This study confirms what many of us in education have known for many years, even if the politics of reform in the past decade have obscured it: kids learn best when they experience the world for themselves. Our economic difficulties, combined with our test obsession, have pushed too many wonderful experiences out of our students’ school lives.

    I’ve had the chance to witness one organization that does an excellent job of making field trips academically enriching and fun — Live It Learn It in Washington, D.C. The organization partners with Title I schools to take kids to the city’s most important sites, and the staff prepares detailed and rigorous units for each trip. It’s really a pretty amazing group that you should know about:

  • William Coles says:

    Awesome Article, I have a question, can this art study include dance or movement as a art or just as painting based?

  • Jay P. Greene says:

    Hi William, The supplemental study looks at field trips to a performing arts center where students saw theater, dance, and music. The benefits were similar and they compounded over many years.


  • James Brown says:

    Why do we need a study to tell us field trips are a good thing? I remember some of them well-but I don’t remember having to write about them-in no small way it destroys the purpose. Cannot we let them just enjoy it? My, my, my and we wonder where all the money is going-these people should all get a real job-maybe try some ‘critical Lincoln skills’ and stop burdening the taxpayers with worthless ‘;studies’, endless jargon and some edutopia on the shores of Lake Woebegon.

  • […] colleagues virtually to inform my leadership of our school system here. Today, I received a great article discussing research supporting the educational value of field […]

  • Michael Savage says:

    I think the claims about promoting tolerance and critical thinking are over-stated:

  • jeffrey miller says:

    Thank you for performing and presenting this research. More, please, from around the country.

  • megan mitchell says:

    For the majority of my teaching I have been in Title 1 low income schools in which at a maximum we had 1 field trip in the fall and 1 field trip in the spring for kids that had minimal exposure to anything outside of their local neighborhood. I started finding ways to incorporate field trips that administration could not deny because they were free and I documented and justified every benefit the students would receive from the experience. Last year district administration felt that field trips were not beneficial and would not approve any for the fall semester so I began getting family memberships to local museums and gardens and would give up weekends to take 5-6 students at a time spread out over a month so everyone got a chance to go on mini field trips. I cannot express enough how beneficial this was not only to my students learning but to my teaching as well. The students were using high level vocabulary in natural conversation with each other that I could assess simply by listening and letting them explore. Students that were normally behavior concerns in the classroom were very well behaved. Students that normally would ask to go to the restroom 5-6 times in the school day would not even mention needing to go on these trips. When we would return to the classroom they would have the experience to draw up on and it transformed our classroom immensely. I began looking for free events in the city and ended up exposing them to the Opera, Earth Day Expos, the Asian Art Museum, and several others. Students were asking me to stay at school well after the school day ended. I pursued several grants to extend this to an official program for the classroom but did not receive funding and after reading your article would love to dialogue with you more. Please let me know if you are available or are willing to discuss your research further. I think it is truly fundamental to provide exposure to students and show them how the time they spend in the classroom directly links to the working world and they have a choice about their role in society based on this exposure.

  • […] visible online. Just in the past couple of weeks, we’ve had the marvelous article on the benefits of museum field trips on EducationNext, which deserves a robust discussion in our field; that is, the kind that happens in […]

  • PJohnson says:

    I think if I read “education” and “scarce resources” in the same sentence my head will explode. Utter tripe. Not scarce. Misspent.

  • […] The Educational Value of Field Trips : Education Next. Share this:TwitterFacebookGoogleLike this:Like Loading… This entry was posted in Uncategorized and tagged arts education, Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art, Field trip, Montana Arts Council by Emily Kohring. Bookmark the permalink. […]

  • […] deal of factual information from their tours,” Jay P. Greene, Brian Kisida and Daniel H. Bowen wrote in the policy journal Education Next. “Students who received a tour of the museum were able to recall details about the paintings they […]

  • Jezreel Alcantara says:

    Nice :) I learned lots. God Bless

  • […] in their daily learning and on the standardized tests. My students’ experience was not unusual. A new study released by the University of Arkansas found that visiting an art museum even just one time made students […]

  • […] all over the state regularly to play on sports teams, but only rarely for cultural activities. (New research by Greene, Kisida and Bowen documents the myriad benefits of cultural field trips, particularly for underserved students.) […]

  • Michael Pace says:

    The reasoning involved in drawing the conclusions of the study sounds extremely dubious to me.

    (Except that, of *course* students recently exposed to a museum tour will on average be more predisposed to make insightful comments about a new-to-them piece of art.)

    For all the researchers know, the crucial factor in the treatment group, in contrast to the control group, is that those students took a trip. Or rode on a bus. Or that they got away from school for a day. Or that they got more exercise than the students whose tour was deferred.

    I am a big art lover and I strongly support school tours of museums. But I am ever more of a strong supporter of well-done research, which this is not.

  • Jay P. Greene says:

    You raise an excellent point to which we’ve given some thought. We’ve wondered whether a field trip to view a football stadium, for example, would produce similar benefits and in fact are designing a new experiment to test that possibility.

    But we have some good reasons for thinking that the outcomes we observed are caused by a culturally enriching field trip and not just any kind of trip. First, almost all students in the study go on school field trips each year. If they did not win the lottery to visit the art museum, they would have gone on whatever field trip schools in the area normally attend — these include trips to an amusement park, movie theater, bowling alley, etc… So, the vast majority of the control group went on a bus ride somewhere. The treatment group differed in that those students went on a bus ride to an art museum.

    Second, when school groups go on enriching field trips somewhere other than the new art museum, they often visit the Walton Arts Center to see live musical, drama, and dance performances. We conducted a supplemental study to see if trips to the Walton Arts Center produced benefits similar to those observed from visiting the Crystal Bridges art museum. They did. See . This suggests that culturally enriching field trips produce the benefits we’ve observed, not just any bus ride.

    It is certainly possible that visiting the zoo, a science museum, or some other cultural institution also could produce similar benefits, but Northwest Arkansas is lacking in those institutions. All we can say with confidence is that students who won the lottery to visit Crystal Bridges experienced benefits that students who lost the lottery did not receive. And as we acknowledge, “Further research is needed to determine what exactly about the museum-going experience determines the strength of the outcomes.”

  • G.K. Shahani says:

    As far as my personal experience is related I think it is very vital to take students out side of school places as mentioned in this article and it is a good thing to be there and know about things being there with other class-mates. It lasts ever impression on students! so students may get more and more from out of books.

  • Jeff Meade says:

    The Crystal Bridges study troubles me in that it may be used as false justification for museums to claim an impact on classroom learning. The report fails to distinguish the audience between “students” and “young people in museums.” The larger museum education field struggles to make this distinction as well, assuming that young audiences arriving via yellow school bus makes them “students.” Students, as a defined audience, are subject to specific curriculum and outcomes that museums are unable to control, much like the commenter Kiante mentioned.

    Aside from a brief mention that classroom educators had a short introductory lesson (pre- and post-visit lessons have been repeatedly shown to be under-used and largely ineffective in preparing classes for museum field trips), nowhere does the report mention curriculum, classroom, or anything about the relationship between the museum experience and what these young people are studying in school. If your museum experience does not affect what students are working on in class, or go back to the classroom in any way, then there is simply no connection between the museum and the school. In other words, none of the experiences mentioned in the Crystal Bridges study can be considered elements of a “school” field trip.

    The study does confirm that museums are entirely capable of effectively engaging young people, where learning happens in ways that classroom restrictions no longer allow. It’s high time for museum educators involved with school programming to stop trying to impact classroom learning because we just aren’t doing it. Place emphasis instead on being the space that school cannot be: the space where students lead learning experiences, where they explore, where they gather feedback on ideas, where they perform actions related to what they’re seeing and doing. Schools no longer need museums to support their direct content and curriculum, rather they need museums to provide the learning interactions that have been eliminated from standards and high-stakes testing. Once the museum education field embraces this notion, we will fundamentally alter the pre-existing understanding of the museum-school relationship.

    As much as the comment by Megan Mitchell excited me, Megan- you are the anomaly teacher, not the norm. Every museum needs a teacher or two like you who we can develop specific programs with, but the overwhelming majority of “school” tours are not about school at all. And let’s enjoy that. Let’s embrace it. Let’s respect young people as learners and NOT as students. By failing to distinguish their audience between students and young people, the authors of this report have actually turned the museum into the very “reward” field trip they lamented against. It’s just a reward with an educational purpose, but a reward nonetheless. It had nothing to do with school.

  • Leonardo Steenkamp - KIMBERELY, NORTHERN CAPE, SOUTH AFRICA says:


    I would like to thank the author for an article which I can identify with and appreciate its worth. The reason for this comment is because I have been organising field throughout my teaching career from rural schools to city schools, all in public education in varying financial positions. I have found in the article all to be true. I have found one skill in non-advantaged groups to be developed is that of overcoming their fear of other advantaged groups and developing a stronger form of communication.

    Actualising field trips and excursions is one of the most effective ways of monitoring the way which our aspirant citizens and leaders will interact. Its here where the power as well as the privilege of working with the young mind is at its best. Its here where we get to monitor our success of lessons taught in the classroom.

    To all educators who practise this actualisation diligently, KEEP IT UP FOR THE NEXT GENERATION!!!

  • Amber Montoya says:

    this helped me for researching information on my essay , thank you ! :)

  • Hannah says:

    Thanks for the article… Actually, Museums have been using multiple looking and thinking strategies for many years. Visual thinking Strategies, Learning to Look, and Object-based learning are some ways MANY museums have already been implanting. Crystal Bridges is making a big deal of things that have already been happening in the museum education field. No new news here…

  • Marion says:

    I would have liked to see Jay Greene give credit to the VTS Institute (Visual Thinking Strategies) who designed the questions “What do you see going on in this picture”, “What do you see that makes you say that?” and “What more can we find?” to engage students who are viewing art. He is correct when he says many museums use this technique, but VTS deserves a mention for designing the methodology. The rubric from the Isabelle Stewart Gardner Museum that he says was used to measure critical thinking also comes from assessment measures designed by VTS.

  • Alexia Grougan says:

    Students should go on more field trips so that they could have a better education. My daughter doesn’t go on field trips like that because some of the field trips to go on is not even educational.

  • Kewanee Dease says:

    My wife and really want our son to have a better education. MORE FIELD TRIPS!

  • […] from a recent study shows that even a single field trip can increase students’ ability to think critically about art, […]

  • Gabriel says:

    This is a great study and it may help school authority to realize the importance of school excursions. I did a personal survey in my circle that what is your ever memorable thing in school college days. Most of my friends replied their school excursions they in their childhood that is the most sweet memorable thing …….

  • Chenga says:

    I think that kids should have more fieldtrips. They would get a better learning experience.

  • Gabrielle says:

    I feel that students should learn about the community they lived in. This summer we had 19 students and participate in 15 museum in the Las Vegas Area. The goal was to teach the student first hand knowledge about the community they lived in it was historical camp run by Yates Academy of Learning. The students also learn about the great pioneer and what their name signified . they visit the mormom fort, cultural center, college, library, reading room and seen plays. The student were from k to 5th gradet. This winter wee will be hosting another camp.

  • Bella Alcantara says:

    I really like it and it really helps when where trying to persuade my teacher to go on a field trip !!!!!!!!

  • hi says:

    I think that kids should get more field trips and less homework.

  • A Collage student says:

    I think that kids should get more chances to go to museums to get to learn and see new and exciting things and that teaches and parents and teachers should go easy on the kids and give the less chores and less less less homework and the kids would be happy and learn at the same time.

  • icky wicky says:

    i think that students should get more field trips it gets them out of the class room and lets there mind rome free

  • […] So even if you have all the conditions to conduct a Random Assignment Evaluation, considered the gold standard, so many things can happen that will bias your design. However, once in awhile we do get great research that meets this gold standard. In 2011, Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art, located in Bentonville, Arkansas, opened as the first art museum of significance in the region. Researchers were able to randomize school groups into a treatment (field trip) and control (no field trip) and measure the effects of a one-time field trip upon students. In addition, because of the large sample size, there was enough power to detect statistically significant differences between the groups. You can read more about the research design, and the instruments used to measure outcomes, here.   […]

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