Theater Field Trip Experiment

By 09/05/2013

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Continuing my effort to study how cultural experiences affect students, I am conducting an experiment in which school groups can win free tickets to see live theater performances.  Since I expect that there will be more demand for these free tickets than supply, the school groups will be awarded the tickets by lottery — allowing for a rigorous random-assignment analysis that compares outcomes for students whose groups won the tickets by lottery to those who did not.  The purpose of this experiment is to learn about how seeing live performances with their school may affect student understanding of great works of dramatic literature as well as influence their values (particularly tolerance and empathy) and their taste for future cultural consumption (e.g., going to the theater in the future, going to art museums, participating in theater, choir, etc…)

The project was announced yesterday in conjunction with TheatreSquared, a nationally recognized theater company based in Fayetteville, Arkansas.  TheatreSquared will be adding 8 weekday matinees of its performances this season of A Christmas Carol and Hamlet, allowing almost 1,400 students to see these plays on school field trips.  To apply for these free tickets, school groups can complete.  My students and I will study the impact of these performances on students.

This theater experiment follows on a study my colleagues, Brian Kisida and Dan Bowen, and I conducted on the effects of field trips to the Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art.  We similarly conducted lotteries to determine which school groups could visit the museum and studies how the experience affected students.  It also follows a natural experiment we examined in which students affected by the redrawing of school attendance zone boundaries were essentially randomly assigned to schools that went on more or fewer field trips to see live performances at the Walton Arts Center.  The results of those experiments will be published by Education Next on September 16.

-Jay P. Greene

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  • Sarah Martin says:

    I am a homeschool mom looking for ways to extend the learning from field trips. Science based trips seem easier to extend into the classroom.
    The arts are much more difficult to me. If you have any thoughts or ideas I’d be very appreciative.

    Thanks so much!

  • miriam Miller says:

    Both the Educational Value of Field Trips and now the proposed Theater Field Trip Experiment is awesome. Thank you very very much for sharing. I was at the DC Collaborative program Thursday but had to leave early. We have been introducing young students to opera after teacher preparation since 1973!!! We suffer from the present school issues—lack of funds—but I think in our area even more is time out of the classroom due to rush to STEM achievement. WE wrap the field trip in education yet know it is still entertainment to our audience. Thank you for what you are doing and please contact us if you want to know how we package this cultural field trip.

    Miriam Miller, President Opera NOVA

  • Janell Gotfredson says:

    I found your study to be very interesting. I am from a town of 30,000 in Wyoming and we have a 919 seat theater. We have a program through our theater called Arts in Education. Part of our program is to bring each grade K – 9 to a matinee performance. We have 16 elementary schools and 2 junior highs ALL classes in each grade attend the matinee scheduled for that school year. The shows we book are extremely varied to keep students engaged as they advance from grade to grade. We also offer artist residencies to all our schools. I feel that our school district is very unique and fortunate in allowing all classes at all grade levels to attend matinee performances. Articles such as yours just help in reinforcing the importance of continuing what our school district is doing. As the arts organization I always want to be prepared with the “why” just in case this is ever threatened.

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