Examining the Impact of a Live Performance of My Father’s Dragon: A Literacy/Theatre Project

Amanda Mayes, Ph.D.

Project Abstract

Schools continue to narrow their focus to subjects included on standardized tests. Justifying subjects and activities not covered on those assessments is increasingly difficult. As a result, subjects like theatre are overlooked in favor of math, science, and literacy initiatives. Although research suggests involvement in the arts has positive academic impacts, few studies with experimental designs are exploring the impact of live performances on literacy initiatives. This study seeks to broaden the understanding of the ability of arts integration in supporting literacy in early readers, broaden the types of tools used to assess educational outcomes, and understand the role cultural institutions play in producing educational outcomes.

Project Description

The primary goal of this study is to understand the intrinsic and academic/literacy impacts of a live performance. In order to meet this goal, schools will be recruited to have their students attend a live performance of My Father’s Dragon. This show is based upon the book of the same name by Ruth Stiles Gannett. This book has a grade level reading equivalent of 4.8. Students in grades K-5 will be targeted to attend the performance. All students who participate in the study will be provided with a copy of the book. Students in grades K-3 will have the book read to them in advance of the performance. Students in grades 4-5 will read the book in advance of the performance.

Schools will be randomly assigned to either the treatment or control group. Schools assigned to the treatment group will attend the live performance after reading the book, then will complete a comprehension assessment within 48 hours of the live performance. Schools assigned to the control group will read the book, complete the comprehension assessment, then attend the live performance. The evaluation tool will assess knowledge of the characters and plot, vocabulary, tolerance levels, and empathy.

This study will help to build the body of research examining the intrinsic benefits of a live performance and start to construct the body of knowledge on the academic impacts of the performing arts.

Cost for Presenting Organizations

  • Each copy of the book = $2.80
  • Purdue will provide funding for all data analysis and assessment materials

Program Plan

  1. Review of current literature- fall 2016/early spring 2017
  2. Full development of study design including research questions, methodology, program assessments- spring 2017
  3. Select schools who are willing to participate- late spring/early summer 2017
  4. Send list of participating schools with approximate number of involved student to Dr. Mayes- late spring/early summer 2017
  5. Obtain Institutional Review Board (IRB) approval for a study working with human subjects, approval application must include a list of all presenting arts organizations and schools participating in the study- summer 2017
  6. Mayes will either randomly assign schools to the treatment or control group or assign schools in matched pairs to the treatment or control group- midsummer 2017
  7. Funding for student copies of books attained, additional study funding for data analysis obtained- midsummer 2017
  8. Treatment AND control group schools will either have the book read to them or will have students read the book prior to their performance date. Treatment group schools will attend the live performance, then take a literacy test within the week following the performance. Control group schools will complete the test prior to attending the live performance- fall 2017/spring 2018
  9. All literacy tests, consent and assent forms, and any other study materials should be returned to Dr. Mayes- fall 2017/spring 2018
  10. Data analysis begins- early summer 2018
  11. Preliminary results complete-late fall 2018/early spring 2019
  12. Study ready for publication- spring 2019

Further Questions

Please contact Dr. Amanda Mayes at Purdue University with further questions via email at asmayes@purdue.edu or via phone at (765) 494-2695.

More information about My Father’s Dragon School Sign-Up