This study investigates how science and performing arts classes motivate high school students, particularly students of color, to pursue higher education. The changes in funding and perceived importance of Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) vs. Visual Performing Arts (VPA) classes and programs, as well as the underrepresentation of students of color in these areas, make this topic important. Existing literature independently examines the positive effects of science and arts classes on student success but fails to compare the benefits of these programs and to include the student voice. Through the use of participant observation, questionnaires, and interviews, this study aims to compare if and how a physiology and an acting class at Charlotte High School motivate students to pursue college. Findings suggest that science and arts courses influence students’ motivation differently. Questionnaire findings show that acting students were more likely to agree that their class is fun, helpful, and motivating than their peers in the physiology class. Interview findings matched these results. For example, questionnaire data reveals that students enrolled in the acting class are more motivated to pursue a college degree than those in the physiology class. This may be due to more engaging pedagogy and activities that build confidence in the class. Study implications highlight the need for continued funding of arts education to nurture unmotivated high school students’ college aspirations.

Author/Artist Bio

Alejandra Acosta is an undergraduate student at UCLA studying Sociology, Spanish, and Chicana/o Studies. Her experience as a performing arts student in high school inspired this topic as her first research project. Alejandra aspires to enter the education field and be an advocate for equity, bilingual education, and performing arts education.



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