WWC review of this study

Does theatre-in-education promote early childhood development?: The effect of drama on language, perspective-taking, and imagination [Theatre-in-Education program vs. business as usual (Head Start)]

Mages, W. K. (2018). Early Childhood Research Quarterly, 45(4), 224–237.

  • Quasi-Experimental Design
    , grade

Reviewed: July 2022

No statistically significant positive
Meets WWC standards with reservations
Language outcomes—Indeterminate effect found for the domain
Comparison Period Sample Intervention
Significant? Improvement

The Telephone Task

Theatre-in-Education program vs. Business as usual

0 Days

Full sample;
155 students






Theatre-in-Education program vs. Business as usual

0 Days

Full sample;
167 students





Evidence Tier rating based solely on this study. This intervention may achieve a higher tier when combined with the full body of evidence.

Characteristics of study sample as reported by study author.

  • Female: 50%
    Male: 50%

  • Urban
    • B
    • A
    • C
    • D
    • E
    • F
    • G
    • I
    • H
    • J
    • K
    • L
    • P
    • M
    • N
    • O
    • Q
    • R
    • S
    • V
    • U
    • T
    • W
    • X
    • Z
    • Y
    • a
    • h
    • i
    • b
    • d
    • e
    • f
    • c
    • g
    • j
    • k
    • l
    • m
    • n
    • o
    • p
    • q
    • r
    • s
    • t
    • u
    • x
    • w
    • y

    New York
  • Race
    Other or unknown


The study occurred in the New York City area in 12 Head Start programs across 4 boroughs. There were 4 Brooklyn sites, 4 Manhattan sites, 2 Queens sites, and 2 Bronx sites. The research occurred in the normal head start classrooms throughout the regular instructional period, and the intervention group did have some after school rehearsal activities. Six of the 12 sites were assigned to the intervention group whereas the other six were assigned to continue following the Head Start curriculum as usual.

Study sample

The sample consisted of 77 female students and 78 male students between the ages of 3 and 4. Half of the children were from homes where only English was spoken, and the other half came from homes where only another language was spoken or where a combination of English and another language were spoken. All children were from low socioeconomic status families. The sample of students included in the review comprised 155 students: 72 children in the intervention group and 83 children in the comparison group.

Intervention Group

The Early Learning Through the Arts (ELTA): New York City Wolf Trap Program was designed to improve literacy skills through a theater and drama curriculum. ELTA is a theatre-in-education (TIE) program. The curriculum included rehearsals for the theatre-in-education dramas called An-Nyoung Dal, Hello Moon and La Feria de Sevilla. The curriculum also included teacher-led storytelling and picture-book-based drama activity. The program was approximately 20 weeks long. The intervention included 14 days of in-class activities with the Head Start children and over 13 days of non-classroom activities (after school) that provided training, orientation, and reflection activities for the Head Start teachers and directors.

Comparison Group

The comparison condition consisted of normal, business-as-usual (BAU) Head Start programming.

Support for implementation

The intervention was supported by researchers at the Creative Arts Team (CAT) which is affiliated with the City University of New York (CUNY) system of universities. The intervention, Early Learning Through the Arts (ELTA) was implemented via researchers affiliated with the CAT program. The intervention was facilitated by two ELTA company members and 8 actor-teachers who were professionally trained college-educated actors with professional theater experience. They rehearsed for 20 days from 9 AM to 3:30 PM in preparation for the program. They were systematically observed by the researcher and field notes were taken during each observed session. The actor-teachers were from ELTA and taught the curriculum. Head Start teachers were given professional development training to continue using drama to promote literacy in the classroom following the end of the intervention.


Your export should download shortly as a zip archive.

This download will include data files for study and findings review data and a data dictionary.

Connect With the WWC

back to top