"Thinking Through Art" FindingsYesterday's post laid out the rubric for critical thinking that the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum used in their "Thinking Through Art" (TTA) progam for (so far) students in the 3rd, 4th, and 5th grades. Today, I'll follow up by noting the results the researchers have reported from their effort to develop children's critical thinking skills through a curriculum focused on looking at and interpreting art objects.
"Thinking Through Art" is part of the Gardner Museum's School Partnership Program, which began in 1996.1 According to a March 8, 2007 press release (pdf) about the results of the TTA program,
When looking at and talking about works of art in the Gardner collection, School Partnership Program students used five of the identified critical thinking skills (observing, interpreting, associating, problem-solving, and flexible thinking) more often than non-program students. Gardner students spent twice as long as other students did in talking about each artwork, and were significantly more likely to offer evidence for their ideas.Peggy Burchenal, the museum's curator of education and public programs, offers an expansive view of what happens during the children's participation in the program:
In talking about art with their peers, students learn to think creatively and independently and to respect the ideas of others, to provide evidence for their ideas, to remain open to multiple possibilities, and to trust their own abilities to find meaning in the unfamiliar. The Gardner’s School Partnership Program provides students, and teachers alike, with an approach for grappling with new problems because every work of art presents a new "problem" to be solved.The principal of one of the participating schools offered this summary of what the program accomplished:
[Such a program is] part of teaching the whole child; it’s part of their learning. The partnership with the Gardner teaches children how to look carefully, how to notice details, and that makes them sharper observers and helps with their language by trying to put into words what their eyes see.The question that remains in my mind is when we'll hear about research to determine the degree to which students in the TTA program are able to apply critical thinking skills honed in studying art objects to other school subjects, such as reading.2
The complete TTA research report is here (pdf).
1 "Thinking Through Art" was funded by a grant from the US Department of Education's Arts in Education Model Development and Dissemination program.
2 In the latter portion of the TTA program, the Visual Thinking Strategies methodology developed by Visual Understanding in Education (VUE), a non-profit organization, was adopted for participants' guided discussions of the art they were viewing. VUE has compiled a list of research results indicating transferability of critical thinking skills developed in studying art objects, to other areas of learning.