Hands-On and Minds-On Art

Susan Rudy, Art Teacher, Rochester City School District

My action research project focused on how metacognition in the interpretation and creation of art builds critical thinking skills and the ability to apply those skills. I also looked at how students see the process as valuable and applicable beyond the art room.

I am very interested in the effects art has on learning and on the extent to which participating in the arts reaches beyond the art studio. I have been teaching high school Visual Arts for 14 years and it has become apparent to me that the art room activities my students are engaged in directly relate to so many other aspects of their life and learning. Through this study, I wanted to engage my students and inspire them to think about how they think about art and, thus, how this affects their art making and the value they gain from it.

My approach to this study began with a student-centered and student-facilitated ‘fishbowl’ art critique activity. My students were involved in all aspects of the lesson and participated in group planning and cooperative teamwork activities, as well as individual art making. They critiqued, observed and thought about how they think about art and art making. They were involved in creating rubrics, routines and potential outcomes. After the group activity the students had the opportunity apply critical thinking skills and complete a drawing that helped to them further interpret and assign personal meaning to the art piece that they critiqued. The information identified through the critique was used to create a rubric that directly applied to the interpretative drawing the students completed.

Through the use of videotaping, journals, art projects and surveys, this study reveals changes in how students think about and approach art and the art making process. My findings showed that the students used metacognitive thinking strategies to apply critical thinking and problem solving skills. In support of higher level learning, this activity helped the students make connections between disciplines, topics and problem solving. They were able to generate ideas and find personal meaning related to a theme. The data I gathered from the surveys and daily journals revealed that, overall, the students reacted positively to the experience and expressed that they felt the experience was valuable and applicable to areas outside of the art room.  For examples of student art and my full report please see Hands-On and Minds-On Art.

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