Art boosts pupils' critical thinking, study finds

10th August 2012 at 01:00
Research bolsters argument that more investment must be made in the field, academics claim

Research by a university in Western Australia appears to confirm that taking part in sustained art projects helps to develop critical thinking in young children.

The findings have been picked up by a leading educationalist in the field of art and design in Scotland - Diarmuid McAuliffe of the University of the West of Scotland - as further proof of the need to invest in the arts in education.

Caroline Nilson, a lecturer at Murdoch University in Australia, studied a group of 150 children aged eight and nine who were given four months to work with an artist-in-residence to develop a piece for a local arts festival.

When she interviewed their parents and teachers, they said the children were passive and waiting for instruction at the start of the four-month project, but by the end they had developed confidence and showed indications of problem-solving and perseverance.

"By the end of the project the children had grown in confidence in their artistic decisions and had learned a great deal about action and consequences which are both signs of critical thinking," Mrs Nilson said.

Both teachers and parents raised concerns that not enough time was allocated for art in either school or home life and cited a severe lack of funding and expert instruction at schools for arts programmes.

Mr McAuliffe, who lectures in art and design education, told TESS that the Australian research confirmed the gains shown by the Room 13 artist-in- residence project started in 1994 at Caol Primary in Fort William (see below).

"The arts call upon us to question, problem-solve and be generally curious about all human life. An artist-in-residence, as seen again in the Murdoch research, can trigger such activity in schools and sustain critical thinking," said Mr McAuliffe.

He said that unpublished research carried out by PGDE primary students at UWS in 2009 found that only 15 out of 175 Scottish primaries could demonstrate that they had engaged in a visual arts project which went beyond the "one-off" lesson.

"So sustained involvement (in the Murdoch case for four months) in problem-based, arts-based learning seems to be the key," he added.



The story of Room 13 began in 1994, when a group of pupils established their own art studio in Room 13 of Caol Primary near Fort William.

They ran the studio as a business, raising funds to buy art materials and employ a professional artist in residence - Rob Fairley - to work with them.

A network of creative studios now stretches around the globe, from Shanghai to Botswana, Nepal to California.

http:room13 international.orgaboutthe-story-of-room-13.


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