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Notebook

Notebook, 1993-

Return to - Notes for a Perspective on Art Education

Notes from: Rachel P. Hopkins, New Hampshire Dept of Education. In Studies in Art Education. 34[3]. Spring 1993. pp. 184-5.]

Art, Mind, and Education:
Research from
Project Zero

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Gardner, H. & Perkins, D. [Eds.]. [1988]. Art, mind, and education: Research from Project Zero. Chicago: Univ. of Illinois Press. 173 pages. ISBN 0-252-06080-6. [Reviewed by Rachel P. Hopkins, New Hampshire Dept of Education. In Studies in Art Education. 34[3]. Spring 1993. pp. 184-5.]


This insightful collection of research essays addresses the rapid growth of theories of cognitive development that, in this reviewer's opinion, have had significant impact on arts education in the US today. The research described was conducted at Project Zero and supports the theory of multiple intelligences described in Howard Gardner's [1983] Frames of Mind.Project Zero was founded in 1967 at the Harvard Graduate School of Education to study the philosophy and psychology of the arts and to improve arts education. The 13 articles in this book were originally published in the Journal of Aesthetic Education[1988] after 20 years of Project Zero research.

The initial intent of Project Zero researchers to examine the philosophy and psychology of the arts was expanded into the areas of cognitive development, cognitive skills, television for children, and artistic giftedness and creativity. The chapters in Art, Mind, and Educationcover not only the visual arts but also nonliteral language, music, computers as mappers of cognitive thinking, and the use of metaphors by children.

Among the contributors to this book, Elizabeth Rosenblatt and Ellen Winner studied children's drawings as a means of understanding children's artistic knowledge in the areas of perception and artistic reflection and of distinguishing perceptual skills of talented children. Focusing on repleteness, expression, and composition, the authors conclude that drawings serve the child not as art but as nonverbal form of communication through symbols. Gifted children are advanced in technical skills, prefer themes, and have long visual memories. The skill of reflection develops early and is qualitatively different in both the verbally and visually precocious child.

Dennie Wolf and Martha Davis Perry focus on the development of drawing systems. The use of graphic genres, specific renditions of objects, and the development of a drawing repertoire were studied. Changes which occur were found to be age linked, and an instructor's understanding of these stages can be used to aid a student in attaining drawing skills.

Another chapter describes China's arts education focus on skill building through rote activities as opposed to the emphasis on creativity and self-expression in the US. Kathryn Lowry and Constance Wolf emphasize the importance of the family-as-mentor in China in this article and suggest that American educators can learn from the Chinese emphasis on skill, care, and discipline. This theme has been further developed in To Open Minds[Gardner, 1989].

In the chapter titled "Sampling the Image: Computers in Arts Education," Joseph Walters, Matthew Hodges, and Seymour Simmons examine the role of computers in arts education. They argue that the use of computers as translators of sounds or images to numerical data provides opportunities for the manipulation of symbols that allow artist rapid translation possibilities. Although computers have limitations, the authors suggest that by using their strengths, students can explore aesthetics, composition, and overall structure.

How we develop an understanding of art leads D. N. Perkins to discuss problem solving and qualitative valuing as ways to create parallel webs of understanding in several areas at the same time. He suggests that, by asking students to see problems and solutions of other artists, they develop better solutions and produce better art themselves. He has found that art making is both intentional and intuitive.

V. A. Howard focuses on expression as an active "hands-on" process. Howard believes that expressive potential may be controlled by the conscious effort of the creator more often than by happy accidents or "happenings." By tracing the philosophical development of expression, Howard concludes that expression is more hard work than uncontrolled surprise.

A Project Zero curriculum approach, "Arts Propel," provides students with the opportunity to trace their cognitive and artistic development through the use of portfolio and self-evaluative activities. Dennie Wolf details the individual journey of one student as illustrative of the procedure that Project Zero uses in high school music and visual arts classes. The importance of the social role of the arts is emphasized, and the potential that the artwork portfolio carries for assessment in art and other subject areas is examined.

In the final article, Howard Gardner anticipates four elements that will result in more effective arts education: the philosophical, the psychological, the artistic, and the ecology of the educational system. According to Gardner, understanding another symbolic system beyond language aids in the developmental learning of students Although there are individual variations in the path of learning, more effective art education can occur through understanding the linear nature of why we make art and how we relate art to the rest of our world.

The potential of Project Zero research lies in its confirmation that learning happens across content areas and its suggestion of new paradigms for curriculum and gifted and talented education. The articles in this book are, for the most part, readable, realistic, and easily applicable to practice.

Garner, H. [1983]. Frames of mind.New York: Basic
Garner, H. [1989]. To open minds.New York: Basic
Journal of Aesthetic Education.[1988]. [Special Issue]. 22[1].

[Notes from: Rachel P. Hopkins, New Hampshire Dept of Education. In Studies in Art Education. 34[3]. Spring 1993. pp. 184-5.]]




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