... When We Review the National Visual Arts Standards

By Herberholz, Barbara | Arts & Activities, September 2010 | Go to article overview
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... When We Review the National Visual Arts Standards


Herberholz, Barbara, Arts & Activities


What considerations and guidelines are available for school districts and teachers to use in planning and implementing their art curriculum for the 21st century? As in every aspect of life, change has occurred, and the place of art in the schools has not remained static.

The National Art Education Association (NAEA) has clearly defined the role of art with six content and achievement standards that are broad in coverage and designed specifically to ensure a thorough and comprehensive art program for K-4, 5-8 and 9-12.

To meet the standards, students learn vocabularies and concepts associated with various types of work in the visual arts, and must exhibit their competence at various levels in visual, oral and written form. The visual arts include drawing, painting, printmaking, sculpture, design of all sorts, architecture, film, video and folk arts--all involving tools, techniques and processes.

NATIONAL STANDARDS FOR VISUAL ARTS EDUCATION Concise and practical, the Standards are helpful in planning an all-inclusive, sequential art program. They are:

1. Understanding and applying media, techniques and processes.

2. Using knowledge of structures and functions.

3. Choosing and evaluating a range of subject matter, symbols and ideas.

4. Understanding the visual arts in relation to history and cultures.

5. Reflecting on and assessing the characteristics and merits of their work and the work of others.

6. Making connections between visual arts and other disciplines.

So, in order to create, understand and appreciate artworks, artists, artistic processes and the roles, functions and meaning of art in diverse cultures, students need opportunities to engage in a variety of challenging activities: looking, thinking, reflecting, doing, evaluating, analyzing and synthesizing, all in a creative and personally expressive mode.

HOW THE STANDARDS CAME TO BE The role of the visual arts in the schools has been far from unchanging through the years. Due in part to the Industrial Revolution, 19th-century teachers emphasized drawing so students could acquire skills for factory work, sketching portraits, encouraging good penmanship and improving hand-eye coordination.

In the early 1900s, art programs began to include the study of reproductions of paintings and sculpture (which were usually historic or sentimental), believing this taught moral values and socially productive behavior. The curriculum at this time included manual arts so students could make practical and useful gifts and items for the home.

Soon, the emerging interest in psychology and human behavior led to the child-study movement, with its interest in children's drawings and what they might reveal about mental and emotional growth.

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