Mind in Art: Cognitive Foundations in Art Education

Mind in Art: Cognitive Foundations in Art Education

Mind in Art: Cognitive Foundations in Art Education

Mind in Art: Cognitive Foundations in Art Education


This book is for the reader who believes that thinking about and making art is intelligent behavior and that art as a subject in the K-12 school curriculum should not be used as an alibi for other curricular objectives. It examines and makes explicit those cognitive behaviors normally associated with most higher order thinking and problem solving activity and explains how they function in the act of creative forming. Its goal is ultimately to find ways to use these behaviors in the construction of an intelligent art curriculum for K-12 American schools.

This is perhaps the only text in the field designed to assist teachers in meeting the challenges of teaching in the Goals 2000 curriculum and evaluation reform effort, acquainting them with both the National Art Standards and with the assessment processes needed in order for them to become accountable.

Mind in Art grapples with current and relevant theory, research, and unsolved problems. It is cohesive as it attempts to bring together information that is only partially known, even among those who are college professors. And it takes a critical look at the ideas and points of view that have created divisiveness and shabby thinking in the field. In this book Charles Dorn significantly advances thinking in the field of art education.


This effort was prompted by the perceived frustrations of several former graduate students who studied the effects of art teaching on the development of student academic abilities and some afterthoughts about my earlier work Thinking in Art (1994). In their research, these graduates attempted empirical (quasiexperimental) studies on the effects of formal art study in art criticism, art history, and aesthetics on the development of students' cognitive abilities in art classrooms. These studies varied in the experiment's length of time and the media explored, which included drawing, painting, ceramics, and photography. These researchers all struggled with the null hypothesis that, at the close of their experiments, indicated that no statistically significant differences in art performances, art attitudes, and cognitive abilities were evident in the students who formally studied art and in those who were mostly engaged in studio activity. In contrast, the afterthoughts about my earlier work started with a call from a colleague who, while generally agreeing with what I said in Thinking, questioned what my claims mean practically for those who teach art in schools.

I certainly bear a certain burden of responsibility for encouraging these former students to pursue experimental studies and, therefore, share in their perceived disappointment that nothing really happened. Something, of course, did really happen -- the discovery that, no matter how much they tried to enrich a studio environment in the elementary art classroom through interventions using traditional approaches to art history, art criticism, and critical activity, the students who received the benefits of such instruction did not end up making art better, liking art more, or becoming more intellectually competent than those who spent their time in what most would agree was simply good studio instruction. What disappointed these investigators most was that they were all good art teachers employing sound teaching strategies in their experiments and yet still failed to make art instruction in their so-called experimental sections better than that offered in the control group.

My colleague's comment, which questioned how the paradigms of Schema-Correction, Form-Gestalt, and Linguistic-Metaphor outlined in Thinking in Art (1994) related to classroom instruction, also reminded me that these former students, while aware of the paradigms, still failed to profit from them. I realized then that to merely claim that there are several frames of mind one can successfully use to teach art and that the production, history, and criticism of art when approached from the same philosophical viewpoint can yield important advantages in teaching art contents may not be sufficient. Therefore, the . . .

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