Effects of Teaching Perspective in a Structured and Systematic Way on Still Life Drawing of Elementary Students: An Empirical Study

Article excerpt

The purpose of this study was to determine if the sequential method of teaching art skills (Brookes, 1986) could improve the success of intermediate grade school art students. Students were required to draw pictures of still life. A between groups pre-posttest crossover design was used to compare and evaluate the quality of perspective drawings before and after training. The results indicated significant improvement in the drawing skills of elementary students after they had been taught with the sequential method of teaching perspective. When the control group was later instructed in the sequential method of teaching, their scores also significantly improved. The applicability of the outcomes and the importance of measuring the clinical significance in art instruction were discussed.

The value placed on art education and the way it is taught in the school curriculum is receiving much attention in education today. Because of the emphasis on student learning objectives in today's educational system, art instruction also is being examined and is receiving criticism from both within and outside of education. Some art educators complain that teaching structured elementary art techniques stifle expressiveness and imagination. Others feel teaching young children step by step visual art techniques not only improves art skills but enhances creativity and improves basic academic subjects as well (Brookes, 1986). The American public has long displayed an ambivalence toward the arts. The place of visual arts in American society, to most Americans, is viewed a post-occupation to be dabbled in where there is nothing better to do (Beeching, 1987). Although the arts proliferate in our society, very few people recogni/e the area of the visual arts for what it is; a non-verbal craft of communication which can be learned (Beeching, 1987). The lack of an intellectual framework for art makes it difficult for teachers and administrators to explain the subject and its importance (Willats, 1983). Radical changes in the way our culture conceives both art and education are needed in order for art education to be of importance in our school curriculum (Gross, 1983).

Compared with other disciplines, there is a small empirical research tradition in the visual arts. There is very little critical and analytical basis known for the subject. To create the conditions for quality education in art, our schools need to require a radical restructuring of our educational priorities and methods (Gross, 1983).

Most elementary teachers feel uneasy teaching the visual arts because of a lack of confidence in the subject themselves (Ahmad, 1986). This typically leads to art being taught through an assembly line production of craft projects. Children show little enthusiasm because they cannot create independently.

The basic skill of drawing is the one common denominator that unites the visual arts. Drawing is to visual art as penmanship is to writing, as mathematics is to physics, and as scores are to music. Drawing skills should not be approached on the basis that they are acquired through osmosis, rather than through diligent and repetitive practice. This discipline contributes to the education of a visual artist, and the ability to bring the intangible images of perception into the concrete realm of reality (Beeching, 1987).

The art of drawing is improved when a person learns "seeing" skills. It is simply a matter of learning basic perceptual skills, the special ways of seeing required for drawing. Anyone can learn enough "seeing skills" to draw a good likeness of something seen "out there" in the real world (Edwards, 1986). This way of seeing and belief that direct perception is an integral part of thinking is a creative process. When integrated with the verbal, analytical thought learning visual perception techniques provide the ingredients essential for true creativity. The global, visual, perceptual mode of the human brain is being accepted as equal in value to the sequential, verbal, analytic mode in the thinking process (Edwards, 1986). …

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