Cavin conducted the study described in her paper after reading an earlier draft of this book. Her work demonstrates clearly the useful guidance that can be provided by works of the kind presented in this volume. Like Mandell, for example, she examines ‘children’s ways’ and, like Mackay, she focuses on children’s competencies.
By directing her sociological attention to aspects of children’s behavior that are more commonly considered in psychological terms, she is able to display the social dimensions of such behavior. Of particular theoretical importance is Cavin’s questioning of the procedures for identifying solitary behavior. What in everyday life is taken for granted as solitary activity may, on the basis of careful sociological observation, be found to be social, in the sense that it is oriented to others and takes them into account. Cavin makes clear that, whether or not it is indeed possible to engage in solitary behavior when in the presence of others, a gathering of young children, each working on an individual project, can be a social event.
Also worth highlighting is Cavin’s recognition of the very different standards and attitudes applied to the ‘artwork’ of children and of adults. Her data suggests that adults view children’s artwork as in some sense trivial, perhaps meaningful for what it discloses of a child’s personality or motor skills but not worthy of aesthetic consideration. In contrast, Cavin’s observations of children’s talk about their work (how it is best executed, whether or not it is pretty) and recognition of its audience (someone in particular that it is for, display of the finished product) suggest that children may take their ‘artwork’ indeed to be ‘art’.
The purpose of this study 1 is to examine sociologically the classroom activity known as doing ‘artwork.’ Through the use of sociological methodology, I explored aspects of this activity that, as a teacher, I had found intriguing. My