The arts are of central importance to the education of young minds. However, educators know surprisingly little about how the arts are taught, what students learn, and the types of decisions teachers make in designing and carrying out instruction. The Studio Thinking Project is a multi-year investigation designed to answer these questions.
Phase I. Teaching and Learning in the Visual Arts, 2001-2004
Phase I of our research, funded by The J. Paul Getty Trust, was completed in 2004. Phase I documented art teachers' pedagogical intentions and strategies, and also included a small pilot study investigating whether students actually learned what their teachers taught. We identified eight categories of learning that arts teachers intend their students to learn and three classroom structures that teachers use to teach them. Our findings are described in a handbook for teachers and researchers in the visual arts (to be published) called Studio Thinking: How Visual Arts Teaching Can Promote Disciplined Habits of Mind.
Phase II. Learning and Assessment in the Visual Arts, 2003-2005
Phase II of our research, funded by The J. Paul Getty Trust and the Ahmanson Foundation, was an analysis of learning in visual arts (following from the pilot study conducted in Phase I), based on work with K-12, visual art specialist teachers and their students near Boston, MA and in Oakland, CA. This study resulted in a tool for assessing Studio Thinking in the visual arts in the eight Studio Habits of Mind documented in Phase I. Our findings were reported in a companion "assessment guide" to the teaching handbook. The assessment guide is especially intended for teachers of visual arts, both arts specialists and arts teachers in general classroom contexts, as well as arts researchers.
Phase III: Using the Studio Thinking Framework, 2004-2006
Phase III, funded by The J. Paul Getty Trust, the Ahmanson Foundation, and the US Department of Education, ended in 2006. In Phase III, we worked with two collaborating institutions in Oakland, CA: the Alameda County Office of Education and the California College of the Arts. We documented how 15 elementary and middle school teachers generalist teachers in disadvantaged public schools in Oakland learn to use the Studio Thinking Framework, in conjunction with the Teaching for Understanding Framework and other teaching frameworks developed at Project Zero, for teaching, learning, and assessment of visual arts with entire classes.