Archive for February 4th, 2013


Habits of Mind

February 4, 2013

Studio Thinking

Studio Thinking: The Real Benefits of Art Education was written by Lois Hetland, Ellen Winner, Shirley Veenema and first published in 2007. (new printing is due out next month) It is a book that provides some answers to why art education is essential. The authors provide research on how the habits of mind are learned by studying visual arts. Practicing teachers voices, lessons, and pictures are included in the book.

Thank you to Pam Ouellette who has shared a summary of the book. Pam teaches visual art at Lisbon High School and is a teacher leader for the Maine Arts Assessment Initiative.

Belfast High School art teacher Heidi O’Donnell shared this link to an online assessment project where students are sharing their ideas on Studio Habits of Mind.


Students develop valuable dispositions in art classes.

Dispositions:  Skills, alertness to opportunities to use these skills, and the inclination to use them—a trio of qualities that comprise high-quality thinking. These habits of mind are important not only for the visual arts but for most disciplines/areas of study or employment.

1.  Craft – Learn to use and care for tools, materials, and procedures.  Learn technique to enable you to create what you intended.

2.  Engage and Persist – Learn to embrace problems of relevance within the art world and/or of personal importance, to develop focus and other mental states conducive to working and persevering at art tasks.  Make a personal connection to the art assignment.  Practice!

3.  Envision – Learn to picture mentally what cannot be directly observed and imagine possible next steps in making a piece.

4.  Express and Create – Learn to create works that convey an idea, a feeling, an atmosphere, an emotion, a narrative/story, a drama, a sense of movement, or a personal meaning.

5.  Observe – Learn to attend to visual contexts more closely than ordinary “looking” requires, and thereby to see things that otherwise might not be seen.  Notice, pay attention, learn to SEE!

6.  Reflect – Question and Explain:  Learn to think, explain, and talk with others about an aspect of your work or working process; Evaluate:  learn to judge your own work and working process, and the work of others in relation to standards.  Reflect in your journals!  Learn to articulate about your work and process, record your ideas and growth.  This helps you self-monitor and become independent.

7.  Stretch and Explore – This is the heart of creativity.  Learn to reach beyond your capacities, to explore playfully without a preconceived plan, and to embrace the opportunity to learn from mistakes and accidents. Think about several versions of the same idea or different ways of getting to the same idea.  There are no clear right or wrong answers.  Don’t worry about how a piece will end up, experiment, take risks, go beyond your comfort zone, be brave, be creative!

8.  Understand Art World –Learn about art history and current art practice and how it can inform your work. Learn to interact as an artist with other artists (i.e. in classroom, in local arts organizations, and across art communities) and within the broader society.  Understand how what you learn in school connects to what people do outside of school.  Understand that art is a part of your everyday life.

Encourage Reflection, Envision, and Stretch and Explore:

Decisions, planning think about, what if, you might consider, I wonder if, experiment, it might be because, you could try (x or y or z).

Hetland, L., Sheridan, K. M., Veenema, S., Winner, E.  (2007).  Studio Thinking: The Real Benefits of Visual Arts Education.  New York, NY:  Teachers College Press.

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