Serious Art Ed

Taking Art Education Seriously

Back to the first edition of Studio Thinking, by Lois Hetland, (2007) in which the eight Studio Habits of Mind (SHoM) crystallized before we heard of Language Arts Anchor Standards, Math Practices, and Science and Engineering Process Skills from the national standards movement. This was my first exposure to what they then called a “dispositional” perspective to teaching.


Dispositions are qualities of mind and character. The Studio Thinking researchers observed teachers working to develop artistic dispositions of their students, grouping them in three overall categories:

  1. Ability includes skills, processes in thinking and doing.
  2. Inclination includes both intrinsic and extrinsic motivation to engage.
  3. Alertness is described as attention, awareness, recognition, and perception.

Taking art education seriously

Although SHoM is now so big it is recognized by the mantra-like monosyllabic pronunciation of its acronym, the roots of it are in just two schools chosen by the Studio Thinking authors for their institutional commitment to art education. While the last decade has seen art teachers across the country encounter and embrace the eight Studio Habits, we also soon realize how our situations contrast with fertile soil that sprouted the framework. Though we do, most of our schools don’t show the same commitment to taking art education seriously, characterized in the first edition of Studio Thinking (2007, p. 9) by . . .

  • defining themselves as dedicated to the arts,
  • hiring practicing artists as teachers,
  • admitting students selectively considering students’ portfolios, and
  • programming intensive arts instruction.

Adapting the framework

I noticed this information doesn’t appear in the second edition, Studio Thinking 2 (2013), but the new conclusion addresses how public school teachers use the framework in curriculum planning, teaching, and assessment.

Though I’m really interested in this topic, all I have right now are questions and hunches.

  • What works in teaching, curriculum design, and assessment, when I take arts education seriously in an environment that is less committed to art education?
  • What implications would there be if I acknowledge the dissonance between my own commitment to serious art education and that of my teaching context?
  • How do we generally transition to teaching, designing curriculum, and assessing student dispositions of ability, inclination, and alertness?

I have played out some hunches this year in my middle school gifted education seminar, where dispositional approaches also make sense, but contrast sharply with the status quo. I’ll write about the dispositional self-assessment tools and conference records I’ve developed in an upcoming post.



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