At the McKay School’s Learning Edge Conference on November 14, Lois Hetland, an affiliate of Project Zero at the Harvard Graduate School of Education, addressed a crowd of school leaders and administrators about the importance of arts education across disciplines.
As the keynote speaker of the conference, Hetland explained that education provides us with multiple lenses through which we view the world around us. Sometimes we may understand something better through a scientific lens, while other situations might require a historical lens. If one lens fails to offer the perspective we need, we can switch it out for another.
According to Hetland, every educational discipline is a lens worth having, and the arts is no exception. “If we don’t have arts lenses, then we are lost in looking at the world in a particular way,” she said.
To demonstrate how students can cultivate arts lenses, Hetland told the audience about eight habits of mind that are emphasized in visual arts classes: Develop Craft, Engage and Persist, Envision, Express, Observe, Reflect, Stretch and Explore, and Understand Art Worlds. These habits of mind, which make up the Studio Thinking Framework, work together to help students develop soft skills and make connections between the arts and other subjects.
Hetland explained that each of the habits of mind is a set of dispositions that are made up of skills, the inclination to use those skills, and the alertness to use those skills productively.
“All these things need to be taught, because [those are] the genuine practices of serious artists [and] people who are using their artistic lenses to look at the world seriously.”
Quoting Nelson Goodman, founder of Project Zero, Hetland said that the arts “must be taken no less seriously than the sciences as modes of discovery, creation, and enlargement of knowledge in the broad sense of advancement of understanding.”
Art education has the power to influence various aspects of student learning. Hetland expressed her confidence that the methods of the Studio Thinking Framework can help school leaders develop a very successful interdisciplinary curriculum.
Writer: Leah Barton
Contact: Cindy Glad (801) 422-1922
Photo credit: James Huston, CITES