There was a great article in last week’s Boston Globe.
The authors – Ellen Winner and Lois Hetland – dismiss the idea that arts education produces higher test scores. While it’s true, they say, that students who are involved in the arts do better in school and on the SAT, it’s not about the test scores. Their own research found no evidence that arts training is what’s causing scores to rise. The correlation is not the cause.
They argue that there are many reasons to teach art but that raising test scores is not one of them. Their research in Boston-area schools found that quality arts program teach a critical set of intellectual habits and skills that are rarely addressed in the other areas of the curriculum. They are critical because they have been identified as crucial to the students future development as thinkers and people.
Specifically the habits and skills taught and developed in the arts but rarely elsewhere include:
They write: “It is well established that intelligence and thinking ability are far more complex than what we choose to measure on standardized tests…. They reveal little about a student’s intellectual depth or desire to learn, and are poor predictors of eventual success and satisfaction in life.”
The authors spent a year studying five visual-arts classrooms, videotaping and photographing classes, analyzing what we saw, and interviewing teachers and their students.
They found that the skills taught in arts classes taught “a remarkable array of mental habits not emphasized elsewhere in school.” These skills include visual-spatial abilities, reflection, self-criticism, and the willingness to experiment and learn from mistakes.
Winner is a professor of psychology at Boston College and Hetland is an associate professor of art education at the Massachusetts College of Art. Both are also researchers at Project Zero at the Harvard Graduate School of Education.
“Art for Art’s Sake” by Ellen Winner and Lois Hetland in The Boston Globe, September 2, 2007.