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Running head: QUALITATIVE RESEARCH ON ART IMPORTANCE

Qualitative Research on Importance of Art in Education


Gracie Wiberg
University of Missouri

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Qualitative Research on Importance of Art in Education
Art is a medium with which students can communicate and
deepen understanding of a topic. This skill is crucial in life, therefore
crucial to be taught in an elementary classroom. Art allows students to
slow down the learning process to synthesize information further,
Slowing down perception is the most promising way to see what is
actually there (Eisner, 2009). Not only is art integration beneficial in
the classroom setting, it also aids in individual development. Burton
once stated, We saw that with practice, experience, and support,
young children learn how to refine motor actions and to formulate
basic visual, relational, and expressive concepts. (1980 b). It is now
being suggested that artistic, or right-brained thinking, is becoming
crucial in the modern professional world. Daniel Pink wrote about the
noticeable shifts in college career preparation classes and company
branding that suggests creative thinking, not production-line, logistical
processing, is the next way to get ahead and be successful in the
modern world (2005). These, and many more researchers and artists,
have convincing arguments for art integration into the classroom that
have shifted my beliefs about its importance and impact on students.
A teachers main job is to teach students to become productive
members of todays society. That entails nurturing development,
fostering productive learning habits and critical thinking, and teaching
strategies to be successful in the world today. All of those things are

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developed and enriched through the integration of art in the general
education classroom. In this investigation I will analyze a students
drawing and the description he gave as he drew. I will use this to
exemplify the value of the process of creating art, and what the
information gathered can provide for a teacher.
Method
For this study, I worked with a second grade student named Josh
(pseudonym) in my field classroom. This exchange was the first time
that we met so my knowledge on his background was limited, though,
after this exercise I would have great insight into who he is as a person
and a learner. I introduced myself and spent a couple minutes making
him comfortable with me before I gave him a piece of blank white
paper. I asked him to draw a picture for me using pencil, markers, or
crayons. I did not give him any instructions on what to draw; I only
asked that he talk me through his process so I could understand what
he was doing. He confidently passed the crayons, makers, and color
pencils and grabbed a #2 pencil. He took no time to think and
immediately began drawing while explaining what he was drawing as
he went. The results are shown in Figure 1 below.

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Findings
Joshs expansive knowledge of sailboats was obvious from his
explanation as he drew. He has never been on one but saw them while
he was in Maine and has researched them since. This drawing
represents an experience and an interest that Josh has. This drawing
holds insight on who Josh is and how he thinks that may not otherwise
be realized in a classroom setting. In a classroom he could label or list
the different parts of a sailboat with the proper vocabulary. Without art
his deeper understanding of how those all work together to make the
sailboat work would not be apparent or as developed. Drawing helped
him communicate what he was not quite ready to say with words
(Eisner, 2002). He demonstrated his understanding of the depth of the
ocean and how boats move through it through overlapping waves and
wave splashes on the boat. Josh consistently demonstrated his
understanding of perspective: he showed the depth of the ocean

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through the size and overlap of other boats and through the water
lines, and he showed the perspective of the scene by allowing the
biggest boat to run off the page and placing it off center to show a
scene of boats on the ocean instead of one sail boat taking center.
He drew the lines where rope connects on the masts as he drew
them and went back and added the rope later. When he did, he drew
the rope coils first, and from there connected them to his mast lines.
This comfort in method showed that he has practiced and developed
this method. When students learn to draw a specific object or
communicate a certain point they do not often move on, instead they
develop and perfect their piece (Burton, 1980 b). This process fosters
the development of new ideas and new levels of understanding about
the subjects elements. Josh went on to add other boats to the scene.
He represented the depth correctly by discontinuing the mast where it
would be out of sight behind the first boat and finishing the top when it
no longer was overlapped. This kind of detail and understanding of
perspective continues until the piece is complete.
From this experience, Joshs ability to see and process an entire
scene instead of only the focus on an object is apparent. This
conclusion can be stretched to more than just art as it is a way of
thinking and processing that can be applied to concepts and topics, not
just a picture. This is an insight that could not be made from a
worksheet or a read-aloud. Art created a new language for Josh to

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communicate his processes and understanding that do not easily
attach to words. Or as Eisner said, The limits of language are not the
limits of cognition. (2009). This understanding is crucial in his
educational development and would impact tasks that a teacher could
assign Josh and the expectations they would have for his work.
It is the teachers job to create active learning with new and
creative problems for students to solve in divergent ways (Silverstein &
Layne, 2010). Teachers need to integrate art and allow students to
struggle and manipulate the medium on their own while offering
supports to further the learning and processing along the way (Burton,
1980 a). The struggling is necessary for students to solve problems
through their own process, and the support is necessary to begin new
trains of thought that will create more struggles for new answers. This
process of learning is authentic, interesting, and reminiscent of
problem solving in every day life and it is all brought into the classroom
through the integration of art.

Conclusion
Art involves a way of thinking. Working with new tools to
investigate details and draw conclusions applies to physical art but it
also applies to the processes used every day in the real world to learn
and understand new things. These processes are arguably more
important than the ability to use formulas or name reading strategies.

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These processes are being valued more and more in the professional
world (Pink, 2005). If they are fostered at Joshs age and are developed
through creative and more traditional educational processes, students
his age could have a deeply connected view of the world that will help
them both personally and professionally as an adult, all through the
integration of art in education.
Lowenfeld and Brittian would say Josh is advanced for his age
and already at The Gang Age, Nine-Twelve Years: The Dawning of
Realism (1970). Joshs space representation shows a lack of base line
and a plane of depth with no drawn skyline instead. It also shows depth
through size of objects and overlaps. All of these elements are,
according to Lowenfeld, above Joshs age level. His drawing does have
a characteristic of his age appropriate stage of The Schematic Stage
which includes repeating the same image multiple times and drawing,
however that is the only one I feel applies. Lowenfelds stages reinforce
my original belief that Josh is advanced in his artistic ability and
understanding for his age.
Inferences about his comfort and confidence in his artistic
depiction of this scene, as well as the choice of scene coming from his
personal experiences suggest he takes time to conceptualize
information, makes personal connections to things he considers work,
and is confident reflecting and strengthening his understanding of
situations and objects through art. As a general education teacher it is

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important to create as many opportunities for children to respond and
evaluate through artistic representations. It is equally important to use
research from artists to evaluate the meaning behind students pieces
to improve instruction. Taking their time and using divergent thinking
to come to their own conclusions is crucial in the development process
as well (Silverstein & Layne, 2010). Deep processing and
conceptualization is, in itself, growth and that is encouraged by using
these practices of reflection and evaluation through chosen mediums,
as well as by providing space for students to think creatively about
school and life topics.
In the six minutes this activity took, I was able to gather
information about this new students interests, abilities, and learning
processes. If teachers were to integrate art into their classroom
abstractly and in the curriculum they would have an opportunity to
develop a deeper understanding of who their students are and how
they learn. Students would, in turn, learn how to better synthesize
information and build stronger understanding and interest in topics
that would encourage further learning. This short investigation
followed by analysis and research was enough to convince me about
the importance of art and the relevance of it in life, therefore in the
general education classroom.

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References
Burton, J. M. (1980 a). Beginnings of artistic language. Developing
Minds: Beginnings
of Artistic Language, 1-12.
Burton, J. M. (1980 b). The first visual symbols. Developing Minds:
Beginnings of
Artistic Language, 60-64.
Eisner, E. W. (2002). The arts and the creation of the mind. New Haven:
Yale
University.
Eisner, E. (2009). What education can learn from the arts. Art
Education, 62(2), 2225.
Lowenfeld, V., & Brittian, W. L. (1970). Creative and mental growth.
New York:
Macmillan.
Pink, D. H. (2005). A whole new mind: Moving from the information age
to the
conceptual age. New York: Riverhead Books.

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Silverstein, L. B., & Layne, S. (2010). Defining Arts Integration. The
John F. Kennedy
Center for the Performing Arts.