Book list; Studio Thinking

This morning Marty came into the studio with a gift for me. It was this book- Studio Thinking: The Real Benefits of Visual Arts Education by Lois Hetland, Ellen Winner and Shirley Veneema. However, I already had it, and had read it last summer!

This book is from Harvard's Project Zero, and it details the results of a long inquiry into the ways education in the arts function, what the arts "actually teach and what art students actually learn." The book lays out 8 studio "Habits of Mind", which are the result of teaching and learning in the visual arts. The authors participated in the research which debunked the 'Mozart Effect', but still believe that learning in the arts must be further researched to find out whether it  is deeper and can transfer to other domains. They state; "It seems probable that the studio Habits of Mind differ from Habits of Mind required in other disciplines only by emphasis (e.g., there is likely more concern with "Express" in visual arts than in mathematics, science, or history)...They go on to talk about how the arts provide an opportunity for interdisciplinary work, hands on experience, and collaboration between students and with adults.
This book is valuable to me as a teacher of pre-service teachers, as a fine arts instructor, and as an Atelierista.
The 'Studio Structures', or ways of learning in the art studio, are consistent with the ways I teach in each of these settings. They are;
'Demonstration-lecture', -at Sabot would be when I am teaching a technique or use of a medium to a child or teacher,
'Students-at-work', -which in the preschool would be lots of time for messing about, working intentionally alone or in a group, combined with plenty of 'just-in-time interventions' by me or a knowledgeable peer, and,
'Critique', which in my studio would look more like reflection, with the teacher asking questions which help the student re-think their process, evaluate their results, and remember their intention for the work.
The 8 Studio Habits of Mind are; 
Develop Craft/ Engage and Persist/ Envision/ Express/ Observe/ Reflect/ Stretch and Explore/ and Understand the Art World. With the exception of the last one, I feel that all of these are indeed what children learn and practice in the studio. I also believe that these habits of mind are invaluable and DO transfer to other learning situations. For instance, if students develop the craft of drawing, it seems to help with writing later, not only because they can hold a pencil well, but also because they can form the letters they need and can shift their eyes from one surface to another quickly. If students spend time in the studio practicing observation, persistence, and stretching their minds, exploring and trying new things, it seems to go a long way when they want to learn something new in any domain. Now, who wants to prove it?!?
Cover Image


  1. Just added this book to my "dream" Amazon cart (which is now in the $1500 range!) last week, after seeing a review somewhere. So glad to read an atelierista's take on it. Maybe I will treat myself to it sooner rather than later! BTW, you are at Sabot School, right? I only ask 'cause I am a former Virginia gal. High school in C-ville and college in Fredericksburg. One of these days when I "come home" to visit my family, I hope I can arrange a visit to Sabot!


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