Arts-Based Learning

Valuing Thinking in the Arts

The arts are often placed within a context of supporting other subjects and imbued with myths about how children’s artistry is developed. Ellen Winner outlines some research based approaches to thinking about arts education and assessment.

Project Zero was given its name in 1967 by its founder, philosopher Nelson Goodman, who quipped that there was little, if any, systematic knowledge about thinking in the arts – hence the name Zero. In this essay, I tell the story of arts research at Project Zero from the early 1970s until today, focusing on four strands of research: developmental studies of children’s artistry; our move into arts education and assessment with Arts PROPEL; then a move into wider analyses of others’ research, which led to the debunking of popular claims about the outcomes of arts education; and most recently our ethnographic study of the habits of mind that are actually taught (and we hope learned) in visual arts education, culminating in our Studio Thinking framework of visual arts education. We now have a considerable body of knowledge about thinking in the arts and a secure foundation from which to move forward to new initiatives.

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