Children as Art Critics: Mapping a Continuum of Aesthetic Learning in Visual Arts Education

By Karen Maras.

Published by The Learner Collection

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Article: Print $US10.00
Article: Electronic $US5.00

This paper outlines a recent Australian research study examining how children understand the meaning of paintings in art. By differentiating kinds of pictorial reasoning the study outlined a continuum of aesthetic learning during middle to late childhood. In the study 38 participants aged 6, 9 and 12 years, and two art teachers, adopted the role of a curator and constructed an exhibition of portrait paintings. These young curators provided critical reasons in justifying their choices of portraits. Their responses were analysed in qualitative and quantitative terms. The findings indicate that, with age, children are able to formulate increasingly more integrated critical judgements and ascribe intentional meanings to paintings. Characteristics of critical performances of the three age groups are described to illustrate this continuum of aesthetic learning as children advance into representational thinking. Understanding conceptual shifts in patterns of reasoning in children’s critical picture talk is an important first step for teachers to know when and how to intervene in children’s learning and assist them in building more complex interpretations of artworks as artefacts.

Keywords: Pictorial Reasoning, Aesthetic Development, Aesthetic Judgments, Children as Critics, Philosophical Realism, Aesthetic Realism

The International Journal of Learning, Volume 16, Issue 7, pp.251-262. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Article: Electronic (PDF File; 1.273MB).

Dr. Karen Maras

Senior Lecturer - Visual Arts Education, School of Education, Australian Catholic University, Sydney, NSW, Australia

Dr. Karen Maras is a lecturer in Visual Arts Education in the School of Education NSW, ACU National. She specialises in teaching curriculum design, assessment and evaluation in art education in teacher education courses. Karen has also worked in curriculum development at state level after a 12 year period of teaching in the secondary school context. After completing a Masters of Art Education at University of New South Wales, Karen’s further work at doctoral level focuses on the cognitive dimensions of aesthetic understanding and critical development in art. She investigates the nature of children’s beliefs about pictures in art and how these can be mapped in the reasons children give for picture meaning and value.


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