Department of Art Education
"The act of representation is more of a dialogue than a monologue, more of a conversation than a lecture" - Elliot Eisner (1983)
The research concerning artistic ability has, traditionally, centered upon the processes and products of individual students and "there is little evidenc to indicate that social mediation as a component in the construction of meaning in art has received specific attention" (Houser, 1991, p. 33).
Students do not rely solely on internal resources when they create art in the classroom, they also draw from a multitude of means including individuals in their environment, the most influential of these being teachers and peers.
There is a fair amount of "collaboration" that takes place during the process of making art in the artroom (as well as other environments) that is not "traditional" in the sense that a single product (i.e. artwork) is created by several individuals. There are social collaborations that take place when students talk, question, and share meanings with each other, which then become components incorporated in their artwork. When posed with a problem which is artistically difficult how do students interact with each other? Do students who are at various levels of artistic ability interact with each other differently?
First of all, there needs to be an examination of the role that talking and peer interactions have in artistic development. Looking and talking about art is one of the major pedagogical components of the popular curriculum model (based on Piagetian principles) used for art education, Discipline Based Art Education (DBAE) (Clark, Day & Greer, 1987). Looking and talking about art enables students to investigate and perceive the affective, artistic, and cognitive components of art through art. Although a great deal of the research has been conducted concerning looking and talking about art, this research has centered upon how students look and talk about art made by established "artists" (Clark, 1973; Day, 1976; Gardner & Gardner, 1970; Hysell, 1973; Moore, 1973; Taunton, 1980; Wilson, 1966), not about students looking and talking about their own art with peers. Students are in contact with each other and talk about the artwork of their peers far more frequently and spontaneously in the artroom than they do the artwork of an established artist. It is then reasonable to conclude that students learn by looking and talking about each others artwork.
There is a relationship between this kind of looking and talking with peers and artistic abilities. The theory regarding the origins and development of artistic ability have revolved around the age-old argument of nature versus nurture, the biological and the social. Regarding Norman C. Meier, an influencical art educator and pioneer of testing for artistic abilities, Elliot Eisner (1972) states :
Lev Vygotsky (1978), who initiated Social Learning Theory, explained the role of the biological and social psychological development by a principle referred to as the general law of genetic development. This law states that cultural development occurs first on the social level and then on the internal level. Because "the two processes that make up development are mutually dependent and interactive" there is a need for a methodology to observe these processes (Vygotsky, 1978, p. 81).
One means through which social theorists examine developmental processes is by looking at an individuals Zone of Proximal Development. The Zone of Proximal Development (ZPD) are levels of development that with the aid of adults or more "competent peers" (i.e. social interactions) students can solve a problem that is beyond their capabilities (Vygotsky, 1978). These interactions and activities that occur within (or slightly beyond) the ZPD are what, Vygotsky (1978) claims, fosters development. An examination of what kind of interactions reinforce the development of artistic abilities and which students are susceptible to the benefits of such interactions called for an examination of ZPD's in the artroom.
Jonathan Tudge (1990) examined peer collaboration and ZPD's using a Piagetian framework. He asked individual students (and later in pairs) to predict the solution to a problem concerning weights and a balance beam. Tudge (1990) found that "the results indicate a surprising amount of regression for all children except lower partners" when unequal peers collaborate and sites the results of a complimentary Soviet experiment as being similar (p. 162). Tudge (1990) concludes that confidence and motivational factors are important components in peer collaboration but that "the effects of peer collaboration on cognitive development has to be more multifaceted than is implied" (p. 167).
There are several factors unique (and sometimes problematic) to the problems and questions posed in this paper with regards to peer collaboration and art. The first of which is that there is no objective or "correct" answer (as in Tudge's experiment) when creating art, and each artwork is uniquely different resulting from a multitude of components. Each individual responds to art differently, therefore, it is almost impossible to predict educational outcomes of an activity where there is a great amount of individual interpretation and variation (Efland, 1990). On the other hand, "art presents a paradigmatic case of the problem of invisibility in cognitive skills" (Perkins, 1983, p. 41).
Looking at peer interactions as students perform an activity beyond their ZPD, or what they could accomplish on their own, should show us how students talk to each other in ways that foster artistic development. This examination should also demonstrate which students benefit the most from peer interactions by looking at shifts in the internalization of artistic concepts through their artwork.
The availability of the teacher and other peers as a resource during the art-making session allowed most students to perform the activity of creating a house in perspective using a cube. There were two students who did not have the physical capabilities to perform the task in collaboration with others and required help from the teacher.
The interactions recorded during the art-making sessions provide some unexpected but interesting results (Appendix D). Students with advanced artistic abilities (Group 5) did not initiate interactions with peers, were questioned infrequently (3%) and spent more time than any other group engaged in the activity. They were asked by their peers for praise (5%) and did not request assistance from less competent peers (Groups 4-1). When this group of students asked for assistance, their questions about techniques and skills were addressed to the teacher. Students with low artistic abilities (Group 1) were not involved in many interactions with peers (3%) and did not ask for the instructors aid. Students from Groups 2, 3, and 4 engaged in a majority of the interactions recorded (90%). The above average group (Group 4) participated in 29% of the interactions recorded and provided feedback to peers more than any other group(18%). The group with average abilities (Group 3) interacted with other peers the most (33%) and asked the most questions of their peers (18%). The average ability group (Group 3) and lower ability group (Group 2) asked for the most praise.
Some interesting changes were evident in the distribution of artistic abilities from the post-test (Appendix E). Students who scored high (Group 5) and low (Group 1) on the pre-test did not increase or decrease in artistic abilities on the post-test. While there were minor increases in the abilities of the students in Group 2 from the pre-test to the post-test, the most notable change occurred with the linear increase of artistic abilities among Group 4 and 3 students (See Appendix F).
Students with advanced artistic abilities and low artistic abilities, according to pre-test scores, had minimal interactions with peers and showed little increase in artistic development. However, the videotaped sessions did show that students who interacted with peers more frequently, by asking and answering more questions, showed a greater increase in artistic abilities on the post-test than those who did not.
There was an interesting and unexpected finding regarding the post- est that should be noted. There were an greater number of students (38%) who attempted to draw the house in perspective on the post-test compared to the pre-test (4%). These attempts to use perspective indicate that students were unable to use perspective successfully without aid from their peers or instructor was illustrated by the erased lines of the drawings. This is indicative of the minute developmental change that can be recorded when testing a subjective subject matter, such as art.
The implications of this study on art education curriculum and teaching practices are varied. The art curriculum needs to address student engagement in "collaborative" processes where they can perform beyond their individual capabilities. Because it is possible to foster artistic growth through peer interactions, we can begin by introducing more challenging and advanced curriculum guidelines that promote peer collaboration. If performing an activity in "collaboration" with their peers and beyond their ZPD can foster artistic development then there needs to be a re-examination of curriculum models which depend upon Piagetian theories of development. Art educators need to examine Vygotskian models, which have been shown to be effective in fostering artistic development, and how they can be applied to the art education curriculum.
Art educators also need to be aware of the types of interactions students need in the artroom environment that encourages artistic development. The days of the "silent" artroom are over and unfortunately, for those teachers who like silence, the activity that tends to encourage artistic development in the artroom is talking with peers, lots and lots of talking.
Clark, G.A. (1973). Analyzing Iconic Learning in the Visual Arts. Studies in Art Education. 14(3), 37-47.
Clark, G.A. (1989). Identifying Talented Students in the Visual Arts: Clark's Drawing Abilities Test. Unpublished paper.
Clark, G.A. (1982). In Search of a Concept of Talent. In P. Godefrooij (Ed.) INSEA Preconference on Research into Ideology, Learning, Evaluation, and Arts Education: 1981 Congress Book. (pp. 86-109). Rotterdam, The Netherlands: National Institute for Curriculum Development.
Clark, G., Day, M., & Greer, D. (1987). Disciplined-based art education: Becoming students of art. The Journal of Aesthetic Education. 21(2) 129-193.
Day, M.D. (1976). Effects of Instruction on High School Students's Art Preferences and Art Judgments. Studies in Art Education, 18(1), 25- 40.
Eisner, E. (1983). On the Relationship of Conception to Representation. Art Education. 36(2) 22-27.
Eisner, E. (1972). Education Artistic Vision. New York, NY: Macmillian.
Efland, A.D. (1990). A History of Art Education: Intellectual and Social Currents in Teaching the Visual Arts. New York, NY: Teachers College Press.
Gardner, H. & Gardner, J. (1970) Developmental Trends to Sensitivity to Painting Style and Subject Matter. Studies in Art Education. 12(1) 11-16.
Houser, N.O. (1991). A Collaborative Processing Model for Art Education. Art Education. 44(2) 33-37.
Hysell, D.M. (1973). Testing an Advance Organizer Model in the Development of Aesthetic Perception. Studies in Art Education, 14(3), 9-17.
Meloth, M.S. & Deering, P.D. (1994). Task Talk and Task Awareness Under Different Cooperative Learning Conditions. American Educational Research Journal. 31(1) 138-165.
Moore, B.M. (1973). A Description of Children's Verbal Responses to Works of Art in Selected Grades One Through Twelve. Studies in Art Education, 14(3), 27-34.
Perkins, D.N. (1983). Invisible Art. Art Education. 36(2) 39-41.
Tauton, M. (1980). The Influence of Age on Preferences for Subject Matter, Realism, and Spatial Depth in Painting Reproductions. Studies in Art Education, 21(3), 40-53.
Tudge, J. (1990). "Vygotsky, the zone of proximal development, and peer collaboration: Implications for classroom practice." In L.C. Moll (Ed.) Vygotsky and Education: Instructional Implications and Application of Sociohistorical Psychology. New York, NY: Cambridge University Press.
Vygotsky, L. (1978). Mind in Society: The Development of Higher Psychological Processes. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.
Wilson, B.G. (1966) "An Experimental Study Designed to Alter 5th and 6th Grade Students' Perceptions of Paintings." Studies in Art Education, 8(1), 33-34.
Wertsch, J.V. (1985). Culture, Communication, and Cognition: Vygotskian Perspectives. Cambridge, MA: Cambridge University Press.
Appendix A Clark's Drawing Abilities Test I. Sensory Properties A. Line: non-variation/variation Group 1 Lines are mostly similar, minimal variation Group 2 Half lines are similar, half varied Group 3 Lines are mostly varied Group 4 Appropriate line variation, effectively used Group 5 Unique, original innovative use of lines B. Shape: non-variation/variation Group 1 Shapes are mostly similar, minimal variation Group 2 Half shapes are similar, half varied Group 3 Shapes are mostly varied Group 4 Appropriate shape variation, effectively used Group 5 Unique, original innovative use of shapes C. Texture: amount and variety Group 1 Minimal amount and variety of texture Group 2 Moderate amount and variety of texture Group 3 Shapes are mostly varied Group 4 Appropriate shape variation, effectively used Group 5 Unique, original innovative use of textures D. Values: lightness and darkness Group 1 Minimal amount of shading or values Group 2 Moderate amount of shading or values Group 3 Sufficient amount of shading or values Group 4 Appropriate amount and use of shading or values Group 5 Unique, original innovative use of shading or values II. Formal Properties A. Rhythm: repetition and variation Group 1 Minimal amount of rhythm Group 2 Moderate amount of rhythm Group 3 Sufficient amount of rhythm Group 4 Appropriate amount and use of rhythm Group 5 Unique, original innovative use of rhythm B. Balance: appropriate amount Group 1 Minimal amount of balance Group 2 Moderate amount of balance Group 3 Sufficient amount of balance Group 4 Appropriate amount and use of balance Group 5 Unique, original innovative use of balance C. Unity: harmony and variety Group 1 Minimal amount of unity Group 2 Moderate amount of unity Group 3 Sufficient amount of unity Group 4 Appropriate amount and use of unity Group 5 Unique, original innovative use of unity D. Composition: effectiveness Group 1 Incomplete composition Group 2 Composition is effective in only part of the image Group 3 Sufficient composition Group 4 Appropriate and effective overall composition Group 5 Unique, original innovative sense of composition III. Expressive Properties A. Mood: dynamic states Group 1 Inappropriate or incomplete mood or expression Group 2 Some mood or expression but only in part of the image Group 3 Sufficient but incomplete mood or expression Group 4 Appropriate, effective, complete mood or expression Group 5 Unique, original innovative depiction of mood B. Originality: non-imitativeness Group 1 Imitative in all parts of image Group 2 Minimal originality in most parts Group 3 Moderate originality, but with imitative parts Group 4 Sufficient originality with few imitative parts Group 5 Originality used throughout IV. Technical Properties A. Technique and Craft Group 1 Minimal or inappropriate amount of technique Group 2 Moderate amount of technique Group 3 Sufficient amount of technique Group 4 Appropriate amount and use of technique Group 5 Unique, original innovative use of technique B. Correctness and Solution to the Problem Group 1 Inappropriate to the problem assigned Group 2 Appropriate to the problem, but drawn incorrectly Group 3 Appropriate to the problem, but drawn correctly Group 4 Correct to the problem assigned and drawn incorrectly Group 5 Unique, original, individualized solution to the problem and drawn inventively Appendix B Interaction Types Interaction Types Codes Interaction Subcategories Questions (Q) (Q1) Requesting the help of others to draw. (Q2) Requesting the help of others regarding ideas or concepts. (Q3) Direct attention ("What should I put here?"). (Q4) Requests for explanations ("Why did you do that?"). Responses (R) (R1) Explaining actions or concepts. (R2) Providing examples or giving directions. (R3) Corrective or argumentive responses. Praise (P) (P1) Prompting others for praise. (P2) Giving praise with no prompting. Appendix C Pre-Test Distribution Number of students 20 | | * 18 | | 16 | | 14 | | 12 | * | 10 | * | 8 | | 6 | | 4 | | * 2 | * |_____________________________________________________________ 0 Group 1 Group 2 Group 3 Group 4 Group 5 Appendix D Coded Peer Interactions Interaction Types Group 1 Group 2 Group 3 Group 4 Group5 Total Questions (Q) 1% 14% 18% 4% 1% 28% (Q1) 3% 3% 8% 2% 0 (Q2) 0 23% 5% 5% 0 (Q3) 0 6% 11% 2% 0 (Q4) 2% 17% 5% 3% 5% Responses (R) 1% 1% 12% 18% 3% 36% (R1) 1% 2% 17% 24% 2% (R2) 0 0 15% 23% 5% (R3) 2% 1% 2% 2% 11% Praise (P) 1% 13% 13% 3% 2% 36% (P1) 2% 17% 22% 11% 1% (P2) 0 18% 13% 10% 5% Total 3% 28% 33% 29% 7% Appendix E Post-Test Distribution Number of students 20 | | 18 | | 16 | | + 14 | + | 12 | | 10 | | 8 | + | + 6 | | 4 | | + 2 | |_____________________________________________________________ 0 Group 1 Group 2 Group 3 Group 4 Group 5 Appendix F Pre-Test and Post-Test Comparison Number of students 20 | | * 18 | | + 16 | | 14 | + | 12 | * | 10 | * | 8 | + | + 6 | | 4 | | + * 2 | * |_____________________________________________________________ 0 Group 1 Group 2 Group 3 Group 4 Group 5 *Pre-Test +Post-Test