Development of Critical Thinking through Art Production

Date of Completion


Document Type

Open Access Capstone

Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)

First Advisor

Delores B. Gallo


Most discussion and application of the skills of critical thinking involves verbal or written language. The symbol systems of mathematics and science are included, but the symbol systems of art are often not included. When critical thinking is included in an art curriculum, the critical thinking is seen as being developed through verbal or written assessments such as art history, art criticism or aesthetics, rather than through the art production. The act of creating art is frequently left out of the discussion. This omission causes the loss of an important opportunity to teach critical thinking skills. It also leads to the devaluation of the role of art in education. This thesis details ways in which creative and critical thinking are required to meet the National Visual Arts Standards. It also discusses Arts Propel and Discipline-Based Art Education, two current models of art education that teach critical and creative thinking. The central concern of this thesis is the documentation of the critical thinking involved in the production of art. The thesis presents a case study of students in a studio-based, introductory art class at an urban Catholic high school. Student journals are analyzed for the development of critical thinking through the students' art work. These skills are identified in the writings of experts in the field, such as Richard Paul, Robert Ennis and Lauren Resnick. This thesis also addresses some of the connections between critical and creative thinking, referring to work by Delores Gallo and Theresa Amabile. The specific critical thinking skills documented through the journals include self-regulation of the thinking process, setting goals, recognizing the achievement of those goals, and increased clarity, specificity and complexity of analysis and evaluation.


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