When I used to teach, my favorite moments were wrapped up in an energetic silence—those times when you knew a student was “working it out” in her head. Now that I am an education researcher, I have shifted from teaching into empirically investigating these moments. What exactly is happening to students’ thinking when they are exposed to the arts and how can we recognize it when it happens?
The major question we have been asking through the CARE program is how the arts promote critical thinking. Like many others interested in this issue (See: Critical Links: Learning in the Arts and Student Academic and Social Development, for a good compendia of existing research), we have looked at indicators of critical thinking, such as, making robust observations, forming hypothesis about what is going on in a work of art, providing reasoning based on evidence, and handling multiple interpretations…and the results have been significant. For you stats geeks like me who are reading this, we’re finding p-values at less than .01 on a majority of the indicators.