The CARE program is fortunate to be able to carry on a number of extra activities this year, thanks to a special grant award from the National Endowment for the Arts. One of our favorite projects as part of this grant is to produce four videos about the collections of the CARE arts partners. The purpose of the videos, which feature two students as the hosts, is to be a teaching tool in the classroom for introducing many more students and teachers to the artwork and objects we use on a regular basis through our exhibitions, performances, and other educational programs.
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.