Here are some starting points: this is a research summary from the
knowledgeloom.org/tab. A trip to the college library will find you many of the
references in the bibliography below. There are three other research summaries on
the Loom which may send you in other directions. Quite frankly, a lot of
academic research takes place in so called controlled conditions which may be a bit
different from a public school classroom. There is research on choice
connected with the corporate environment out there, as well as general human
learning, but not a whole lot in the art ed field. If you find some good stuff
please pass it along as the LAB at Brown Univ who runs the Knowledgeloom is always
after us to update the summaries. good luck, kathy
Research Summary for Personal Context
The foundation of this practice is the belief in the student as artist, which
places primary control and decision making in the hands of the student rather
than the teacher. Choice-based art education offers students real control
(Cotter, 2002). Instead of producing "school art," this practice solicits the
student's authentic art and recognizes that students' lives and play are
important and rich sources of subject matter (Effland, 1976; Smith, 1995; London,
1989, 1999; Szekely, 1988). Students determine relevant content and are free to
address issues that break the mold of a one-size-fits-all lesson (Douglas,
2001). Students alone decide what holds potential for personal exploration and
specialization (Douglas, 2001; Szekely, 1988, 2002; Coles, 1992; Burton, 2000;
The open-ended nature of the choice-based classroom offers the student a
fresh confidence in approaching art. London (1989) writes, "Once we create
imagery that honestly represents how life feels from the inside, there is a deep
sense of personal empowerment and a new degree of private certainty."
Opportunities for scribbling and play are provided in the choice-based art classroom.
This is not only a necessary component of art making, but part of human learning
for beginners (Gardner, 1982; Szekely, 1989; Thompson, 1995).
When students' lives are considered important and appropriate material for
art making, the variety of backgrounds and interests allow multicultural and
visual culture references to emerge in the work. (Eisner, 2001; Quick-to-See
Smith, 1995; London, 1989) Such recognition of students' lives promotes the kind
of social interaction fundamental to the development of cognition (Vygotsky,
1962). The community of learners contributes to the formation of knowledge;
according to constructivist theory, all knowledge is built on prior knowledge and
no knowledge is independent of the meaning ascribed to it by the learner or
community of learners (Vygotsky, 1978; Kohn, 1993; Kamii, 1991; Parnell, 1996).
For optimal learning the student must be involved in choosing the nature and
content of their learning path (Dewey, 1938; Rogers, 1977; Bandura, 1982;
Cobb, 1989). Students who have control over subject matter, materials, and
approach are more responsible for their learning (Cotter, 2002; Flowerday, 2000;
Burton, 1991; Thompson, 1995; Andrews, 2001). Students who are given choices take
more risks and take on larger challenges than standard curricula might suggest
(Hart, 1983; Kovalic, 1994). Students who believe in their own work are
motivated and engaged (LaChapelle, 1991; Emery, 1989; Flowerday, 2000). Bandura's
(1982) theory of social learning and self-efficacy notes that one's sense of
self influences one's choices, effort, and persistence.
Students are intrinsically motivated when allowed to direct their own
learning experience and when they feel their efforts are worthwhile (DeCharms, 1968;
Bandura, 1982; Glasser, 1990; Csikzentmihalyi & Nakamura, 1989; Deci & Ryan,
1992). Working at appropriate levels of challenge incites intrinsic rewards
through achievement (Vygotsky, 1978; Kohn, 1993). The brain has its own reward
system for achievement. Biological and chemical mechanisms in the brain trigger
the feelings of well-being and elation that accompany true accomplishment
Constructivist theory states that new knowledge is constructed on the
foundation of previous knowledge for the purpose of understanding (Vygotsky, 1968;
1972). Brain research suggests relevancy increases neural communication,
strengthening the brain (Jensen, 1998). The brain elicits patterns to make a
meaningful context (Kovalik, 1994; Bruce & Green, 1990). Research tells us we all have
natural, pattern-seeking behavior, which some suggest is innate (Frantz,
1961). By practicing art, the human brain rewires itself to make stronger
connections, engaging multiple intelligences (Kolb & Whishaw, 1990).
Emotions are a critical source of information for learning (LeDoux, 1993,
1994, 1996; Hooper & Teresi, 1986; Hobson, 1994). In Teaching With The Brain in
Mind (1998), Jensen links current brain research and learning theory to the
subject of meaning. Learner relevancy engages the emotions and triggers chemical
mechanisms that signal the brain to retain important information (Hooper &
Teresi, 1986). Emotions engage meaning and predict future learning because they
involve our goals, beliefs, biases, and expectancies (Cytowic, 1993; Le Doux
Emotions stimulate body awareness, creativity, and a sense of self (Williams,
1977). Emotions drive attention, create meaning, and have their own memory
pathways (Damasio, 1994; LeDoux, 1994). The artistic process engages many
faculties but most significantly emotions and decision making. Artists frequently
use feelings to determine what to do next. Emotions can help inform quality,
value-based decisions and recall memories (Christianson, 1992). Our ability to
discriminate is not solely cognitive. It involves calling on emotions that are
processed unconsciously (Cytowic, 1993; LeDoux, 1996). The systems of emotion
and cognition are virtually inseparable (Hobson, 1994; LeDoux 1996).
Teachers help children clarify their own values by helping them to make
choices from alternatives and to consider the consequences of those choices
(Raths, 1966). Constance Kamii (1991) writes, "We cannot expect children to accept
ready-made values and truths all the way through school, and then suddenly make
choices in adulthood. Likewise, we cannot expect them to be manipulated with
reward and punishment in school, and to have the courage of a Martin Luther
King in adulthood." We deprive students of meaningfulness if we ignore the
emotional components of what we teach (Caine & Caine, 1994). Brain-compatible
teaching should inform effective art teaching (Sullivan, 1989). In the choice-based
art classroom, meaning ultimately can create student understanding (Eisner,
2001; Brooks & Brooks, 1993; Sullivan, 1993).
Andrews, B. (2001). Art and ideas: Reaching non-traditional art students. Art
Education, 54 (5), 33-36.
Bandura, A. (1982). Self-efficacy mechanisms in human agency. American
Psychologist, 37, 122-147.
Brooks, J. & Brooks, M. (1993) . In search of understanding. The case for
constructivist classrooms. Alexandria, VA: Association for Supervision and
Bruce, V. & Green, P. (1990). Visual perception. East Sussex, UK: Lawrence
Erlbaum and Associates.
Burton, J. (2000). The configuration of meaning: Learner-centered art
education revisted. Art Education, 41 (4), 330-345.
Burton, J. (1991). Some basic considerations about "basic art". Art
Education, 44 (4), 34- 41.
Christianson, S. (1992). Emotional stress and eyewitness memory: A critical
review. Pyschological Bulletin, 112 (2), 284-309.
Cobb, C.D. & Mayer, J.D. (2000). Emotional intelligence: What the research
says. Educational Leadership, 58 (3), 14-18.
Coles, R. (1992). Their eyes meeting the world. Boston: Houghton Mifflin.
Cotter, H. (2002, May 31). Creations small in scale but towering in impact.
New York Times, p. E38.
Csikzentmihalyi, M. & Nakamura, J. (1989). The dynamics of intrinsic
motivation: A study of adolescents. In C. Ames & R. Ames (Eds.), Research on
motivation in education (Vol. 3, pp. 45-71). New York: Academic Press.
Cytowic, R. (1993). The man who tasted shapes. New York: Time Warner.
Damasio, A. (1994). Descartes' error. New York: Putnam.
deCharms, R. (1968). Personal causation: The internal affective determinants
of behavior. New York: Academic Press.
Dewey, J. (1963). Experience and education (reprint). New York: Collier.
(Original work published 1938).
Douglas, K. (1993). Centers-based art education. Unpublished master's thesis,
Cambridge College, Cambridge, Massachusetts.
Effland, A. (1976). The school art style: A functional analysis. Studies in
Art Education, 17 (2), 37-44.
Eisner, E. (2001). Should we create new aims for art education? Art
Education, 54 (5), 6- 10.
Emery, L. (1989). Believing in artistic making and thinking. Studies in Art
Education, 30 (4), 237-248.
Flowerday, T. & Schraw, G. (2000). Teacher beliefs about instructional
choice: A phenomenological study. Journal of Educational Psychology, 92 (4),
Franz, R.L. (1961). The origin of form perception. Scientific American, 204,
Gardner, H. (1991) The unschooled mind. New York: Harper Collins.
Gardner, H. (1982). Art, mind and brain: A cognative approach to creativity.
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Glasser, W. (1990). The quality school. New York: Harper & Row.
Hart, L. (1983). Human brain and human learning. Village of Oak Park, AZ:
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Hobson, J. (1994). Chemistry of conscious states. Boston: Little, Brown.
Holt, J. (1983). How children learn. Cambridge, MA: Perseus Books.
Hooper, J. & Teresi, D. (1986). The three pound universe: The brain, from
chemistry of the mind to new frontiers of the soul. New York: Dell.
Jensen, E. (2001). Arts with the brain in mind. Alexandria, VA: Association
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Jensen, E. (1998). Teaching with the brain in mind. Alexandria, VA:
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Kamii, C. (1991). Toward autonomy: The importance of critical thinking and
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Kohn, A. (1993). Choices for children: Why and how to let students decide.
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Kohn, A. (1993). Punished by rewards. New York: Houghton Mifflin.
Kovalik, S. (1994). ITI: The model integrated thematic instruction. Kent,
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LaChapelle, J. (1991). In the night studio: The professional model as an
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LeDoux, J. (1996). The emotional brain. New York: Simon and Schuster.
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London, P. (1999, Winter). It's hard to heal the world: Toward a holistic
paradigm of art education. Massachusetts Art Education Association (MAEA) News.
London, P. (1989). No more secondhand art. Boston: Shambhala.
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Nakamura, K. (1993). A theory of cerebral learning regulated by the reward
system. Biological Cybernetics 68 (6), 491-498.
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Smith, P. (1995). Art and irrelevance. Studies in Art Education, 36 (2),
Sullivan, G. (1989). Curriculum in art education: The uncertainty principle.
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Szekely, G. (2002). Art homework. Art Education, 55 (3), 47-53.
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