Later On

A blog written for those whose interests more or less match mine.

Learning to see

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Seeing effectively—observing—is a skill that can be taught, and it turns out that one way to teach it is through art. Kimberly Sheridan, an assistant professor in Educational Psychology and Art and Visual Technology at George Mason University, explains. (She is co-author of the book, Studio thinking: The real benefits of visual arts education.) Her article begins:

Over the past few years, there has been a flourishing of programs where professional training institutions (ranging from medical schools to police academies) hone students’ observational skills by having them look at art. For example, since 2004 the Frick collection has been running an educational program for the New York City Police Department, the FBI and the National Guard aimed at improving their visual observational skills (and communication skills) by having them look at and talk about art.

To be sure, improving observation is a valuable goal and observation is central to learning in the arts. In our studies of studio arts classrooms, my colleagues Ellen Winner, Lois Hetland, Shirley Veenema and I found teachers consistently working on developing students’ ability to observe in more careful, complex and varied ways. And I like the idea of harried medical students and police officers being given the time and skills to look, think and talk carefully about what they see in artworks.

However, should we be skeptical of the underlying claim that looking at art leads to improved looking elsewhere? Does looking at and talking about a Rembrandt really help you analyze a crime scene or diagnose a patient? Do we have generic “visual observational skills” that can be translated between domains? And what do we mean by “visual observational skills” anyway?

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

1 August 2008 at 10:21 am

Posted in Art, Daily life, Education

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