Why should Art & Design be taught in the secondary school
Art & Design has an important role to play
in the school curriculum. It provides young people with the opportunity to
nurture a feel for aesthetics, to appreciate the visual stimuli around them:
When confronted with the notion that every man made object has resulted from a
process that starts with drawing a design, children begin to realise how Art & Design, as a subject area, is extremely relevant to the world in which we live.
What a cold and uninspiring place it would be without it!
Design education fosters many desirable and inter-related qualities:
acculturation and multiple literacies; self-confidence, self-discipline and
self-actualisation; creativity, flexibility and vision; critical thinking,
problem-solving, decision making and risk-taking skills; perseverance, a sense
of standards, and a striving for excellence.
As foundation subjects
within the National Curriculum, all secondary school pupils study Art & Design at Key Stage 3.
The anthropologist Paul
Wingert said that ‘there are no primitive peoples, however meagre their cultural
attainments, who offered no patronage to the artist’. (Wingert, 1965,
Probably the most unjust misconception about Art & Design
education in secondary schools is that pupils do not need to be able to think in
order to ‘do Art’.
Some might assert that ‘Art & Design is easy,
compared to other subjects, because even less-able children like it’, the
implication being that Art & Design lessons are an ‘escape’ from the rigours
of traditionally perceived ‘academic’ subjects.
Many of the common
misconceptions about Art & Design education are still widespread: ‘Art &
Design does not require or foster higher level thinking; is not a core subject;
has no disciplinary structure; is not necessary; will not enhance career
How extraordinary these notions are, considering that pupils
need to have knowledge instilled into them through Art & Design teaching in
order to being able develop creative outcomes.
“People nowadays think
that scientists are there to instruct them, poets, musicians, etc., to give them
pleasure. The idea that these have something to teach them – that does not occur
to them.” (Wittgenstein, 1978, p. 42e)
Forms of knowledge argument
Whereas most other
subjects in the curriculum are deemed ‘academic’ in content, Art & Design
seems to have suffered from an out-dated and unfair presumption that it is only
concerned with ‘making’, rather than ‘thinking’.
The programmes of study
at Key Stage 3, however, explicitly detail the requirements for teaching
declarative knowledge in order to inform procedural knowledge. The encouragement
of understanding codes and conventions in historical and contemporary Art &
Design practice provides the necessary cognitive strategies for pupils. These
inform the refinement of motor skills to creative works of Art &
In simpler terms; knowing about Art & Design complements
knowing how to make Art & Design.
‘know that’ < informs >
Learning styles argument
It can be argued that there
is a multitude of ways of learning about the world in which we live; from
logical and analytical thinking through to sensory perception. Gardner (1993)
suggested the notion of ‘multiple intelligence’:
‘Many theories of multiple intelligences are
general. They treat intelligence as cutting across fields and disciplines
freely. Garder makes a case for musical intelligence, and others associated with
certain professions’. Perkins, D. (1995) Outsmarting IQ, London, Free
Secondary Art & Design education facilitates multi-sensory
opportunities for learning that enables pupils to:
Develop an understanding of Art & Design both within an individual and
their relationship to a wider social context, addressing both contemporary and
Encourage an awareness and use of such concepts as space, colour, pattern,
form, textures, line and shape.
Encourage experimentation and originality whilst still being able to
communicate effectively in their chosen
Learning is significantly enhanced in Art & Design by thoughtful
reflection of work, through formative and summative assessment.
A range of techniques are deployed to develop pupils evaluative skills,
these build in sophistication as they progress. The use of evaluations
contributes significantly to the development of
Art & Design can be produced
with economic, moral, philosophical, religious, psychological, and aesthetic
factors in mind. The subject encourages a sense of wonder at the world, its
vulnerability, and the scope for human advancement.
In Art & Design
lessons pupils are encouraged to explore ideas, emotions, and social behaviour
relating to their experiences through life, as well as a wealth of cultural and
historical subject matter.
If Art & Design does enjoy a unique
position within the curriculum, this is due to the fact it is not content led
but allows an expressive response to subject matter that can mirror the concerns
of individuals and society. This means Art & Design plays an important role
in the life of pupils in helping them to communicate things relevant to
Whilst Drama tends to cater for the need of personal creativity
through group activities and public performance, Art & Design fosters a more
individual and contemplative approach. Pupils often have the opportunity to
study one or both means of expression at Key Stage 4 and through to Further
‘Our liability to dream – our unconscious power to create
imaginal narrative and iconic images – demonstrates a symbolic power at work in
our biological nature’. Abbs, P. (1989) A is for Aesthetic, London,
Cultural literacy argument
Art & Design has a
basis in knowledge about the world, and actually living in the world. Through
this it facilitates an understanding of the differences and similarities of
different cultural traditions.
Art & Design encourage attitudes
within pupils of positive identity; shared and individual aspirations; tolerance
of ideas, lifestyles and beliefs; open-mindedness and co-operation. It
creates a stimulating working environment and interest in the achievements of
others and themselves.
It fosters the use of the imagination, equipping
pupils with the 'images' and language to grasp and visualise concepts;
developing and stimulating their sense of sight and giving opportunities to
students to explore the fertility of their thinking.
‘As it is in
mathematics, the sciences and the humanities, so it is in the arts: One can only
be significantly creative on the basis of tradition. The better the tradition,
the better the chances of significant creativity’. Abbs, P. (1989) A is for
Aesthetic, London, Falmer
Art & Design, as a subject,
facilitates pupil’s understanding of aesthetics. This is crucial in order to
provide for the successful future development of design for manufactured
products and environments that work and are pleasing to the eye.
fundamental autographic skills of drawing and painting provide pupils with a
solid basis to develop their work into the other areas; such as ceramics, print
making, typography, photography, animation and digital image
These practices equip pupils with transferable skills that
may be used in other subject areas, employment and daily living.
have opportunities for greater personal fulfilment and to stimulate a personal
involvement with Art & Design that will stay with them for the rest of their
lives, perhaps influencing decisions about careers.
As a secondary school
subject, Art & Design provides the basis that can prepare pupils for
training leading to vocations in related industries such as:
Abbs, P. (1989) A is for Aesthetic,
London, Falmer Addison, N. & Burgess, L. (2000) Contemporary Art in Schools:
Why Bother? in Hickman, R. (2000) Art Education 11-18, London,
Continuum Cropley, A. J. (1997) Fostering Creativity in the Classroom:
General Principles in Runco, M. The Creativity Research Handbook, Vol 1,
Cresskill, New Jersey, Hampton Press Efland, A., Freedman, K., & Stuhr,
P. (1996) Postmodern Art Education: An Approach to Curriculum, Reston, Virginia,
NAEA Gablik, S. (1991) The Re-Enchantment of Art, London, Thames &
Hudson Perkins, D. (1995) Outsmarting IQ, London, Free Press Postman, N.
(1995) The End of Education, New York, Vintage