Made in Massachusetts: Contemporary Art Education: Diane B. Jaquith

Cranberries. Boston baked beans. Fried clams. Dunkin’ Donuts. We associate these foods with Massachusetts and likely have enjoyed some, if not all, as Massachusetts residents. Are you also aware that Massachusetts is home to three well-known art education movements? Perhaps your art curriculum currently includes one or more of these approaches. Given the high caliber of art education in Massachusetts it is no surprise that Teaching for Artistic Behavior (TAB), Studio Habits of Mind (SHoM), and Visual Thinking Strategies (VTS) were all initiated, developed, implemented, and refined right here, to the benefit of students all around the globe!

Teaching for Artistic Behavior: A Philosophy
Back in 1972, art teacher Katherine Douglas was welcomed by the principal to her position in East Bridgewater as “the new babysitter.” With 900 students on a weekly schedule, low budget, and back-to-back 40-minute classes, management quickly became an issue. Douglas wondered, How can I offer my students artmaking opportunities similar to those of artists, with limited time and supplies, and large classes? Driven by curiosity, she selected some art supplies and invited all students to experiment. The resulting work took on a new look, unlike the familiar “school art style” as described by Efland (1976) that was prevalent during that era. Douglas started to focus instruction on process and technique demonstrations with various media, and art history, and her students chose what and how to create their art. Centers appeared around the room (painting, collage, drawing, fibers, sculpture, puppetry, and
maskmaking), stocked with materials, tools, and visual resources. When a new colleague, John Crowe, started teaching in the high school next door, he would visit her classroom where they became a professional learning community of two, discussing art and students, and the types of choices in art class.

In 1975, unbeknownst to Douglas and Crowe, art teacher Pauline Joseph set up her classroom as a Visual Arts Resource Studio for self-directed learning, after discovering the Open Education movement (Barth, 1974) and finding her way to Roland Barth’s elementary school in Newton. Her classroom arrangement was remarkably
similar to that of Douglas, with centers (fibers, drawing, printmaking, clay, construction, and design) and instruction for whole-group, small group, and individuals. Central to Joseph’s practice was the direct and indirect teaching of art history and art appreciation with visuals embedded into each center (Joseph, 2012).

Douglas, Crowe, and Joseph met two decades later, discovered their commonalities, and co-taught a course at MassArt called Art Education: The Cutting Edge, which focused on methodology for choice-based art education. Four years later, the course name changed to Teaching for Artistic Behavior, carefully phrased to emphasize that artistic behavior itself cannot be taught—rather, teachers set up structures to facilitate for students to develop their own artistic behaviors. Soon after I met Katherine in 1998, we launched a grassroots movement by the same name with just a handful of Massachusetts teachers. Katherine Douglas and I then began focused outreach to teachers across the US and beyond through presentations, publication of our text, Engaging Learners through Artmaking (2009/2018), and social media. As a result, TAB has evolved to incorporate many teachers’ perspectives and input, summed up by the three-sentence curriculum (Douglas and Jaquith, 2018):

What do artists do?
The child is the artist.
The classroom is the child’s studio.

      Belief in the child as the artist is what makes TAB a philosophy, supported by choice-based methodology. Support for this approach to art education has greatly influenced the direction of TAB, with TAB educators generously sharing their practices, instructional strategies, and resources in online forums and regional gatherings. Now a high school curriculum designed by Melissa Purtee and Ian Sands called The Open Art Room (2018) brings TAB practice to older students. Developed and maintained entirely by PreK-12 art educators, TAB is a non-profit organization that provides professional development throughout the US.

Studio Thinking and the Studio Habits of Mind: A Framework
Why do we teach the arts in schools? (Winner & Hetland, 2007). This advocacy question was on the minds of Project Zero researchers Lois Hetland and Ellen Winner as they, joined by colleagues Shirley Veenema and Kimberly Sheridan, sought answers in five classrooms at Boston Arts Academy and Walnut Hill School in Natick. Their
observations, conversations, and analysis of student work over the course of an entire school year led to the identification of eight distinct thinking dispositions that are central to artistic process. By sifting through data and identifying patterns, the researchers realized that all of these dispositions, or habits, surfaced frequently in each of the classrooms in their study. They decided to call these dispositions the Studio Habits of​ Mind. Later, the authors reflected:

From the start we were quite sure that visual arts teaching involves more than
instruction in merely art techniques, and we sought to uncover the full spectrum
of what really is taught and how that’s accomplished. Our goal was to understand
the kinds of thinking that teachers help students develop in visual arts classes
and the supports they use to do that. (Hetland, Winner, Veenema, & Sheridan,
2013, ix)

   When Studio Thinking: The Real Benefits of Visual Arts Education arrived in 2007, it was groundbreaking and welcomed by art teachers like me who had struggled to find effective ways to identify, communicate, and support the many types of learning that we witnessed daily in our classrooms. With Studio Thinking, teachers now had a
framework to unveil the many types of thinking and decision making that take place during art class. Most importantly, the SHoM shifted the focus on learning from the product to the process of artistic thinking, with a clear lens to observe and assess student understandings.
     Studio Thinking (2007) and Studio Thinking 2 (2013) provide high school case studies and thorough explanations of the framework for all art teachers. In response to demand for elementary SHoM materials, a new project under the direction of lead author, Jill Hogan, provides views into multiple elementary art classrooms that use SHoM. We interviewed dozens of teachers and visited classrooms in Massachusetts, Chicago, California, and New Mexico. Studio Thinking from the Start: The K-8 Art Educator’s Handbook (Hogan, Hetland, Jaquith, & Winner, 2018) features a variety of SHoM instructional resources generously shared by art teachers. School districts in many states have implemented Studio Thinking throughout their art departments with study groups and resources, and an entire school in California has integrated Studio Thinking into every classroom!

Visual Thinking Strategies: Aesthetic Development Curriculum

How could viewing art make some uncomfortable, others bored or edgy, and still others animated and excited? asked cognitive psychologist Abigail Housen (Housen, 2007). This question led to her research and dissertation in the early 1980s, in which she identified five stages of aesthetic development (Housen, 1997). Housen’s work in
aesthetic stage development was transformative for museum education, where her research indicated that most museum visitors are relatively inexperienced, and docent-led gallery lectures were not being retained by them. Housen was particularly interested in these beginning viewers. Her collaboration with Philip Yenawine, then Director of Education at MOMA, began with the identification and development of much-needed “viewing skills” for typical museum visitors (Yenawine, 2013). Some of you may be familiar with the VTS question, “What is going on here?” which provided Stage I viewers an entry point into artworks. The second VTS question, “What do you see that makes you say that?” challenges viewers who are moving toward Stage II to look closer and find evidence in the artwork to support their claims and construct meaning (Housen, 1997). The third question deepens the experience by asking, “What more can we find?” VTS goes far deeper than these three questions, of course, and there is a full
curriculum available, as well as professional trainings opportunities, now managed by a large non-profit organization.

Originally developed for museum audiences, the Visual Thinking Strategies quickly expanded to general classrooms (Yenawine, 2013) and then art classrooms because the strategies engage all viewers through dynamic discussions and develop visual literacy skills. Those of you who are unfamiliar with the Visual Thinking Strategies might
enjoy the references listed below as they provide clear descriptions of the practices which make this approach successful in school settings. How many of you have used the Visual Thinking Strategies as a way to structure
conversations about artworks with your students? Who highlights Studio Habits when they see their students Stretching and Exploring to try new techniques or resolve issues with their work? Have some of you become more aware of choices that you can embed within lessons to heighten personalized learning? Remember that each of these approaches began with a question that led to a theory, and then collaboration with like-minded peers, followed by the development of an educational philosophy, framework, or curriculum, which, in turn, contributes to contemporary art education. What unanswered questions do you have about your own teaching and learning? I challenge you to keep Massachusetts at the forefront of art education with your classroom questions, action
research, and shared practices. After all, George Szekely’s words from 30 years ago still ring true: “Each one of us has an important role to play in our field – for art teaching has yet to be invented” (Szekely, 1988).


About the author: Diane Jaquith is an Instructor in the Art Education Department at Massachusetts College of Art & Design, where she also co-directs the TAB Institute with Katherine Douglas. She is a co-founder, with Katherine Douglas, Pauline Joseph, and John Crowe, of the Teaching for Artistic Behavior organization. She is co-author, with
Katherine Douglas, of Engaging Learners through Artmaking; and, with Jill Hogan, Lois Hetland, and Ellen Winner of Studio Thinking from the Start: The K-8 Art Educators Handbook; and co-editor, with Nan Hathaway, of The Learner-Directed Classroom. She worked as a researcher with Abigail Housen for Visual Understanding in Education, and taught K-8 art for 25 years in Massachusetts, retiring from Newton in 2016.

Barth, R. S. (1974). Open education and the American school. New York: Schocken Books.

Douglas, K. and Jaquith, D. B. (2018). Engaging learners through artmaking: Choice-based art education in the           classroom (TAB). New York: Teachers College Press.

​Efland, A. (1976). The school art style: A functional analysis. Studies in Art Education, 17(3), 37-44.

Hetland, L., Winner, E., Veenema, S., and Sheridan, K. (2007/13). Studio thinking: The  real benefits of visual arts education. New York: Teachers College Press.

Hogan, J., Hetland, L., Jaquith, D., and Winner, E. (2018). Studio thinking from the start: The K-8 art educator’s handbook. New York: Teachers College Press.

Housen, A. (1997). The eye of the beholder: Research, theory and practice. Presented at the conference of “Aesthetic and Art Education: A Transdisciplinary Approach,” sponsored by the Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation, Service of Education September 27-29, 1999, Lisbon, Portugal. Retrieved from

Housen, A. (2007). Art viewing and aesthetic development: Designing for the viewer. Visual Thinking Strategies. Retrieved from

Joseph, P. (2012) The visual resource studio. In Jaquith, D. & Hathaway, N. (Eds.), The learner-directed classroom: Developing creative thinking skills through art (pp. 38-45). New York: Teachers College Press.

​Purtee, M. and Sands, I. (2018). The open art room. Worcester, MA: Davis Publishing. Teaching for Artistic Behavior, Inc.

Szekely, G. (1988). Encouraging creativity in art lessons. New York: Teachers College Press.

Winner, E. and Hetland, L. (2007, September 02). Art for our sake – School arts classes matter more than ever – but not for the reasons you think. The Boston Globe. Retrieved through ProQuest. Web. 7 Feb. 2019.

Yenawine, P. (2013). Visual thinking strategies: Using art to deepen learning across school disciplines. Cambridge, MA: Harvard Education Press.

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