Studio Thinking from the Start: The K-8 Art Educatorís Handbook
reviewed by Susan McCullough - January 24, 2019
Title: Studio Thinking from the Start: The K-8 Art Educatorís Handbook
Author(s): Jillian Hogan, Lois Hetland, Diane B. Jaquith and Ellen Winner
Publisher: Teachers College Press, New York
ISBN: 0807759155, Pages: 176, Year: 2018
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Studio Thinking from the Start was developed specifically for elementary and middle school teachers who are interested in using the studio thinking frameworks in their classroom. The authors do not discuss the meta-analysis that led them to recognize how little was known about the real benefits of art education or about the kind of thinking that went on in the art classroom; research takes a back seat to application here. The authors do note that the studio habits of mind were developed as they conducted empirical research in classrooms dedicated to visual arts learning and that the habits capture the way that artists think (p. 8). They argue in Chapter One that the studio habits of mind are a kind of positive hidden curriculum in the art room (p. 9). With that as a starting point, the book uses examples to reveal how the habits of mind are being cultivated by art teachers in a variety of schools.
A key component of utilizing the framework emphasized here is for both the teacher and the students to understand and actively reference each of the eight components as they create art in the classroom. The authors explain that the book is not a pre-packaged curriculum, but rather a guide to understanding how to apply the lens of studio thinking in the art classroom. This is done largely through examples of real teachers who use the framework in their classrooms. The book describes what the studio habits of mind and studio structures are, how they might be implemented both in planning and in practice, and how assessment and advocacy work in the context of studio thinking. This book will be useful for any novice or veteran teachers interested in understanding the practical application of the studio habits of mind in the pre-k through 8th grade classroom.
In Part One, the eight studio habits (develop craft; engage and persist; envision; express; observe; reflect; stretch and explore; understand art worlds) are described. The book offers ideas for artists to use in discussion and suggests ways to talk about each habit with younger students. The teachers featured in the book generously share their instructional and assessment materials throughout the book and in the appendices. While there is much flexibility within the framework, this section ends with suggestions on how to introduce the habits to young children.
Part Two, Enacting Studio Thinking, is divided into two sections: Portraits of Practice and Portraits of Planning. Here the authors go into greater depth about how individual art teachers use the framework and develop curriculum, describing in detail how class time is used and how interactions between students and teachers unfold.
Part Three focuses on evaluating and sharing. The authors make a strong case for formative assessment, stating we are not convinced that summative assessment is necessary, nor that it benefits anyone (p. 108). In this section, they share guidelines for quality assessment and discuss student motivation, which they suggest should be the focus of formative assessment. Motivation is a key factor if students are supposed to develop and internalize the studio habits. This section also addresses the role of advocacy and integration within the framework. The authors make the case that the studio habits can be used in other disciplines and that the habits themselves could be points of integration between the art room and other subject areas.
Finally, the book concludes with several appendices rich in resources for discussing the habits with students, planning curriculum, assessment, and making connections between the studio thinking framework and National Core Arts Standards.
Studio Thinking from the Start is a rich compendium of examples of the studio habits of mind, and novice and experienced teachers will appreciate seeing the practical application of this framework. The book will also be useful for students of art education being introduced to a variety of pedagogical practices in the field. The book references teaching for artistic behavior (TAB) a number of times, and Diane Jaquith, who writes about TAB, is one of the authors. While all the teachers in the book have supportive administrations in art-friendly schools, they do share many of the restrictions experienced by typical elementary and middle school art teachers, mainly a very limited amount of time with students; sometimes only 45 minutes a week. Understanding how teachers incorporate the framework within these time constraints is useful. Still, it is not entirely clear how well the frameworks would work in a small classroom with few resources.
Having read Studio Thinking 1, it is difficult for me to imagine using this book without having more background information on the framework. If this book motivates teachers to embrace studio thinking in their classroom, I recommend that they also read the previous books on the framework. Studio Thinking from the Start encourages teachers to embrace the studio thinking framework wholesale: post the habits in the art room, discuss them constantly, and make sure the school community is aware of them. However, any educator interested in the thinking that takes place in the art room could benefit from reviewing the basic tenants of the framework.