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ART EDUCATION FOR THE YOUNG CHILD

Marvin Grossman
University of South Florida

An examination of the history of instruction in art


education and of a number of individual kindergarten and elementary art
education texts reveals that there are many basic teaching methods which
can be roughly grouped into two broad teaching philosophies or orientations.
The first includes methods based on the philosophy that artistic abilities
are inborn and if the natural growth processes are allowed to mature, the
young artist's ability will unfold. This teaching philosophy implies that
society imposes standards that may inhibit the child's natural artistic
development. Generally, this philosophy dictates that the responsibility of
the art teacher is to provide an environment that does not interfere with
the child's expressive abilities.
Art education texts by Kellogg and O'Dell (1967), Bland (I960),
and Hoover (1961) contain descriptions of art instructional methods for
young children based on this maturational philosophy. Kellogg and O'Dell
(1967, p. 17) wrote:

Children who are left alone to draw what they like develop a
store of knowledge which enables them to reach their final stage
of self-taught art. From that point they may develop into gifted
artists, unspoiled. Most children, however, lose interest in drawing
after the first few years of school because they are not given this
chance to develop freely.

A second approach is based on a philosophy that art is basically


a social and human enterprise and is given direction by man's interaction
with his environment. With this approach, emphasis is placed on the
need for environmental experiences and direct teaching if a child is to
develop artistically. According to this orientation, artistic development
depends on the child's experiences.
Although theories that emphasize the maturational approach best
exemplify the prevalent practices in art education for kindergarten children,
some art educators now tend to favor and recommend more systematic
curriculum development.

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REVIEW OF EDUCATIONAL RESEARCH Vol. 40, No. 3

The Importance o Early Educational Experiences


Psychologists and educators (Bloom, 1964; Bruner, 1960; Hunt, 1964)
have recently stressed the importance of early educational stimulation.
Gibson (1966, p. 26) an authority in the area of perceptual development,
wrote:

In the course of studying perceptual development and writing a


book about it, I have become more and more convinced that an im
portant part of perceptual learning, grasping the distinctive fea
tures of objects and the invariants of events, goes on very early in
life.

She added that when a child reaches school age he has developed a style
of perceptual learning.
In Toward a Theory of Instruction, Bruner (1960, p. 29) wrote:
" . . . unless certain basic skills are mastered, later, more elaborated ones
become increasingly out of reach." An art educator, Salome (1966, p. 28)
expressed a similar concern: "a wealth of training and experience contri
bute to an artist's ability to perceive subtle visual relationships and
transmit them into aesthetic forms." He suggested that without special
instruction, young children fail to develop fully their visual perceptual
skills and that such deficiencies influence the way children respond to
and organize stimuli.
Research by such psychologists as Gibson and Gibson (1955), Harris
(1963), and Wiktin, et al. (1962) supports the theory that learning is an
important variable in the development of perceptual functioning. More
pertinent to art education are studies by Nelson and Flannery (1967),
Lewis and Livson (1967), and Salome (1964). These studies indicate that
some types of learning experiences are more effective than others in de
veloping children's abilities to handle visual information in their draw
ings. Nelson and Flannery exposed groups of six- and seven-year-olds to
six different types of drawing instruction. The effectiveness of the dif
ferent types of instruction was assessed by having the children draw a
lozenge in eight successive trials.
The children were assigned to six equal-sized groups on the basis of
group intelligence scores and a sample reproduction of the lozenge. Each
group received a different treatment: in group one, border characteristics
were emphasized; the children were asked to follow the border of a line
drawing of the lozenge with their finger. In group two the children cut
the lozenge out of a stimulus sheet; attention to shape was emphasized.
In group three, the children were helped to make rudimentary analysis of
the lozenge in terms of proportional characteristics. In group four, each

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GROSSMAN ART EDUCATION FOR THE YOUNG CHILD

child was asked to criticize his product after each drawing trial using
the example as a referent. Group five was simply asked to draw the lozenge
as it appeared on the model sheet: this was a control for practice. The
children in group six made copies of their first drawings, the only one
made while looking at the model. While most of the instruction groups im-
proved, the greatest and most reliable improvement occurred in group two.
The instructions to group two emphasized the shape of the lozenge, by
having the children cut out the lozenge from a stimulus. Although the
authors did not mention it, this strategy would emphasize the border of the
lozenge. When the children cut out the shape, they would have to attend
to the edges. Generally, the children reacted differently to the various types
of instruction; this difference suggests that the most effective instructional
procedure might include a variety of analytic procedures.
A study of the development of the child's ability to represent spatial
concepts was conducted by Lewis and Livson (1967). They found that
children from grades one through six discovered progressively adequate
means of depicting three-dimensional objects. When the youngest children
were asked to draw a three-dimensional geometric figure such as a cube,
they commonly drew a square. Children a bit older produced a great vari-
ety of drawings that showed several sides of the figure in one plane. The
next oldest group drew several sides of the figure in space but incorrectly
related. Finally, the oldest children began to represent accurately the
spatial relationships in one- or two-point perspective. The authors reported
that the children's abilities to make judgments of the adequacy of a parti-
cular graphic equivalent seems to partially account for their developing
ability to depict spatial concepts. They indicated that tasks might be
designed to speed up a child's development by presenting him with drawing
problems that require him to search for and judge the adequacy of two-di-
mensional equivalents of three-dimensional forms. Lewis and Livson
concluded that the development of means of depicting three-dimensional
objects within the limits of a two-dimensional medium can be viewed as an
individual's response to a particular task, and that instruction and environ-
mental influences can account for change.
Salome (1965) investigated the effects of perceptual training on
fourth- and fifth-grade children's drawings. In an experimental and control-
group design, the experimentals were given training that directed their
attention to visual cues located in the contours of models of a lamp, truck,
and armadillo; the control groups received conventional instruction in
drawing the same stimulus objects presented in the experimental classes.
The drawings were analyzed on a fifteen-point rating scale composed of
three variables: (1) The degree to which the drawings represented the
stimulus objects based on the amount of information included in the draw-

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REVIEW OF EDUCATIONAL RESEARCH Vol. 40, No. 3

ings; (2) closure-clarity judgments were based upon the extent to which
the form and its component parts, relevant to the object, were enclosed
by lines; and (3) proportion-judgments were based on the correspondents of
the proportions of the stimulus object to the drawing.
The results of the training in Salome's study of fourth graders were
inconclusive. Examining the individual drawings of each object, only the
experimental group ratings of the truck drawings showed a significant
improvement. When the drawing scores of all the objects were combined, a
significant difference between control and experimental groups appeared in
favor of the perceptual training group, suggesting a cumulative treatment
effect. The fifth-grade results were more conclusive: significant differ-
ences in favor of the experimental treatment were reported for individual
and combined drawings. Salome concluded that perceptual training relevant
to the utilization of visual cues located along contour lines does increase
the amount of visual information fifth-grade children include in their
drawings of visual objects. These studies and investigations by Dubin
(1946), Douglas and Schwartz (1967), and others seem to strongly indicate
that young children's artistic and perceptual abilities can be influenced
by instruction.

An Art Instructional Strategy for Young Children


A number of authors in art education and psychology suggested di-
rections for a structured developmental art program for young children.
In trying to hasten the development of preschool children's drawing abilities,
Dubin (1946) used a verbally oriented training method. She described a
training program in which the children were encouraged to elaborate on
their initial ideas by asking questions about their pictures. The conclusion
of her study was that children's drawing abilities could be developed
without any negative effects on the spontaneity and creative aspects of
their artistic behavior.
Another investigation exploring the use of language to develop more
complete visual concepts was reported by Douglas and Schwartz (1967).
They examined the kinds of ideas about art that four-year-olds are able to
comprehend and use in their observations of ceramic works and in their own
work with clay. Basic art ideas were presented in a manner appropriate
for young children. Four of the basic ideas were: 1) art is a means of
non-verbal communication; 2) the art product is the result of the artist's
idea; 3) the artist uses what he sees, thinks, and feels to create art.
4) there is a great variety of materials available to the contemporary
artist. The children studied by Douglas and Schwartz were shown profes-
sional ceramic pieces, and the teachers used these pieces to point out
the art ideas illustrated in these works of art. The teacher encouraged

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GROSSMAN ART EDUCATION FOR THE YOUNG CHILD

and tried to elicit verbal observations from the children about the ceramic
pieces. At the conclusion of the study the children were able to comprehend
and interpret these art ideas in their own clay products. They were also
able to describe and discuss ceramic works in an art context.
There seems to be little disagreement that more elaborate verbal and
visual concepts help children develop more complex art expressions. McFee
(1961, p. 201) pointed out that when children are motivated to look for
relationships and patterns, variations in form, line, color, and texture, their
perceptual skills should develop.
Wachowiak and Ramsay (1965, pp. 25-27) in their text, Emphasis: Art,
suggested a method of helping children develop mere elaborate perceptions.
They posited that the teacher should build art experiences around things
that can be touched, studied, explored, understood, and expressed. They
added that the child should be encouraged to draw directly from nature and,
as a consequence, this sensitive observation can be the basis for a creative
interpretation of the world around him.
Research by Torrance recognized the importance of manipulation of
objects in creative and inventive activities. He reported (1963, pp. 110-117):

. . . it seems clear that in the tasks permitting manipulation of


objects, the degree of manipulation significantly affects the number
and flexibility of responses . . . . The results suggest that when we
attempt to evoke inventive responses, subjects should be encouraged
to manipulate the objects involved. They also suggest the need for
devising means whereby children can imaginatively manipulate
ideas and relationships where manual manipulation is not possible.

Harris (1963) cited two studies that affirm the influence of kines-
thetic exploration on cognition. Mott (1945) with children, and Geek
(1947) with college students showed that by adding kinesthetic experience
to visual and auditory impressions the quality of the subject's drawings
were improved. Mott had the children exercise parts of their bodies as
a group "game" before drawing the human figure. As the children went
through the motor activities, they verbalized their movements, e.g., "this
is my head, I nod it," etc. Drawings made after these activities showed
that the exercised part was not only more likely to be included but that
it was drawn with more care for details. Geek's study emphasized specific
tactual and kinesthetic experiences by having the students manually
explore a modeled human head before sketching it.
The studies reviewed in this paper suggest that an art-teaching strategy
for young children should develop children's cognitive and sensory ex-
ploration abilities. It seems that an effective way of developing young

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REVIEW OF EDUCATIONAL RESEARCH Vol. 40, No. 3

children's artistic expressive abilities is to provide them with real and


immediate objects or experiences, and teach them to explore these objects or
experiences through all their senses.
I conducted two very similar 12-week studies with kindergarten chil-
dren to explore the effectiveness of an art-teaching strategy based on
cognitive and sensory exploration.1 It was hypothesized that this teaching
method would influence the rate and direction of kindergarteners' aesthetic,
creative, and visual developmental growth as indicated in their visual
expressions.
The general pattern of the results derived from the data indicated
that the experimental program was consistently more effective in altering
the artistic responses of the five-year-olds. Although the results in the
first study were not always statistically significant, the experimental
groups consistently had higher mean scores than the control treatments
for all measures. The statistically significant results of the second
study helped confirm the positive effects of the experimental program on
the children's aesthetic, creative, and visual developmental growth. In
addition to the significant statistical differences, qualitative differences in
the products of the experimental group children were also observed. The
children in the experimental groups included a greater amount of costume
and body-part details in their drawings of a clown. Their drawings were
also notably larger, and they were able to use the compositional space
more effectively. When their clown drawings were rated by artists into
eight categories, the experimental group's drawings indicated a more
developed use of the expressive elements such as composition, line, and use
of color.
In conclusion, there are strong indications that a developmental art
program, stressing cognitive and sensory exploration can increase kinder-
garten children's abilities to include more visual information in their
drawings. The directions pointed out in this paper indicate the importance
of continued research in art education to determine the full implications and
potential of developmental instruction in art for children.

References
Bland, J. C. Art of the young child. Garden City, N.Y.: Doubleday, 1960.
Bloom, B. Stability and change in human characteristics. New York: John Wiley &
Sons, 1964.
Bruner, J. S. The process of instruction. New York: Vintage Books, 1960.

*These studies were part of the activities of the Research and Development Center in
Educational Stimulation, University of Georgia, pursuant to a contract with the United
States Department of Health, Education and Welfare, Office of Education, under pro-
visions of the Cooperative Research Program, Center No. 5-0250, Contract No. OE
6-10-061.

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AUTHOR
MARVIN J. GROSSMAN Address: University of South Florida Title: Assistant Pro
fessor Age: 32 Degrees: B.A. and M.Ed., University of Miami; Ed.D., University
of Georgia Specialization: Experimental research on skills, attitudes and psychologi
cal or physiological orientations related to art education.

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