Student Representation Of Art Concepts Through Mind Maps
Paige V. Baggett, Ph.D.
University of South Alabama
National Art Education Association
April 20, 2009
In this mixed methods study the researcher explored
art concepts represented through open-ended
concept/mind mapping by 3rd through 12th grade
students. All 218 students participating were
enrolled in public schools in the southeastern United
States. Each student-generated concept/mind map
was analyzed quantitatively indicating number of
nodes, levels, symbols, and colors generated.
Additionally the content of the nodes was analyzed to
discover themes representing the students’
representation of art.
Of interest was the choice of art concepts
and how they developed through grade
levels. Students represented their
feelings about art; art processes in which
they had engaged; tools for art
productions; elements and principles of
design; and artists. Students represented
what they had been exposed to through
Concept mapping, as a tool to visualize and
understanding, has been extensively
studied. According to Rye (1995), concept
mapping can aid learners to think about
relationships between concepts. Variations
on concept mapping such as Mind
Mapping®, which include the elements of
color and symbols, are less evident in
literature, but provide relevant possibilities
for applications in content domains such as
According to Eisner (2002), quot;Inviting students
to use their imagination means inviting them to
see things other than the way they are. And this
is what artists do; they perceive what is, but
imagine what might be, and then use their
knowledge, their technical skills, and their
sensibilities to pursue what they have
imaginedquot; (p. 199). Art-making is a matter of
continual experimentation and problem
solving (Arnheim, 1969).
United States (US) emphasis on high-
stakes testing has decreased the
occurrences of art learning in US schools
(Baggett & Shaw, 2008). As educators
working with preservice teachers in the
current educational climate, the
researchers wanted to know: What do US
students know about art?
All 218 students participating were enrolled
in public schools in the southeastern United
States. The grade levels were 3-12. Fifty-
three percent of the participants were male;
47% percent female. The ethnicity of the
participants was 15% African American, 4%
Asian, 70% Caucasian, 3% Hispanic, and 8%
A practice concept/mind mapping exercise
was completed with students.
Students were asked to draw a new
concept/mind map using either science or
art as their central concept.
Mean of nodes, levels, symbols, and colors used in mapping by grade level
Grade Level Node M Level M Symbol M Color M
Third 12.24 1.71 3.88 5.88
Fourth 13.82 1.97 5.38 6.03
Fifth 19.97 2.23 3.75 5.75
Sixth 13.18 1.85 3.03 4.70
Seventh 15.67 1.75 1.17 3.38
Eighth 22.23 2.41 1.55 4.95
Ninth 14.00 1.50 .70 2.20
Tenth 17.00 2.56 1.11 1.33
Eleventh 14.55 1.95 1.64 3.23
Twelfth 13.60 2.00 .00 2.40
Mean of nodes, levels, symbols, and colors used in mapping by gender
Gender Node M Level M Symbol M Color M
Male 13.92 2.03 2.41 3.99
Female 17.55 1.96 3.15 5.29
Analysis of the art content represented
revealed most often the description of what
“art is,” with words such as
creative, imagination, and fun.
Subject matter represented in art, and
supplies utilized were the second most
represented themes. Students represented
things in their environment:
family, pets, flowers, and trees.
The art processes were represented with
drawing being listed most often at every
grade level. As in science, evidence of
knowledge and skills was apparent as
students included the processes of
shading, cross-hatching, and stippling.
The elements color, line, and shape were
listed and examples were provided more
often in the maps of 3rd – 7th graders.
As students got older, they listed more
artists, and works of art. Vincent Van Gogh
was listed most often, followed by the Mona
Lisa and Leonardo Da Vinci.
Also in the higher grades, the overall
definition of art expanded as student listed
design, technology, architecture, theater, dan
ce, music, and musicians, increasingly.
Most often, elements of art such as
color, line, and geometric shapes were
symbolically represented with color in the
Also, the common
subjects, flowers, pets, trees, were visually
In the older grades, a few students with skill in
representational drawing chose to create a
wordless map, representing their skill in
What is the perceived value of art
Is this lack of knowledge due to emphasis on
high-stakes testing in reading and math?
How do students best represent their
knowledge in a subject matter domain?
What types of assessments best reflect
Arnheim, R. (1969). Visual thinking.
Berkeley, CA: University of California Press.
Baggett, P.V., & Shaw, E.L. (2008). The art and
science of Gyotaku: There’s somethin’ fishy
goin’ on here. Science Activities,45(1), 3-7.
Eisner, E. (2002). The arts and the creation of
mind. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press.
Rye, J. A. (1995). Concept maps and concept
mapping. Appendix A. Retrieved June
9, 2008, from