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Thinking Critically About Social Issues
                     Through Visual Material

156     kATE rAW lI nS o n E T Al .

Partitioned from its low-income neighborhood by a high chain link fence,
Miami Gard...
T h I n kI n G C rI T I C Al ly A B o U T S o C I Al I S S U E S   157

census, more than a quarter of the district’s 40...
158         kATE rAW lI nS o n E T Al .

table 1

                                           % Students     % Students  ...
T h I n kI n G C rI T I C Al ly A B o U T S o C I Al I S S U E S   159

answer thinking, required us to address four cha...
160      kATE rAW lI nS o n E T Al .

    Although both methods are useful tools for illuminating the social content
of ...
T h I n kI n G C rI T I C Al ly A B o U T S o C I Al I S S U E S   161

workbook format with students greatly eased time...
162      kATE rAW lI nS o n E T Al .

also to allow for student ownership and a place for them to record their
personal ...
T h I n kI n G C rI T I C Al ly A B o U T S o C I Al I S S U E S   163

Figure 1: Mural Study “Boys Playing Marbles” fo...
164     kATE rAW lI nS o n E T Al .

image needed immediate visual appeal—engaging design, color, and use of ma-
T h I n kI n G C rI T I C Al ly A B o U T S o C I Al I S S U E S   165

166      kATE rAW lI nS o n E T Al .

Figure 3: Page 38 from The Story of Alaska (c. 1940) illustrated by Cornelius hug...
T h I n kI n G C rI T I C Al ly A B o U T S o C I Al I S S U E S   167

categories ensured that trained readers would no...
Artful citizenship visual/critical literacy Scoring rubric
T h I n kI n G C rI T I C Al ly A B o U T S o C I Al I S S U E S   169

Figure 4: Painting, Subway (c. 1935), by Daniel...
170      kATE rAW lI nS o n E T Al .

Figure 5: Mural study, John Brown (c. 1930-1939), by Stuyvesant Van Veen, possibl...
T h I n kI n G C rI T I C Al ly A B o U T S o C I Al I S S U E S   171

responded to both fourth-grade prompts, and all ...
172     kATE rAW lI nS o n E T Al .

Students in Artful Citizenship showed 12 percent growth in their FCAT
reading score...
T h I n kI n G C rI T I C Al ly A B o U T S o C I Al I S S U E S   173

    problem. Museum collections hold many opport...
174       kATE rAW lI nS o n E T Al .

      Susan Nelson Wood is an associate professor and coordinator of English educ...
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Thinking Critically About Social Issues Through Visual Material


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This article addresses an arts integrated social studies curriculum for grades three through five entitled Artful Citizenship, designed by The Wolfsonian-FIU.

Funded by the U.S. Dept of Education's Arts in Education Model Development and Dissemination Grant program.

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Thinking Critically About Social Issues Through Visual Material

  1. 1. Thinking Critically About Social Issues Through Visual Material m Kate Rawlinson, Susan Nelson Wood, Mark Osterman, and Claudia Caro Sullivan Abstract This article addresses an arts-integrated social studies cur- riculum for grades three through five entitled Artful Citizenship, designed by The Wolfsonian–Florida International University. Funded by the U.S. De- partment of Education’s Arts in Education Model Development and Dis- semination Grant program, the development and implementation of the program was conducted concurrently with a three-year evaluation of the curriculum’s impact on visual literacy and critical thinking skills conducted by Curva and Associates. The research was conducted in low-performing urban schools in Miami-Dade County and targeted students at risk for failing Florida’s standardized achievement tests in reading and math. Artful Citizenship was created by a museum with a collection spe- cializing in art and design—mass-produced objects that reveal how design reflects and shapes social, political, and technological change. Because of the collection’s nature, the aim of Artful Citizenship was to use inquiry- based strategies that focused on the critical understanding of objects as agents of social change (as opposed to understanding their aesthetic or art- historical significance). The longitudinal study provides a framework for a definition of critical thinking that relates to a school-based intervention tar- geting social studies skills. The study also documents the effectiveness of Visual Thinking Strategies as a foundational strategy for developing critical thinking skills upon which a multi-modal teaching approach that integrates visual material and promotes artistic response can be built. In this article, we share findings from the study that have major im- plications for designing museum-school partnerships and help illuminate the interconnection between visual literacy and critical thinking when related to complex social issues. Journal of Museum Education, Volume 32, Number 2, Summer 2007, pp. 155–174. ©2007 Museum Education Roundtable. All rights reserved. 155
  2. 2. 156 kATE rAW lI nS o n E T Al . Partitioned from its low-income neighborhood by a high chain link fence, Miami Gardens Elementary, in its original form, was a hopeful product of education-reform thinking—open classrooms without walls. Uncomfortably retrofitted most recently around a central cafeteria, the school’s thin walls slice irregular pie-shaped classrooms from the once open space. On a visit to the school, our group passed through several classrooms, each crowded with about thirty students, teachers talking, intent on what they were teaching. Students, easily distracted, turned eagerly in their seats to watch our movements. The doorless classrooms promoted a kind of esca- lating vocal competition among teachers struggling to be heard by students. If you sat near one of these openings, you might hear the neighboring teacher more readily than your own. Exposed in quick succession to 30-second sound bites of elementary reading, math, or science, we were struck by the varied delivery styles of the teachers and palpably compressed energy of children in crowded, windowless spaces. As difficult as the chaotic school setting proved to be for us, we were de- lighted to observe a class of students in the midst of an Artful Citizenship discussion facilitated by their teacher. The students leaned forward, waving hands high, eager to contribute their ideas about the artwork projected on the white board. In the other nearby classrooms, such enthusiastic hands were noticeably absent. The Artful Citizenship project, funded by the U.S. Department of Edu- cation’s Arts in Education Model Development and Dissemination Grant program, illustrates one approach to moving collection materials out of museums and into the hands of teachers. In this article, we detail the nature of this museum-school partnership; how it facilitated critical thought within the context of a school-based social studies curriculum; and the many lessons that we learned about selecting materials, working with schools, and as- sessing the impact on student learning. From Home to ScHool: SituAting A muSeum-ScHool PArtnerSHiP Artful Citizenship might first be understood as a kind of “civic engagement” or local outreach, in part because it was conceived by The Wolfsonian’s museum educators to be conducted beyond the museum’s galleries.1 One challenge was working with Miami-Dade County Public Schools (MDCPS), the fourth-largest public schools system in the U.S. According to the 2003
  3. 3. T h I n kI n G C rI T I C Al ly A B o U T S o C I Al I S S U E S 157 census, more than a quarter of the district’s 400,000 students were born outside the U.S., and 68 percent of the school children speak a home language other than English. Of the one hundred largest counties in the nation, Miami-Dade’s median household income is among the ten lowest; the large number of children living below the poverty line face many risk factors and are likely to have difficulty in school. These serious circumstances had led Wolfsonian staff members to develop several visual literacy projects (Artful Truth and Page at a Time) with students and teachers of the district.2 The Artful Citizenship program emerged not only from the content of the collection, but also from imple- mentation experiences and evaluations conducted for these programs. Artful Citizenship was designed to target critical thinking as well as visual literacy skills of low-performing third- through fifth-grade students through the integration of the museum’s visual material into the teaching of social studies content.3 The general goals of the three-year intervention were to (1) empower students to become good citizens by understanding citi- zenship skills; (2) increase the understanding of art as an agent of social change; and (3) ultimately increase academic achievement as evidenced through improved standardized test scores. These goals were to be reached by increasing student visual literacy and critical thinking skills through the use of images from The Wolfsonian’s collection of art and design objects, which is rich in images addressing social and historical content. The project was designed as a process that would increase a student’s ability to identify a social, personal, or political conflict; analyze the problem in a cultural or his- torical context; and, ultimately, perhaps even design solutions for the social issue through artistic response activities that placed the student in the role of a designer working on socially-focused projects. The Artful Citizenship curriculum was implemented in three schools with large numbers of at-risk students struggling academically and receiving Free and Reduced Price Lunch (FRPL) assistance (see Table 1). The target schools included: Miami Gardens (91.7 percent of students qualified for FRPL at the time of the study); Phyllis Ruth Miller (79.2 percent of students qualified for FRPL); and Fienberg-Fisher (87.2 percent of students qualified for FRPL). The comparison school, Miami Shores Elementary, had 71.9 percent of students qualifying for FRPL. The program was administered to select third-, fourth-, and fifth-grade classes in the three treatment schools, beginning with the third grade in year one (which was the study cohort) and following those students to fourth grade and then fifth. Although
  4. 4. 158 kATE rAW lI nS o n E T Al . table 1 % Students % Students % Students % Student receiving perf. below perf. below membership free/assisted grade level grade level School by ethnicity lunch math (2005) reading (2005) Miami Gardens White 2 African American 41 90 63 58 hispanic 56 Fienberg-Fisher White 10 African American 6 86 37 38 hispanic 81 Phyllis r. Miller White 7 African American 68 80 56 44 hispanic 20 approximately 1,200 received the curriculum over the three years, the final number of students who composed the study sample was 189. The distance of the three schools from the museum’s front door ranged from three blocks to twenty-three miles: from South Miami Beach and its stimulating business and Art Deco-styled residential district, to a somewhat run-down residential neighborhood ten miles away on the mainland, to an isolated neighborhood from which one student did not recognize the At- lantic Ocean when he saw it during the project’s culminating museum visit. We designed Artful Citizenship to improve the critical thinking and visual literacy skills of the students inside these schools, since multiple museum visits were impossible. Our project team—consisting of four Wolfsonian educators, Philip Yenawine from Visual Understanding in Education, and a core group of four MDCPS teachers serving as curriculum advisors—dedicated three years to developing and field-testing the curriculum. Both formative and summative evaluation, provided by the Tallahassee-based evaluation team of Curva and Associates, were critical to understanding the longitudinal impact of the arts- integrated social studies’ curriculum. Vital feedback during the three-year study was also provided by eighty classroom and art teachers who took on the responsibility of teaching the curriculum in their classrooms. tHe DeSign oF tHe SociAl StuDieS’ curriculum: crAFting A Delivery moDel Shifting from museum-based to school-based content delivery that would use the museum’s materials to cultivate critical thinking, as opposed to single-
  5. 5. T h I n kI n G C rI T I C Al ly A B o U T S o C I Al I S S U E S 159 answer thinking, required us to address four challenges: (1) addressing state and national social studies’ standards through a methodology that could be replicated nationally; (2) identifying a proven strategy that, with practice, could be reliably implemented by teachers in the chaotic environment of the ele- mentary classroom and supported through professional development ac- tivities; (3) creating a curriculum to support teacher-facilitated implementation; and (4) establishing a classroom environment that modeled good citizenship skills, such as respectful listening and tolerance of differing opinions. Addressing standards. Given the mandates of the federal grant guidelines to integrate art into other core disciplines, and the museum’s goal to increase appreciation of the role of art in society, the focus of the curriculum was to impact student learning in three ways: to develop visual literacy skills; to im- plement arts learning in the academic content areas of social studies and language arts; and to create opportunities for integrated artistic response. Although the teaching of social studies in elementary classes is mandated statewide, it is one subject area not tested in the school’s accountability formula. As a result, citizenship education is largely neglected and social studies is most commonly taught when integrated into those subject areas, like language arts, that are heavily tested. Due to limited time brought about by the demands of the state’s regimented standardized test preparation for reading and math in these schools, classroom educators taught the Artful Citizenship curriculum during the language arts block, which also enables them to integrate social studies into their classroom practice. Identifying instructional strategies. Driving our content-delivery process was the need to prepare students as well as teachers to read complex visual images. We considered two interpretative strategies: the Visual Thinking Strategies (VTS) methodology and an artifact analysis approach that is more commonly used in cultural history museums, though equally effective when considering art objects and their context.4 The greatest difference in these two inquiry-based approaches is the questioning strategies they use. VTS utilizes a learner-centered, open-ended questioning sequence that begins with: “What’s happening in this picture? What do you see that makes you say that? What more can you find?” An ar- tifact analysis approach uses the more directed questioning strategy of a re- searcher, such as: “What material is this object made of? How large is it? When might it have been made? What might it have been used for?”
  6. 6. 160 kATE rAW lI nS o n E T Al . Although both methods are useful tools for illuminating the social content of an art object or an artifact, two major issues—developmental appropri- ateness and teacher implementation—as well as other qualities led us to choose VTS as a visual literacy strategy for Artful Citizenship. VTS provided the vehicle for building fundamental visual literacy skills, foundational for additional student-centered teaching and learning methods implemented in the project. The methods used in combination promoted student engagement with visual materials in a variety of modes: viewing, reflecting, and talking about visual images, as well as reading, writing, and responding artistically. To support teachers as they learned to facilitate VTS discussions, a series of professional development training sessions were conducted at the museum by Philip Yenawine. Additionally, Wolfsonian education staff conducted weekly in-school coaching and debriefings with teachers as they began to im- plement VTS with their students. In the three-year period, approximately 200 school visits were made by museum staff. Two week-long teacher institutes were also held during the summers of 2003 and 2004 for project teachers, taught by Wolfsonian education staff, Philip Yenawine, and two faculty members from Florida International University’s College of Education. These workshops provided in-depth exploration of learning theory, VTS theory and practice, language arts and social studies curriculum connections, and close study of the Artful Citizenship curriculum materials and methods. Creating curriculum materials. The choice to deliver the three-year cur- riculum through school-based teachers necessitated the modeling and building of teaching skills of educators unaccustomed to using visual ma- terial or being attentive to visual literacy as a learning outcome. In addition, a system was needed to facilitate simultaneous and consistent implemen- tation at three disconnected school sites. In year one, four educators worked as advisors with our team to develop a prototype teacher manual containing sequenced lessons for the third grade to test. The ten-to-twelve-week curriculum included six weeks of preliminary VTS visual literacy skill-building followed by the multi-level Artful Citi- zenship curriculum. Organized as a journey, the manuals were comprised of four sections, and we suggested the teachers and students create travel logs in class to record the activities of their Artful Citizenship journey. These initial teacher- and student-created workbooks became the model for the student workbooks called “My Travel Log,” which were designed and tested in each of the three grades in years two and three. Utilizing the
  7. 7. T h I n kI n G C rI T I C Al ly A B o U T S o C I Al I S S U E S 161 workbook format with students greatly eased time and material limitations that teachers had experienced in their classrooms in year one and modeled a multimodal arts integration curriculum for them. The student “journey” was tied directly to established social studies content for third, fourth, and fifth grades, expanding in scope and complexity as children matured over the three years. In careful sequence, legs of the journey addressed: (1) concepts of personal identity within the immediate or larger “communities” (the concept of “community” changed over grade levels from home to school to cultural group to state to nation); (2) the changing roles of citizens to make a “community” work, whether it is a home or school or city, etc.; and (3) building a geographical understanding of a child’s expanding world. The conceptual focus for each leg was implicit in their respective titles, posed as three open-ended questions: Who am I? What is a community? Where am I? The final and fourth section of the workbook focused on artistic response to the previous three legs and was called Art in Action. Each of the legs of the journey began with a visual literacy lesson (called Look & Think), which used the VTS methodology to explore three themat- ically linked images; this was followed by a drawing activity (Sketch Away) and then a writing activity (Write On!) related to those images. These in turn were followed by a vocabulary activity (Local Lingo) connected to the upcoming social studies’ lesson (Dig Deeper). In order to also build students’ visual vo- cabulary, these sections culminated in a lesson that engaged them in ex- ploring symbols (Symbol Quest), which might be completed in the classroom or art studio as the teachers preferred. Although the use of a workbook may seem antithetical to the open-ended philosophy of VTS, it provided a much-needed model for teachers to learn to integrate visual materials and the VTS methodology into classroom practice. Teachers began each lesson unit with an open-ended discussion, drawing out the prior knowledge of the student and engaging them in the discovery of in- herent social studies content through three specially selected visual images. They then followed up the VTS “Look & Think” activity on a subsequent day with the drawing and writing activities, which further addressed the theme of the previous day’s images and prompted the student to create a personal re- sponse to the theme. Most important, these responsive activities also provided a transitional bridge from the open-ended discussion to the more directed vo- cabulary and social studies content in the following lessons. The visually stimulating workbooks proved to be user-friendly for both teachers and students and were designed to not only deliver information, but
  8. 8. 162 kATE rAW lI nS o n E T Al . also to allow for student ownership and a place for them to record their personal responses. For example, at the end of each leg, “My Pages” provided a place for students to sketch or write as they wished. As reported in teacher in- terviews, for many, the Artful Citizenship materials replaced time-intensive and developmentally inappropriate social studies’ textbooks and became the only social studies’ lessons students received. Teachers commented that students were more engaged by the visually-appealing workbook and VTS dis- cussions than other classroom activities, and these provided them with a much-needed “learning” break from the intensive, rote test prep they were re- quired to conduct. Citizenship skills and classroom environment. Based on prior experience with this methodology, the museum staff knew that the open-discussion VTS process, coupled with compelling images, promotes benefits aligned with a quality teaching environment and good citizenship skills, such as re- spectful listening and debate about differing views on a particular social issue, which were significant and integral to the goals of the project. The VTS process models positive teaching skills for the teacher, such as: shifting the learning process from the teacher relating expertise to passive students, to one where the students are actively engaging in an empowering dis- covery process; stressing active and respectful listening, not just by the teacher, but also among the students; modeling positive student behavior and a way for students to voice diverging opinions in a constructive way; challenging the teacher to remain neutral in response to all student opinions, which encourages increased participation from all students, not just “right answer” students; and positioning learning as serious, but still engaging and even “fun” work. VTS instills self-confidence; motivates students to share thoughts and take chances through group discussion; builds respect and tolerance for the opinions and experiences of others; values intellectual and psychological in- trospection and reflection; and models behavior that reinforces thinking skills that may transfer to other settings.5 It can be argued that these are basic skills for being a good citizen in thought and even in action. FeAtureS oF viSuAl mAteriAl: ADDreSSing relevAnt SociAl iSSueS To ensure the success of the social studies curriculum, Wolfsonian staff paid careful attention to the selection of compelling images and visual material
  9. 9. T h I n kI n G C rI T I C Al ly A B o U T S o C I Al I S S U E S 163 Figure 1: Mural Study “Boys Playing Marbles” for Cycle of a Woman’s Life for the Women’s House of Detention, Manhattan (c. 1936) by lucienne Bloch, WPA Federal Art Project. Courtesy of The Wolfsonian-Florida International University, The Mitchell Wolfson, Jr. Collection. suitable to better foster the discussion of social problems. The curriculum team, led by the museum staff, considered issues of collection fidelity, visual appeal and image variety, alignment, and especially social themes. Collection fidelity. The nature of the Wolfsonian collection, with its em- phasis on design and propaganda of the 1850–1945 period, was the original source of ideas for the project. Because of the nature of the collection, the aim of Artful Citizenship was to use inquiry-based strategies that focused on the critical understanding of objects as agents of social change (as opposed to understanding their aesthetic or art-historical significance). Visual appeal and image variety. Many of the basic principles suggested in VTS image-selection guidelines matched our own selection criteria.6 For example, it was important that the images be narrative and the subjects interesting to eight- to eleven-year-olds. Images depicting children involved in family or other social activities were especially appealing, as were beautifully illustrated maps that explored the fauna and flora of the Pacific Rim, playful illustrations of local products, and services with cartoon-like drawings (see Figure 1). Equally, the
  10. 10. 164 kATE rAW lI nS o n E T Al . image needed immediate visual appeal—engaging design, color, and use of ma- terials, techniques, or compositional elements such as point of view. Implicit in developmentally appropriate, student-centered images for el- ementary students is a high degree of readability. Although students may not understand everything depicted or understand the historical context of the image, most would be able to identify the elements of the image and be able to discuss what may be happening. Images that allow students to build on their prior knowledge challenge them to look further and think more, and images that make connections to possible social content provide the best growth opportunities. Alignment. Matching image selection and content with grade-level state and national social studies’ content standards was another factor to consider. For example, the painting Building the Tamiami Trail in the fourth grade “My Travel Log,” addressed the requirement by the Florida Department of Edu- cation that fourth-grade students “understand ways geographic features in- fluenced the exploration, colonization, and expansion of Florida.” In the fifth-grade curriculum, the painting entitled Woman’s Suffrage (Figure 2) ad- dressed the need for students to “know ways American life was transformed socially, economically, and politically after the Civil War.” Social themes. To target critical thinking as thematically important to the curriculum content, selected images needed to include human figures, thereby reflecting some aspect of social, personal, and political concerns. Similarly critical were issues of diversity, acknowledging race, gender, and culture (see Figure 3). It should be noted that we purposefully did not select images that reflected the racism prevalent during the collection time period, unless that was the subject of the lesson. However, within the safe environment of VTS dis- cussion, children were able to bring to the image their opinions, concerns, and ideas about problems like racism. In other words, for the purposes of Artful Citizenship, the visual material served as an open-ended prompt, engaging the children in authentic discussion about social issues. tHe imPAct oF ArtFul citizenSHiP: DeFining criticAl tHinking To make visible the transactions between various images and the under- standings created by third-, fourth-, and fifth-grade students, we developed a
  11. 11. T h I n kI n G C rI T I C Al ly A B o U T S o C I Al I S S U E S 165 Figure 2: Study for a poster, Woman’s Suffrage (1905), by Evelyn rumsey Cary. Courtesy of The Wolfsonian–Florida Interna- tional University, The Mitchell Wolfson, Jr. Collection. longitudinal study.7 The design for our assessment evolved over a four-year period of studying the impact of our programs on visual literacy skills in el- ementary classrooms.8 The primary question guiding this study was to determine if partici- pation in the Artful Citizenship program affected the students’ ability to interpret visual images and think critically about them and the social issues they convey. Because the visual literacy project was embedded in social studies standards, however, so too were the standards of assessment. To define and evaluate visual thinking in the context of social studies, we used a specialized rubric that had been developed in prior Wolfsonian studies. The rubric evolved from close analysis of thousands of student responses, all captured in writing before and after VTS lessons were conducted, al-
  12. 12. 166 kATE rAW lI nS o n E T Al . Figure 3: Page 38 from The Story of Alaska (c. 1940) illustrated by Cornelius hugh De Witt, text by Clara (Breakey) lambert, and published by harper & Brothers, london. Courtesy of The Wolfsonian–Florida International University, The Mitchell Wolfson, Jr. Collection. lowing us to locate and code instances of thought. By sorting examples of student thinking, we created six categories of proficiency and four per- formance domains. Using a six-point holistic scale, student ability was rated by determining if the written response was: (1) Limited; (2) Developing; (3) Literal; (4) Pro- ficient; (5) Accomplished; or (6) Sophisticated. The even number of scoring
  13. 13. T h I n kI n G C rI T I C Al ly A B o U T S o C I Al I S S U E S 167 categories ensured that trained readers would not be tempted to use a middle number as a compromise score and seemed essential for determining growth over time, from the pre-test to the post-test, as students would ultimately be compared to their own earlier work. In other words, students who scored low initially (a “one,” “two,” or even “three” rating) should show improvement even though they still may not achieve high levels of competency (i.e., a “one” might become a “two”). The four performance domains of visual literacy and critical thinking were defined in the rubric: description, animation (describing the action taking place), analysis, and interpretation. These performance domains were informed by Benjamin Bloom’s Taxonomy, and the indicators in these domains moved from the lowest-level ability to describe literal elements in the visual image, to higher levels of visual skill encompassing the ability to connect elements, analyze context and an artist’s intent, and ultimately evaluate the success of a work.9 Critical thinking was folded into the visual literacy scale and defined as a process of increasing complexity beginning with the ability to identify a social, personal, or political conflict, moving to analysis of the problem in a cultural or historical context, and, ultimately, perhaps including the ability to even design solutions for the social issue. Students at the three participating schools, as well as students in the fourth comparison school, were assessed twice a year, beginning prior to the program as third graders and ending at the completion of the program as sixth graders, for a total of six times. Using the VTS protocol (“What’s going on in this picture? What do you see that makes you say that? What more can you find?”), students were asked to respond in writing to a work of art reflecting social issues from The Wolf- sonian collection. Although the works selected for the pre- and post-as- sessments were not identical, they were selected to be parallel prompts differing at each grade level. For example, at the third-grade level, one image depicted a barn fire and the other seemed to be farm workers laboring in a hay field. Both featured male figures hard at work; both represented a family group gathered together for a common purpose; both suggested potential social, political, or personal issues. At the fourth-grade level, one image depicted a crowded bus or subway (see Figure 4) and the other represented a solitary figure and three twisted, leafless trees on a barren foreground contrasted against a glowing city skyline. Again, both images suggest social issues, related to urban life, for example, or race, class, and progress.
  14. 14. Artful citizenship visual/critical literacy Scoring rubric 168 6 5 4 3 2 1 Sophisticated Accomplished Proficient literal Developing limited Description Includes rich Describes visual Describes identified Describes particular Identifies two or more Blank or illegible description of visual elements in detail visual elements elements elements Lacks detail elements May identify social, May name a conflict May label visual May randomly list May be off topic Describes a conflict or personal, or political or a problem traits (such as shape, elements May be inaccurate problem conflicts symbols, structural details) Animation Connects animation Makes inferences May ascribe complex Attributes actions to May attribute some Provides little or no to a more complex about features of actions, i.e. emotion characters actions to characters evidence kATE rAW lI nS o n E T Al . scenario animation or thought Analysis Demonstrates Demonstrates Relates some ele- Relates some elements Provides little or no Provides little or no understanding of understanding of the ments of the image of the image to each evidence evidence the whole by relating whole by relating to each other other elements in cultural some elements May discuss context Often answers or historical context questions on prompt Interpretation Connects visual Connects some visual May connect visual Provides little or no Provides little or no Provides little or no elements to artist’s elements to artist’s elements to artist’s evidence evidence evidence intent intent intent May be incorrect If present, may be May connect content May evaluate the art/ May be incorrect reading incorrect reading to cultural values artifact reading (may include May give opinion, but May design solutions Relates tangential tangential informa- lacks support or evaluate success of information to task tion or opinions) work
  15. 15. T h I n kI n G C rI T I C Al ly A B o U T S o C I Al I S S U E S 169 Figure 4: Painting, Subway (c. 1935), by Daniel ralph Celentano. Courtesy of The Wolf- sonian–Florida International University, The Mitchell Wolfson, Jr. Collection. At the fifth-grade level, one image depicted a crowded courtroom and the fight for the abolishment of slavery (see Figure 5), and the other repre- sented two working-class women talking from the windows of a high-rise building. Although less obvious in their similarities, both images prompted the readers to consider issue of race, class, poverty, and social change. In other words, although the works portrayed different experiences, the visual prompts were very similar, and the content of the writing task was identical. To ensure reliability, decreasing the likelihood that scores might be affected by a weak visual prompt, all students responded to both images. Half the students in each class received one or the other image for the pre- test, and then the images were reversed for the post-test. All third graders, consequently, responded to both third-grade prompts, all fourth graders
  16. 16. 170 kATE rAW lI nS o n E T Al . Figure 5: Mural study, John Brown (c. 1930-1939), by Stuyvesant Van Veen, possibly for the War Department Building, Washington, D.C. Courtesy of The Wolfsonian–Florida In- ternational University, The Mitchell Wolfson, Jr. Collection.
  17. 17. T h I n kI n G C rI T I C Al ly A B o U T S o C I Al I S S U E S 171 responded to both fourth-grade prompts, and all fifth graders responded to both fifth-grade prompts. Samples of fourth-grade work collected midway through the project, using the painting entitled Subway (Figure 4) as the writing prompt, illustrate the levels of response: A developing (low-level) response: The student identifies two or more el- ements, possibly randomly, but provides little or no evidence of interpre- tation: Hats. Signs. People reading newspapers. A girl with a hat on. An accomplished (higher-level) response: The student describes social, personal, or political conflicts and demonstrates understanding of the whole by relating elements in cultural or historical contexts: I see people going on a subway because the adults have to go to their jobs. This is after Martin Luther King because Blacks are with Whites. I also see a child and her mother going to church because the child has a book in her hand. I also see some of the men reading a newspaper about their country or state. And last I see worried faces on some of the women or men because something bad is happening that is read in the newspaper. Another thing I see is that out of the window it looks like it is raining and there is a flood which is why some of the men and women are worried. But some other people think it will be over soon. And last I see an old man talking to the woman’s daughter saying that nothing bad will happen. As we discovered, visual literacy takes time to develop, and the three-year period provided sufficient opportunity to determine student growth in the three treatment schools, as compared to the control group. Ambitious in scope as well as aim, the curriculum’s impact was tracked with 189 students who entered the program at the third grade and finished at fifth. (This number does not count the hundreds more who received full or partial treatment over the life of the project, but were not included in the study.) Sig- nificantly, students who received the curriculum treatment and demon- strated gains in visual literacy from year one to year three also showed significant gains in Florida’s standardized test—the Florida Comprehensive Achievement Test. This was not true of students in the control school.
  18. 18. 172 kATE rAW lI nS o n E T Al . Students in Artful Citizenship showed 12 percent growth in their FCAT reading scores and 16 percent gains in FCAT math. (Annual FCAT testing begins in third grade for reading and math, and students are scored ac- cording to a five-point scale.) leSSonS leArneD From ArtFul citizenSHiP The close participation of the museum education staff during every phase of the three-year project Artful Citizenship project and the research conducted by Curva and Associates, the outside evaluation team, enables us to make the following recommendations for museums to consider: • Place less focus on a curatorial or art-education agenda and more focus on an education agenda, incorporating multiple literacies and mul- timodal learning. • Create more museum outreach through teacher preparation programs, printed curriculum materials, Web-based content, and so on to facilitate rich learning experiences using museum collection in the schools, as opposed to costly and time-consuming multi- or single-visit programs in the museums. Artful Citizenship succeeded by engaging teachers and students in low-performing schools not often served by museums. • Develop long-term projects that teach educators how to properly in- tegrate object-based learning into their class work and allow students to mature in visual literacy skills. Change takes time. • Advocate for more investment by museums, communities, and educa- tional funding institutions in research to better understand how object- based learning and visual materials can be used to shape student learning. • Partner with those who share a desire to think more deeply about educa- tional issues. Perhaps more than ever, museum educators are needed to help address shifting definitions of “visual literacy” and “critical thinking.” Perhaps context variables matter more than we have pre- viously considered. For example, in the context of Artful Citizenship in- cluded the classroom (rather than museum galleries), a collection rich in historical and social content, and the standardized elementary social studies curriculum, so critical thinking was reflected in the ability of children to think critically about social problems. • Accept the importance of this work and truly reach out to take part in “civic engagement.” If we are not part of the solution, we are part of the
  19. 19. T h I n kI n G C rI T I C Al ly A B o U T S o C I Al I S S U E S 173 problem. Museum collections hold many opportunities to engage, en- lighten, and enrich our lives and make all of us better citizens in our communities. concluSion Museum collections contain artifacts of change, reflecting the aesthetic and social values of the past and present. They include a vast number of indi- vidual objects that address larger issues and offer endless opportunities for exploring social, technological, and political topics. This richness of visual material, thematically and historically, affords the ideal context for engaging young learners in authentic conversations. Projects such as Artful Citizenship provide a model for using this abundant resource. In this case a model arts- in-social-studies curriculum was designed for use by classroom teachers, which embraced open-ended collaborative discussion to foster critical and creative thought about important social issues, much needed as we continue into the 21st century. noteS 1. Gail Anderson, “Museums and Relevancy,” Journal of Museum Education 31, no. 1 (Spring 2006): 3. 2. Fely Curva, Sande Milton, and Susan Nelson Wood, “Program Evaluation Report for Artful Truth: Healthy Propaganda Arts Project” (report, Curva and Associates, Inc., Tal- lahassee, FL, 2001; Fely Curva and Sande Milton, “Program Evaluation Report, A Page at a Time Program” (report, Curva and Associates, Inc., Tallahassee, FL, 2004). 3. Florida Department of Education, “Sunshine State Standards,” doe/curric/prek12/pdf/socstud3.pdf (accessed January 28, 2007). 4. Abigail Housen and Philip Yenawine, Visual Thinking Strategies (New York: Visual Under- standing in Education, 2000); Paul E. Bolin, “Art and Artifacts: The Value of Material Culture Studies for Art Education,” The Pennsylvania Art Educator 2 (1993): 15–18. 5. Curva, Milton, and Wood, “Program Evaluation Report for Artful Truth”; Curva and Milton, “Program Evaluation Report, A Page at a Time Program.” 6. Philip Yenawine, “Jump Starting Visual Literacy: Thoughts on Image Selection,” Art Edu- cation, (2003): 6–12. 7. Louise Rosenblatt, Literature as Exploration, 5th ed. (New York: Modern Language Associa- tion, 1996). 8. Curva, Milton, and Wood, “Program Evaluation Report for Artful Truth”; Curva and Milton, “Program Evaluation Report, A Page at a Time Program.” 9. Benjamin S. Bloom, Taxonomy of Educational Objectives, Handbook I: Cognitive Domain. (New York: Addison Wesley Publishing Co., 1956). Kate Rawlinson has been the assistant director for Education and Public Programs at The Wolfsonian–Florida International University for the past seven years.
  20. 20. 174 kATE rAW lI nS o n E T Al . Susan Nelson Wood is an associate professor and coordinator of English education at Florida State University and director of the FSU Writing Project. Mark Osterman is the education programs manager at The Wolfsonian–Florida International University. Claudia Caro Sullivan is the education research manager at The Wolfsonian– Florida International University. m