a square photo of a woman with a green butterfly on the left side of her head.

Studio Habits of Mind and Our Future

Studio Habits of Mind are skills and strategies that help you confront the unknown, solve problems creatively, and articulate your decisions clearly. These habits are creative and critical thinking skills that we internalize and try to use automatically without much thinking. Some are obvious others need to be lifted into the light.

The Studio Habits of Mind (SHoM) were developed by Harvard Project Zero researchers. Through their observation of arts education, they concluded that in arts classes, students develop a set of dispositions that are largely helpful and transferable to ALL academic subjects.

The eight studio habits of mind describe the thinking that teachers intend for their students to learn during the process of creating art:

  • Develop Craft,
  • Engage & Persist,
  • Envision,
  • Express,
  • Observe,
  • Reflect,
  • Stretch & Explore, and
  • Understand Art Worlds

I am very excited by this research and way of thinking. We – art, music, dance, and drama teachers – have always known that making art, studying the history of art is more than just a “prep” period for the “content area” teachers. Our content is essential to creative and critical thinking skills needed in all the other classes we offer students. Our content is the stuff that informs thinking and encourages innovation. What a brighter future we’d have if more school administrators and politicians understood this basic idea, that …

“The real product of art education is not the work of art, but the child. We have to keep that firmly in mind– though it goes against several grains. If you are an artist and you want to make good art, I urge you to go into your studio and make good art. What you need to do as a teacher of art is create kids who make good art, create kids who think well as artists, who have an artistic mind.” ~ Author Dr. Lois Hetland

I work with students of all ages. My youngest is four-years-old, and my two oldest, were ninety-seven when they passed away in 2021. I aim to teach people (where ever they are developmentally) to create and think like artists, to have artistic minds, to develop the studio habits of mind dispositions whether they are current working, have retired from, or will be working in the service industry, teaching, nursing, lawyering, machining, parenting, etc. Our future depends on people who can think outside the box, envision something new or different and not be satisfied by “we have always done it like that!”

So, how do we support this kind of thinking?

I have instituted a new morning ritual in my alternative high school art class. I got the idea from Cindy at Art Class Curator. I project a slide (that I purchased from Art Class Curator) of a famous artwork from history or a lesser known contemporary work. I ask them to quickly draw a sketch of the art work and offer a writing prompt, such as – what is this man thinking, or what happened right before this scene, or what can you tell me about this woman’s life based on this painting? After they work for a few minutes, I have a go around so that they can share their ideas out loud. Then we watch a short video about the painting and another about the artist or period of art and I ask what they gleaned in terms of Studio Habits of Mind or interesting facts about the artist. At first, this was a very difficult task for these students, who enroll in our program because traditional high school has not worked for them. Many of them do not see themselves as learners. With practice they have gotten better at it and don’t blankly look at me when I tell them, there is no wrong answer, only your answer.

American Gothic Painting with written prompts

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