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February 25, 2021

8 Habits of Thinking Learned from Artists

Studio Thinking is a framework designed by practitioners at Project Zero (the research arm of Harvard’s School of Education). Out of the Studio Thinking framework comes the Studio Habits of Mind, a set of eight dispositions that an artist uses. The wonderful thing about these dispositions is that they offer a language for critical thinking that spans across every discipline.

Studio Habits of Mind (SHoM) empower students to articulate their learning in any subject matter, and provide an entry point for learning based on individual choice and need. They are not hierarchical, and they can be used in guided instruction or constructivist teaching modalities.

8 Studio Habits of Mind

1. Develop Craft: Learning to use tools, materials, artistic conventions; and learning to care for tools, materials, and space.

2. Engage & Persist: Learning to embrace problems of relevance within the art world and/or of personal importance, to develop focus conducive to working and persevering at tasks.

3. Envision: Learning to picture mentally what cannot be directly observed, and imagine possible next steps in making a piece.

4. Express: Learning to create works that convey an idea, a feeling, or a personal meaning.

5. Observe: Learning to attend to visual contexts more closely than ordinary “looking” requires, and thereby to see things that otherwise might not be seen.

6. Reflect: Learning to think and talk with others about an aspect of one’s work or working process, and learning to judge one’s own work and working process and the work of others.

7. Stretch & Explore: Learning to reach beyond one’s capacities, to explore playfully without a preconceived plan, and to embrace the opportunity to learn from mistakes.

8. Understand (Arts) Community: Learning to interact as an artist with other artists (i.e., in classrooms, in local arts organizations, and across the art field) and within the broader society. Arts is in parenthesis here as it can easily be switched with other disciplines, like science or history.

Studio Habits of Mind from Studio Thinking: The Real Benefits of Visual Arts Education, Hetland, Winner, et al, Teachers College Press, 2007.

Start Using SHoM

Now that we know what the eight Studio Habits of Mind (SHoM) are, here are some ideas for getting started using them in your classroom:

Make a SHoM Wheel: Have your students each make their own SHoM wheels with symbols or signs that they assign to each habit.

Explain: Explain to students that these are habits that an artist uses to understand the world and that they can use them, too.

Start With One: Introduce a habit that you want students to focus on before you begin your lesson on any given subject. Have them engage with the habit during instruction/work time.

Check for Understanding: Use the Studio Habits to check for understanding. For example, Stretch and Explore: What makes you stretch your thinking after reading page 25? What idea would you like to explore more of and why?

Use Studio Habits for AssessmentHave students reflect on prompts that use the habits. For example, “I noticed that when I observed how Maya Angelou uses metaphor in several of her poems, I was able to identify and use metaphors with more clarity in my own writing.”

Using the Studio Habits is a great entry point to make steps into learning in and through the arts. They help us realize that we’re all artists, is a fantastic metacognitive tool, and opens the door to creative inquiry that serves all disciplines.

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