Teaching for Artistic Behavior Supports 21stCentury Skills

The Partnership for 21st Century Skills highlights the following cognitive skills for learning that meet the needs of today’s world. Choice-based teaching and learning provide opportunities for students to develop and expand these skills during art class.


CRITICAL THINKING / PROBLEM SOLVING:  Learners find and solve problems through inquiry, divergent thinking, play, reflection and evaluation. Students who bring ideas to class plan ahead for their work; others discover ideas by experimenting with media at studio centers.

CREATIVITY / INNOVATION:  Students who are intrinsically motivated will respond to problems in original and innovative ways. The predictability of choice-based studio centers allows children to pursue and refine their ideas over weeks, months and even years if they are inclined to do so. This allows learners to “go deep” with their work.

COMMUNICATION / COLLABORATION: Students learn to communicate their ideas and needs clearly because they are motivated to succeed at their self-directed work. Groups of self-selected learners form their own collaborative teams based on common interests and goals. Peer coaches assist with classmates’ challenges.


RESEARCH AND INQUIRY:  Students use technology to research ideas, find visual references and expand concepts. Teachers use technology to present information of relevance to the class.

ASSESSMENT: Learners document and comment on their progress in electronic portfolios. Teachers maintain assessments of student learning in formats that are compatible with their district expectations.

ART MAKING: Digital photography, animation, movies and graphics programs enable students to explore the immediacy of digital art. The ability to create and revise without loss to the original work is an incentive for those who fear taking risks with their work.


FLEXIBILITY / ADAPTABILITY:  Every class brings unexpected discoveries. Students interact with available resources in studio centers; teachers respond to incoming student ideas and artistic processes.

INITIATIVE / SELF-DIRECTION:  Learners are intrinsically motivated to engage in meaningful work from personal context. After a brief demo lesson, students begin their work without teacher assistance, setting up materials, pacing themselves and putting materials away at the end of class.

SOCIAL / CROSS-CULTURAL SKILLS:  Students work with friends and classmates at will, sometimes collaborating, sometimes working side-by-side. Negotiations arise over shared materials and space. Peer coaching and discussions about ongoing work are prevalent in the studio centers. Students learn to recognize their own working style and preferences, and to appreciate the same of others. Personal work brings diverse perspectives in to the classroom.

PRODUCTIVITY / ACCOUNTABILITY:  Students are expected to come to class with ideas or a willingness to explore materials and techniques. Learners show what they know and can do when they work independently and are held accountable for their progress. The teacher intervenes and modifies content as needed.

LEADERSHIP / RESPONSIBILITY:  Teachers design the learning environment and students are expected to maintain it, by keeping studio centers tidy and organized. Learners take responsibility for their own learning and behavior. Opportunities for student leadership in the choice-based classroom are plentiful; those who show readiness are encouraged to peer coach, curate exhibits, design new studio centers and help maintain electronic portfolios.