Instructional Strategies

Critical Thinking and Problem Solving

Achievement in the fine arts requires many different kinds of thinking. Students learn to attend to details while maintaining a holistic outlook. They learn to unify diverse elements into cohesive works of art. They become adept at applying the tools of critical thinking and learn to solve problems in multiple ways.

The following teaching strategies can assist in the process of building students’ skills of critical thinking and problem solving in the fine arts.

  • Emphasize that problem solving in the fine arts, as in many other areas of life, is a process of developing individual solutions to complex problems.
  • Challenge students to think beyond the basics by initiating serious discussions about what makes one piece distinct. Ask “why,” “how,” and “what if” questions when discussing characteristics of specific works.
  • Discuss with students the purposes of different types of questions, e.g., application, synthesis, opinion. Talk about the power of each type of question to get students thinking about the processes of critical and creative thinking and problem solving.
  • Ask individuals or small groups of students to define problems and suggest solutions. Use student-generated problems/questions in class activities.
  • Use sketching, mapping, or writing exercises to help students generate or clarify their thoughts before, during, and after class discussions and activities.
  • Compare opposing critiques of a work and ask probing questions about the sources of any difference of opinion.
  • Encourage abstract, non-linear thinking and approaches to problem solving to enable students to make connections among seemingly unrelated concepts.
  • Emphasize the value of self-reflection in the process of growth in the fine arts. Provide numerous opportunities for students to consider the impact of their creative choices. Help them learn to examine and constructively evaluate student and professional work.