Action Research: Growth Mindset and Drawing
This work is from my graduate research project.
It is not uncommon for students to have a fixed mindset towards art. Children absorb everything, and hear their parents and teachers tell them “Sorry, I can’t draw. I’m not an artist.” With adults consistently attributing art skills to natural ability, it’s no wonder students want to do the same.
However, what adults don’t realize when they make these comments is that talent might not be their problem, but it’s the fact that they may not have had any practice or taken any art classes since they were in elementary school.
One of the major obstacles as an art teacher is getting students to see their potential as artists. I therefore sought to answer the question: Can a regular drawing practice change elementary students’ relationship with art and how they see themselves as artists?
I conducted my research in a third-grade art classroom. Students were given a modified version of Carol Dweck’s Growth Mindset instrument before beginning the intervention, to establish the students’ baseline growth or fixed mindset in art.
I had students create personal sketchbooks, giving them ownership over the process. I assured students that this was a place for them to practice and make mistakes. Each day students learned new skills and were given the opportunity to practice old ones. We practiced drawing basic shapes, eventually building up to drawing self-portraits.
We discussed how all artists practice to grow and develop their craft. We discussed how much they have already grown as artists, comparing their drawing now vs. their drawing in kindergarten.
At the end of our eight weeks, students completed the survey again. After analyzing the data, there was some growth according to the quantitative data.
However, the intervention had a major impact on student engagement and attitude. Unlike the other third grade classes (who were also drawing in their classes), students came in each day with an open mind.
Students knew that I would walk them through each step of the process, and that they would have plenty of time for practice. One student said to me, “I really need you to teach me how to draw ears. I am having a hard time, but I know you will show me how.”