Children As Curators: Mapping a Continuum of Aesthetic Development in Visual Arts

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This paper outlines a recent Australian research study examining how children understand the meaning of paintings in art. The study demonstrates the developmental significance of pictorial reasoning as the bases for aesthetic development during middle to late childhood. In the study 36 participants aged 6, 9 and 12 years adopted the role of a curator and constructed an exhibition of portrait paintings. These young curators provided critical reasons in justifying their choices of portraits. Their responses were analysed in qualitative and quantitative terms. The findings indicate that, with age, children are able to formulate increasingly more integrated critical judgments and ascribe intentional meanings to paintings. Three curatorial performances are described to illustrate this continuum of aesthetic development as children advance into representational thinking and increasing critical autonomy. Understanding conceptual shifts in patterns of reasoning in children’s critical picture talk is the first step for teachers to know when and how to intervene in children’s learning and assist them in building more complex interpretations of artworks as artefacts.


Keywords: Pictorial Reasoning, Aesthetic Development, Aesthetic Judgments, Children as Critics
Stream: Creative Arts and Learning
Presentation Type: 30 minute Paper Presentation in English
Paper: Children as Art Critics: Mapping a Continuum of Aesthetic Learning in Visual Arts Education


Dr. Karen Maras

Senior Lecturer - Visual Arts Education, School of Education, Australian Catholic University
Sydney, NSW, Australia

Dr Karen Maras is a lecturer in Visual Arts Education in the School of Education NSW, ACU National. She specialises in teaching curriculum design, assessment and evaluation in art education in teacher education courses. Karen has also worked in curriculum development at state level after a 12 year period of teaching in the secondary school context. After completing a Masters of Art Education at University of New South Wales, Karen’s further work at doctoral level focuses on the cognitive dimensions of aesthetic understanding and critical development in art. She investigates the nature of children’s beliefs about pictures in art and how these can be mapped in the reasons children give for picture meaning and value.

Ref: L09P1303