Celia Kim Gibson Oct 27 2022

How Art Education Cultivates Creative and Critical Thinking Skills

When the goal of art education is to enhance holistic education with meaningful content while considering the whole child as they develop over time, then there will be life-long learning and endless successes.Concordia-SH-Art-Education-5

The artistic process is authentically based on the development of thinking skills and a balance between creative and critical thinking is encouraged. Inquiry-based, conceptual, and experiential learning are means to develop 21st Century skills, and art is a powerful facilitator that supports and promotes learning through inquiry, enabling higher order thinking skills to be developed. 


Concordia International School Shanghai’s art department strives to provide instructional, conceptual, and contextual content that will have an effect on learning outcomes both deep and wide. A full spectrum of tools and techniques are reviewed and extended each year within a spiral curriculum which builds upon prior knowledge and skill sets. This approach allows for deeper learning and broader experience as students connect various content and construct life-long skills. 


Each unit begins with an aspect termed ‘Explore Before’ where students are encouraged to explore, sample, test, stretch limits, and experience the properties of matter and materials as well as recognize the limitations of specific art mediums.  

Concordia considers and applies a standards-based art curriculum based on the United States’ National Core Arts Standards (Creating, Presenting, Responding, and Connecting). Assessment guides planning by using Understanding by Design framework. The Art Department uses a variety of formal and informal assessment tools and strategies to attain a holistic view of students’ comprehension and learning. Student Self-assessment and Reflection offers insight into their unique perception and outlook and directs their future artistic goals. Open-ended tasks, process-focused assessment, and performance-based assessment are guided and determined using criteria-based rubrics. Final art creations, digital portfolios and art journal entries serve as continuums. 


Preparing students for life-long success

Art is interrelated to all academic disciplines therefore provides an opportunity for integration and extension. The STEM to STEAM movement is becoming quite evident in education and the “A” is for Art! Art integration takes place at Concordia Shanghai within the art room itself. The art department is very proud of its accomplishments of authentic art integration and ensures that each unit has some form of integration to academic subject matters, including science, social studies, technology, engineering, and math. Students even have an area of the art room called ‘The Test Strip’ where they are free to test, repair, adjust, and retest uniquely made constructs that arise from their own creative ideas.  

There are also components of the art curriculum which enable valid connections to be made with literacy, social and emotional development, and multiple-language learning, and Concordia’s Schoolwide Learner Outcomes (SLOs), as well. 


Often, I am asked why students love art so much, and most assume it is only because it’s fun. However, when asking students, their answers would surprise you. It is often that they feel challenged, they seek personal expression, want positive inspiration and affirmation, and express a desire to learn more about themselves. 

The visual arts prepare students for the world in which they live! Concordia students are offered a wide variety of art mediums and materials to explore concept-based learning, including drawing and mark-making tools, paints, ceramics, sculpture, printmaking, fibers arts and technology in art where unique learning experiences and challenging circumstances authentically create real-life connections which will empower and prepare students for any life situation that arises.  



At Concordia, art students are active, not passive, learners and participate fully in their own learning experience. This theory of knowledge acquisition is called ‘constructivism’ as student ‘construct’ their own meaning and develop their world view through association and interaction. 

All in all, the personal growth that takes place during the artistic process is invaluable to the student as growth and development is a process that can be acknowledged throughout a student’s entire educational journey from early childhood to grade 12 and beyond.