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About this course

Based on the National Gallery of Art’s popular Art Around the Corner professional development program for teachers in Washington, D.C., this five-part online course provides everything you need to begin creating a culture of critical thinking and collaboration for any classroom, subject, or level. You do not need an art background or museum access to successfully integrate the “Artful Thinking” course materials into your teaching. Your focused attention, willingness to experiment, and commitment to trying new discussion practices with your students is all that is required.

The strategies presented in this course are adapted from Artful Thinking pedagogy, developed by Project Zero at the Harvard Graduate School of Education. You will explore three thinking dispositions, using eight thinking routines that are easy to understand and implement. Starting with the disposition of observing and describing, you will learn how to guide your students in using their senses and communicating impressions of what they see in a work of art. The routines used in the second disposition, reasoning with evidence, ask students to make hypotheses about the art and support their arguments with observations. The questioning and investigating disposition challenges students to hone their natural curiosity by expressing their wonderings, formulating open-ended questions, and imagining implications. Throughout, you will discover the power of art to develop your students’ inclination to think deeply.

When you enroll, all the resources you need to strengthen critical thinking skills by using art for your classroom will be immediately available. We recommend that you spend a few hours learning and practicing each section before progressing to the next. The online course environment features over 20 videos and interactive tools: including a zoom tool to examine works of art at full resolution, polls to compare your thoughts with those of other participants, and discussion boards where teachers around the world will share ideas, plans, and results. Authentic lesson demonstration videos model routines led by real classroom and museum educators with students of varying ages. Interview videos provide focal points for teachers on topics like using thinking routines with emerging language learners and making accommodations for all learners. Having access to a global network of educators who, just like you, want to hone their abilities to teach critical thinking skills will be an added and enduring bonus to your course experience.

What you'll learn

  • How to use Artful Thinking Routines to strengthen thinking.
  • How to facilitate meaningful conversations in your classroom using art for artful learning and artful teaching.
  • How to help learners of all levels develop more discerning descriptions, evidence-based reasoning, and meaningful questioning habits.
  • Key strategies for using content information to push original thinking deeper.
  • Exciting, immersive activities for any type of classroom.
  • How to use learning resources from the National Gallery of Art, including downloadable artful thinking lesson plans
Unit 1: Diving into Thinking Routines

Unit 2: Observing and Describing

Unit 3: Reasoning with Evidence

Unit 4: Questioning and Investigating

Meet your instructors

Julie Carmean
Museum Educator and Coordinator of Professional Development
The National Gallery of Art, Washington

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Frequently asked questions

What web browser should I use?
The Open edX platform works best with current versions of Chrome, Firefox, or Safari, or with Internet Explorer version 9 and above.  See our list of supported browsers for the most up-to-date information.

What should I expect from this course?
In this free five-unit course, you’ll spend just a few hours per week, at your own pace, engaging in the course material. Whether you teach language arts, science, math, languages, social studies, or art, you’ll learn strategies and be shown examples that fit your needs throughout: watch videos of lesson excerpts from most grade levels in classrooms and the museum, practice strategies with the online community of teachers, use customized tools to explore works of art, contribute to discussions, read informative texts, participate in quizzes, complete application assignments, and access resources about the featured works of art and thinking routines.

Why art?  How can art help my students’ critical thinking?
Works of art are often ambiguous and open to multiple interpretations (much like the real world!). Art invites critical analysis to support different interpretations. Students can practice this type of critical thinking with art, in the safe, stimulating environment of the classroom. When students practice routinely with art, they become critical thinkers, using these techniques with other school subjects and in the real world.

Do I need to take my class to a museum?
You don't need to have access to a museum or physical works of art. We'll show how teachers like you are using art to spark engagement and dialogue with their students in the classroom. These Artful Thinking techniques apply across curriculums, and getting students inspired by art to build rigor in their thinking is applicable in any subject!  So while you won’t be making art or studying art history here, our online course and museum’s website will provide all of the resources you need in your classroom. Of course, if you do have a museum nearby and are able to take your students there, a museum visit is always a good idea!