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Project Details
Funding Scheme : General Research Fund
Project Number : 18405014
Project Title(English) : Developing students’ critical response to visual arts: A study of inquiry approaches and outcomes in learning art criticism 
Project Title(Chinese) : 發展學生對視覺藝術的批判回應: 以探究為本方法學習藝術評論及其成果的研究 發展學生對視覺藝術的批判回應:以探究為本方法學習藝術評論及其成果的研究 發展學生對視覺藝術的批判回應:以探究為本方法學習藝術評論及其成果的研究  
Principal Investigator(English) : Dr Tam, Cheung-on 
Principal Investigator(Chinese) : 譚祥安 
Department : Department of Cultural and Creative Arts
Institution : The Education University of Hong Kong
E-mail Address : cotam@eduhk.hk 
Tel : 29487066 
Co - Investigator(s) :
Dr LAU, Chung Yim
Panel : Humanities, Social Sciences
Subject Area : Education
Exercise Year : 2014 / 15
Fund Approved : 507,992
Project Status : Completed
Completion Date : 30-6-2017
Project Objectives :
To develop an inquiry-based art criticism learning model based on the tenets proposed by Geahigan.
To field test and refine curriculum plans using an inquiry approach at the senior secondary level.
To identify the ways in which teachers translate inquiry-based art criticism into practice.
To investigate the effectiveness of inquiry-based art criticism and related learning activities in enhancing student learning of art criticism.
To evaluate the impact and outcomes of inquiry-based art criticism and related learning activities on student learning of art criticism.
Abstract as per original application
(English/Chinese):
A review of the current literature on developing students’ critical response to visual arts reveals a heavy reliance on using art criticism models in schools. The learning of art criticism is generally seen as an engagement of students in various language tasks, such as describing, analysing, interpreting and evaluating. Geahigan (2002) disagrees with the view that the learning of art criticism is a discursive practice and conceptualises it as a process of inquiry. Building on the theory of Geahigan, the present study aims to develop, field-test and evaluate an inquiry-based model for learning art criticism. Using ‘design research’, a systematic and rigorous method of seeking out tested improvements in learning situations, as the principal methodology, the study will develop and test a pedagogic model that will enhance students’ critical ability in art criticism. The study will be conducted in three phases. Phase 1 will involve the preparation of eight teacher participants in the understanding of various art criticism models and the development of inquiry-based art criticism curriculum plans. Phase 2 will focus on the implementation of the curriculum plans. The investigators will observe three to five lessons and advise on the refinement of the plans. In Phase 3 the effectiveness and outcomes of the inquiry-based art criticism teaching on students will be investigated. Data will be obtained from interviews of teacher participants, classroom observations, video-recorded lessons, and the pre-testing and post-testing of student performance in written texts of art criticism. The data collected will be examined in relation to current theories on learning art criticism, and used to develop a pedagogical model which is theoretically and practically sound, taking into consideration the Hong Kong context. Addressing the gap between the theorisation, development, and implementation of inquiry-based art criticism learning, the project is important at this time, when the Senior Secondary Curriculum and the Hong Kong Diploma of Secondary Education Examination are being launched. Both the new curriculum and the examination place a strong emphasis on art appreciation, criticism and inquiry. The development of a critical audience has also become particularly important since the first phase of the West Kowloon Cultural District project will be coming to realisation as early as 2015. The study will represent a timely effort to answer many of the questions raised by the community, schools, teachers and students about the development of the critical ability of our next generation.
從新近有關發展學生視覺藝術批判回應的文獻中發現,學校相當依賴藝術評論模式的運用。一般而言,藝術評論的學習被視為學生透過語言來達成任務,例如運用語言對藝術作品作出描述、分析、詮釋和評價。吉伊根(Geahigan, 2002)不認同藝術評論的學習乃一以語言論述為實踐的說法;反之,他認為藝術評論的學習是一個探究的過程。以吉伊根的理論為基礎,本研究旨在發展、實地試驗和評價以探究為本學習藝術評論的方法。本研究以「設計研究」為主要硏究方法。此方法有系統而慎密,是一種在學習情境下尋求測試改善的研究法。本研究將發展和測試一個能夠增強學生藝術評論批判能力的教學方式。 本研究分為三階段進行。首階段為準備階段,共有八位教師參與認識各種不同藝術評論模式的工作坊,並發展出以探究為本的藝術評論課程設計。第二階段將集中在課程設計的實施上。研究者將視察三至五個課堂,並提出對課程設計的修改建議。最後階段則為探究為本藝術評論教學的成效和成果的研究。研究資料將由教師的訪談、教學觀察、課堂錄影,以及學生在藝術評論寫作的前測和後測表現而獲得。所獲取的資料將以新近學習藝術評論的理論作檢視,並加以運用發展出符合香港情境,且兼具理論與實踐的教學模式。 本研究有其迫切性意義,它填補理論、發展和實施探究為本藝術評論學習之間的缺口,尤以在新高中課程和香港中學教育文憑考試實行之際。誠然,新課程和考試兩者均強調藝術欣賞、批評和探究。此外,由於西九龍文化藝術區計劃的首階段將於2015年實現,故發展出具批判能力的觀眾顯得更為重要。本研究為關心我們下一世代批判能力的社會、學校、教師和學生們,提出適切的解答。
Realisation of objectives: Objective 1: To develop an inquiry-based art criticism learning model based on the tenets proposed by Geahigan. Based on the theoretical tenets and practical suggestions proposed by Geahigan, a curriculum framework was created and disseminated to the experimental group teacher participants at the two-day workshops. Each teacher then developed a school-based curriculum plan that actualized inquiry-based art criticism teaching and learning. Each plan covered a 9-month period of the 2015-2016 school year and engaged students in personal response, research, and aesthetic skill and concept acquisition activities. During the period of the development of the curriculum plans, the researchers visited each teacher participant two to three times and provided suggestions for improvement, such as the formulation of thematic topics, the design of relevant teaching activities, the selection of artworks for in-class discussion, etc. Objective 2: To field test and refine curriculum plans using an inquiry approach at the senior secondary level. The curriculum plans developed by the teachers were field tested in eight schools. The participants included teachers, students and independent raters. Two groups of secondary school teachers and students were invited to participate as the experimental group and the control group. The teacher participants were recruited through the Professional Learning Community for Secondary School Visual Arts, a group formed by the Hong Kong Curriculum Development Institute. The student participants (aged 17-18) were Secondary Five students who took visual arts as their examination subject. They were the students of the teacher participants. Both groups of students were required to write an art criticism essay before and after the implementation of the curriculum plans. In total, there were eight teachers and 85 students in the experimental group, and seven teachers and 82 students in the control group. For the independent raters, six serving or former secondary visual arts teachers were recruited to mark the students’ essays. Objective 3: To identify the ways in which teachers translate inquiry-based art criticism into practice. Each teacher participant was interviewed before and after the implementation of inquiry-based curriculum plans. Two video recordings of teachers’ art criticism lessons were conducted at the beginning and the end of the curriculum year. The interviews and video recordings were transcribed. Teachers were interviewed on their expectation of student learning, ways to realize inquiry-based learning in their design, difficulties in implementation, and the changes of students’ performance in class and art criticism writing. Interview data was organized into themes articulating teachers’ ways of putting theory into practice. Objective 4: To investigate the effectiveness of inquiry-based art criticism and related learning activities in enhancing student learning of art criticism. An experimental design was set up to examine the effectiveness of inquiry-based art criticism approach on two comparative groups. A pre-test and post-test were administered to student participants before and after the implementation of the curriculum plans. A rubric developed by the researchers, namely, the Art Criticism Assessment Rubric, was used to assess students’ essays in eight domains. An inter-rater reliability test was conducted and the results indicated that it is a rubric with acceptable reliability. Two t-tests were conducted to analyze students’ results in the pre- and post-test. Within Group Comparison between Pre-test and Post-test A paired-samples t-test was conducted to compare the pre- and post-test scores within the same group. There were statistically significant increases in all domains for both groups. A large effect size, i.e., the relative magnitude of the differences between means, for all of the domains in the experimental group was observed. Varied effect sizes (mainly from moderate to large) for all the domains in the control group were observed. Across Group Comparison between Pre-test and Post-test An independent-samples t-test was conducted to compare the mean difference between the pre- and post-test scores across the two groups. It was found that the improvement of the experimental group was significantly greater than the control group. There were significant differences in the improvement of scores for the experimental group compared to the control group in all domains except Description. The magnitudes of the differences in the means varied mainly from small to moderate. The domain of Formal Analysis is the one with a large effect size. Objective 5: To evaluate the impact and outcomes of inquiry-based art criticism and related learning activities on student learning of art criticism. The impact and outcomes of inquiry-based art criticism and related learning activities on student learning were evaluated by comparing the scores of the experimental group and the control group, supplemented with data collected from teacher and student interviews, and observation of lessons. The impact was concluded in terms of three aspects: use of research materials, broadening of art viewing strategies and improved analysis and judgment of artworks. More Use of Research Materials Use of Researched Materials was the domain with the largest improvement in both groups (experimental group: 73%; control group: 35%). There are two possible explanations of the results. First, the scores of both groups in this domain were the lowest among all the others in the pre-test (experimental group: 3.58; control group: 3.62). There was therefore a lot of room to gain improvements in the post-test. Second, the poor performance in the pre-test may become a motivation for both groups to improve. In the pre-test, little evidence of research could be found in most of the students’ essays. The students might not have taken this domain seriously and most of them did not have experience of using researched materials in their essays. But in the post-test, for example, one student studied the historical background of the work and the preference of the artist in that period. Broadening Students’ Art Viewing Strategy Application of Aesthetic and Contextual Knowledge was the second most improved domain. The improvement of the experimental group (34%) in this domain was twice that of the control group (16%). The broadening of students’ art viewing strategy may be ascribed to the well-constructed teaching unit and the emphasis on aesthetic concept and skill acquisition in the whole inquiry-based learning method. In each unit, teacher participants were required to focus on certain aesthetic theories or concepts which were delivered through in-class discussion of selected artworks. This ensured that those theories and concepts were clearly illustrated through concrete examples. On the side of the students, some of them began to pay more attention to the context, such as why and how a work was created. Improved Analysis and Judgment of Artworks In the domains of Formal Analysis and Judgment, the improvements of the experimental group (31% and 34% respectively) were three times more than those of the control group (9% and 10% respectively). The effectiveness of the inquiry-based approach may be attributed to its emphasis on student’s personal response and research activities in the learning process. In the interviews, some students mentioned that they began to compare their views with other students in the personal response activity. With regard to engagement in research activities, the students expressed that there were more opportunities for them to learn the contextual knowledge and to consider the various points of view of an artwork. Having broadened their perspectives in viewing and gained useful contextual information, the students were better equipped to develop an informed analysis and judgment of an artwork.
Summary of objectives addressed:
Objectives Addressed Percentage achieved
1.To develop an inquiry-based art criticism learning model based on the tenets proposed by Geahigan.Yes100%
2.To field test and refine curriculum plans using an inquiry approach at the senior secondary level.Yes100%
3. To identify the ways in which teachers translate inquiry-based art criticism into practice. Yes100%
4. To investigate the effectiveness of inquiry-based art criticism and related learning activities in enhancing student learning of art criticism. Yes100%
5.To evaluate the impact and outcomes of inquiry-based art criticism and related learning activities on student learning of art criticism.Yes100%
Research Outcome
Major findings and research outcome: Major findings It was found that inquiry-based model was an effective strategy for improving students’ performance on art criticism writing. The mean score of the experimental group increased from 52.48 to 67.92 (29.4%), compared to that of the control group from 50.20 to 56.92 (13.4%). The inquiry-based model is capable of producing significant improvements in different domains of art criticism writing. The scores of the experimental group increased by 1.61 (31%) on Analysis and 1.73 (34%) on Judgment, while those of the control group increased by only 0.5 (9%) and 0.49 (10%) respectively. The underlying assumption that art criticism is not a discursive practice but a process of inquiry proves to be effective for teachers and students. Inquiry-based art criticism teaching and learning has impacted in four major areas: 1. Encouraged reflections and exchange of views: The students were encouraged to begin their responses to artworks with their personal experience. They learned to reflect on their own responses and to accept others’ views. 2. Well-constructed unit plans: The three types of teaching activity formed a structure for the teachers to develop their unit plans. Each unit plan focused on certain aesthetic theories or concepts and was fully illustrated through in-class discussion of selected artworks. 3. Facilitation of multiple perspectives: The learning of aesthetic and contextual knowledge enhanced the students’ capacity to explore an artwork from multiple perspectives and move beyond considering artworks solely on the basis of feelings and emotions. 4. Construction of personal knowledge: Having broadened their perspectives in viewing an artwork and gained useful contextual information through research activities, the students were better equipped to develop informed analysis and judgment of a work of their own. Research outcome 1. Publication: Three papers were published in Research in Arts Education (2016) and The International Journal of Art & Design Education (2017; in press). 2. Presentation: Two papers were presented in the 8th Annual International Conference on Visual and Performing Arts (Athens, May 2017) and the 35th InSEA World Congress (Daegu, August 2017). 3. Website: A website ‘Learning and Teaching Art Criticism’ (www.artcrit.eduhk.hk) was launched in April 2018 to share the project results. As at June 2018, 206 teachers and 356 students have registered as members and 48 inquiry-based unit plans have been shared. 4. Workshop: One half-day seminar (May 2017) and a 3-day workshop (June and July 2017) have been organised for 90 and 29 secondary school teachers respectively.
Potential for further development of the research
and the proposed course of action:
The project revealed that strategies of questioning and engaging students in art criticism dialogues are needed for guiding students’ personal response activities. According to the teacher participants, this was a challenging task and a lot of preparation is required. Therefore, developing a holistic questioning and dialogue engagement strategy for teachers is a much-needed direction in future research. In response to this pedagogical concern, an application of GRF project entitled “An investigation of the use of group dialogue and questioning strategies with primary school students learning visual arts in museums and schools” was made. The project was funded and was launched in January 2018. Art making and responding to art are two closely related areas in the learning of visual arts. However, the design of related art making activities had not been a focus of the present study. A full practice of inquiry-based learning should take into account the ways in which art criticism is connected to art making. This is a question for future studies in visual arts education. In the dissemination of project results through the website, a column will be created exploring different strategies in which teachers integrate responding to art with making art.
Layman's Summary of
Completion Report:
The teaching of art criticism in schools has been influenced by art criticism models that emphasize observation and linguistic practices. Instead of asking students to observe an artwork and make verbal or written statements, George Geahigan proposed an inquiry-based art criticism learning model that engages students in personal response, research, and aesthetic concept and perceptual skill acquisition activities. Using inquiry-based art criticism as a foundation for curriculum development and connecting the model to authentic situations in schools, the present study investigated the effectiveness of the model on student learning. Fifteen secondary school teachers were invited to participate. Eight teachers taught the experimental group (85 S5 students) with inquiry-based curriculum plans and the other seven teachers taught the control group (82 S5 students) with their own school curriculum plans. Students of both groups were asked to write an art criticism essay before and after the implementation of the plans. The results demonstrated that the overall improvement of the experimental group after one academic year was significantly greater than that of the control group. It was found that the inquiry-based approach was a successful strategy in improving students’ skills in analysing, judging and using aesthetic and contextual knowledge in art criticism writing.
Research Output
Peer-reviewed journal publication(s)
arising directly from this research project :
(* denotes the corresponding author)
Year of
Publication
Author(s) Title and Journal/Book Accessible from Institution Repository
2016 Tam Cheung On* Lau Chung Yim  譚祥安和劉仲嚴(2016):2005至2015藝術批評教育實證研究之評析,《藝術教育研究》32,頁35-68。 (Tam, C. O. & Lau, C. Y. (2016). A review of empirical studies on art criticism education from 2005-2015. Research in Arts Education, 32, 35-68.)  Yes 
2017 Tam Cheung On*  Tam, C. O. (2017). Evaluating students’ performance in responding to art: The development and validation of an art criticism assessment rubric. The International Journal of Art and Design Education. (Published by IJADE Early View in December 2017, DOI: 10.1111/jade.12154)  Yes 
Tam Cheung On*  Tam, C. O. (in press). An empirical study of Geahigan’s inquiry model in learning art criticism at senior secondary school level. The International Journal of Art and Design Education.  No 
Recognized international conference(s)
in which paper(s) related to this research
project was/were delivered :
Month/Year/City Title Conference Name
Athens, Greece A study on the effectiveness and impact of inquiry-based approach in the learning of art criticism  8th Annual International Conference on Visual and Performing Arts 
Daegu, Korea Inquiry-based art criticism learning: Impact on students’ critical perspectives, research skills and knowledge construction development  35th World Congress of International Society For Education Through Art 
Other impact
(e.g. award of patents or prizes,
collaboration with other research institutions,
technology transfer, etc.):

  SCREEN ID: SCRRM00542