Children talking to understanding aesthetics in visual art

Document Type

Journal Article


Common Ground Publishing Pty Ltd.


Faculty of Education and Arts


School of Communications and Arts




Wren, J., & Haig, Y. (2006). Children Talking to Understanding Aesthetics in Visual Art. International Journal of Learning, 13(6). Available here


Current literature that investigates classroom talk, focuses on the importance of subject specific discourse and its relationship to student thinking and learning. In visual arts education, however , there has been limited research conducted that specifically examines discourse r elated to aesthetics (Zander , 2003) even though curriculum document emphasise this as an area of education that needs to be fostered and developed within the classroom (Curriculum Council of Western Australia, 2005). This paper reports a study, which investigated the nature of students’ discourse when they were responding to visual art. The study was conducted in a metropolitan primary school in Perth, with a class of 11 and 12 year old children who had little previous exposure to specialist art education. The conversation was videotaped, transcribed and analysed in or der to identify the discourse features specific to responding to the aesthetic component of visual art. Those aspects of discourse found to be poorly developed were subsequently taught as a part of the visual arts program. Following this period of teaching, the students were again videoed and the language they used was analysed to determine if what had been taught allowed them to express more complex responses to the art works they discussed. Findings indicate that where teachers identify aspects of discourse that students do not control and explicitly teach these in ways that are meaningful to the students, control is then developed. In turn, the students’ aesthetic responses show gr eater complexity, which suggest a positive relationship between control of a specialist discourse and higher level of understandings of aesthetics in visual art