Questioning art: Factors affecting students’ cognitive engagement in responding

Document Type

Journal Article


Western Australian Institute for Educational Research Inc.


School of Education




Morris, J. E., Lummis, G. W., & Lock, G. (2017). Questioning art: Factors affecting students' cognitive engagement in responding. Issues in Educational Research, 27(3), 493-511. Available here.


The Melbourne declaration on educational goals for young Australians (MCEETYA, 2008) cited confident and creative citizens as a key goal for Australian students. This goal aligns with global research on visual arts, specifically visual literacy. Being visually literate means decoding images, understanding the relationship between image and context, and recoding personal experiences into visual artworks. This learning is a core outcome of responding activities in secondary school visual arts. However, students will only develop visual literacy skills if they are engaged in their learning activities. Subsequently, this research sought to explore the cognitive engagement of students in the Year 11 visual arts course. The research utilised a mixed methods approach, which aimed to measure factors affecting student engagement. Quantitative measures of student engagement are rarely subject specific, and the creation of a quantitative visual arts diagnostic instrument gave information about students’ engagement that could inform teacher instruction. Factors affecting students’ engagement were determined through exploratory analysis of the diagnostic assessment instrument, with qualitative data used to explain the students’ quantitative responses. Three key factors of cognitive engagement were determined: intrinsic motivation, metacognition and autonomy. Developing students’ skills in these areas may improve their cognitive engagement in their visual arts education.

Access Rights