Fostering critical and creative thinking in visual arts 7–10

These teaching and learning strategies and the accompanying resource, reflects the findings of an evidence-based investigation of critical and creative thinking in visual arts classrooms in NSW.


This project was supported by a Creative Innovation Grant (2018-2019) funded by Curriculum Secondary Learners in the Educational Standards directorate in the NSW Department of Education. In collaboration with the UNSW Sydney, the project engaged five teachers from rural, remote, and metropolitan schools in an online and face to face program of research informed professional learning accompanied by classroom action research.

Image: Process

Teaching and learning strategies

Plan a series of teaching and learning strategies.


  • Promote new ways of engaging with and reasoning about big ideas and content.
  • Might be created using previously unseen images or interpretations of artwork.

Provocations support students to:

  • prompt new understandings
  • elaborate, challenge, justify and represent alternative points of view.

A range of questions

  • Prompts, redirects, reinforces, interrelates or challenges reasoning.

A range of questions support students to:

  • elaborate on ideas about the artworld
  • challenge reasoning about existing ideas, ‘what if?’

Collaborative exchanges

  • Reasoned exchange of opinions and points of view.
  • Higher order interpretations and judgement.

Collaborative exchanges support students to:

  • discuss and reflect
  • critically review understandings, exchange opinions, group discussion.

Reasoning in the classroom

New knowledge is consolidated through application, reflection, elaboration and individual and collective reasoning.

New points of view are created when representing new understandings of the significance of ideas in visual arts.

Construction of new theoretical and/or practical understandings occur via teacher interventions that support new understandings of art.

Image: Provocations
Image: A range of questions
Image: Collaborative exchanges
Image: New knowledge, new points of view and construction of understanding.

Critical and creative thinking is fostered via social interactions in the classroom.

Critical and creative thinking

Critical and creative thinking is a general capability considered important in preparing students to successfully meet the challenges of living and working in the dynamic and fast changing 21st century world.

Image: Critical and creative thinking

As outlined, critical and creative thinking is made up of two closely related forms of thinking and reasoning.

  • Critical thinking is grounded in reasoning that involves making value judgements when deciding what to do and how to represent points of view in art. Critical thinking is engaged by students when reflecting on the significance of ideas or concepts to meaning in art. Critical thinking also involves practical action in applying selected concepts when formulating and representing evaluative judgements of meaning in art.
  • Creative thinking is grounded in reasoning that involves generating imaginative, new, and novel representations in art. Creative thinking is engaged by students when producing creative objects including artworks and critical and historical interpretations. Creative thinking also involves drawing on knowledge and beliefs about art to evaluate the significance of practical actions, judgements, and decisions in art.

Critical and creative thinking skills operate in an integrated way. Building a critical judgement involves the construction of evaluative claims, a process that contributes to the creation and representation of new points of view in art. Similarly, creative thinking involves the critical assessment of actions and ideas to know what the next steps ought to be in developing and resolving creative interpretations and representations of art.

These forms of thinking are integral to the practical and conceptual types of reasoning students engage when demonstrating understandings of syllabus content in the form of the conceptual framework, practice, and the frames in visual arts.

Lesson sequence

The lesson sequence below provides practical examples of how the teaching and learning strategies of provocations, questioning and collaborative exchanges can be employed to foster critical and creative thinking in a Stage 5 visual arts classroom.


  • Teaching and learning

Business Unit:

  • Teaching, Learning and Student Wellbeing
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