Written By: Sandra Hutton, @artimmersionstudio

The Studio Habits of Mind is a philosophy that guides the teaching and learning of visual arts. Developed by educators and researchers at the Harvard Graduate School of Education’s Project Zero, the Studio Habits of Mind are a set of eight dispositions or ways of thinking that artists use to approach their work. These habits include developing craft, engaging and persisting, envisioning, expressing, observing, reflecting, stretching and exploring, and understanding the art world. The philosophy is based on the idea that by focusing on developing these habits, students can become more thoughtful, creative, and independent learners, and that these skills can be applied to many other areas of their lives. The Studio Habits of Mind framework is now used in many art classrooms around the world and has influenced the development of similar frameworks in other subject areas. I like to think of it as a tool for helping to unlock artist potential. As artists, we are all growing (teachers included). Growth is fluid and can be unlocked, evolved, and nurtured. 

Unlock artistic potential through the Studio Habits of Mind

What are the Studio Habits? 

Develop Craft: Refining technical skills to create high-quality work; building confidence in artistic abilities; fostering a sense of pride in one’s work.
Engage and Persist: Cultivating a growth mindset and perseverance; developing the ability to work through challenges; building resilience and determination.
Envision: Developing the ability to visualize and plan creative projects; cultivating imagination and creativity; encouraging risk-taking.
Express: Developing the ability to communicate ideas and emotions through art; building confidence in self-expression; fostering empathy and understanding.
Observe: Developing the ability to analyze and interpret visual culture; fostering critical thinking skills; building a deeper understanding of the world around us.
Reflect: Developing the ability to evaluate one’s own work and set goals for improvement; building self-awareness and self-confidence; fostering a growth mindset.
Stretch and Explore: Encouraging experimentation and taking risks in artistic practice; building adaptability and flexibility; fostering curiosity and a love of learning.
Understand the Art World: Developing an understanding of the cultural, social, and economic contexts in which art exists; identifying opportunities for collaboration and growth; building a sense of community and connection within the art world.

Studying each of these habits can have many benefits for students, such as building technical skills and confidence, fostering creativity and imagination, developing critical thinking and self-awareness, and building connections within the art world. By practicing and developing these habits, students can become more thoughtful, independent, and creative learners, and these skills can be applied in many different contexts, both within and outside of the visual arts. This is also linked to a growth mindset. Discussion of the Studio Habits of mind keeps the dialogue moving in a positive direction and students come to realized that learning a creative skill or art form is not a linear process, but one that involves many overlapping habits. 

By encouraging a growth mindset through the Studio Habits of Mind, art students come to see themselves as artists.

Teachers use the Studio Habits of Mind  (SHoM) as a framework to guide their instruction and assessment in the visual arts classroom. For example, when teaching the habit of “developing craft,” a teacher might provide opportunities for students to practise and refine specific techniques, such as drawing or painting. When teaching the habit of “engaging and persisting,” a teacher might encourage students to work through challenges and setbacks in their art-making, fostering a growth mindset. Teachers might also use the habit of “observing” to guide students in analyzing and interpreting artworks and visual culture, helping students develop critical thinking skills. Additionally, the habit of “reflecting” might be used by teachers to encourage students to think about their own creative process, analyze their own work, and set goals for future projects. As an art educator, I regularly reference the Studio Habits of Mind so that students automatically reflect upon their process. Process is just as important as product. 

How can the Studio Habits of Mind Help Student Artists? 

The Studio Habits of Mind can help students beyond the classroom, as they grow into artists, by providing a framework for developing important skills and dispositions that are useful in many aspects of life. For example, the habit of “engaging and persisting” can help students develop perseverance and resilience, skills that are valuable not only in artistic pursuits, but also in academic and professional settings. The habit of “observing” can help students develop critical thinking skills, which are important in many fields. The habit of “reflecting” can help students develop the ability to evaluate their own work and set goals for self-improvement, which can be applied in many different contexts. By practicing and developing these habits in the visual arts classroom, students can develop the skills and dispositions that will serve them well as they pursue artistic careers, but also in other areas of life.

How can art history be used as an art teaching and learning tool and connect with the Studio Habits of Mind? 

The Studio Habit of Mind of Understanding the Art World is essential for artists, as it allows them to develop a broader understanding of the context in which their work exists. By understanding the art world, artists can identify trends, influences, and opportunities for collaboration, which can inform their own artistic practice. For example, an artist who understands the art world might seek out exhibitions and shows that align with their own artistic vision and goals, or collaborate with other artists who share their interests. The habit of Understanding the Art World allows artists to develop a more nuanced understanding of the cultural, social, and economic factors that shape their work, which can inform their artistic choices. Most importantly, however, understanding the art world allows students and all artists to recognize that all art begins with a story–the story of the artist and the development of their artistic vision. When we view art through the lens of stories, connecting with real people and specific timeframes, we realize the significant contributions artists have made in society. This helps the learner develop art appreciation which often creates a cycle of inspiration! Inspiration is never-ending and contagious! 

Additional resources for teachers, artists, and students:

The Studio Thinking Project website, which provides an overview of the Studio Habits of Mind and offers resources and examples for teachers and artists
The book Studio Thinking 2: The Real Benefits of Visual Arts Education by Lois Hetland, Ellen Winner, Shirley Veenema, and Kimberly M. Sheridan, which explores the Studio Habits of Mind in depth and provides practical guidance for incorporating them into visual arts instruction.
The Visible Thinking website from Project Zero, which offers a variety of resources and tools for incorporating the Studio Habits of Mind into teaching and learning across all subject areas: 
The National Art Education Association (NAEA) website, which offers a variety of resources and tools for art educators, including articles and lesson plans that incorporate the Studio Habits of Mind
The book Art as Experience by John Dewey, which explores the philosophical underpinnings of the Studio Habits of Mind and provides a broader perspective on the value of arts education.