Studio Habits of Mind

“Education is in a new moment of both opportunity and urgency...” Embedded within nation-wide changes to standards, assessments and evaluations is an education community that “seeks to recreate professional practice, reimagine issues of learning and teaching and hold itself to new standards of shared accountability”  

(Hetland Winner, Veenema, and Sheridan, 2013, p. vi).


The Alameda County Office of Education developed a partnership in 2003 between the J. Paul Getty Trust, researchers from Project Zero at the Harvard Graduate School of Education, teachers and administrators in public schools in Oakland, Berkeley, and Emery school districts (among others) to pilot the Studio Thinking Framework (Hetland et. al, 2013, p. v).

The Studio Thinking Framework includes the Studio Structures—how teachers plan and carry out instruction—and the Studio Habits of Mind (SHOM)—what is taught in class. This framework has been building, transforming and refining in recent years, especially in response to the movement towards Common Core State Standards (CCSS) and SMARTER Balanced Assessment.

CCSS and SMARTER Balanced Assessment asks teachers to consider new ways to prepare students for life beyond school. CCSS asks students to “apply what they are learning in more authentic contexts” and “use what they know to achieve something important” (Hetland et al., p. v). The Studio Habits of Mind asks students to bring “artful thought and attitudes to bear on real world problems and projects, both in the arts classrooms and across the curriculum” (Hetland et al., p. v). In this way, the SHOM is designed to support the actions and attitudes expected of students experiencing CCSS.

The Studio Thinking Framework outlines four Studio Structures, including “lecture”, “students at work”, “critique” and “exhibition” (Hetland et al., p 5). The structures of “critique” and “exhibition” may be new to some classrooms, especially those of non-arts subject areas.  What “students at work” looks like and how it is assessed may be new to others. Classrooms adopting the Studio Thinking Framework certainly do not need to be artist studios, but they must be willing to prioritize studio-like learning that is project-based or problem-based in an immersive environment (Hetland et. al, p. viii).

A unique framework all it’s own, the eight Studio Habits of Mind are not restricted in use to a particular grade level, experience level, subject area or teaching methodology. They are adaptable, transferrable, and non-hierarchical. Though their definitions may transform as they are integrated into a classroom community, the eight remain the same.

  • Develop Craft: learning to use and care for tools, materials, and media
  • Engage & Persist: learning to embrace problems of relevance and struggle through challenge
  • Envision: learning to form ideas, picture mentally what cannot be directly observed, and evaluate ideas to move them forward
  • Express: learning to create works that convey an idea, feeling, or personal meaning
  • Observe: learning to attend to visual contexts more closely than ordinary looking requires, to have a critical eye, and to see things that otherwise might not be seen
  • Reflect: learning to think and talk with others about the learning process, compelling or challenging aspects of work, and unique interpretations
  • Stretch & Explore: learning to take creative risks, reach beyond one’s own capacities and prior experience and knowledge, and explore playfully without a preconceived plan
  • Understand [Our] Art Worlds: learning about culture and history, current practices and innovation, and interacting with others through art forms

Above all, Hetland and colleagues assert that arts learning is not separate from other learning. Their work suggests that when the arts become embedded in different types of learning and disciplines, the arts can enhance the lasting impact for the learner. Practitioners and scholars alike widely agree that even small doses of participation in the arts can positively affect the academic and social successes of students (Hetland, 2013, p 9). Of these effects, some of the most notable are teamwork, responsible risk taking, regular self reflection, diminished biases, deepened cooperation, and expanded perception of abilities (Conte, Brunson & Masar, 2002; Costello, 1995). 

The ArtCore project has adopted the SHOM as an anchor for learning in and through the arts across subject areas and disciplines. We believe that the SHoM renew a shared accountability for teaching and learning by bridging the diverse experiences of teachers and students, authentically, in the classroom.

Contributed by Michele Sinclair


Conte, Z., Brunson, R., & Masar, S. (2002). The art in peacemaking a guide to integrating conflict resolution education into youth arts programs. DIANE Publishing.

Costello, L. (Ed.). (1995). Part of the solution: Creative alternatives for youth. Washington, DC: National Assembly of State Arts Agencies.

Hetland, L., Winner, E., Veenema, S., & Sheridan, K. (2013). Studio Thinking 2: The real benefits of visual arts education.  Second Edition. Teachers College Press.