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Elliot Eisner

Casey Smith

Elliot Eisner was an advocate for art education during a time when art education was
being cut from schools due to budget constraints. He started out as a high school art teacher in
Chicago then an art teacher at the University of Chicago. He moved on to become an art
education instructor at Ohio State University then an education instructor at the University of
Chicago and finally a professor of art and education at Stanford University. He served as
president for a time to the National Art Education Association, International Society for
Education through Art, American Educational Research Association, and the John Dewey
Eisner believed that if art education had a, “strict, more sophisticated and rigorous arts
curriculum that would put arts instruction on par with lessons in reading, science and math”
(Donald, 2014, para 13). In the 1960’s he became involved with the Kettering Project and later
became a supporter of the Getty Center for Education in the Arts in the 1980’s advocating for
Discipline-Based Art Education. Eisner believed that through Discipline-Based Art Education
students would develop a better understanding of the relationship art had with their culture and
not just the making of art.
He was interested in not only art education but in the “art of education” (Donald, 2014,
para 9). He was an influential leader in changing curriculum and teaching methods by using his
experiences and research of art education as a model to improve the teaching methods used in
other subjects. Eisner believed that art was a critical component to the development of thinking
skills in children and therefore should not only be its own subject in school but also incorporated
into the other subjects. His ideas on cognition created debates among educators. He thought that
cognition could happen and was more likely to happen through a personal experience or event.
He thought that it was something that required using all of the students’ senses, which is why art
was so important in schools.
Although he advocated for a structured curriculum he believed that could incorporate an
expressive environment for the students. He also encouraged educators to question teaching
methods and engage in the practice of creating curriculum. He wrote seventeen books, a
multitude of papers and articles and gave lectures concerning his ideas on curriculum,
worldwide. He was an innovative and leading scholar for arts education and gave reason for it.

10 Lessons the Arts Teach. (2016, February 1). National Art Education Association. Retrieved
from https://www.arteducators.org/advocacy/articles/116-10-lessons-the-arts-teach
Amrein-Beardsley, A. (2013, April 22). Inside the Academy. Retrieved from
Donald, B. (2014, January 17). Stanford professor Elliot Eisner, champion of arts education,
dead at 80. Stanford News. Retrieved from
Smith, M. (2005). Elliot W. Eisner, connoisseurship, criticism and the art of education. Retrieved
from http://infed.org/mobi/elliot-w-eisner-connoisseurship-criticism-and-the-art-of-