Domains of Knowledge

Domain knowledge is knowledge of a specific, specialised discipline or field, in contrast to general (or domain-independent) knowledge.

There are many ways of ‘carving up’ domains of knowledge in art education. The subject literature uses a range of terms for the domains. In this review, we suggest 3 domains:

  • Practical Knowledge is about developing technical proficiency
  • Theoretical Knowledge is the cultural and contextual content that pupils learn about artists and artwork
  • Disciplinary Knowledge is what pupils learn about how art is studied, discussed and judged

These terms are helpful for discussing the different types of knowledge that pupils build in art, and for describing good-quality art education. We do not expect schools to use this terminology.

The 3 domains build on the different ways that knowledge about art has been discussed in recent research. For instance, some researchers put forward ‘foundational art disciplines’, which include art production, art history, art criticism and aesthetics. They suggest that pupils build knowledge in these domains when they study art.

Some literature refers to ‘productive’, ‘critical’ and ‘cultural’ domains in art education. 

Other approaches refer to the types of knowledge that pupils learn when they learn ‘about’ art, ‘with’ art, ‘in’ art and ‘through’ art.

Although these approaches use different words from the ones we have chosen, they all recognise that it is important to be clear that there are subject-specific forms of knowledge in art. The terms we have used (practical, theoretical and disciplinary) incorporate many of these ideas, as we go on to explain.

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