All education sectors are familiar with the expectation that the acquisition of ‘knowledge and skills’ are fundamental twin objectives of any learning experience.

Art, craft and design regional curricula emphasise the development of knowledge, skills, and understanding, with the aim of promoting creativity, cultural appreciation, flexibility and critical thinking through the subject.

Research suggests that the skills that contribute to these are considered essential to art and design, as well as preparing students for future careers and life in a global society. 

Teaching is expected to include specific aspects of knowledge so that one or more skills may be practised with the intention of increasing experiential knowledge so that technical and creative skills are also improved.

Skills are developed through application, repetition and conscious reflection, requiring diverse contexts and opportunities to practice these.

As students apply this new learning, we expect to see evidence in their work of the creative, expressive and technical progress they are making.  

Art educators looking for a list of subject-specific skills, will not find a definitive list for a phase or activity. The expectation is that skills are taught in relation to the planned practical activity and related knowledge.

As the art and design curriculum is broadly structured around three strands of learning – with knowledge linked to each of these – we can use this to conceptualise three broad groups of skills. These are: 

  1. Making and creativity skills: The ability to create art and design using different materials and techniques. It encompasses practical making skills such as drawing, painting, sculpture, printmaking, textiles, photography and digital media; as well as the ability to investigate, experiment and conceptualise with different media and materials. 
  1. Critical, conceptual and technical understanding skills: The ability to understand and critically analyse styles and traditions of art and design, to inform the development of practical and technical concepts with increasing control. For example: the artistic elements, composition, colour theory, perspective and applied aesthetic understanding. 
  1. Artistic, contextual and cultural literacy skills: The ability to analyse, understand and articulate the meanings and significance of art and design across social, cultural, and historical contexts.
    • These skills can be applied in order to recognise, interpret and redefine concepts of formalism, symbolism, metaphor, design, instrumentalism/ideas and issues based, conceptualism, expressionism, craftivism, social realism, and other forms of creative expression. 

In addition to subject-specific skills (which are sometimes called ‘hard skills’), we are expected to include other skill groups within our planning and teaching.

These skill groups include the following: 

  • Core, transferable or cross-curricular skills i.e. numeracy, literacy and digital. Some would include creativity skills here, but others see these as part of the thinking skills. 
  • Thinking/cognitive skills e.g. recall, comprehension, application, analysis, synthesis and evaluation (as defined by Bloom. B. 1956). However, regional curricula have defined their own skills list, which may include reasoning or problem-solving, and in art and design, we might list creativity or critical thinking as a skill, even though these cognitive processes are indirectly covered or summarised in Bloom’s original list. 
  • Personal learning and development skills e.g. communication, collaboration, teamwork, independence, perseverance, resilience, study skills etc. These are so-called and often referred to as 'soft' skills.

The list is not definitive and regional curricula at various times in the last 40 years have specified different skills, such as ‘improving own learning’ or ‘critical thinking’. 

Across the regions of the UK, the art and design curriculum should provide students with the skills necessary to become successful artists, designers, makers and creative professionals.

This should equip them to contribute meaningfully to the interdisciplinary and cross-cultural conversations around art and design, exploring the potential of the interconnectedness of artistic expression across time, place and culture

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