UNESCO-NIE Centre for Arts Research in Education (CARE)

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Name of Author: 
Toh, Betsy Pei Sze
National Institute of Education
Year of completion: 
Country of Research Data: 

An Academic Exercise submitted in partial fulfillment of requirements for Bachelor of Arts (Hons)


Long established, traditional theories of children's graphic development describe development in terms of a linear, self-contained, and hierarchical set of steps that lead to a predetermined goal. This goal or end-point is often conceived as a form of 'visual realism'. Although often ill-defined by many of those who use the term, it refers to a representation of a view of something as if seen from a fixed viewpoint. However, I do not believe that a child's development can be traced in such systematic and predictable manner, and I question the paradigm of "visual realism". In contrast to such stage theories that stress a biological predetermination, Vygotsky's Social Developmental Theory [I9781 as well as Bruner [I9721 and others [e.g. Matthews, 19991, shows that social interaction plays a fundamental role in the development of cognition. The environment and the child's interests and abilities play a part in shaping a child's development. Studies show that interactions with the environment stimulate development in child's brains, which in turn will bring about some biological responses and hence shape the route through development. Moreover, when we study the development of children's drawings, we similarly find that a child's ability, interest and socialisation will affect the way he/she draws and expresses himself/herself as well.

This research paper is a presentation of a continuation and extension of a study that I started one year ago. The previous paper was about an investigation on whether children, age between four and five, draw based on 'intellectual realism', or 'visual realism'. When we say a child draws intellectually realistic drawings, we are generally claiming that he/she is able to capture the basic structure of an object, regardless of any fixed viewpoint. Or to put it in an over-simplified interpretation often used nowadays, the child draws what he/she 'knows', rather than what he/she 'sees'. In contrast. when we say a child draws visually realistic drawings, he/she depicts what he/she 'sees', as if from a fixed point. In this present paper, 1 will examine if children of ages between three and five draw only based on intellectual realism, as proposed by Piaget and Inhelder [1969]. Piaget who established a linear, stage approach to children's development was influenced by George Luquet's [I9271 studies of children's drawings, even though Luquet's data were never meant to be hierarchically arranged. Extending from last year's study, I will offer evidence that young children do draw from observation (as if it is view specific, observable from a fixed point) as well as from their schema/internalized knowledge (or intellectual realism). I will then move on to talk about the implications of my findings to art education, in order to assist parents and teachers to better understand and support children's development.


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