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

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Name of Author: 
Tan, Jennifer Siok Tze
Thesis (M.Ed.) National Institute of Education, Nanyang Technological University
Wright, Susan Kay
Year of completion: 
Country of Research Data: 

Most children enjoy representing their thoughts, ideas, and perceptions through drawing. Experts in this field (for e.g., Arnheim, 1954; Cox, 1992; Golomb, 2004; Matthews, 2003; Wright, 2003a) have asserted that drawing plays an important role in children's cognitive development. To understand young children's thinking and perceptual processes, many researchers (for e.g., Arnheim, 1954; Cox, 1992; Di Leo, 1970; Garnder, 1980; Golomb, 2004; Goodnow, 1977; Lowenfeld and Brittain, 1987) have focused their studies on one of the most frequent representational drawings made by young children - the human figure. Within this spectrum of research, Cox (1992), Golomb (2004) and Goodnow (1977) have focused some of their investigations on how children draw humans in motion. This study explored how six Singapore children, aged between four to six years, construct and represent human figures in their drawings. Specifically, the study investigated how children represent humans walking and running when asked to draw from imagination and from observing photographs. Using a method adopted by Golomb (2004), comparisons were made between the children's drawings from imagination and from observation in relation to the children's differentiation of lines, forms, space, position, direction and orientation. The results of this study have shown that the human figure drawings of younger participants were less differentiated than those of the older participants'. With the exception of one girl aged 4.3 years, all the participants, (aged from 4.9 to 6.7 years) drew conventional human figures, meaning they depicted the head, trunk and limbs of the figure as separate, but attached, units. When asked to draw persons walking and running from imagination, most of the children produced human representations in their frontal view. However, when given the opportunity to draw from photographs of persons walking and running, their typical human schemata were modified and transformed. In particular, the limbs of the figures in the observational drawings were depicted with increased differentiation and complexity, implying the participants' higher level of conceptual thinking. Using oblique and curved lines, children were able to depict the orientation, direction and the positions of the limbs of the human figures. In addition, all participants above five years of age were able to depict the profile view of all persons in motion as shown in the photographs. It was interesting to note that the participant's observational drawings remained unique, suggesting their drawings were not replicate copies but contained some personal qualities. The findings have pointed out the benefits of engaging children in drawing from imagination and observation. If appropriately implemented, drawing from observation can help expand children's well-practiced schemata and enrich their visual representational abilities. Limitations of the studies were noted, and implications from the study along with recommendations for further research in this area were discussed .

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