View students in this age group as adults in their ability to think abstractly and make connections between concepts. They recognize that art objects embody differences of opinion and attitudes, and that values held about art are open to debate. These students learn best through structured lessons. They continue to separate learning at school from learning that takes place in their lives outside the classroom. They still need the guidance of a teacher.

This group can be self-conscious about how they look and act and are sensitive to the perceived judgments of others. For some, the visual arts are the only place where they can explore the possibilities of self-expression.

When looking at a work of art, students are able to:

  • expand their recognition of the elements and principles of design to include advanced and subtle concepts like form, balance, rhythm, etc.
  • understand what a picture plane is and how it relates to the composition.
  • recognize and name certain artists by looking at the style of their work.
  • speculate on the historical context and reception of a work of art.
  • look for symbolism or hidden meaning.
  • discuss the value of an original versus that of a reproduction.
  • explain the reasoning behind their own artistic choices and those of other artists.

Suggested Lessons

Statement of Principles
One-Pager: Analysis of Dorothea Lange's Photographs

Suggestions for Discussion
These students are able to discuss all aspects of a work of art: production, composition, history and context, meaning, etc. However, they are highly susceptible to peer criticism and are reluctant to speak out in a group, especially when discussing questions that require speculation or which do not have a single correct answer. With this age, small groups and individual exploration of a work of art or concept work best. Give students control over their discussion of the material by allowing them to share findings with the class at the end of the lesson.

Suggestions for Art Production
Concepts of realism and abstraction can be further explored at this age, though high school students generally value representation over abstraction. These students seek outlets for individuality, and experimenting with media and techniques is one way to achieve this. Self-exploration and topics about adult issues will appeal to this group.

A classroom environment that is non-judgmental, and a trusting relationship between teacher and student, are important for students to move forward in their artistic expression. They should learn that the articulation of their objectives and process, and the presentation of finished works, are important parts of art production. Teach ways to mat, frame, and display works of art. Portfolios are also an excellent way to track development of a student's individual expression.

Two-dimensional production:
Students should have refined composition skills and be able to explore balance, asymmetry, and symmetry in both abstract and representational works. They will be able to experiment with representation and abstraction in all media. Teach refinement of a concept through multi-step projects. Preparatory sketches should be made before tackling a finished work. Self-portraiture has great appeal to students in this age group, as the question of identity is central to them.

Three-dimensional production:
Students can explore advanced processes at this age. These include wheel throwing, plaster molds, assemblages, mobiles, and sculpture carved of wood and stone, as well as metalwork, carpentry, and furniture making.