This study examines the effects of talking about art in art appreciation activities on Chinese writing ability in some primary three pupils in Hong Kong with a view to
reiterating the significance of learning art in school.
The study is based on the concept that the learning to talk about art in art appreciation activities can be connected with the learning of Chinese writing in primary school pupils. The study reviews literature concerning art appreciation from a psychological perspective including psychoanalysis, Gestalt psychology and cognitive psychology. Even though each of these views concentrates on the elucidation of some special aspects of aesthetic experience, cognitive approaches are being widely researched in the education context as they recognize that cognitive activities are involved in the process of appreciating art work (Punch, 1997). This study, therefore, mainly draws reference from exploring the relationship between
cognitive approaches to art appreciation and writing development. It is found that appreciating artwork can benefit students' learning in developing imagination, nurturing senses and perception, and enhancing visual literacy thus assisting students in developing ideas in writing. The process of talking about art in art appreciation also provides opportunities for students to present their feelings and thought orally or in writing which can facilitate the development of writing ability as speech and writing are just two sides of the same coin (Tung, 1996; Education Department of South Australia, 1991; To, 1986).
The study is a Posttest-Only Control Group design. Three classes of Hong Kong primary 3 pupils were randomly allocated to experimental and control groups. All pupils had below
average performance in Chinese and similar social background. A period of intervention (one school semester) was replicated three times in the three classes. During the process of intervention, both the experimental and control groups had their art lessons simultaneously in normal school hours. The same art curriculum was employed in both groups. The experimental group was involved in some art appreciation activities for learning art knowledge while the control group was not. After the intervention period, all students participated in three posttest tasks: art-related writing test, non-art-related writing test and art achievement test. The two writing tasks measured students' writing ability in terms of fluency, language, and organization and coherence of the overall performance. The art-achievement test provided information on students' art knowledge.
A rating scale for scoring each essay writing task was created. Each script was scored by two raters. Scores obtained from all posttest tasks were summarized and then analyzed by a two-sample t-test and two-way mixed ANOVA. Results show that the experimental group obtained statistically significantly higher scores in all posttest tasks. Nevertheless, a wide range of difference was also observed within the experimental group in both writing tasks.
Some scripts of both writing tasks were further selected for linguistic analysis using categories related to descriptive text. Thematic structure which involves constituents that are labeled Theme and Rheme (Bloor & Bloor, 1995:66) was employed. Results show that both the experimental and control groups produced a similar
quantity of thoughts and ideas. However, the scripts of the experimental group showed more diversified dimensions of observation, in particular from the images provided for the art-related writing task. They were more effective in producing an imaginative story in the non-art-related writing task.
The differences between the experimental and control groups show that learning acquired in art appreciation including art knowledge, new life experiences, and observation skills, can be transferred to other learning contexts. However, differences within the experimental group may reflect individuals' life experiences and knowledge, time and emotion involved in the interaction of the artwork and opportunities of interacting with peers all account for the effects of learning in art
appreciation. In addition, the difference between the spoken and written form of Chinese may also be a factor affecting the effect of talking about art on Chinese writing ability. If the student was less threatened by using the correct mechanics in writing, they were more likely to express freely in their writing tasks which focused on the fluency of ideas.
However, if the value of art is to be secured in the education sector, the study recommends that future research should focus on exploring the impact of art appreciation on the development of students' art skills, knowledge and ability. In this connection, exploring instruments and criteria appropriate for evaluating art ability becomes a crucial area of study in the future.