Contribution of Systematic Exploration of Artworks in Raising Children’s Critical Thinking and Empathy about Friendship and Difference through Early Years

Athina Charissi, Eleni Tympa, Vasiliki Karavida


This paper presents a study aimed at investigating 3- to 4-year old children’s perceptions of friendship and difference and the effects of the systematic use of art on these issues. There is a considerable number of scholars suggesting that art-based experience, as a form of expressive way of knowing, can contribute to the development of creative and critical thinking. The Project Zero research program from Harvard Graduate School of Education and the Philosophy for Children (P4C) pedagogical movement highlight the importance of promoting from the preschool age a critical way of thinking which exceeds mere argumentation and identifies with critical re-evaluation of the way we conceive reality and act. Our intervention was applied to 83 children from five preschool settings. Children were supported to systematically explore artworks of aesthetic value according to Τransformative Learning Through Aesthetic Experience (TLTAE) method aiming to raise participants’ creativity and critical reflection upon stereotypical assumptions. The principles of Philosophy for Children (P4C) movement were further exploited in order to enhance reflective dialogue based on emerging meanings from narrative artworks and creative activities. A questionnaire with images was applied to all children before and after the intervention. The findings suggest that post-intervention children had a more enhanced understanding of friendship and difference, an increased level of mutual acceptance, a better appreciation of socializing positively with peers. Further integration of art and art-related methods in the learning process is needed in order to examine long term results. 

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