Children's Drawing Processes: Interpreting their Meaning

Margaret Brooks (1995)

What was the goal of the research?

This study closely examines the drawing processes of the children in a class of four and five year olds.

How was the research conducted?

This study has tried to bridge the gap between language and visual representations and ‘fuse the horizons’ by using photographs, video clips and art samples to highlight and bring into view the process of drawing. Children were videotaped and photographed while drawing in the many contexts that naturally occur within the classroom. The teacher’s interactions with the children were captured by a student who held the video camera, and by parents and students who took photographs. By responding to a visual process with other visual mediums the researcher attempted to capture the essence of the visual process.

What did the research determine?

Interpretations were made of the meaning children’s drawings hold for them, what the children’s intentions were when drawing, how they evaluate their work and how drawing helped them make sense of their world. The pedagogical relationship within the drawing context was examined and suggestions made to make more explicit how we, as adults, teachers and artists, can best support the drawing efforts of young children.

What are the implications of the research?

This study uncovered a great deal about children’s drawing processes. Drawing can be a very powerful tool for young children. Representing objects and ideas through drawing is a complex and challenging process that requires higher levels of thinking to solve the many interpretive, perceptual and representational problems. Drawing combines the actions of the hand and the mind in purposeful and meaningful ways for children. Watching children draw can provide teachers with a clear indication of some of the individual thought patterns of children. Drawing can provide many opportunities for a dialogue between teacher and child. When teachers are open, accepting and supportive of children’s drawing efforts they can give children a powerful and personal voice with which to communicate and become active agents in their own learning.