Art as a Way to Advance Higher Order Thinking Skills

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Art as a Way to Advance Higher Order Thinking Skills

By Sushi Frausto, LMFT

Participating in artistic processes builds skills that can lead to success in many areas of our lives.  Being creative requires our brain to use higher order thinking skills.  Higher order thinking refers to complex thinking that requires numerous cognitive processes to be used simultaneously.  It involves multiple areas of the brain working together. Higher order thinking is crucial for school, work, social situations and for reaching our personal goals.  Let’s look more closely at what these skills are and how they are engaged during the artistic process.

Any artistic process begins with a concept.  The artist must take this concept and figure out how to transform it, through a creative process, into an artistic product. Whether a drawing, a poem or a dance this transformative process is the heart of creativity.  In order to be successful at this, the artist must move through multiple high order thinking processes. Comprehension, thoughtfulness, critical thinking, visualization, generating new ideas, goal setting, using one’s knowledge bank are examples of processes used in order to move from a concept into a plan.

Once an artist has formed their plan, they move into the next phase of their artistic endeavor, creation. The active process of art making requires the artist to use metaphors, similes, movements, and images to transmit their ideas.  The activity of creation requires a myriad of skills such as sequencing, decision making, organizing, problem-solving, flexible thinking and categorizing, just to name a few.  These cognitive processes must align with the fine & gross motor processes needed for the actual art creation.  Thus, there is a synchronizing of the brains functions that must occur for the artist to be successful.

Often an art process does not go as planned.  Regularly the artist must rethink, readjust, experiment, troubleshoot or modify what they are doing.  This requires delayed gratification, impulse control, tenacity, and self-regulation as one faces and overcomes challenges.  The success that follows leaves one with a feeling of pride, competence and the growth mindset that with work and dedication one can reach success.   The next time your child is engaged deeply in their creative process, stop and consider: What higher order thinking processes are being engaged?  How will this help them in their future?