The Connection between Arts Education and Critical Thinkers

Four ways the arts help students develop critical thinking skills

It is all too easy to dismiss the importance of fine arts in a child’s education. While STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) is often the focus in classrooms today, visual and creative arts still play a role in a well-rounded education.

In fact, studying drama, music, dance, art, and graphic arts can help your child develop critical thinking skills. We discuss how the arts create well-rounded students with the ability to absorb and analyze information.

Critical thinking explained

Critical thinking is an essential life skill your child will need as he or she grows into adulthood. Its purpose is to help people solve problems, understand consequences, and achieve goals.

“Critical thinking is the analysis of an issue or situation and the facts, data or evidence related to it. Ideally, critical thinking is to be done objectively,” according to Rasmussen College.

This is the basis for forming logical, informed decisions. It can also help young people (and adults) make the distinction between right or wrong information so they can make wise decisions.

Why critical thinking matters

No matter what career path your child chooses – whether medicine, law, business, finance, education, science, or communications – he or she will need critical thinking skills. Students must learn to analyze information.

“As children take in new information, they fill up a library within their brain. They have to think about how the new information fits with what they already know, or if it changes any information they already hold to be true,” according to Michigan State University.

Critical thinking does not stop with analysis. It also gives students the ability to consider possible actions and systematically solve issues.

The arts play a big part in developing these skills in four important ways.

1. The arts inspire out-of-the-box thinking

Critical thinking requires a person to go beyond the conventional or “acceptable” approach to issues. Critical thinkers often challenge the consensus. Creativity works in the same way. It’s all about new ideas that lead us to venture down different paths.

According to the Arts Academy, “Arts education … encourages students to observe the world from many different angles. Most art is very complex and consists of layers of meanings. It takes time to find, examine, and consider these layers.”

The arts teach students to analyze situations, people, and ideas, which is the bedrock of critical thinking.

2. The arts help develop rational thought

Critical thinking is not just receiving information. It is the practice of considering information and using it to solve problems.

“There is an increased demand for workers to be able to analyze a lot of information from diverse sources, then integrate it in order to find solutions. Critical thinking promotes these skills,” according to the Arts Academy.

People often dismiss artistic students as indulging in fantasies. However, arts education actually requires students to interpret facts and ideas logically. Creative arts then help students find ways to communicate those ideas and solve problems, whether it is through sculpture, a poem, music or computer graphics.

3. The arts help develop language skills

Communication is another soft skill prized by employers. It is also something many young professionals lack. Critical thinkers develop a stronger mastery of language, which makes for better presentations and the ability to communicate with colleagues and lead a team.

Participating in drama or music can enhance a student’s ability to express ideas, convey meaning, and elicit a response.

4. The arts help students learn to interpret visual cues

Hands-on arts such as painting, sculpting, and drawing help develop visual-spatial skills. In other words, they help us understand spatial relationships between objects. This is critical in how we navigate, estimate distances, and perform tasks.

Music helps enhance spatial-temporal reasoning, which is the ability to mentally move three-dimensional objects to solve complex problems.

“Spatial-temporal reasoning is a precursor to [the] logical thinking, abstract thinking, and problem-solving needed for the brain to function in mathematics, engineering, and physics,” according to The Arts and Music Center.

The arts create critical thinkers who achieve

Fine arts education is essential for every child’s education. We already know that students who participate in music, drama, dance, art, and graphic arts do better in school and have more focus. However, the arts also help develop critical thinking skills, which students will carry with them no matter what career paths they choose.

American Heritage School offers an excellent Fine Arts program that includes music, theatre arts, visual arts, and dance. We employ the arts as a teaching method, starting in the preschool and continuing through high school. Contact us to find out more about our programs.

If you are looking for a school, contact our Boca/Delray campus to schedule a tour or email