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Guggenheim Study Reveals Importance of Education in Development of Problem-Solving Skills and Creativity
4th grade, P.S. 144, "Queens", 2010. ©The Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation, New York. Photo: Rachel Florman.

NEW YORK, NY.- On June 3 and 4, "Thinking Like an Artist: Creativity and Problem Solving in the Classroom", a conference for art and museum educators, administrators, and policy makers from across the nation, will convene in the Sackler Center for Arts Education at the Guggenheim Museum. During this conference, the Guggenheim will present key findings from The Art of Problem Solving, a four-year research initiative that evaluated the impact of its pioneering arts education program Learning Through Art (LTA) on students’ problem-solving abilities and creativity. The study and conference are funded by an Arts in Education Model Development and Dissemination grant from the U.S. Department of Education that totaled over $1 million.

For the first phase of the study, the Guggenheim’s Learning Through Art staff assembled an advisory team of artists, educators, and cognitive scientists to identify the problem-solving skills that visual arts can most powerfully teach, followed by two years of research conducted by the evaluation consultant team of Randi Korn & Associates. The final year focused on analysis and dissemination of the findings.

The two years of the study’s data collection efforts involved measures that were both quantitative and qualitative in nature, including observations of teaching artists in 18 classrooms, observations of 25 student case studies, questionnaires administered as pre- and post-test measures, interviews with 18 participating classroom teachers, and a one-on-one interview in which 447 test and control students were given an art-based problem-solving task and were asked to describe their process in completing it. The results of this research reveal that students receiving LTA instruction scored higher in three out of the six skills of problem solving as defined by the study: flexibility (the ability to revise or rethink one’s plans when faced with challenges), connection of ends and aims (the ability to reflect on whether one’s final work of art met the intended goals), and resource recognition (the ability to identify additional materials that could be applied to the completion of the project). The three other skill areas identified are imagining, experimentation, and self-reflection.

“With this study of the Learning Through Art program, we are pleased to demonstrate that arts education helps develop the skills necessary to persistently and adaptively work through problems,” said Kim Kanatani, Deputy Director and Gail Engelberg Director of Education, Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation. “By asking students to think like artists, we are imparting 21st-century skills in encouraging them to approach problems with creativity and analytic thought rather than just recitation of facts.”

The Art of Problem Solving represents the Guggenheim’s second major U.S. Department of Education–funded study of Learning Through Art. In 2003, the Guggenheim received its first Arts in Education Model Development and Dissemination grant from the U.S. Department of Education for completion of a groundbreaking three-year research initiative that realized that LTA improved students’ literacy and critical thinking. The full research reports and executive summaries of The Art of Problem Solving and Teaching Literacy Through Art studies are available at

Guggenheim Museum | "Thinking Like an Artist: Creativity and Problem Solving in the Classroom" | New York |

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