Elliot Eisner Essay

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Elliot Eisner is Emeritus Professor of Art and Education at Stanford University. Trained as a painter, Eisner then earned a Ph.D. in education from the University of Chicago (1962). His scholarship has focused on arts education, curriculum studies, educational evaluation, and qualitative research.

Eisner has been an advocate throughout his career for the inclusion of artistic thinking in academic discourse. In “Ten Lessons the Arts Teach,” he argued that

  1. The arts teach children to make good judgments about qualitative relationships.
  2. The arts teach children that problems can have more than one solution.
  3. The arts celebrate multiple perspectives.
  4. The arts teach children that in complex forms of problem solving, purposes are seldom fixed, but change with circumstances.
  5. The arts make vivid the fact that words do not exhaust what we can know.
  6. The arts teach students that small differences can have large effects.
  7. The arts teach students to think through and within a material.
  8. The arts help children to say what cannot be said.
  9. The arts enable us to have experience we can have from no other source and through such experience to discover the range and variety of what we are capable of feeling.
  10. The arts’ important position in the school curriculum symbolizes to the young what adults believe is important.

Eisner believes that art education should be discipline-based and that the arts merely provide an emotional outlet for children. Art education has to be content-oriented if it is going to contribute to a child’s education. His influence can be seen in the fact that during the 1990s, discipline-based art education became the norm in the United States, with almost every state in the United States using this model.

Eisner has published more than 300 articles and 16 books, including The Educational Imagination (1979), Evaluation: A Personal View (1985), The Enlightened Eye: Qualitative Inquiry and the Enhancement of Educational Practice (1990), and The Kind of Schools We Need (1998).


  1. Eisner, E. W. (1979). The educational imagination: On the design and evaluation of school programs. New York: Macmillan.
  2. Eisner, E. W. (1988). The role of discipline-based art education in America’s schools. Los Angeles: Getty Center for Education in the Arts.
  3. Eisner, E. W. (2005). Reimagining schools: The selected works of Elliott W. Eisner. New York: Routledge.

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