Children’s Drawing: Impact of education

Although there has been over 100 years’ of research investigating how children’s drawing develop, very little attention has been given to the influence of education on their development. In order to address this gap in our understanding drawings produced by pupils (age 6 to 16 years) who attended Mainstream and Steiner schools were compared.

These two school types were chosen as they have contrasting approaches to teaching drawing. Whereas in the Mainstream schools observational and expressive drawing skills are taught concurrently, in the Steiner schools the emphasis is on imaginative and expressive drawings, with observational drawing skills not being taught until children are 12-years old.  In addition, the amount of time, and the artistry of the teachers have also been identified as defining features of Steiner schools.

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Two free drawings by 16-year-old pupils: one attending a Mainstream school (right) and one attending a Steiner school (left)

Pupils were asked to complete six drawings; three expressing a particular mood (happy, sad and angry), an observational drawing of an artist’s mannequin, a representational drawing of a house that they had seen and a free drawing. Local artist were involved in scoring all the drawings for the level of drawing skill demonstrated.

Considering the differing emphasis of the art education experienced by the pupils at the two school types the results of the research were somewhat surprising.  Steiner pupils, including those in the younger age groups, were better at the observational and representational drawing tasks compared to those in Mainstream schools.  However, their expressive and free drawings were rated very similarly. This evidence suggests that maybe art teaching does not have as much impact on drawing ability as might be thought. However, it is also possible that actually the approaches to teaching drawing in these two schools may not be as different as the curricula suggest.


We are currently developing this research to consider thecreative intentions behind the drawings of pupils from these two school types.

Rose, S. E. & Jolley, R. P. (2016).  Drawing Development in Mainstream and Waldorf Steiner Schools RevisitedPsychology of Aesthetics, Creativity and the Arts, 10, 447-457.