An empirical study of Geahigan's inquiry model in learning art at senior secondary school level

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


The philosophical foundation for teaching art criticism in schools has been dominated by formalist and expressionist aesthetics, while from a practical point of view it has been influenced by art criticism models that emphasise observation and linguistic practices. Instead of asking students to observe an artwork and make verbal or written statements, George Geahigan proposed an inquiry‐based art criticism learning model that engages students in personal response, research, and aesthetic concept and perceptual skill acquisition activities. Using inquiry‐based art criticism as a foundation for curriculum development and connecting the model to authentic situations in schools, the present study investigated the effectiveness of the model on student learning. Fifteen secondary school teachers were invited to participate. Eight teachers taught the experimental group (n=85) with inquiry‐based curriculum plans and the other seven teachers taught the control group (n=82) with their own school curriculum plans. Students of both groups were asked to write an art criticism essay before and after the implementation of the curriculum plans. The results demonstrated that the overall improvement of the experimental group after one academic year was significantly greater than that of the control group. This article reports on the theoretical framework, methodology and results of the study. It was found that the inquiry‐based approach was a successful strategy in improving students' skills in analysing, judging and using aesthetic and contextual knowledge in art criticism writing. The discussion focuses on the improvements that were made in the art criticism essays of the experimental group. Copyright © 2018 The Author.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)344-359
JournalThe International Journal of Art & Design Education
Issue number2
Early online dateOct 2018
Publication statusPublished - May 2019


art criticism
secondary school
secondary school teacher
curriculum development


Tam, C. O. (2019). An empirical study of Geahigan's inquiry model in learning art at senior secondary school level. International Journal of Art & Design Education, 38(2), 344-359. doi: 10.1111/jade.12194


  • Art criticism
  • Inquiry-based learning
  • Empirical study
  • Design research
  • Secondary school