The Value of the Arts Within a Liberal Arts Education: Skills for the Workplace and the World

  • Ilene Lieberman
  • Mara Parker
Part of the The Arts in Higher Education book series (AHE)


Much has been written about the benefits of learning to play an instrument, creating an image on canvas, or moving in coordinated gestures. Students develop self-discipline, persistence, collaboration, problem-solving, and public performance through the arts. Such abilities are needed not just by artists; they are of immense benefit to any person engaged in any profession. Whether as majors or non-majors, students who take courses in the arts are given a valuable opportunity to not only learn content but also develop new ways of thinking, communicating, and evaluating. Classes in the arts broaden a student’s understanding of human nature, offer new ways to think about the unknown and the familiar, new concepts and old ideas, and one’s own and diverse cultures. Fine arts classes teach students to hear and to see, to be comfortable with ambiguity, to examine an issue from multiple perspectives, and to develop sound methodologies for working through confusing and sometimes controversial issues.


Academic arts Observation and listening skills Ambiguity Workplace 

Much has been written about the benefits of learning to play an instrument, creating an image on canvas, or moving in coordinated gestures. Aside from the importance of the artistic endeavor itself, proponents point to the skills developed by students of the arts: self-discipline, persistence, risk -taking, collaboration, problem-solving, careful and attentive looking and listening, empathy, and the ability to see an issue from multiple perspectives.1 Such abilities are needed not just by visual artists, musicians, or dancers; they are of immense benefit to any person engaged in education, professional work, or simply day-to-day existence.

With their foundation in history and theory, academic classes in the fine arts prove equally beneficial in the development of key proficiencies. Liberal arts students who take courses in art history or music history are given a valuable opportunity to learn not only content, but also to develop new ways of thinking, communicating, and evaluating. Classes in these areas broaden a student’s understanding of human nature and, consequently, offer new ways to think about the unknown and the familiar, new concepts and old ideas, and one’s own and diverse cultures. Such courses teach our students that communication can be achieved not just with the written or spoken word, but also with sound, shape, and gesture. Historically based arts classes teach students to hear and to see, to be comfortable with ambiguity, to examine an issue from multiple perspectives, and to develop sound methodologies for working through confusing and sometimes controversial issues. Such skills are valued by any number of professions, both within the arts and without.

Arts Interventions: An Introduction

The scientific community is beginning to understand the importance of arts education for the skills their students derive, particularly critical thinking “outside the traditional, reductive science paradigm.”2 Learning to “look closely” or “listen closely” can help develop skills that enhance clinical and scientific work.3 This recognition of the value of arts education has appeared primarily at the graduate level, especially in medicine.

Arts programs have become standard at many prominent medical schools in the United States, including those at Harvard, Yale, Stanford, and Cornell. Such arts “interventions” (guided examinations of art works) are valued because they improve students’ observational and visual diagnostic skills, ability to empathize, and ability to deal with ambiguity and uncertainty. In a 2004 study that examined teaching and learning in medicine, Rodenhauer, Strickland, and Gambala found that more than half the schools responding to their survey used the arts in learning activities. Most included literature, visual arts, performing arts, and/or music, and reported improved clinical skills and an ability to empathize.4 What is interesting is that students do not study visual art or music as it applies to medicine. Rather, the works of art studied serve as a means of developing critical thinking and abstract skills that are then transferred to any field5 that values critical thinking, enhanced awareness, unbiased inspection, accurate reporting, and an ability to consider multiple perspectives. Such skills are needed in law enforcement,6 reading, writing, and mathematics,7 to name but a few areas.

The use of art, particularly visual art, to improve observational and interpretive skills in clinical practice has been investigated and documented in numerous studies focusing on medical education.8 Proficiency in visual observation allows students to gather and assemble data in a coherent and logical way, and heightens awareness of “pattern recognition, which focuses [not only] on identifying the familiar but also … the ability to identify the unfamiliar.”9 Braverman argues that this is not something that can be taught formally through lecture, but rather can only be achieved through experiential learning,10 that is, immersion with the primary material.

Boudreau, Cassell, and Fuks maintain that one learns “deep seeing” best through aesthetics. Internalized images do not simply function as a memory aid but rather as an incubator and generator for new ideas and perceptions.11 As Wellbery and McAteer note, “deep seeing” means that students learn to observe with an open mind.12 Boisaubin and Winkler contend that the art of truly seeing can only be achieved with intellectual discipline and attention. “Presuppositions, stereotypes, and prejudice … [must] be suspended … before the honestly inquiring eye and a new reality, even truth, can be revealed.”13

Developing Observation Skills: Visual Strategies

One reason the study of the visual arts is so prized at the graduate level is that it teaches the learner critical thinking and reflection. Observation skills, “honed through experience with the arts … [fosters] attention, self-awareness, and critique.”14 Close observation, which Wellbery and McAteer argue is a scientific habit, leads to subjective engagement, and allows one to understand and monitor one’s personal values, frustrations, and inner resources.15

What effect does learning to see have on students’ work in other areas? Pellico, Friedlaender, and Fennie note that students who participated in arts interventions wrote more about what they saw than those who did not. This directly resulted in more objective clinical findings when examining patients. Pellico and her co-researchers argue that the use of artwork encourages seeing, observing, identifying, discriminating, and clustering data.16 Jasani and Saks contend that students who take part in art classes [interventions] successfully transfer their newly developed observational skills to “real world” settings (e.g., medical) and are able to arrive at a broader set of interpretations, are open to multiple perspectives, and recognize the impact of context on perception.17 Such skills fit directly with the goals of clinical observation.18

Two different strategies have been used by researchers to investigate and document these heightened observational skills and increased ability to empathize. The most frequently used approach is Visual Thinking Strategies (VTS). The approach was initially created for use with younger students to “teach critical thinking, visual literacy and communication skills.”19 Students are trained to observe color, light, shadow, contour, form, texture, pattern, line, symmetry, and balance.20 Its application has been expanded to many audiences including medical residents, and at the graduate level, the methodology embraces the same goals of critical thinking, communication skills, and visual literacy as set out for younger students. VTS focuses on three questions:

What do you see?

What makes you say that?

What else do you see?

To answer these questions, students work, with guidance, through a four-step process:
  1. 1.

    Observation: identify visual findings and record observations without judgment.

  2. 2.

    Interpretation: draw conclusions about the work’s meaning and generate multiple interpretations.

  3. 3.

    Reflection: evaluate conclusions and question validity; personal beliefs and biases are explored.

  4. 4.

    Communication: share ideas with other students.21


VTS teaches students to observe; with practice, they develop aesthetic skills, learn to give evidence for interpretations, and take part in respectful dialogue. Using the three basic questions of VTS , students are asked to (1) look carefully at works of art, (2) talk about what they observe, (3) back up their ideas with evidence, (4) listen to and consider the views of others, and (5) discuss many possible interpretations.22 VTS promotes unbiased observation, greater organization of thought, and deeper-level reflection. The use of this strategy leads to decreased use of subjective terminology in favor of increased consideration of multiple interpretations.23 One of the major benefits of VTS is that this mode of thinking and analysis can be transferred to other settings. It provides students with a safe experience in which they learn to navigate uncertainty and divergent thinking in ways that often produce valuable new ideas.24

Thus, examining works of art becomes a practical experience in which to try out new reasoning skills. It trains one to be flexible and concretely illustrates that there is no single approach to problem-solving.25 It encourages students to move beyond their comfort zone while simultaneously improving their ability to empathize and develop their perspective-taking skills.26

A second art program designed to cultivate skills of observation is the Art of Analysis program, developed at Ohio State University College of Medicine, and frequently referred to by the acronym ODIP (observe, describe, interpret, and prove) . The program was specifically created to “encourage critical thinking skills, engender empathy, create a foundation for cooperative achievement, increase students’ tolerance for ambiguity, and build visual observation skills.”27 Like VTS , ODIP was first used with younger students. In its earliest form, ODIP was piloted over a two-year period with a group of fifth graders. Researchers successfully documented the students’ increased critical-thinking skills and greater depth of observation. Examining works of art, students were asked to consider the following:
  1. 1.

    What do you see? Try to find a detail no one else will notice. (Observe)

  2. 2.

    Describe what you see. What colors are present? How would you describe these colors? (Describe)

  3. 3.

    What’s going on in this work of art? Make an interpretation based upon what you see in this work. (Interpret)

  4. 4.

    Prove your interpretations using visual evidence. What do you see that supports your interpretation? (Prove)

At the graduate level, students participating in the program were asked to answer additional questions by identifying works of art in the museum where the program took place, and articulating why and how those images depicted a particular concept. The questions were:
  1. 1.

    What does compassion/empathy look like?

  2. 2.

    What does cruelty look like?

  3. 3.

    What does (the act of) being humane look like?

  4. 4.

    What does selfishness look like?

  5. 5.

    What does being a good teacher look like?

  6. 6.

    Find a work of art that does/does not immediately appeal to you. Document why this is so? Use ODIP to interpret the work.28

  7. 7.

    Choose any two works of art that you are surprised to see installed next to each other, and make an argument for why they are side by side.29


A key component of the Art of Analysis program is oral discussion. This format teaches students to support their ideas and theories, and form proofs. It challenges the participants’ presuppositions and observations. Students learn that the sharing of ideas often expands and alters their own viewpoint. Ambiguity is no longer a source of discomfort but rather a means by which one learns to respect the opinions and skills of fellow students.30

Increasing Perspective: Dealing with Ambiguity and Uncertainty

One of the most important benefits of studying the arts is that such study demonstrates the positive aspects of ambiguity. It helps us understand the many layers of meaning embodied in seemingly abstract works and the sensitivity, engagement, imagination, and reflection required in its interpretation.31 Boudreau, Cassell, and Fuks contend that the study of both representational and non-representational works stimulates recognition and cultivates empathy.32 Such an argument is not isolated. Numerous investigations over the past 20 years33 point out that the study of the visual arts improves one’s ability to empathize. Pellico, Friedlaender, and Fennie argue that viewing works of art teaches the dangers of self-selecting observations. Students who participated in arts interventions found that they no longer ignored conflicting cues; furthermore, they recognized the influence of their own backgrounds and understood how this affected their analyses.34 Perry, Maffulli, Wilson, and Morrissey suggest that the study of visual arts leads students to recognize and understand the more complex and subtle patterns relating to human experience and emotion. Students who participated in arts interventions demonstrated an increased awareness of multiple perspectives, an appreciation of subtle cues from body language, and a healthy skepticism about initial impressions.35

Learning to deal with uncertainty and ambiguity encourages students to take responsibility for their own learning.36 While uncertainty may make one uncomfortable, it presents an opportunity for growth.37 Uncertainty and ambiguity move “the perceiver beyond the obvious into a realm where values, meanings, and priorities are weighed.”38 As Wellbery notes, just as one works through a painting’s ambiguity, exploring the various possibilities, in the medical world (and in life in general), we meet people and situations that demand we read facial expressions, decipher body language, hear vocal inflections, and so on. One must be able to make sense of both overt and covert messages.39

Grappling with uncertainty is an opportunity to clarify values. Studying art provides us with a framework from which we can resolve uncertainty: One identifies which information is lacking, one recognizes that interpretation is a process that occurs over time, and one understands the contributions of context.40 While Jeffrey Campbell has addressed this when dealing specifically with uncertainty in medicine, his comments can be applied to all professions and day-to-day situations.41 He argues that one’s ability to be effective and empathetic can be cultivated by developing a tolerance and healthy respect for uncertainty. Because of the abstract nature of the arts, varied interpretations are possible. Such contradictions are particularly useful as a pedagogical tool for they force students to collect information in an objective manner. Thus, one learns to accept and consider alternate interpretations.42

Learning to Listen: Music Interventions

Music education offers another entrée into the world of critical thinking, empathy, communication, and problem-solving. In an abstract fashion, it explores such themes as compassion, human dignity, loss, and sadness. It teaches us to listen not only to someone’s words, but to what is “behind the words” by noticing cadence, volume, inflection, tone, tension, and pacing.43 If, as Newell and Hanes suggest , the basis for empathy is knowing how to listen, then learning how to listen to music is the ideal means to develop that skill.44 Like VTS , listening to and discussing music encourages the respectful sharing and consideration of ideas. It opens the student to divergent interpretations and ultimately to an exploration of possibilities not previously considered. Not listening means we lose a sense of connection and empathy; we stop paying attention. We revert to practiced and memorized behaviors, many of which may be detrimental to the understanding of complex situations.45 Music education helps students develop a variety of ways of perceiving and thinking,46 and to cultivate problem-solving techniques, comparison, classification, reflective processes, and the appraisal of activities.47 It encourages critical assessment of listening, performance , interpretation, and creation. It fosters this individually and as an assessment of others’ ideas.48

The analysis of a composition means that the listener must fully engage and be involved in the act of listening. This active listening requires focus as well as the knowledge, emotions, memories, and expectations that one brings to the experience.49 These same skills can be applied when dealing with humans in any situation. One learns to hear a depth of cues and complex elements; one develops the ability to listen to pitch, rhythm, declamation, voicing, repetition, color, articulation, and direction.50 Studying music teaches us to hear the interplay of multiple parts just as when we truly listen to people, we hear multiple strands. Learning to listen “encourage[s] breadth and simultaneity of attention, understanding which voices are concordant and which voices conflict, color or alter the meaning of what may otherwise appear as a primary melody.”51 It means that we can assess problems, recognize alternate solutions, and the like.

Understanding a composition challenges our expectations, our values, and our pre-conceived ideas. It teaches the importance of recognizing deviations from expected patterns. Discussions about music and an engaged exploration of it help us to move past the surface sounds and explore the inner meaning. Music is an essential pedagogical tool because it “reflects the nature of art itself: an exploration into the human condition via the mutual dialogue” among listeners.52 Such analysis and criticism help us to explore and deepen our understanding of music at various levels of interpretation, aesthetics, structure, style, expressivity, and ideology-culture.53 Newell and Hanes note that listening skills and cultural awareness are defining outcomes for medical students and that music is an ideal way to train students in these skills.54 But such skills are not restricted to medical people. Rather, listening and cultural awareness are necessary for nearly any profession or personal experience.

Arts Education for the Undergraduate Student: A Test Case

While the benefit of the arts is widely accepted at the graduate level, much less attention has been paid to its importance at the undergraduate level. One can easily argue that if enhanced observational and listening skills are crucial for those engaged in demanding professions, such skills are no less important for those who will be entering the general workforce, be it after four years of undergraduate education or after additional schooling at the graduate level. Moreover, the skills learned through a study of the arts are not simply for the employed. Rather, such skills are needed by any person who hopes to be an engaged and responsible citizen. Thus, the arts must be considered a cornerstone of the undergraduate liberal arts education.

How does one integrate the arts into an undergraduate curriculum, especially for those students majoring in such seemingly unrelated fields as biology, engineering, nursing, hospitality, and business? The following case study and plans for future curricular development discuss the use of the arts as a means of successfully teaching students to listen, think critically, discuss, reflect, and accept ambiguity and multiple perspectives.

During the spring of 2015, we offered a class entitled “Music, War, and the Art of Persuasion” to a group of students who were part of Widener University’s Honors Program in General Education. None of these students were music or fine arts majors. A limited number had some musical background—either as an instrumentalist or vocalist—but in general, the students were primarily science and engineering students with a limited number of other majors represented (psychology, business, and English). The class was conducted as a colloquium, meaning it was a discussion-based seminar, led as much by the students as by the instructor. The course, focusing on music written by composers specifically in reaction to World War II and the Vietnam War, was designed so that students would be able to develop their listening skills and their ability to articulate what they heard, to learn to be comfortable with ambiguity, and to put together their own composition that expressed their personal view of a given world conflict. In essence, this course achieved for our undergraduates what the graduate courses discussed above accomplished for their students.

Each week, students were asked, prior to meeting, to listen to a specific number of compositions and answer a set of pre-discussion prompts and questions:
  1. 1.

    Describe your immediate response to the music.

  2. 2.

    What associations did the music have for you?

  3. 3.

    What did you notice about the medium?

  4. 4.

    What did you notice about the way the piece was structured (the way it was laid out)?

  5. 5.

    What idea/emotion/attitude do you think the composer was trying to convey?

  6. 6.

    What sounds were particularly interesting to you? Why?

  7. 7.

    What sounds might you want to store in your toolbox? Where do they occur in the piece (in other words, how will you be able to find them again?)?

  8. 8.
    If the composition has a text:
    • What did you notice about the text?

    • Does the music support the text or does it work against it?

    • Is any of the text repeated? What effect does this have?

  9. 9.

    Sum up your total response to this music. On reflection, what do you think it means and what features of the music stand out?


Students were expected to listen to the compositions and complete the directed listening assignments prior to meeting as a group. The class discussions, led by the students, moved from personal reactions to the compositions to reflective remarks on the attitude of the composer toward the military conflict.

Students offered thoughtful comments and listened attentively to each other, often using a classmate’s idea as a point of departure for some newly considered concept. All students left class with a different perspective on the composition and what it meant. To ascertain how much their views had changed, students were then asked to respond to a post-discussion set of prompts and questions:
  1. 1.

    Describe your response to the composition.

  2. 2.

    Now that you know more about the composition, what associations does the music have for you?

  3. 3.

    What effect does the piece’s structure have on the way you view/consider the work?

  4. 4.

    What effect does the piece’s harmony and texture have on the way you view/consider the work?

  5. 5.

    Now that you know what the composer was trying to convey, do you think he succeeded?

  6. 6.

    What is the most moving/successful part of the work? What is the least successful part of the work?

  7. 7.

    What sounds might be useful to you in your own composition? (What sounds might you want to place in your toolbox?)

  8. 8.

    Sum up your total response to this music.


Both the pre- and post-discussion observations included questions about a “toolbox.” The students’ final project was an original composition. The “toolbox” was a shorthand means of assisting them to develop a compendium of sounds that could be used to convey ideas, emotions, or concepts. While students could, if they wished, compose an original composition, as one student opted to do, they were encouraged to use GarageBand or a similar computer program that allowed them to manipulate pre-existing sounds/recordings (their toolbox) and from there, to create their own work. The students were given the task of (1) developing an understanding of ISIS and the crisis (restricted at the time) in the Middle East through an extensive examination of reputable sources; (2) arriving at their own conclusion as to whether the United States should be involved; and (3) writing a composition that would reflect their position and attempt to persuade their listeners (their classmates) to agree with them. All of this needed to be articulated both in conference with the instructor and in written format, as a final composition, and orally to their classmates.

The presentations were thoughtful both on the part of the individual presenters and the listeners. The setting provided students with a safe space in which to take a stand about a political situation and to present their ideas, not using the traditional means of a paper, but rather, with a musical composition—to speak, as it were, abstractly. As none of the students were composers, this meant they were asked to function far outside their comfort zone; most did so with a fair amount of trepidation. The level of nervousness during the presentations was quite high, and most probably was directly related to a feeling of vulnerability. Taking a stand on a contentious issue, writing a composition, and playing it for one’s peers was intensely nerve-wracking and placed students in an uncomfortable position. In essence, they were required to take a risk they would not have chosen. Nevertheless, they presented with poise, and discussions were respectful and polite. The student views were varied and the discussions that followed indicated the diversity of thought. When asked about their musical choices and decisions, presenters could answer with confidence and easily articulate their process.

Students were asked to reflect on the compositional process.

Were some parts easy? Why?

Were some parts difficult? Why?

What problems did you encounter?

Was it what you expected?

How do you view the final result?

What would you do differently the second time around?

What is your view of the compositional process?

Knowing what you now know, how do you approach the act of listening?

Their responses to this last question were particularly interesting, for they reveal a newly discovered and intentional approach to listening. Among the responses:

After the course … my act of listening has significantly changed. I have become much more attentive to musical details, am able to pick out musical sounds. ... Before, I would either like or dislike a piece without attempting to interpret the deeper meaning. … Now I can carefully listen and note changes in music, … understand the purpose of using consonance and dissonance, and try to feel the emotions and message conveyed in specific compositions. Listening to music is not just a way to pass time and relax, but a way to understand and experience a composer’s view on specific events.

I now listen more intently for slight variations in musical structure and difference. I now listen to the timbre, tempo, dynamics, and harmony more keenly … to determine the message that the composer was trying to convey.

I think this class and my experience in creating this composition has had a significant impact on the way in which I approach the act of listening. … I don’t think I had ever been in a group or setting where I so deeply and critically analyzed a piece of music.

The course, in its outcomes, embodies the benefits of a music class (as well as an arts class) within a liberal arts curriculum. It teaches the students to listen deeply, to search for meaning, to acknowledge personal bias, to be comfortable with uncertainty, and to appreciate multiple perspectives. In short, it affords undergraduates precisely the competencies they need to tackle potential challenges and succeed in a complex world.

Future Plans: Developing the “Toolbox”

We will continue to use the arts as a foundation to improve student skills in two new courses to be offered in the next academic year. “Art in the Aftermath,” taught as an Honors colloquium, with students coming from diverse majors (nursing, biology, engineering, psychology, and business), will investigate the resilience of humankind in combating trauma, tragedy, and loss, by looking at the transformational role art can play as an agent for change and renewal. Through exploration across disciplines, and using much the same methodology as “Music, War, and the Art of Persuasion,” students will consider the means by which creativity provides a basis for transcendence. The second arts course, “Learning to Look, Learning to Listen,” will be offered to first-year nursing and social work students, and will use the approaches outlined above to cultivate the myriad skills future practitioners will need in their toolbox to succeed: critical thinking, empathy, observational acuity, engaged listening, and sensitivity to diverse populations. The capacity—rather, the necessity—of such courses in cultivating the competencies required in contemporary society assures the arts’ continuing relevance in the workplace and the world.

The evidence supporting the benefits of arts programs at the graduate level has long been recognized and has, in fact, led to a reshaping of curricula. What has, up to now, not been recognized is that there is an equal benefit in incorporating arts classes into the undergraduate professional education. Observational , listening, critical thinking, and empathy are critical skills for all students. Our own findings, based on our test case, suggest that arts courses provide a unique preparation for both those who pursue graduate study and those who choose to enter the workforce.

We acknowledge that not all will see this benefit as transparent, nor do we assume that undergraduates in professional majors will automatically appreciate, yet alone accept, the applicability of the arts in their curriculum. One might view this as discomfort with an approach that challenges their expectations. Visual and musical intelligence provide a critical foundation for learning and for dealing with this uneasiness. As the research and our experiences have proved, arts education forms an integral part of professional programs, interacting directly with students’ chosen fields and equipping them with the tools needed to flourish. Such learning experiences increase our students’ proficiencies and their chances for success, and should, therefore, find their way into all occupational training.


  1. 1.

    For an extensive discussion of the benefits of arts education (including dance, drama, visual arts, and music), see Richard R. Deasy, ed., Critical Links: Learning in the Arts and Student Achievement and Social Development (Washington D.C.: Arts Education Partnership, 2002). This compendium of more than 60 studies and essays examines the benefits of arts education and the transference of skills from one area (arts) to learning and behavior in other academic and social contexts. See also Louis E. Catron, “What Theatre Majors Learn,” accessed December 20, 2015,;; May Kokkidou, “Critical Thinking and School Music Education: Literature Review, Research Findings, and Perspectives,” Journal for Learning through the Arts 9, no. 1 (2013), accessed January 4, 2016,; “Long Term Benefits of Music Study,” accessed December 20, 2105,; Lisa Trei, “Musical Training Helps Language Processing, Studies Show,” Stanford Report (November 15, 2005), accessed December 20, 2015,; “20 Important Benefits of Music in Our Schools,” National Association for Music Education, last modified July 21, 2014, accessed December 20, 2015,

  2. 2.

    Rimma Osipov, “Do Future Bench Researchers Need Humanities Courses?” AMA Journal of Ethics 16, no. 8 (Aug. 2014): 604–609, accessed January 4, 2016,

  3. 3.


  4. 4.

    See Paul Rodenhauser, Matthew A. Strickland, and Cecilia T. Gambala, “Arts-Related Activities Across U.S. Medical Schools: A Follow-Up Study,” Teaching and Learning in Medicine 16/3 (2004): 233–239.

  5. 5.

    Irwin M. Braverman, “To See or Not to See: How Visual Training Can Improve Observational Skills,” Clinics in Dermatology 29 (2011): 344.

  6. 6.

    J. Donald Boudreau, Eric J. Cassell, and Abraham Fuks, “Preparing Medical Students to Become Skilled at Clinical Observation,” Medical Teacher 30, nos. 9–10 (2008): 859, accessed December 18, 2015, For a recent assessment of such use in law enforcement, see Sarah Lyall, “Off the Beat and Into a Museum: Art Helps Police Officers Learn to Look,” New York Times, April 26, 2016, Art historian Amy E. Herman , Visual Intelligence: Sharpen Your Perception, Change Your Life (New York: Eamon Dolan/Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2016), explains such work with the New York Police Department in venues such as the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

  7. 7.

    Sheila Naghshineh, Janet P. Hafler, Alexa R. Miller, Maria A. Blanco, Stuart R. Lipsitz, Rachel P. Dubroff, Shahram Khoshbin, and Joel T. Katz, “Formal Art Observation Training Improves Medical Students’ Visual Diagnostic Skills,” Journal of General Internal Medicine 23 (2008): 995.

  8. 8.

    See studies by Charles L. Bardes, Debra Gillers, and Amy E. Herman, “Learning to Look: Developing Clinical Observational Skills at an Art Museum,” Medical Education 35 (2001): 1157–1161; Jacqueline C. Dolev, Linda Krohner Friedlaender, and Irwin M. Braverman, “Use of Fine Art to Enhance Visual Diagnostic Skills,” Journal of the American Medical Association 286 (2001): 1020–1021; Nancy C. Elder, Barbara Tobias, Amber Lucero-Criswell, and Linda Goldenhar, “The Art of Observation: Impact of a Family Medicine and Art Museum Partnership on Student Education,” Family Medicine 38 (2006): 393–398; Johanna Shapiro and Lynn Hunt, “All the World’s a Stage: The Use of Theatrical Performance in Medical Education,” Medical Education 37 (2006): 922–927; Deborah Kirklin, Jane Duncan, Sandy McBride, Sam Hunt, and Mark Griffin, “A Cluster Design Controlled Trial of Arts-Based Observational Skills Training in Primary Care,” Medical Education 41 (2007): 395–401; Naghshineh, Hafler, Miller, Blanco, Lipsitz, Dubroff, Khoshbin, and Katz, “Formal Art Observation Training”; Pamela B. Schaff, Suzanne Isken, and Robert M. Tager, “From Contemporary Art to Core Clinical Skills: Observation, Interpretation, and Meaning-Making in a Complex Environment,” Academic Medicine 86 (2011): 1272–1276; Andrew Jacques, Rachel Trinkley, Linda Stone, Richard Tang, William A. Hudson, and Sorabh Khandelwal, “Art of Analysis : A Cooperative Program Between a Museum and Medicine,” Journal for Learning Through the Arts 8/1 (2012): 1–10, accessed January 7, 2016,; and Gary E. Friedlaender and Linda K. Friedlaender, “Art in Science: Enhancing Observational Skills,” Clinical Orthopaedics in Related Research 47 (2013): 2065–2067.

  9. 9.

    Lawrence T. O. Bell and Darrell J. R. Evans, “Art, Anatomy and Medicine: Is There a Place for Art in Medical Education?” Anatomical Sciences Education 7 (2014): 371–372.

  10. 10.

    Braverman, “To See or Not to See,” 345.

  11. 11.

    Boudreau, Cassell, and Fuks, “Preparing Medical Students,” 858.

  12. 12.

    Wellbery and McAteer, “The Art of Observation,” 1629.

  13. 13.

    Eugene V. Boisaubin and Mary G. Winkler, “See Patients and Life Contexts: The Visual Arts in Medical Education,” The American Journal of Medical Sciences 319, no. 5 (May 2000): 292.

  14. 14.

    Wellbery and McAteer, “The Art of Observation,” 1629.

  15. 15.

    Ibid., 1626.

  16. 16.

    Linda Honan Pellico, Linda Friedlaender, and Kristopher P. Fennie, “Looking is Not Seeing: Using Art to Improve Observational Skills,” Journal of Nursing Education 48, no. 11 (Nov. 2009): 648–649.

  17. 17.

    Sona K. Jasani and Norma S. Saks, “Utilizing Visual Art to Enhance the Clinical Observation Skills of Medical Students,” Medical Teacher 35, no. 7 (2013): e1329, accessed December 20, 2015,

  18. 18.

    For a list and discussion of these goals, see Boudreau, Cassell, and Fuks, “Preparing Medical Students,” 859–861. The authors focus, in particular, on the need to articulate what one sees, to be aware of cultural determinants, and the potential for bias.

  19. 19.

    Jacques, Trinkley, Stone, Tang, Hudson, and Khandelwal, “Art of Analysis .”

  20. 20.

    Naghshineh, Hafler, Miller, Blanco, Lipsitz, Dubroff, Khoshbin, and Katz, “Formal Art Observation Training,” 992.

  21. 21.

    Jasani and Saks, “Utilizing Visual Art to Enhance the Clinical Observation Skills,” e1328. See also Alexa Miller, Michelle Grohe, Shahram Khoshbin, and Joel T. Katz, “From the Galleries to the Clinic: Applying Art Museum Lessons to Patient Care,” Journal of Medical Humanities 34 (2013): 434.

  22. 22.

    Miller, Grohe, Khoshbin, and Katz, “From the Galleries to the Clinic,” 434.

  23. 23.

    Jasani and Saks, “Utilizing Visual Art to Enhance the Clinical Observation Skills,” e1330.

  24. 24.

    Miller, Grohe, Khoshbin, and Katz, “From the Galleries to the Clinic,” 435.

  25. 25.


  26. 26.

    Shapiro and Shallit, “A Night at the Museum,” 599–603.

  27. 27.

    Jacques, Trinkley, Stone, Tang, Hudson, and Khandelwal, “Art of Analysis .”

  28. 28.

    This question allows students to become aware of their own biases and to view the work from a different perspective.

  29. 29.

    Jacques, Trinkley, Stone, Tang, Hudson, and Khandelwal, “Art of Analysis .”

  30. 30.

    Ibid. Herman, Visual Intelligence, 98, develops strategies for seeing based on the acronym COBRA (camouflaged, one, break, realign, ask).

  31. 31.

    Jan C. Frich and Per Fugelli, “Medicine and the Arts in the Undergraduate Medical Curriculum at the University of Oslo Faculty of Medicine, Oslo, Norway,” Academic Medicine 78, no. 10 (October 2003): 1038.

  32. 32.

    Boudreau, Cassell, and Fuks, “Preparing Medical Students,” 859.

  33. 33.

    Philip Darbyshire, “Understanding the Life of Illness: Learning Through the Art of Frida Kahlo,” Advances in Nursing Science 17 (1996): 51–59; Deborah Kirklin, Richard Meakin, Surinder Singh, and Margaret Lloyd, “Living With and Dying From Cancer: A Humanities Special Study Module,” Medical Humanities 26 (2000): 51–54; Paul Lazarus and Felicity M. Rosslyn, “The Arts in Medicine: Setting up and Evaluating a New Special Study Module at Leicester Warwick Medical School,” Medical Education 37 (2003): 553–559; Lisbeth Blomqvist, Kaisu Pitkälä, and Pirkko Routasalo, “Images of Loneliness: Using Art as an Educational Method in Professional Training,” Journal of Continuing Education in Nursing 38 (2007): 89–93; Fatemah Geranmayeh and Keyoumars Ashkan, “Mind on Canvas: Anatomy, Signs, and Neurosurgery in Art,” British Journal of Neurosurgery 22 (2008): 563–574; and Arno K. Kumagi, “Perspective: Acts of Interpretation: A Philosophical Approach to Using Creative Arts in Medical Education,” Academic Medicine 87 (2012): 1138–1144.

  34. 34.

    Pellico, Friedlaender, and Fennie, “Looking is Not Seeing,” 650.

  35. 35.

    Mark Perry, Nicola Maffulli, Suzy Wilson, and Dylan Morrissey, “The Effectiveness of Arts-Based Interventions in Medical Education: A Literature Review,” Medical Education 45 (2011): 146.

  36. 36.

    Renée C. Fox, “Training for Uncertainty,” in The Student-Physician: Introductory Studies in the Sociology of Medical Education, ed. by Robert K. Merton, George G. Reader, and Patricia L. Kendall (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1957; reprinted 1969), 210.

  37. 37.

    Caroline Wellbery, “The Art of Medicine: The Value of Medical Uncertainty?” The Lancet 375 (May 15, 2010): 1687.

  38. 38.

    Ibid., 1686.

  39. 39.

    Ibid., 1687.

  40. 40.


  41. 41.

    Jeffrey I. Campbell , “Art and the Uncertainty of Medicine,” Journal of the American Medical Association 312, no. 22 (Dec. 10, 2014): 2337.

  42. 42.

    Braverman, “To See or Not to See,” 345–346.

  43. 43.

    Glenn C. Newell and Douglas J. Hanes , “Listening to Music: The Case for its Use in Teaching Medical Humanism,” Academic Medicine 78, no. 7 (July 2003): 715.

  44. 44.


  45. 45.

    Peter Van Roessel and Audrey Shafer, “Music, Medicine, and the Art of Listening,” Journal for Learning through the Arts 2, no. 1 (2006), accessed January 4, 2016,

  46. 46.

    Kokkidou, “Critical Thinking and School Music Education,” 4.

  47. 47.

    Ibid., 5.

  48. 48.

    Ibid., 6.

  49. 49.

    Van Roessel and Shafer, “Music, Medicine, and the Art of Listening.”

  50. 50.


  51. 51.


  52. 52.


  53. 53.

    Kokkidou, “Critical Thinking and School Music Education,” 6.

  54. 54.

    Newell and Hanes, “Listening to Music,” 715.

Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Ilene Lieberman
    • 1
  • Mara Parker
    • 1
  1. 1.Widener UniversityChesterUSA

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