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Education Research

The Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum Education department takes to heart our founder’s wish for her museum to exist “for the education and enjoyment of the public forever” by carefully studying the educational effects of our programs. Here are reports of our findings.


Thinking Through Art: Elementary Students and Critical Thinking

Authors: Marianna Adams and Jessica Luke

From 2003-07, the Gardner Museum partnered with the Institute for Learning Innovation (ILI) in a three-year grant from the Department of Education to research elementary students' learning from our art multiple-visit School Partnership Program. 

Thinking Through Art Year 3 Report


High School Students and Critical Thinking Trends

Authors: Sara Egan and Michelle Grohe

A preliminary report on our 2012-13 School Partnership with Edward M. Kennedy Academy for Health Careers, detailing the changes in 9th grade students’ critical thinking skills when talking and wrote about a work of art and talking about a material object.

EMK Year 1 Critical Thinking Trends


8th Grade School Partnership Study 2008-09

Author: Karen DeSantis

Through support from the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS), this report presents the results of our study on the impact of our art multiple-visit School Partnership Program on the aesthetic and critical thinking of 8th grade students, as well as on the aesthetic thinking of teachers who participated in the program from 2008-09.

IMLS 2008-09 Study Report


2013 Follow-up to 8th Grade School Partnership Study

Authors: Sara Egan and Michelle Grohe

This is a follow-up study to the 8th Grade School Partnership Study 2008-09 that sought to discover the lasting impact (aesthetic development, critical thinking, and comfort in art museums) on the students who participated in the Gardner Museum’s School Partnership Program using Visual Thinking Strategies (VTS) for one year in middle school.

IMLS 2013 Follow up Report


Elementary Longitudinal Case Study: School Partnership 2010-14 

Authors: Sara Egan and Michelle Grohe

This executive summary captures changes over time in critical thinking of the Maurice J. Tobin K-8 School’s elementary students who participated in our multiple-visit School Partnership Program.  

Tobin School Longitudinal Case Study Executive Summary


The Role of Asking Young Children to Provide Evidence for their Observations in Visual Thinking Strategies Discussions

Author:  Sarah O’Leary

This executive summary abridges a study that analyzed the appropriateness of asking children ages 3-6 to back up their ideas with evidence in group discussions about art. 

O’Leary Executive Summary


Young Adult Study

Authors:  Randi Korn & Associates

With the support of a Wallace Excellence Award, the Gardner Museum contracted with Randi Korn & Associates, Inc. to study our young adult visitors between the ages 18 and 34 years old, and to understand what conditions would create a compelling experience at the Gardner that fostered continuing relationships with the Museum.

Young Adult Study


Qualitative Study on Local Visitors' Perception of the Gardner

Authors: Jessica Luke, Jeanine Ancelet, and Erin Johnson

In June 2010, the Gardner Museum contracted with the Institute for Learning Innovation (ILI), a Maryland‐based, non‐profit research and evaluation organization, in order to augment the results of a large‐scale, Wallace Foundation‐funded quantitative study. ILI conducted a focused, qualitative study that provided in‐depth data about local visitors’ long‐term perceptions of their Gardner Museum experience. 

Wallace Qualitative Report