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Elementary art & science: observational drawing in lesson study

Sharon Dotger (Science Teaching and Teaching & Leadership, Syracuse University, Syracuse, NY, USA)
Deborah Walsh (Willow Field Elementary School, Liverpool Central School District, Liverpool, NY, USA)

International Journal for Lesson and Learning Studies

ISSN: 2046-8253

Article publication date: 5 January 2015




The purpose of this paper is to report on elementary students’ observational drawings, which were produced from two science lesson study cycles.


The authors collaboratively studied student work from two science research lessons. The authors evaluated 50 students’ science notebook entries, paying specific attention to their observational sketches. The authors wanted to understand how fourth grade students approach observational drawing in science class to better inform science and art pedagogy.


Students represented their observations in a variety of ways. The structure of the lessons might have influenced students’ drawings, as did students’ orientation when constructing their representations.

Research limitations/implications

This research is limited in that it only analyzes observational drawing from two research lessons.

Practical implications

Through cross-disciplinary collaboration between a science educator and an art teacher, the authors developed shared ideas that were applicable in both spaces. In the near term, the authors have each changed the instructional practices to include more observational drawing.

Social implications

This paper could impact public attitudes about the inclusion of science and art in the elementary curriculum. The authors would expect that through articulating the purpose of observational drawing for the artist and the scientist, the public would be more supportive of teaching these skills in school.


This paper documents teacher learning across two content areas which students have limited access to in the USA during elementary school. It explains how science and art share objectives and can thus advocate for each other’s inclusion in the school day.



The authors would like to acknowledge the hard work of our colleagues who have helped make lesson study a reality in our area: Mary Bearkland, Jeff Bidwell, Colleen Hall, Kathy Hammond, Kevin Moquin, Sue Osborne, John Sardella.


Dotger, S. and Walsh, D. (2015), "Elementary art & science: observational drawing in lesson study", International Journal for Lesson and Learning Studies, Vol. 4 No. 1, pp. 26-38.



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2015, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

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