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General capabilities

In the Australian Curriculum, the general capabilities encompass the knowledge, skills, behaviours and dispositions that, together with curriculum content in each learning area and the cross-curriculum priorities, will assist students to live and work successfully in the twenty-first century.

There are seven general capabilities:

  • Literacy
  • Numeracy
  • Information and communication technology (ICT) capability
  • Critical and creative thinking
  • Personal and social capability
  • Ethical understanding
  • Intercultural understanding.

In the Australian Curriculum: The Arts, general capabilities are identified wherever they are developed or applied in content descriptions. They are also identified where they offer opportunities to add depth and richness to student learning through content elaborations. Icons or abbreviations indicate where general capabilities have been identified in The Arts content descriptions and elaborations.

The following descriptions provide an overview of how general capabilities are addressed in the Australian Curriculum: The Arts; however the emphasis on each general capability will vary from one Arts subject to another. Detailed general capabilities materials, including learning continua, can be found here.


Students become literate as they develop the knowledge, skills and dispositions to interpret and use language confidently, for learning and communicating in and out of school, and for participating effectively in society. Students use literacy when listening to, reading, viewing, speaking, writing and creating oral, print, visual and digital texts. Literacy involves students using and modifying language for different purposes in a range of contexts.

In the Arts, students use literacy along with the kinetic, symbolic, verbal and visual languages of the five Arts subjects. This enables students to develop, apply and communicate their knowledge and skills as artists and as audiences. Through making and responding, students enhance and extend their literacy skills as they create, compose, design, analyse, comprehend, discuss, interpret and evaluate their own and others’ artworks.

Each Arts subject requires students to learn and use specific terminology of increasing complexity as they move through the curriculum. Students understand that the terminologies of the Arts vary according to context and they develop their ability to use language dynamically and flexibly. They use their literacy skills to access knowledge, make meaning, express thoughts, emotions and ideas, and interact with and challenge others.

Opportunities to use literacy might occur when students:

  • share and explain ideas, discuss concepts, work collaboratively, participate in class discussions, write/talk about their work or other people’s work, and present or introduce work
  • use words and images/objects as stimulus
  • research the context of an artwork
  • ask questions about an artwork.


Students become numerate as they develop the knowledge and skills to use mathematics confidently across all learning areas at school and in their lives more broadly. Numeracy involves students recognising and understanding the role of mathematics in the world and having the dispositions and capacities to use mathematical knowledge and skills purposefully.

In the Arts, students select and use relevant numeracy knowledge and skills to plan, design, make, interpret, analyse and evaluate artworks. Across the Arts subjects, students can recognise and use: number to calculate and estimate; spatial reasoning to solve problems involving space, patterns, symmetry, 2D and 3D shapes; scale and proportion to show and describe positions, pathways and movements; and measurement to explore length, area, volume, capacity, time, mass and angles.

Through making and responding across the Arts, students use numeracy skills to choreograph and perform dance; build, rehearse, sequence and time plays; plan, direct and edit media texts; compose, produce and record music; and design, construct and display art. Students work with a range of numerical concepts to organise, analyse and create representations of data relevant to their own or others’ artworks, such as diagrams, charts, tables, graphs and motion capture.

Opportunities to use numeracy might occur when students:

  • combine dance movements to create sequences or sequences to create sections
  • decide where to place actors in a performance space
  • analyse audience responses to a media artwork
  • compose a film score or music to accompany dance or drama
  • explore concepts such as space, proportion and repetition in visual arts.

Information and communication technology (ICT) capability

Students develop ICT capability as they learn to use ICT effectively and appropriately to access, create and communicate information and ideas, solve problems, and work collaboratively in all learning areas at school, and in their lives beyond school. The capability involves students learning to make the most of the digital technologies available to them, adapting to new ways of doing things as technologies evolve and limiting the risks to themselves and others in a digital environment.

In the Arts, ICT capability enables students to engage with digital and virtual technologies when making and responding to artworks. Students can, for example, use interactive multimedia platforms, communication and editing software, and virtual tools and environments, to design, create and share their artworks. They can enhance their ICT capability as they generate ideas and explore concepts and possibilities by exploiting available technologies.

Students learn to apply social and ethical protocols and practices in a digital environment, particularly in relation to the appropriate acknowledgment of intellectual property and the safeguarding of personal security when using ICT. They use digital technologies to locate, access, select and evaluate information, work collaboratively, share and exchange information, and communicate with a variety of audiences.

Opportunities to use their ICT capability might occur when students:

  • use a mobile device to document movement ideas for a dance work
  • use a mindmap to describe a character or situation when devising drama
  • use a digital tool or app to make a comic or stop-motion animation
  • compose and record a backing track to accompany a song
  • upload images or ideas for a collaborative artwork to a class blog or virtual gallery.

Critical and creative thinking

Students develop capability in critical and creative thinking as they learn to generate and evaluate knowledge, clarify concepts and ideas, seek possibilities, consider alternatives and solve problems. Critical and creative thinking is integral to activities that require students to think broadly and deeply. Students will use skills, behaviours and dispositions such as reason, logic, resourcefulness, imagination and innovation in all learning areas at school and in their lives beyond school.

In the Arts, critical and creative thinking is integral to making and responding to artworks. In creating artworks, students draw on their curiosity, imagination and thinking skills to pose questions and explore ideas, spaces, materials and technologies. They generate, design and analyse art forms, consider possibilities and processes, and make choices that assist them to take risks and express their ideas, concepts, thoughts and feelings creatively. In responding to the Arts, students learn to analyse traditional and contemporary artworks and identify possible meanings and connections with self and community. They consider and analyse artists’ motivations and intentions and possible influencing factors and biases. They reflect critically and creatively, both individually and collectively, on the thinking and design processes that underpin arts making. They offer and receive effective feedback about past and present artworks and performances, and communicate and share their thinking, visualisation and innovations to a variety of audiences.

Opportunities to use their critical and creative thinking might occur when students:

  • express their understanding of an idea or concept through dance
  • ask ‘what if’ questions to create a scene in drama
  • synthesise ideas to communicate a message in a media artwork
  • explore the effect of different choices about tempo, dynamics or articulations
  • analyse the meaning of an image or object and brainstorm collective responses as an audience.

Personal and social capability

Students develop personal and social capability as they learn to understand themselves and others, and manage their relationships, lives, work and learning more effectively. The capability involves students in a range of practices including: recognising and regulating emotions, developing empathy for others and understanding relationships, establishing and building positive relationships, making responsible decisions, working effectively in teams, handling challenging situations constructively and developing leadership skills.

In the Arts, personal and social capability assists students to work, both individually and collaboratively, to make and respond to artworks. Arts learning provides students with regular opportunities to recognise, name and express their emotions while developing art form-specific skills and techniques. As they think about ideas and concepts in their own and others’ artworks, students identify and assess personal strengths, interests and challenges. As art makers, performers and audience, students develop and apply personal skills and dispositions such as self-discipline, goal setting and working independently, and show initiative, confidence, resilience and adaptability. They learn to empathise with the emotions, needs and situations of others, to appreciate diverse perspectives, and to understand and negotiate different types of relationships. When working with others, students develop and practise social skills that assist them to communicate effectively, work collaboratively, make considered group decisions and show leadership.

Opportunities to develop and apply personal and social capability might occur when students:

  • discuss options and make decisions collaboratively when deciding on pathways in a dance
  • show adaptability when participating in a group improvisation exercise in drama
  • share personal responses to media artworks such as ‘I felt …’
  • set personal goals to build vocal or instrumental skills, for example, controlling breathing to sustain a long note or vary dynamics
  • describe their immediate response to a visual artwork and empathise with others’ opinions about the artwork.

Ethical understanding

Students develop ethical understanding as they identify and investigate the nature of ethical concepts, values and character traits, and understand how reasoning can assist ethical judgment. Ethical understanding involves students in building a strong personal and socially-oriented ethical outlook that helps them to manage context, conflict and uncertainty, and to develop an awareness of the influence that their values and behaviour have on others.

In the Arts, students develop and apply ethical understanding when they encounter or create artworks that require ethical consideration, such as work that is controversial, involves a moral dilemma or presents a biased point of view. They explore how ethical principles affect the behaviour and judgment of artists involved in issues and events. Students apply the skills of reasoning, empathy and imagination, and consider and make judgments about actions and motives. They speculate on how life experiences affect and influence people’s decision making and whether various positions held are reasonable.

Students develop their understanding of values and ethical principles as they use an increasing range of critical thinking skills to explore ideas, concepts, beliefs and practices. When interpreting and evaluating artworks and their meaning, students consider the intellectual, moral and property rights of others. In particular, students learn about ethical and cultural protocols when engaging with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples and their histories, cultures and artistic practices.

Opportunities to develop and apply ethical understanding might occur when students:

  • value diverse responses to their work
  • consider different attitudes when responding to a prompt in process drama
  • acknowledge sources of images, text and sound that they appropriate
  • perform a music work in the way the class has agreed
  • demonstrate sustainable practices and respect for the environment by using recycled materials.

Intercultural understanding

Students develop intercultural understanding as they learn to value their own cultures, languages and beliefs, and those of others. They come to understand how personal, group and national identities are shaped, and the variable and changing nature of culture. The capability involves students learning about and engaging with diverse cultures in ways that recognise commonalities and differences, create connections with others and cultivate mutual respect.

In the Arts, intercultural understanding assists students to move beyond known worlds to explore new ideas, media and practices from diverse local, national, regional and global cultural contexts. Intercultural understanding enables students to explore the influence and impact of cultural identities and traditions on the practices and thinking of artists and audiences. Students might explore forms and structures, use of materials, technologies, techniques and processes, or treatment of concepts, ideas, themes and characters. They develop and act with intercultural understanding in making artworks that explore their own cultural identities and those of others, interpreting and comparing their experiences and worlds, and seeking to represent increasingly complex relationships.

Students are encouraged to demonstrate empathy for others and open-mindedness to perspectives that differ from their own and to appreciate the diversity of cultures and contexts in which artists and audiences live. Through engaging with artworks from diverse cultural sources, students are challenged to consider accepted roles, images, objects, sounds, beliefs and practices in new ways.

Opportunities to develop and apply ICU capability might occur when students:

  • research dances from different cultures that tell similar stories
  • describe the role of drama in different cultures
  • explore cultural issues represented in media
  • learn and share music using practices from different cultural traditions
  • explore the meaning of visual symbols from different cultures. Cross-curriculum priorities
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