Dissertation/Thesis Abstract

Closer to the heart: An exploration of caring and creative visual arts classrooms
by Kramer, Juli B., Ph.D., University of Denver, 2010, 333; 3411909
Abstract (Summary)

This study demonstrates how caring and creative secondary level visual arts classes facilitate the development of learning environments that enliven and expect the best of students; help them develop as autonomous and creative learners; provide them opportunities to care for others and the world around them; and keep them connected to their schools and education. It highlights how the intentions and operations of teachers impact student learning, creative risk taking, and interpersonal relations within and beyond the classroom. It also uncovers novel ways of thinking about arts education as a means to enhance positive individual and social development and vividly illustrates the conceptual frameworks and pedagogical methods used to do so. Four questions initiated the study: (1) What are the intentions of visual arts teachers who state that they believe creative and caring environments are essential for arts instruction and students’ holistic development? (2) How are these intentions realized (or not realized) in their practice? (3) How does the enacted curriculum affect students’ willingness to take creative risks? and (4) How do the intentions and practices of the teacher impact student self-concepts?

Six teachers in three Colorado and three Western Australian schools participated in the study, hosting classroom observations for between five and 10 days at each site. The teachers, as well as 25 students (three to five per teacher), participated in semi-structured interviews in addition to the observations. The students also completed photo essays that reflected what their visual arts experiences meant for them within and beyond the classroom. The use of educational criticism and connoisseurship and the photo essays yielded vivid descriptions. These in turn facilitated the development of interpretations, thematics, and evaluations that inform our understanding and enhance our ability to help students within visual arts and other content area classrooms. The theoretical and methodological choices guiding the study moved existing work in new directions. Theoretically the study drew heavily upon Nel Noddings’ care theory but explicitly expanded her ideas to include key elements of care theory for culturally diverse learners. The addition of photo essays was based on recent support for having participants utilize metaphor through photographic images to more effectively express their feelings, beliefs, and interpretations; the application of this method tremendously enhanced the findings.

Indexing (document details)
Advisor: Uhrmacher, P. Bruce
Commitee: Austin, Debra, Cutforth, Nicholas, Noddings, Nel
School: University of Denver
Department: Curriculum and Instruction
School Location: United States -- Colorado
Source: DAI-A 71/07, Dissertation Abstracts International
Source Type: DISSERTATION
Subjects: Art education, Secondary education, Curriculum development
Keywords: Caring and creativity, Culturally diverse learners, Holistic education, International study, Positive self-concept, Visual arts
Publication Number: 3411909
ISBN: 9781124082820
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