This dissertation examines high school students' perceptions about what they have learned in school-based visual arts education programs as compared to views most prominently articulated in field advocacy literature about what students are believed to be learning. The purposes of this study were to identify congruencies or gaps in advocacy theory, and to offer any students' perceptions of their learning in visual arts that were found to lie outside current advocacy literature rhetoric as means for expanding conversations about the benefits and purposes of school-based art education. Through the use of arts-based educational research and reporting methods that encompass the artistic, creative process the primary research question examined was: What do students perceive they have learned from studying visual arts in school?
In interviews conducted with high school students from the class of 2009 at the Perpich Center for Arts Education, Arts High School (AHS) in Golden Valley, Minnesota students discussed their experiences in school as pursuants of visual arts education. Analyzing this data along with student-submitted artist statements, and student-submitted self-portrait artwork has illuminated that students' perceptions of their learning in school-based art education programs are varied. Through creating individual artistic and narrative portraits of the students and their perceptions, I was able to analyze and synthesize students' responses to the research question into thematic strains. Then, by comparing these themes with those found most frequently used in field advocacy literature, it was discovered that some of what students perceive they have learned, such as how to create relationships and make connections between seemingly disparate ideas, how to use a variety of materials to satisfy inspiration and imagination in order to tell an original story using visual representation, and how to express very personal ideas and individuality, easily aligns with field literature. However, it was also discovered that some of the students' perceived learning, such as how to make and use images as a means for reflection to compile a record of experiences, and how to use the creative process as a method of discovery, lie outside theories most commonly addressed in field advocacy literature.
After conducting this inquiry, I concluded that although the majority of art education advocacy literature accurately describes students' learning, the new ideas students posed in this study about what they perceive they have learned could provoke and influence expanded discussions in field advocacy literature and initiatives about the purposes, benefits and value of school-based art education. Furthermore, to share the results of this study with a broad audience beyond higher education and to expand and perpetuate advocacy discussions to include a greater constituency who may not normally be exposed to such conversations, the artistic portraits I created as a means of analysis and data reporting along with the student-submitted self-portraits and artist statements were formally exhibited in the gallery at the Perpich Arts High School in Golden Valley, Minnesota from January 5, 2012 through March 15, 2012. This event was a unique means for sharing the results of this study, and proved to be both an effective means for bringing attention to this issue and for eliciting participation in this conversation from a broad audience.
University of Minnesota Ph.D. dissertation. May 2012. Major: Education, Curriculum and Instruction. Advisors: Dr. James Bequette, Dr. Cynthia Lewis. 1 computer file (PDF); ix, 267 pages, appendices A-F.
Brennan, Colleen Kelly.
Portraits of High School Students and Their Perceptions of their learning in visual arts: examining gaps and congruency in art education advocacy literature..
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