Department Chair

Shirley Hayes

Date of Award


Access Control

Open Access

Degree Name

Art Education (K-12), M.S.Ed.


Art Education Department


Shirley Hayes

Department Home page


This qualitative action research study investigated the question "What might an eighth grade art classroom look like in practice? For eight weeks, 20 middle school students participated in a democratic art classroom. Using a theoretical lens of critical pedagogy I employed democratic teaching practices and asked students to create a work of art based on a social issue that they were passionate about. Through the course of this study students used their art as a way to voice their concerns about social issues and social injustices in the world. My research included data gathered from student interviews, student response papers, and anonymous student questionnaires. The data analyzed was placed into three categories. The categories that form the foundation for the study are; student and teacher roles in a democratic art class, art content in a democratic art class, and challenges in implementing a democratic art class.

Incorporating democratic teaching practices in the art room encouraged students to participate in democratic practices such as voting, freedom of expression and speech, and creating a classroom bill of rights. Through my research, I was able to discover that implementing democratic teaching practices in the art room helped students to create artwork that is rich in ideological content and rich in personal meaning, allowing them to connect with themselves and their peers on a deeper level. By creating a safe classroom environment students felt encouraged to share their own personal stories with their teacher and peers. There are many positive effects that come from implementing democratic practices in a middle school art room, particularly when used as a tool to encourage students to have a voice in their learning experiences in the art room.