Date of Award


Access Control

Open Access

Degree Name

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


Art Education Department


Dr. Shirley Hayes

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My personal and professional experiences in education led me to develop a unique perspective on the value of the visual arts. Existing literature about the impact of visual art education on students is written primarily from the point of view of educators and researchers. I wondered what the stories of high school students who have been labeled at-risk might reveal about their visual art experiences. As a participant-observer, I studied my own students using a postmodern approach to qualitative narrative research. I chose six students, three of whom were labeled at-risk, to share their stories and opinions about their visual art experiences. Semi-structured interviews were the primary source of data collection, while daily observations and analysis of artworks triangulated the findings.

Common themes expressed by the participants included an appreciation for the freedom and sense of control offered within art activities, as well as positive responses to the upbeat and casual art environment. Art processes were described to be engaging, fun, and relaxing. The student stories revealed a belief that personal growth is also associated with visual arts involvement, including improved self-esteem, motivation, and personal relationships. The research revealed that for my students, the value of visual arts experiences is personal and experience-based.

I learned that by allowing students to regain an element of control over their education, they perceive their learning experiences with greater value. I also learned that the presence or absence of a label such as “at-risk” does not necessarily define a student’s potential, nor is it always an accurate way to identify those who are facing challenges in their personal or academic life.

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