Art Education Doctoral Dissertations

Arts education is characterized by multi-disciplinary ways of understanding research and, to the same degree, by the nature of the research field itself. Each research field is characterized by specific culturally, socially, and historically influenced ideas, structures, patterns, and goals. Researchers in the College of Visual Arts and Design's art education program investigate, break barriers, develop new theories of art teaching and learning and prepare themselves to be researchers and professors of art education at colleges and universities. 


Moneerah Alayar, Ph.D., 2021 

Metal, Pedagogy, Woman, Kuwait: An Autoethnographic Feminist Approach to Questioning Systems Of Education


Noura Shuqair, Ph.D., 2020

Islamic Patterns as an Allegory for an F-1 Student’s Experience in the Context of Global Capitalism: The Aesthetics of Cognitive Mapping as an Approach to Arts-Based Research

Artwork by Noura Shuqair, 20202020 — Building on Fredric Jameson's critical theory, this dissertation examines how the aesthetics of cognitive mapping were used to uncover overlooked political, economic, social and cultural dimensions behind my artistic engagement with Islamic patterns. Employing a critically informed variant of arts-based research, ABR, I explored the complexity of the interconnected economic, social, political and aesthetic realities informing my positionality as a Muslim Saudi female artist/researcher completing her dissertation in a Western country. Particularly, my work revealed how certain global forces, including capitalist relations between Saudi Arabia and the U.S. and global postmodern cultural influences, shape the appropriation and re-signification of patterning appropriated from Islamic aesthetics. This research culminated in a body of artwork for a solo exhibition at the Paul Voertman Gallery at the College of Visual Arts and Design at the University of North Texas, Denton, Texas. I conclude the study with recommendations for a regional ABR to be developed by educators for the MENA region — the Middle East and North Africa. The study also suggests that this model of cognitive mapping as a critical art-making methodology might be a useful pedagogical tool for museums and art education curricula to implement in Saudi Arabia.




Lama Harkan, Ph.D., 2019

Creative Networks: Toward Mapping Creativity in a Design Classroom

2019 — This study developed new mapping techniques and methodologies for understanding creativity regarding connectivity and interaction between human and non-human actors in a design classroom. The researcher applied qualitative data collection methods, combining observations of classroom activities and focus group interviews to map a creativity network. The findings indicate that creativity is a complex weather-like system or, what I call “creative climate,” composed of many sub-networks and diffused networks.

Four interactions emerged from the study:

(1) The creative climate is composed of the circulation of bodies and objects forming networks and sub-networks,
(2) Centers and corners/edges are a measure of connectivity and interaction in classroom space design,
(3) Roundness is a measure of classroom style and the space of connectivity usage and
(4) Plugs-in creativity is a measure of technology consolidation.

This study attempted to fill the gap in the literature on creativity and classroom design by explaining the role of non-human actors in shaping the creative climate in the classroom, especially the role of the classroom space itself as an actor. The implication of this study in art education opens a new opportunity for research in designing innovative classrooms. Also, it will allow future investigation of the phenomenon of creativity as a climate system based on the interaction between human and non-human actors.

Merfat Mohammed Bassi, Ph.D., 2019

A Somatic Mindfulness Project Exploring the Effects of Meditation on Art Appreciation in the Gallery Setting

2019 — This dissertation describes the effects of a somatic mindfulness project on how participants interact with and respond to works of art in a gallery setting. The study begins with a critique of Descartes’ philosophy, Cartesianism, which emphasizes the role of the mind over that of the body and senses and argues that this thought continues to affect education even today. By contrast, phenomenology and mindfulness practices attempt to overcome Descartes’ legacy by focusing on the importance of the body in lived experience. In particular, this study uses a phenomenological framework to conduct mindfulness on the relationship between the body and the perception of art. To do so, I utilized several phenomenological techniques for gathering data, including observations, videos, and interviews. I also created a unique method to analyze the data using a phenomenological verbal-written description and visual through photographic paintings description. These techniques worked together to express the moment of reversibility between the meditative body and the artworks in the gallery setting. In sum, the findings of this study show that meditation changes the perceptual experience of different people in different ways. Another finding is that different forms of meditation may work better for some people than others. This study's findings suggest that art teachers need to be familiar with multiple forms of meditation if they are interested in using meditation. Also, they need to consider the role of the environment and that of the artworks in creating a wholistic meditative mood.

David Herman Jr., Ph.D., 2019

Perceiving Indeterminacy: A Theoretical Framework of the Perceptual Rite of Passage for Preadolescents

2018 — It is the fundamental insight of phenomenology that meaning is, first and foremost, not something on which we intellectually reflect. It is not a product of the mind reworking raw, perceptual experiences. Rather, meaning and our connection to the world are perceptual phenomena. Thus, understanding how children find meaning demands a turn toward perceptual experiences — how children see and feel. In this theoretical dissertation, I explore questions of perceptual experiences through a phenomenological framework called the Perceptual Rite of PassagePRoP, which labors to help us understand the ontology of perception for preadolescents and how meaning emerges through everyday encounters.


Sarah Travis, Ph.D., 2018

Portraits of Young Artists: Artworlds, In/Equity, and Dis/Identification in Post-Katrina New Orleans

2018 — Using portraiture methodology and social practice theory, this study examined the identity work of young people engaged in a teen arts internship program at a contemporary arts center in post-Katrina New Orleans. This research asked four interrelated questions.

Through the lens of a teen arts internship at a contemporary arts center in post-Katrina New Orleans,

1) How do contextually figured worlds influence artist's identity work?
2) How does artist's identity work manifest through personal narratives?
3) How does artist identity work manifest in activities?
4) What are the consequences of artist identity work?

The study's findings highlight how sociocultural factors influence dis/identification with the visual arts in young people and provoke considerations of in/equity in the arts.

Kevin Jenkins, Ph.D., 2018

Dis/appearance, In/visibility and the Transitioning Body on Social Media: A Post-Qualitative & Multimodal Inquiry

2018 — In this theoretical and creative sensory-rich multimodal dissertation, encompassing video, audio, photography, a graphic novel, interactive timeline, and other creative visual/textual provocations, I focus on transgender subjectivity and gender transition (re)presentations on social media.

The study's theoretical framework relies on Judith Butler’s notions of performativity and precarity and Julia Serano’s considerations on oppositional and cissexism. From the literature review, I analyze transgender histories and theories and contested research areas in qualitative and post-qualitative approaches to inquiry.

Influenced by the study's theories, inquiries, speculations, and experiences, I aim to move beyond conventional qualitative research that has become normalized and regimented and beyond book-form dissertations in favor of digital dissertations that use nontraditional multimodal formats.

I use personal learning network sites such as YouTube, Facebook, Tumblr, and the dissertation website as research constellations. These assemblages comprise theoretical and creative proximal bodies of knowledge with high levels of connectivity and contingency, a phenomenon I argue is needed to rethink how transgender knowledge and ontologies are learned, transferred, and (re)created via social media. This study also suggests that the analytical constructs of dis/appearance, in/visibility and trans/digressions shed light on how gender precarity performs transitioning bodies in the physical and digital world.

I draw tentative conclusions regarding future inspirations and movements for art and art education with/in post-qualitative inquiry and transgender theory, particularly a shift into multimodal, trans-affirmative and inclusive experiences and pedagogies.

Emily Hood, Ph.D., 2018

Creative Matter: Exploring the Co-Creative Nature of Things

2018 — This dissertation is about new materialism related to art education. It is a speculative inquiry that seeks to illuminate the interconnectivity of things by considering how things participate in generative practices of perceiving and making. To do so, the dissertation pioneers an arts-based methodology allowing broad considerations about who and what can be considered an agent in art-making. In this inquiry, the researcher is an artist-participant with other more-than-human and human participants to construct an (im)material autohistoria-teoría, a revisionist interdisciplinary artwork inspired by the work of Anzaldúa. The term w/e is developed and discussed as a new language for expanding upon Braidotti’s posthumanist subjectivity. New theories called thing(k)ing (including found poetry) and (im)materiality are discussed as movements toward better understanding the contributions of the more-than-human in art-making practices.


Lucy Bartholomee, Ph.D., 2017

How does it feel to be creative? A phenomenological investigation of the creative experience in kinetic places

2017 — “How does it feel to be creative?” Such a question, when approached from a phenomenological perspective, reveals new understandings about the embodied experience of creativity and how it feels as it is being lived. This investigation begins with a provocative contrast of two environments where creativity is thought to manifest: school art classrooms, where creativity is often legislated from an authority figure, and New Orleans Second Line parades, where creativity is organically and kinetically expressed. A thorough review of the literature on creativity focuses on education, arts education, creative economies, psychology, and critical theorists, collectively revealing a cognitive bias and striking lack of consideration for community, freedom, and the lived experience of being creative. Further discussions in the literature also consider sites of creativity and the impact that place, such as a school classroom, can have upon creativity. The phenomenological perspectives of Merleau-Ponty, Heidegger, Bachelard, and Trigg support a methodological lens that focuses on embodied knowledge, perceptions of placeness on creativity, and the interdependent frictions between freedom, authenticity, movement and belonging. The research method includes investigations in New Orleans in archives, examining visual material culture, participation in cultural practice, and formal and informal interviews. Further, the phenomena of walking and wandering become a methodology for embodied data collection that clarifies the emerging rich experiences and descriptions of how it feels to be creative, especially how it feels to be creative in a creative place. Intense frictions are revealed, such as the tension between perceptions of personal freedom and the high demand for authenticity in New Orleans traditions. Yet, these tensions fuel the inspiration for the abundance of creativity found in New Orleans culture.

Liz Langdon, Ph.D., 2017

Place-based and Intergenerational Learning

2017 — This qualitative inquiry explored how art educators might broaden their views of place through critical encounters with art, local visual culture, and working with older artists. I combined place-based education and intergenerational learning as the focus of an art education curriculum writing initiative with in-service art educators within a museum setting to produce PBIG art education. This study engaged art educators in cooperative action research using a multi-modal approach, including identifying and interviewing local artists to construct new understandings about local places and art to share with students and the community. I used critical reflection in our cooperative action research by troubling paradoxes in local visual culture, which formed views of place, including Indigenous cultures. Using Deleuze's Logic of Sense theories of sense and event enabled concept development by embracing the paradoxes of this research as sense producing. LOS theory of duration complements IG learning by clarifying the contributions of place and time to memory and experience. Duration suggests that place locates the virtual past, which is actualized through memories — one of the shared experiences of IG learning. Rethinking IG relationships as a sharing of experience and memory while positioning place as a commonality dismantles ageist notions by offering alternatives to binary thinking about old and young. By triangulating participant data based on the extended epistemology of cooperative action research and Deleuze's pure event, I assess the credibility of participant learning. Critical reflection in cooperative action research combined with LOS theory is significant because the reflective aspect of action research aligns with Deleuze's pure event. Vital curricula and teacher praxes resulted when participants integrated localized experiences of place through older artists' memories and art.


Jeremy Blair, Ph.D., 2016

Animated Autoethnographies: Using Stop Motion Animation as a Catalyst for Self-acceptance in the Art Classroom

2016 — As a doctoral student, I was asked to teach a course based on emerging technologies in art education. In the course Issues and Applications of Technology in Art Education, I developed a method of inquiry called animated autoethnography for pre-service art educators while teaching this course. Through this dissertation, I describe, analyze, interrogate, value, contextualize, reflect on, and artistically react to the autoethnographic animated processes of five pre-service art educators enrolled in the course. I interviewed the five participants before and after creating their animated autoethnographies. I incorporated actor-network theory within the theoretical analysis to study how the insights of my students’ autoethnographies related to my own animations and life narratives. The study also examines animated autoethnography as a method that may develop or enhance future teaching practices and encourage empathic connections through researching the self. These selected students created animations that accessed significant life moments, personal struggles, and triumphs and exhibited unique representations of self. Pre-service art educators can use self-research to develop narrative-based short animations and socioemotional learning to encourage the development of empathy in the classroom. I show various student examples, compare them to my animations, and present a new model of inquiry that encourages self development by finding a place in chaos, loving the unknown, embracing uncertainty, and turning shame into a celebration of life.

Student Participant Animations

Dorothy Rios video
Chris Najera video
Chelsea O’Daniell video
Grace Nguyen video