Kelly Gross

Publication Date


Document Type


First Advisor

Freedman, Kerry J.

Degree Name

Ph.D. (Doctor of Philosophy)

Legacy Department

Department of Art and Design


Art--Study and teaching; Special education; Secondary education


The purpose of this study was to assess the impact of inclusive postmodern visual arts education for students with ED. The research examines arts learning, social skill interaction development, and general academic achievement. Previous research in the field of special education has focused almost exclusively on behavioral interventions from behaviorist or cognitive approaches for students with ED. Instead, this research focuses on the ability of students to build art skills and change behaviors through constructivist pedagogical approaches. These mixed-methods case studies were implemented over a period of two semesters with four students, four teachers, and two high schools. From the two data sites, seven sets of data were collected: observations, artwork, interviews with students and teachers, GPA, class rank, and graduation status. A mixed-methods case study allowed for investigation into both the individual experience and the larger group experience while addressing the lack of quantitative research on this population in relation to art education. The findings from this study indicate that over time the students in visual arts developed fluency and skills in artmaking, which led to confidence in their work and better peer relationships. The artwork students produced illustrates how they observed, interpreted, and represented themselves through visual media. Data from this research suggest that exposure to art may help students envision other ways of being through learning about their peers and exposure to visual media. The findings from the transcript analysis correlate with the data regarding visual arts participation improving students' ways of seeing the world and their habits of mind, in that both sets of data indicate that sustained engagement in the arts provides the largest differences in ways of thinking and behaviors.


Advisors: Kerry Freedman.||Committee members: Douglas Boughton; Jesse Johnson; David Walker.||Includes illustrations.||Includes bibliographical references.


307 pages




Northern Illinois University

Rights Statement

In Copyright

Rights Statement 2

NIU theses are protected by copyright. They may be viewed from Huskie Commons for any purpose, but reproduction or distribution in any format is prohibited without the written permission of the authors.

Media Type