Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name


Organizational Unit

Morgridge College of Education

First Advisor

Nick Cutforth, Ph.D.

Second Advisor

Paul Michalec

Third Advisor

P. Bruce Uhrmacher

Fourth Advisor

Sarah Pessin


Aesthetics, Art, Eisner, Genocide, Holocaust, Teaching


This study describes the experiences of suburban area high school 10th, 11th, and 12th grade art students immersed in a cross-curricular study of the Holocaust and genocide. Three participant-educators, art teachers, and I, a history teacher, designed a two week curricular unit which was implemented in January, 2010, to increase student-participant awareness and action to address the global problem of genocide. This cross-curricular unit used non-discursive sources of testimony in a variety of forms of representation to inspire student-participant artwork.

Four research questions guided this study: How do educators use a variety of forms of representation to teach the complexities of genocide? What were the experiences of student-participants and participant-educators engaged in this curriculum? What types of meaning can be gleaned about genocide education by employing a variety of forms of representation? What meanings can students demonstrate about genocide by using a variety of forms of representation?

As the study was aesthetic in nature, I employed Elliot Eisner's Educational Connoisseurship and Criticism. I collected various forms of data including, field notes, formal and informal, group and individual, interviews, and artifacts including participant-student artwork and written reflections. Using aesthetic forms of testimony led to the student-participants making profound empathetic and emotional connections to the material. The participant-students and educators demonstrated a strong sense of community and trust which was difficult for me to penetrate as an outsider. However, students were empowered by the freedom to interpret a variety of meanings in a personal and engaging manner. They demonstrated an understanding of the complexities of genocide study as well as the antecedent actions of individuals and groups that can lead to genocidal events. The student-participants perceived their production of art as an act to prevent genocide by increasing awareness and action.

Contributions of the study include the unique power of the arts to inform, recognition of the promises and struggles of interdisciplinary methods, and the value of instructional strategies, that include non-discursive sources of testimony, for Holocaust and genocide education.

Publication Statement

Copyright is held by the author. User is responsible for all copyright compliance.

Rights Holder

Mark Thorsen


Received from ProQuest

File Format




File Size

230 p.


Curriculum development, Holocaust studies, Aesthetics