Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name


Organizational Unit

Morgridge College of Education

First Advisor

P. Bruce Uhrmacher, Ph.D.

Second Advisor

Nicholas Cutforth

Third Advisor

Paul Michalec

Fourth Advisor

Naomi Reshotko


Arts-based, Educational research, School reform, Arts in education, Educational connoisseurship, Criticism, Teacher artistry


Despite a current climate that often undervalues the arts in education, arts-centered schools and school reform continue to proliferate. This study describes, interprets and evaluates arts-centered school reform which is defined within this study as the comprehensive and intentional restructuring and re-culturing of schools using the theories and practices of the arts and arts-learning as the primary basis for educational change decisions to uncover its aims, practices and significance.

Four research questions guided this study: 1) What are the aims of arts-centered school reformers in the two schools studied? 2) What does arts-centered school reform look like in practice? 3) What is the educational significance of arts-centered school reform as it is represented in the two schools studied? 4) What educational import do these examples of arts-centered school reform have for American public school reform in general? Educational connoisseurship and criticism is the methodology used to investigate arts-centered school reform. Educational criticism is composed of four dimensions, description, interpretation, evaluation, and thematics.

Findings suggest that arts-centered school reformers have two basic aims: 1) to offer students a balanced experience in school by embracing a holistic vision of learning and childhood; and 2) to create a collaborative culture in the classroom that supports arts-learning and arts-centered school reform. The practices of arts-centered school reformers are explained in terms of five types of arts-embedded situations found in arts-centered classrooms and schools. These five arts-embedded situations include situations of: arts-mindedness, artistry, home, growth and caring, and expressiveness.

The author explores the significance of arts-centered school reform as a meaning-making enterprise by examining five realms of meaning within the curriculum: the cognitive realm, imaginative realm, the democratic realm, the community realm, and the personal realm. The author surmises that these five realms support arts-centered school reform as spaces for students to locate their own meanings in education.

Six conclusions are drawn from these examples of arts-centered school reform. 1) Arts-centered school reformers internalize arts-centered school reform as a state of mind; 2) Arts-centered school reform cannot only be internalized as a state of mind but requires vision, structure, and action; 3) Arts-centered school reform demonstrates a shared aesthetic; 4) Arts-centered school reform is best implemented as a set of relational and personal ideals expressed through teacher created experiences, encounters, and arts-embedded situations; 5) Arts-centered school reform requires a public presence in the community to thrive; and 6) Arts-centered school reformers offer an ethic of arts-engagement that is vital to our sense of cultural democracy. Finally, the educational import of arts-centered school reform for American public education is discussed and suggestions for further research are also offered.

Publication Statement

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

Rights Holder

Cassandra Andres Trousas


Received from ProQuest

File Format




File Size

409 p.


Curriculum development, Art education, Elementary education