Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name


Organizational Unit

Morgridge College of Education, Educational Leadership and Policy Studies

First Advisor

Kent Seidel, Ph.D.

Second Advisor

Linda Brookhart, Ph.D.

Third Advisor

Gloria Miller


Arts education, Balanced intelligence, Culture of thinking, Intelligence, Learner-centered classrooms, Thinking


To be successfully intelligent in the 21st century, students must be able to think well in at least three ways: creatively, critically, and practically, with complexity and wisdom. The purpose of this research was to explore the differences in middle school students' quality of thinking in arts classrooms that are designed to be learner centered to a greater or lesser degree. Classroom environments which foster balanced intelligence in analytical, creative, and practical ways toward depth of understanding were the focus of this study. A better understanding of the impact of learner-centered environments on students' perceptions of their learning and understanding in these classrooms was also sought. This research study supported theory in the area of balanced intelligence, toward the realization of students' increased capacity to learn and achieve.

Results of this mixed model comparative study indicated that classrooms designed to be more learner-centered (utilizing inquiry, connection-making, and self-direction to a greater degree) had a positive effect on students' overall quality of thinking as demonstrated in a balanced way. Results also indicated that more learner-centered classrooms also had a positive effect on students' self-beliefs regarding their intelligence and understanding in the context of visual art.

This study suggests that infusion of best practice research toward the development of balanced thinking and overall cognitive development in the arts is beneficial to students and provided insight into the ways in which personal belief systems about capabilities and intelligence drive motivation, which may in turn drive learning goals and overall achievement. The mixed model exploratory design led to an emerging theory regarding a systems approach to the development quality thinking, as driven by the learning and thinking culture, belief systems, and dynamic classroom environments.

This study provides insight into how dynamic learning systems may better nurture the kind of flexible, adaptive thinkers--at all levels of the learning organization--needed in a complex world.

Publication Statement

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

Rights Holder

Delane Ingalls Vanada


Received from ProQuest

File Format




File Size

204 p.


Art education, Philosophy of education, Educational tests & measurements