"I must get free": a student cry to address authentic creativity in secondary visual arts education

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Austin, Kenneth Ray

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This qualitative autobiographical study examined the learning environment of advanced secondary visual arts students involved in an experiment in which their artistic development transpired within a program of study of their own design and management. The study recognized changes in learning perspectives of the participants in the study, changes in the educational setting, and changes in the role of the teacher/researcher in that setting. Additionally, this study examined and questioned conventional applications of learning in art education and whether or not teacher-centered pedagogical approaches in art education deny learners holistic choices and understandings. This study also examined a contemporary philosophical appreciation of what actually constitutes a work of art and how an object achieves candidacy as a work of art. Further, the study examined the capabilities of high school art students to understand aesthetics in visual arts and to comprehend a philosophical concept of how aesthetic influences and perceptions may be directed toward what our culture considers art, the creation of and response to art, the standards for judging art’s significance, and for interpreting its meaning in a secondary art educational setting. The study not only explored but promoted a need for further research in enhanced gifted education, the didactic concept of authentic creativity, self-directed learning, community supported learning, ownership of intellectual property, and the idea that self-esteem is an effect rather than cause for high-achievement. The study examined a nine-month experiment in which eight high school students enrolled in an advanced studio art course were given the opportunity to design their own course of study with their own curricular rationales, objectives, and goals. The experiment provided data in which conventional art education methodologies were questioned, as well as instructive reliability/learner responsiveness in a teachercentered curriculum. Further, this study documented and examined changes in the human ecology of the educational setting in which the experiment was conducted, and analyzed pedagogical modifications for a student/teacher co-developmental learning environment. Data were collected from interviews, participant and researcher journals in which personal thoughts, ideas, and experiences concerning the experiment were documented, as well as the collection and analyses of artworks completed during the experiment.