Thesis Update: Adolescent engagement and artmaking


Sara with her art at the Sarasota Chalk Festival

Hi! My name is Sara, and I am a graduate student in the Art Education program at City College. Aside from being a student, you may find me tutoring students in sharpening their writing skills, running miles at a time, sketching under a tree, or chalking up the pavement at a street painting festival. I grew up in a family of creative, artistic human beings, and teachers. For years I was in denial of going down the path of being a teacher, but now I can’t think of a better way to spend my life.

Every since taking an Adolescent Development and Learning course a couple years ago,  I have been very interested in adolescence and youth; And why not? Their developmental stage is fascinating and also very complex! They want to be individuals, but still want to be accepted. They want to do things on their own, but still need guidance. According to one article I have been using in my research, The Classroom Social Environment and Changes in Adolescents’ Motivation and Engagement in Middle School, early adolescence is a particularly unpredictable stage of development when changes in achievement beliefs and behaviors occur. The change in self- reflection, autonomy, and identity searching causes a shift in interests and academic interests (Ryan, 2001, p.439). The more I learn about this topic, the more I realize: “Wow. So, this is why I acted this way in middle school”. My empathy towards adolescents grows and I notice more that I want to make their school experience worth their time.


A young artist assisting Sara

Core subject teachers are not the only ones faced with the troubling behaviors of the youth; art teachers also must learn how to approach a classroom of uninterested disengaged students. This situation got me thinking what ways do art teachers engage adolescents in persisting in their artmaking in middle school? I am curious about the different types of practices teachers may implement. In gathering data for my research, I plan on observing middle school art classrooms. I will look specifically at how the teacher acts as well as the persistence and engagement level of the students. As well, I will conduct interviews with teachers and students.

I hope this research is informative not only for myself, but for other art teachers who struggle in making connections with their  students. I don’t think adolescents are a lost cause to teach, and I don’t want other teachers to think that either. They may be a rambunctious group, but I think they all have something inside them that will make them tick and create art.  

Click on the hotlink to view my favorite art website. Artist a Day is a great website for art inspiration, as well as showing students contemporary artists’ bodies of work!


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