Playing in the middle : the value of the arts in middle level education



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In 2012, the Austin Independent School District implemented a ten-year Creative Learning Initiative to develop every school in the district into an arts rich school. However, research on arts richness presents varied descriptions of what an arts rich school looks like and lacks student voices. This MFA Thesis documents an applied project utilizing an arts based research process to explore student beliefs about the value of the arts and arts richness at the middle school level. In the document, I analyze student beliefs about the value of the arts through modified grounded theory from a data set including a performance, a playscript, group discussions, surveys, and my personal field notes and reflections. I find that the students share a similar understanding with published research of overall categories describing arts richness, including quantity of arts opportunities, quality of artistic and educational programs, and school climate. They deepen the perspective researchers present on school climate in arts rich schools, offering specific ways in which the arts invite a positive school climate. I conclude the document with reflections on defining arts richness, the arts based research process, and areas for further consideration as schools move toward creative learning for the 21st century.