Date of Award

Spring 1-5-2024

Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Middle and Secondary Education

First Advisor

Dr. Gertrude Tinker Sachs

Second Advisor

Dr. Joyce E. Many

Third Advisor

Dr. Ewa McGrail

Fourth Advisor

Dr. Caroline Sullivan

Fifth Advisor

Dr. Michelle Zoss


Research on arts-integrated social studies lessons for elementary students is not prevalent in the literature, and even less common are teacher research studies of arts-integrated social studies lessons for gifted students (Wilson, 2018). This teacher research study (Cochran-Smith & Lytle, 1998, 1999a) investigated arts-integrated social studies lessons with a group of fifth-grade gifted students through self-study. Nine gifted students engaged in six social studies lessons on the civil rights era (1950s to 1960s). The questions that guided the self-study were (a) when studying the design and implementation of critical arts integration in social studies lessons, what does a teacher self-study reveal about the nature and challenges of integration for the teacher and the children?; (b) what routines, multimodalities, and discourses are used by the teacher researcher to facilitate the engagement of students in critical arts-integrated social studies lessons?; (c) what teacher knowledge, experiences, and judgements are drawn upon to navigate, explore, and extend children’s critical conversations, artistic expressions, and understandings during the lessons?; and (d) what does the self-study of critical arts-integrated lessons reveal about teacher- researcher learning? The theoretical frameworks included Dewey’s (1933) theory of reflective thinking, social constructivism (Dewey, 1938; Vygotsky, 1978), and multi-modal theory (Jewitt & Kress, 2003/2008). By employing Dewey’s theory of reflective thinking and 30 years of teacher-researcher insights, observations from this self-study were compiled from teacher reflective journals on the lessons; conversations with children on their thinking, doing, and learning; and the children’s artistic artifacts. The study revealed teacher vulnerability through self-study and children’s critical thinking capacities in their conversations and artistic expressions. The Civil Rights lessons and artwork demonstrated how children exhibit their capacities to address difficult topics and what teachers can do through self-study to use arts-integrated social studies lessons to create rich learning opportunities for themselves and their learners.


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