Date of Award

Spring 5-11-2012

Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Middle-Secondary Education and Instructional Technology

First Advisor

Michelle Zoss, Ph.D.

Second Advisor

Peggy Albers, Ph.D.

Third Advisor

Elizabeth T Burmester, Ph.D.

Fourth Advisor

Teri Holbrook, Ph.D.


This arts-based, qualitative investigation focused on high school English teachers of students with learning dis/abilities (Baglieri & Knopf, 2004) who used visual arts integration (Eisner, 2002) to find out how teachers experience using visual arts in English and what their experiences mean (Zoss & White, 2011) in order to understand why certain experiences stood out for the teachers as being important. I framed the study theoretically with complexity theories of teaching and learning (Davis, Sumara, & Luce-Kapler, 2008), while combining aspects of sociocultural theory (Smagorinsky, 2001; Vygotsky, 1978; Wertsch, 1991), cognitive pluralism (John-Steiner, 1997) and Dewey’s notion of experience (1934/1980). The teacher participants were three high school English teachers employed at an independent school for students with learning dis/abilities. A/r/tography (Irwin & Springgay, 2008; Springgay, Irwin, & Kind, 2005, 2008) influenced my methodology in that I created visual art to theorize the data and my experiences conducting the study. I collected data during spring and summer 2011. Data sources included participant observation and field notes (Dewalt & Dewalt, 2002), photography (Coover, 2004; Harper 2000, 2002), teachers’ visual texts (La Jevic & Springgay, 2008), artifacts (Prior, 2003), and interviews (Smagorinsky, 2008; Smagorinsky & Coppock, 1994). I used qualitative methods of coding analysis (Charmaz, 2006; Ezzy, 2002; Saldaña, 2009) and visual analysis (Riessman, 2008; Rose, 2001), as well as arts-based methods for educational research (Cahnmann-Taylor & Siegesmund, 2008). This study fills a gap in empirical research in both English education and special education by examining English teachers integrating art in classes for students with dis/abilities. Furthermore, understanding how teachers experience visual arts integration can inform methods courses for teaching secondary English educators.