Creative Commons License

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 4.0 License.

Date of Award

Summer 2014

Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)


School of Art, Design and Art History


This study investigates the effects of explicit instruction in constructive language and cooperative learning activities on the quality of art work produced by seventh grade art students. Data collection included pre- and post-intervention cooperative learning surveys, student and teacher rubric evaluations, artist statements, teacher observations of student interactions, and photographs of artwork. Rubrics included five criteria: 1) idea formation and development, 2) problem-solving, 3) openness to suggestions, 4) depth of theme, and 5) perseverance. Students completed a self-portrait project individually to provide base line data and samples with which to compare collaborative works after two interventions. During the interventions, students learned to differentiate constructive and unhelpful language in the art room, had opportunity to practice turning unhelpful comments into constructive ones, and created a group video illustrating the difference. Students were then grouped into Theme Teams to create a collaborative artwork comprised of one painting per teammate that conveyed individual components of a general theme chosen by the group. Comparisons were made between scores from surveys, student rubric self-evaluations, teacher evaluations, and student and group interaction data. Results conclude that explicit instruction in construction language can be effective for students at a certain level of maturity and development, but that it is not detrimental to those who are not yet at that level, and therefore should be implemented early in the school year or semester and reinforced throughout the course of the class. The immediate effect it has on cooperative learning varies by student and among student groups. In this study, 52% of students scored themselves higher on their Theme Team painting than their self-portraits, while teacher scores were 74% higher, indicating an increase in the quality of art for a majority of students. Correlations between group interactions and the rubric scores were observed in some cases. Although there are distinct difference between individual and collaborative artworks, the incorporation of both types of projects into the middle school art curriculum, supported by explicit instruction in constructive language, affords students opportunities to explore themselves, and how they themselves fit into larger contexts.