A philosophical and experimental study of an existential-phenomenological approach to art education strategies

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McCoy, Paull Laverne, 1915-
Sacca, Elizabeth J.
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Purposes of this study were to explore philosophical implications of existential-phenomenological thought for art education and to experimentally investigate, in the art classroom, an adaptation of basic participatory techniques of existential psychotherapy. The philosophical study considered two related areas: existentialist implications for strategies facilitating individual development toward free choosing in self-actualization of unique potential, and expansion of student-teacher empathy through existential-phenomenological approaches to the total aesthetic event, which expresses individually discovered value truths as beauty in a communicative art product.Existential aesthetic growth of individual students was seen as resulting in qualitative attitudinal changes toward concepts concerning self-and-others. Theoretically, these changes ought to be reflected as approximately equal qualitative changes in student art production.The experimental treatment had teachers freely disclosing personal values by becoming producing artists in company with students. Evidence from existential psychotherapy and humanistic psychology supported the notion that open disclosure of teacher values and creative struggles should elicit reciprocal openness from students, thereby facilitating mutually empathic relationships. The questions of whether or not this expanded mutual understanding could influence direction, intensity, and acceleration of student attitudinal changes toward self-and-others, and whether or not these changes showed relationships to qualitative changes in their art production, became the problem of the research.Experimental groups were exposed to the treatment for ten weeks; control groups were not exposed. Research procedure included pre-post administration of identical semantic differentials to measure concept attitudinal changes as related to presence or absence of the treatment, and use of a similar instrument to measure qualitative changes between first and last art production. Three-factor analyses of variance, with repeated measures, computed difference scores. Relationships between these d-scores were established by use of product-moment correlations. Review of the data resulted in the following major conclusions, inferences, and recommendations:(1) The writer's experimental thesis, that the experimental treatment had the potential of accelerating concept attitudinal changes in those exposed to it, was modestly, but generally, supported.(2) Product-moment correlations did not support the notion that attitudinal changes would be reflected as a qualitative changes in art production. This apparently resulted from a too-short experimental period.(3) Teaching styles of teacher-experimenters were a powerful variable mediating effects of the experimental treatment, which had to be taken into account in analyses of data.(4) Judges subjectively responded most definitely to art works from both groups of two teachers having strongly directive or non-directive teaching styles.(5) Concept d-scores showed all subjects tending to evaluate self-in-relation-to-others in objective terms, with little depth of feeling or strength of conviction. This appeared to result from conditioning too entrenched to be overcome in ten weeks.(6) Short duration of the experimental period appeared to be mainly responsible for weak intensities of results. It was inferred that replication of the experiment should have considerably longer duration.(7) The study showed definite trends, tending to support the writer's ideas about experimental treatment effectiveness and about relationships of qualities of art production to attitudinal changes. Presumably, these trends would have developed into more definitive results with a longer time period. Further study of the possible effectiveness of the experimental teacher-as-student strategy, in various teaching and environmental situations, with a diversity of teaching approaches, and with a considerably longer experimental period, is recommended.