Degree Type


Date of Award


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


Curriculum and Instruction

First Advisor

David B. Owen


This dissertation examines the influence of educational psychology on contemporary art education. The century-old debate in art education between those wanting more scientific methods of teaching and assessment and those wanting a more child-centered education appears in contemporary version in the work of Howard Gardner and Elliot Eisner. In this contemporary setting it is the educator, Eisner, who wants more discipline-oriented curricula, while the cognitive scientist, Gardner, calls for more child-centered education. By examining the writings of Howard Gardner, a cognitive scientist, and Elliot Eisner, an art educator, and comparing the art education programs overseen by them, i.e., Arts PROPEL and DBAE, the influence of cognitive psychology is explored. Both of these arts education programs use the rhetoric of cognitive science and both appear to be based on cognitive science, yet close examination reveals these programs to be quite different;Research reveals Arts PROPEL is based on theories found in cognitive science, while DBAE turns out to be more closely aligned with behaviorism. Arts PROPEL has a spiral curriculum which comes from John Dewey and was later popularized by the cognitive scientist, Jerome Bruner. On the other hand, DBAE is structured sequentially. The sequential curriculum originally comes from the nineteenth century philosopher Herbart's views on apperception, later from the behaviorists, and more recently from mastery learning as developed by Benjamin Bloom;The amount of time allotted to production is also very different in these programs. In Arts PROPEL, production is central and all learning grows out of the student's own experience. On the other hand, in DBAE, production is considered only one of four disciplines of the visual arts and should, theoretically, receive at most only one-fourth of the classroom time;Arts PROPEL promotes the use of new evaluation methods for art education, such as portfolios. Gardner suggests ongoing assessment in multiple forms and recommends teaching students self-assessment techniques. Gardner believes the methods from Arts PROPEL could be used as a model for all education and suggests it would make education more individual-centered. On the other hand, DBAE promotes evaluation methods for art education which are only slightly modified methods of current evaluation in education, thereby making art education like other "academic" courses in the curriculum. These evaluation methods rely heavily on linguistic skills;Recent DBAE experiments in art education are also examined. Here the curriculum is offered in units, like domain projects. Production is central and instruction appears to grow from the student's own experience, like Arts PROPEL. Assessment, too, is more like Arts PROPEL, in that it is ongoing and in multiple forms. Portfolios are used as an assessment tool in the new DBAE experiments and elements of reflection and self-assessment appear. This dissertation concludes that the new DBAE experiments are actually more like Arts PROPEL and that Gardner's approach seems to be winning more favor than Eisner's.



Digital Repository @ Iowa State University,

Copyright Owner

Marcia C. Rich



Proquest ID


File Format


File Size

183 pages