5.3 Model for CCD Integration into SJE ............................................................... 54
Start with the Students .................................................................................. 54
Collaborate .................................................................................................... 54
Lead the Learning.......................................................................................... 56
Create a Cultural Component........................................................................ 57
Take Action.................................................................................................... 58
Evaluate Results............................................................................................ 59
Repeat ........................................................................................................... 59
6. Conclusions........................................................................................................ 61
6.1 Main Findings ................................................................................................. 61
6.2 Implications for the Arts.................................................................................. 62
6.3 Recommendations for Further Research ....................................................... 63
Art Forms....................................................................................................... 63
Extending the Work ....................................................................................... 64
6.4 Conclusion...................................................................................................... 64
A. Student Survey Results and Responses......................................................... 68
B. Collaborator Interview Results and Responses ............................................. 84
C. Protest Poster Project ....................................................................................... 93
C.1 Project Description......................................................................................... 93
C.2 Project Images............................................................................................... 94
D. Collage and String Project................................................................................ 96
D.1 Project Description......................................................................................... 96
D.2 Project Images............................................................................................... 97
E. Connecting Quilt Project................................................................................... 99
E.1 Project Description......................................................................................... 99
E.2 Project Images ............................................................................................. 100
An accomplishment is never made alone. Thank you to…
for your encouragement, support, and unending love without which I would not be
where I am today
Mom (Laura Page)
for the hours and energy you put into the editing and for the confidence and love you
have always put into me
Dad (Jeff Fuell)
for always being the one to call during this process to ask about my work, support me
every step of the way, and remind me of your love
for our sisterhood and for always making it through your challenges, inspiring me to
keep pushing through mine
for enthusiastically partnering with me in the study, listening to me talk about it for the
last year and a half, reading my thesis, and for applying the learning to program work
for volunteering your time, energy, and talents to this study and for teaching me new
things about teaching art
for enthusiastically reading every sentence, providing valuable feedback, and
introducing me to Loose Leaf Lounge
Dr. Kelly Cahill Roberts, Ph.D.
for your deep friendship, mailing me a copy of your thesis, idea sharing, and taking
time to help me even while writing your Ph.D. dissertation
for connecting me to Perspectives Charter Schools, listening to me talk endlessly
about this study during our half marathon trainings, and proving to be an amazing
friend in the process
Rhiannon Borgia, David Doll, and Matthew Kayser
for offering your classrooms, preparing your students, sharing your teaching ideas, and
being excited, engaged collaborators in this study
Kate Cichon and Perspectives Charter Schools – Joslin Campus Staff
for welcoming me into your school and providing resources, expertise, and supportive
smiles along the way
for connecting me to Pan Intercultural Arts, encouraging me to write this dissertation,
and getting me most of the way through it
for jumping in at the last minute, offering invaluable feedback, and carrying me through
the rest of the way
Alex Page and Lynda Barckert
for reminding me to take a break and always providing a wonderful place with great
conversation to do so
for mentoring me at Pan Intercultural Arts where I fell in love with arts-for-social-
change and for being a close friend despite the ocean between us
Bill and Nancy Light
for sending me care packages filled with art supplies, tea, and words of
The American Friends Service Committee for providing the opportunity, all of my family
and friends who saw me less, but supported me more, and to all of the young people
who inspire me to work for a better tomorrow
I grant powers of discretion to the University Librarian to allow this dissertation to be
copied in whole or in part without further reference to me. This permission covers only
single copies made for study purposes, subject to normal conditions of
The Art of Engaging Young People in Social Transformation
By Karen Beth Light
Empowering young people to transform society requires exploring vast, complex, and
intertwining issues that are best addressed collaboratively. When these partnerships
include cultural activities for social transformation through personal liberation, they are
a part of the emerging field of Community Cultural Development (CCD).
Social Justice Education (SJE) is simultaneously emerging and shares these goals. It
investigates the intersection of activism and education, seeking to relate curriculum to
the larger society. However, because SJE does not necessarily incorporate an arts
component, research is invited that documents the impacts of including cultural
Can integrating CCD practices into high school SJE increase the participation of young
people in transforming society? This question was explored by comparing workshops
on the Iraqi Refugee Crisis—one without an arts component versus one that utilizes
CCD methods. The study included three urban high school classes and required the
partnership of three SJE teachers, an activist, and a community artist.
Incorporating art-making was an accessible means of convincing students to dwell on
the Crisis at a deeper level, which increased empathy. The process produced new
levels of interaction, contributing to students beginning to take ownership in the
project’s development. This, in turn, made them feel proud of their work and
compelled them to implement creative actions.
The data gathered from student surveys and collaborator interviews reveal tangible,
long-term impacts. Integrating CCD methods into SJE resulted in a greater number of
students believing that their ideas and opinions were valuable, feeling empowered to
be part of a cause, and defining themselves as activists. Most collaborators believed
that such impacts will increase the participation of these young people in future social
Dissertation Word Count: 16,841
1.1 State of the Field
When working with young people, community artists, activists, and progressive high
school educators share a common goal: To empower those of the next generation to
participate in transforming society (Adams and Goldbard 2005; Adejumo 2008;
Burnham 2003; Carter and Yenawine 2008; Cleveland 2005; Cohen-Cruz 2002;
Duncan-Andrade 2007; Golden 2008; Greene 1995). Community artists achieve this
through self-investigation and imagination (Adams and Goldbard 2005; Adejumo 2008;
Schwarzman 1999; Greene 1995). Activists educate students on issues and solicit
their involvement in taking action (Pers. Obs.). Progressive high school educators
develop relevant curriculum and build a safe classroom where students can freely take
risks (Ayers, Quinn, and Stovall 2009; Duncan-Andrade 2007; Golden 2008).
The issues being explored are vast, complex, and intertwining and, therefore, may
include representatives from various social contexts. This work is largely
undocumented in the United States and difficult to define, but there is a movement to
establish it as Community Cultural Development (CCD). A project is part of CCD if
cultural activities are “undertaken in aid of the larger goals of social transformation and
personal liberation” (Adams and Goldbard 2005).
Potential CCD practitioners, community artists, activists, and high school educators
face challenges that can be met through collaboration. For example, whereas artists
make issues more accessible and engaging through creative activities, activists and
educators provide ways for sustaining the learning and action beyond the life of the
project. While activists supply action plans and statistics, artists and educators
connect the issue to the students’ reality. Finally, as educators expose their students
to topics that directly affect their lives, activists and artists offer in-depth information
and methods for exploring personal opinions (Adams and Goldbard 2005; Adejumo
2008; Ayers, Quinn, and Stovall 2009; Burnham 2003; Carter and Yenawine 2008;
Cleveland 2005; Cohen-Cruz 2002; Duncan-Andrade 2007; Golden 2008; Greene
Indeed, studies measuring the impact of partnerships between arts and education and
arts and activism have revealed many ways that they can complement one another
and produce exciting results. Research is also surfacing around the intersection of
activism and education, contributing to a new movement in progressive education
called Social Justice Education (SJE). SJE seeks to relate curriculum to the larger
society. It encourages students to question and expand what they learned, to partner
with teachers in the learning process, and to engage with issues (Adejumo 2008;
Ayers, Quinn, and Stovall 2009; Golden 2008).
Because these values resonate with CCD practitioners, SJE invites research that
documents the strategies and impacts of integrating cultural activities into its
processes. How can SJE teachers collaborate with CCD practitioners to create
projects that teach students traditional curriculum while providing them with useful
tools for initiating positive change? Can integrating CCD practices into high school
SJE increase the participation of young people in transforming society?
The hypothesis of this study is: By integrating CCD practices into high school SJE, the
participation of young people in transforming society will increase. Alternatively, by
integrating CCD practices into high school SJE, the participation of young people in
transforming society will not increase.
The hypothesis will be explored by comparing workshops on the Iraqi Refugee Crisis—
one without an arts component versus one that integrates CCD methods. The
researcher hopes that integrating these methods will help more students better
understand the Crisis, have empathy for the refugees, and feel empowered to take
action. The researcher intends to demonstrate the common values of CCD and SJE,
leading to a model that can be replicated, expanded, and utilized for SJE and CCD
Lastly, the researcher aims to raise awareness of CCD in order to encourage
conscious participation by progressive change seekers and promote its establishment
as a recognized profession. This can contribute to building a greater support system
for the field upon which policy can be collaboratively developed and funding can be
Social Justice Education
SJE demands that students take a close look at their schools, communities, and world
to identify existing problems and their solutions. SJE educators are concerned with
their students engaging in relevant lessons that are not inherently racist, classist,
sexist, etc. and that compel them to become active in changing the world (Ayers,
Quinn, and Stovall 2009).
Community Cultural Development
CCD work involves community artists, activists, educators, social service providers,
and diverse community members uniting specifically for social transformation and
personal liberation. “Community” signifies the collaboration of a group of people.
“Cultural” indicates cultural activities as being the backbone of the work.
“Development” represents the evolution that takes place within the community (Adams
and Goldbard 2005).
Community artists “want to teach meaning as much as method, and…want to
understand their work in a much larger context” (Cocke 2007). They collaboratively
address today’s issues with the belief that creative activities are an effective way of
establishing meaning and lasting social change (deNobriga and Schwarzman 1999).
Students were told that activists take action for a cause they believe in. The definition
was intentionally broad as expanding the meaning of an activist beyond its traditional
notion was integral to the project.
Transforming society is defined by the Seasons Fund for Social Transformation (2009)
as “acts…that address the root causes of economic and environmental injustice and
aspire to fundamentally shift social structures, institutions, patterns of behavior,
cultures and/or relations of power.” It explains personal liberation as being integral to
the process of changing “conditions at the individual, organizational, and societal
1.5 Literature Review
The literature review explored theories explaining how SJE and CCD attempt to
transform young people into empowered, participating members of society. It noted
similar struggles and values, focusing on those relative to how CCD practices,
especially the arts-making, can address challenges faced by educators and activists.
As CCD and SJE are struggling to define themselves, research is scarce. SJE was
investigated through reading recommended by SJE teachers. Current CCD
developments were sought through the Community Arts Network, a central Internet
resource for community arts related work, and review of a book of essays
recommended by active practitioners.
Social Justice Education
Jeff Duncan-Andrade’s article, “Gangstas, Wankstas, and Ridas: Defining,
Developing, and Supporting Effective Teachers in Urban Schools” (2007) identifies five
indicators of effective SJE teaching. These teachers believe that their students will
change the world. They are always learning and, thus, create relevant curriculum.
They stress education as part of the path to freedom and justice, possess a sense of
responsibility for each student to succeed, and are committed to building trust by
focusing on the humanity of each student and demonstrating vulnerability.
The author also finds that successful teachers provide hopeful curriculum. Linda
Christensen, SJE teacher, agrees. In “A Conversation with Linda Christensen on
Social Justice Education” (Golden 2008), she stresses the importance of explaining
how people overcame past injustices so that students can learn ways to battle
contemporary injustices. Additionally, Christensen states that students must
participate in developing relevant curriculum, question practices, and listen with
empathy so that the classroom is a safe place for investigation.
K. Wayne Yang, in “For and Against: The School-Education Dialectic in Social Justice”
(Ayers, Quinn, and Stovall 2009), finds humanizing students to be a common thread.
He argues that today’s school systems are deteriorated and questions why teachers
enforce these broken policies on students. Instead, students should be consulted on
how they need to be taught. This can lead to the emancipation process, which is a
necessary first step in participating in society.
“The goal of SJE is freedom,” states the authors of “Teacher Education for Social
Justice: Critiquing the Critiques” (Ayers, Quinn, and Stovall 2009). Freedom is spoken
in the sense that curriculum is being aligned with larger educational goals that address
the needs of the common good. Therefore, lessons must be on the pulse of what
society and the students need.
Gustavo E. Fischman and Eric Haas point out that the inherent oppression in schools
is often challenging. In “Critical Pedagogy and Hope in the Context of Neo-Liberal
Education” (Ayers, Quinn, and Stovall 2009), they find that teachers and students must
question such structures and understand the sources of oppression. They should
focus on how these injustices can be transformed by emphasizing educating students
about the issues as well as the system they will need to navigate to effect change.
Community Cultural Development
In Making Exact Change, William Cleveland (2005) presents a case study of ten arts-
based programs. Representatives from each were asked the same questions to
identify best practices. The answers revealed theories behind why CCD practices are
particularly successful in motivating people to participate in change.
The Grassroots Arts and Community Effort’s artists focus on creating a safe
environment for participants to ask questions and experiment. This gives them space
to develop their creativity with the intention of participants eventually being able to
develop and implement their own projects. In every project, community artists teach
arts techniques, providing tools for expression and expanding possibilities.
The Northern Lakes Center for the Arts believes that culture is a crucial component
because art itself is action that requires participants’ active involvement as opposed to
passive observation. Furthermore, the Manchester Craftsmen’s Guild has found that
art is what reconnects people with their repressed and oppressed spirits. This brings
meaning back into their lives and, when life has meaning, their actions become more
All organizations in the report spend a significant amount of time building community
relationships in order to offer a wide range of expertise to their participants. They work
together by focusing on long-term goals and developing creative ways to enhance one
Don Adams and Arlene Goldbard, in Creative Community: The Art of Cultural
Development (2005), explain the importance of students being partners in CCD
projects. Traditional power structures need to be re-evaluated by practitioners. They
should learn from participants in order to ensure relevance and instill ownership.
These authors argue that art is critical to effecting social transformation since many of
today’s issues are cultural. Artists empower participants with a cultural vocabulary and
artistic process to give voice to their desires. If the work, in its approach and aims, is
aligned with participants’ wishes, CCD projects are successful in motivating people to
contribute to society.
Adams and Goldbard introduced the term CCD in Community, Culture, and
Globalization (2002). They discuss how the cultural component is key to breaking
down stereotypes. As participants process their feelings and find their identities, they
can express the truth about their lives, refuting messages portrayed in mainstream
media. This can enable them to take control instead of being victims. The authors see
this as part of changing one’s operating system. As one thinks more imaginatively,
creative solutions and actions can be developed, breaking old habits.
Maxine Greene agrees with this in her essays, “Imagination, Breakthroughs, and the
Unexpected” and “Imagination, Community, and the School” (1995). She states that
imagination leads people to conceive of a better future instead of being resigned to the
way things are. Therefore, it is a necessary precursor to taking action, for one must
first envision the world as they wish it to be.
Greene’s second referenced essay concentrates on how today’s education system
lacks the ability to see students as individuals. To reverse this oppressive trend, she
argues that teachers and students must be able to imagine what it is like to be
someone else so that they can empathize and enhance their humanity. When people
feel genuinely seen and valued, they can begin to feel that they are worthy of a better
In “Seeking Contexts” (1995), Greene suggests teachers find empathy with their
students by taking into account their entire background. The reality is that students
bring their personal issues with them to school and, so, these issues should be a part
of their education. Combine them with art and students become actively engaged in
working on their challenges.
Tom Borrup is particularly interested in this concept of active versus passive
participation. In his essay, “Higher Ground: Informal Arts, Cultural Policy, and the
Evolving Role of Nonprofits” (2007), he argues that the arts are a natural part of
activism because making art requires students to actively and fully think about the
topic as they shape their work to best express the message they want to share.
Actively engaging participants builds their capacity to continue taking action—their
Touching participants’ hearts is also a component of inspiring action, for change is a
personal endeavor, as stated in “An Introduction to Community Art and Activism” by
Jan Cohen-Cruz (2002). Imagination can hone empathy that can expand humanity as
one connects the issues to one’s heart. The heart is the pathway to passion.
In this same essay, CCD practitioners discuss the role of artist and activist. They
conclude that all collaborators should navigate wide networks to ascertain a project’s
success and should contribute to every stage of its development to best ensure
cohesiveness and relevance to participants’ lives. While activists can provide
expertise and action plans, artists can safeguard against activists’ tendency to impose
an opinion through projects that invite participants to explore their own opinions.
Matt Schwarzman wrote in “It’s About Transformation: Thoughts on Arts as Social
Action” (1999) that these collaborations are a result of artists and activists recognizing
that, together, they can address challenges. With the rise of social injustices and
accompanying apathy, activists are pursuing new methods of engagement and artists
aspire to use art to change people’s perceptions about themselves and the world.
In “Conversations at the Intersection of Art and Activism” by Linda Frye Burnham
(2003) CCD practitioners also find great benefits to working with activists, adding that
they are especially skilled at ensuring measurable outcomes. Because today’s issues
are closely connected, these practitioners integrate diverse partnerships throughout
the life of the project.
The idea that participants should be equal partners in CCD projects is again discussed
in “Art Action for Social Change: Kids on the Hill” by Mark Carter and Rebecca
Yenawine (2008). The authors also recommend that their education be experiential,
inspiring them to shape their own art project that will best express their viewpoints.
Lastly, the young people should decide how they will take creative action. This
process ensures that the project is about them, for them, and from them. As they learn
and experience new things, they discover innovative answers to old recurring
Christopher O. Adejumo suggests that one way to create a community in which this
process can thrive is by questioning the competitive atmosphere present in most
educational settings. In “Promoting Self and Community Empowerment” (2008), he
finds that it is more effective to emphasize cooperative learning—learning from one
another and using the skills and talents of each person for the good of the whole.
Although all sources discussed had pertinent theories, several were particularly
influential. They include “Gangstas, Wankstas, and Ridas” (Duncan-Andrade 2007)
and “An Interview with Linda Christensen” (Golden 2008), as they depict the authentic
voices and concerns, successes and failures of SJE teachers. In the field of CCD,
Making Exact Change, Creative Community (Cleveland 2005) and “Community,
Culture, and Globalization” (Adams and Goldbard 2002) are noteworthy because of
the extensive research into a wide variety of organizations and projects. This made
the identified common threads valid and the theories behind successful results
2. Theoretical Framework
2.1 SJE and CCD Theory Relationships
SJE is struggling to take shape. Its work consists of aligning educational goals with
what is needed for the common good for “there is an intrinsic relationship between
educational and social transformations” (Ayers, Quinn, and Stovall 2009, pg. 569).
Linda Christensen explains that teachers and students should always ask questions
such as, “Who benefits? Who is being marginalized? Why are these practices fair or
unfair?” (Golden 2008, pg. 61). Doing so, students realize that their education is not
only intended to be academically rigorous, but also intended to provide them with the
thinking and skills necessary to respond to social issues. Teachers emphasize that
their ability to act critically for the betterment of their life and society as a whole is the
path to freedom (Duncan-Andrade 2007).
Simultaneously, CCD is seeking to define itself. In CCD projects, artists join with
communities to make art that transforms people’s perceptions so they might imagine
how they could effect change (Schwarzman 1999). As this type of creation can lead to
self-actualization, it is emphasized that the process is as important as the product
(Adams and Goldbard 2002; Adams and Goldbard 2005; Schwartzman 1999).
Ultimately, CCD projects, like SJE, are completed in the search for freedom—freedom
to define one’s own being, freedom to imagine the world as it could be, and freedom to
act for social transformation (Adams and Goldbard 2005).
SJE and CCD practitioners work towards accomplishing similar goals by utilizing many
similar methods. Both fields involve five crucial components: Ownership, Community
Collaboration, Investigation, Imagination, and Action.
Development of a relevant curriculum that is not inherently racist, classist, sexist, etc.
is integral to motivating high school students to become active participants. SJE
teachers can accomplish this through lessons that relate directly to students’ lives and
that encourage them to critique schools and society. This process includes dissolving
the power structures that typically exist between teachers and students by
collaborating as partners to develop lessons that reflect the culture of the students
while extracting educational materials that further oppressive stereotypes (Ayers,
Quinn, and Stovall 2009).
Demonstrating vulnerability can establish such partnerships. This can show students
that the teachers are beside them in the struggle for a better world and can build trust
between them (Duncan-Andrade 2007; Golden 2008). Focusing on the humanity of
their students is another method. To instill a sense of “positive self-identity, purpose,
and hope” as pre-requisites for achievement (Duncan-Andrade 2007, pg. 635), each
young person needs to be viewed as capable of forming opinions instead of being
constantly imposed on by a broken system (Ayers, Quinn, and Stovall 2009).
Similarly, CCD theory deems that in order to achieve ownership, it is imperative that
participants be seen as equal partners in determining the project and its desired
outcomes (Adams and Goldbard 2005; Adejumo 2008; Cohen-Cruz 2002). Ownership
is needed if one is to direct one’s course and participate effectively in the life of a
community (Adams and Goldbard 2002). CCD practitioner, Alice Lovelace, notes “by
taking the pieces of vision, ideas, thoughts, dreams, etc. of a group of people and
putting them together, you are demonstrating that they are a community” (Burnham
2003). This idea of community can be furthered by emphasizing the cooperative over
the traditional competitive approach found in most educational institutions (Adejumo
CCD practitioners also instill confidence in the participants’ inherent capabilities
knowing that “what moves people beyond themselves to change their lives is regard,
responsibility, imagination, and a love for them as worthy human beings” (Greene
1995, pg. 40). Indeed, at the core of CCD work is the notion that to be fully present in
life one must realize one’s identity, strengths, and abilities (Adams and Goldbard
2005). This is often enforced through Participatory Action Research, which involves
participants gathering their own information on the topic in order to self-direct their
learning (Carter and Yenawine 2008).
Oftentimes, SJE is actually the process by which subjects are taught rather than the
subject matter itself (Duncan-Andrade 2007). Therefore, SJE teachers occasionally
seek partnerships with local activists and invite them into the classroom to share their
expertise. These activists present ways that students can become part of real action
by leading them in using methods that history-makers have utilized to transform lives
(Golden 2008). Educators hope that more young people will feel empowered to
participate in social transformation by teaching not only the issues, but also the system
that must be navigated to find solutions (Ayers, Quinn, and Stovall 2009).
Likewise, CCD practitioners often find collaborations with activists to be vital to their
work. Activists can ensure that projects lead to measurable outcomes and can
influence government bodies on behalf of the greater good (Burnham 2003).
Community artists particularly covet their ability to cultivate a network to channel
voices and give participants options for turning their opinions and agency into action
that effects real social change (Cohen-Cruz 2002).
As students build skills, realize how they can be part of change, and become real
partners in shaping their learning experience, a new sense of empowerment often
emerges. Practicing it, though, requires an environment where they feel safe to
experiment (Adejumo 2008). SJE teachers accomplish this by establishing that, in
cultural matters, there are no wrong answers, just different perspectives. Students are
encouraged to question everything with a sensitivity to beliefs and ideas of others,
leading to new perspectives, wider understanding, and deeper empathy—critical
ingredients in motivating them to transform society (Golden 2008).
Engaging in art-making on a specific issue can inspire such critical questions as, “Says
who? Why? Is that what I think? What does that say about me? How do I feel about
it?” Participants are encouraged to use their imaginations to put themselves in other’s
people’s shoes—to empathize (Greene 1995). Therefore, CCD practitioners strive to
create safe, supportive environments for individuals and communities to explore these
inquiries (Cleveland 2005). As answers are sought and participants feel free to form
and express their developing opinions and ideas, freedom to choose their own identity
is accomplished (Adams and Goldbard 2002).
The classroom is used as a microcosm and as a place for students to begin breaking
down the barriers that keep them and those they know from living the life they deserve.
Students are encouraged to imagine, “What kind of society would I like to live in? How
can I get there?” and are, then, challenged to create solutions to those questions
CCD processes entail visualizing how things could be different as a first step towards
action. Participants address the same questions listed above as they believe that
tapping into the imagination can rouse abandonment of old, habitual ways of thinking.
They can “break what is supposedly fixed…see beyond what the imaginer has called
normal…and carve out new orders in experience…to glimpse what might be” (Greene
1995, pg. 19). Each generation faces the same difficult challenges, but by integrating
cultural activities, CCD practitioners seek to break the cycle and “find new solutions to
old problems” (Carter and Yenawine 2008).
SJE teachers strive to compel students to be active in changing the world (Ayers,
Quinn, and Stovall 2009). They illustrate how people have historically worked together
to overcome injustices. This helps to keep students from feeling hopeless and from
accepting the world and their lives as they are. Instead, SJE teachers intend for
students to feel outrage at injustices and to feel hopeful about being able to effect
change (Duncan-Andrade 2007; Golden 2008).
CCD practitioners also seek to engage participants to take action for a better world.
The art-making process, itself, requires active participation, which stirs a sense of
agency (Borrup 2007). “Art is action” (Cleveland 2005, pg. 57) and society becomes
more equitable as more people participate (Adams and Goldbard 2005). As
individuals begin to express their identities, the divide between what they hold to be
true and how society views them is slowly closed (Adams and Goldbard 2002),
shortening the distance between those who have and those who have not (Shifferd
and Lagerroos 2006). “The root of CCD is the imperative to fully inhabit our lives,
bringing to consciousness the values and choices that animate our communities and,
thus, equipping us to act as subjects—not objects—in history” (Adams and Goldbard
SJE and CCD share similar values and employ similar methods to accomplish their
common goal of increasing participation in social transformation through personal
liberation (Adams and Goldbard 2005; Ayers, Quinn, and Stovall 2009). CCD
practitioner, Tony Stanley, explains it well by saying, “For me it’s all about the
connectedness—us as individuals helping other people connect with their own
imaginative lives…the connectivity between people and, through that, the building of
cultures and the sustainability of cultures” (Adams and Goldbard 2002).
SJE and CCD Shared SJE and CCD Shared SJE and CCD Shared
Values Methods Goal
Freedom Creating Relevant Curriculum
Self-Empowerment Experimenting Increasing Participation
Developing a Safe
Active Participation in
Environment for Questioning
Breaking Down Stereotypes Collaborating Social Transformation
Providing/Creating Paths to
Hope Partnering with Participants Personal Liberation
Creative Thinking Exploring Power Structures
Participants' Inherent Eradicating Inherent
Creativity and Capabilities Oppression
Illustration 1. Shared Values and Methods Leading to Shared Goal
2.2 SJE Challenges
SJE teachers have experienced many positive results, explaining the trend to develop
the field. However, there are key challenges that prevent it from realizing its full
potential. Solely bringing activists into classrooms rarely motivates students to
become part of transforming society. Their expertise can be critical, but they typically
present traditional methods of activism, such as attending a protest, signing a petition,
calling a representative, etc. Students will not likely participate in these activities
without feeling genuinely connected to the issue. They may participate for the duration
of an individual project, but an element of passion inspires a lifelong practice of
activism (Cohen-Cruz 2002).
Activists also bear a formed, fervent opinion on a topic that can create a judgmental
atmosphere. Thus, students who think differently may not engage for fear of looking
unintelligent to their peers and students who have not yet formed an opinion may not
feel free to explore the issue (Cohen-Cruz 2002). Even if they share the same opinion,
students may not place much emphasis on the issue if they cannot relate to it.
Generally teachers and activists do not collaborate in the lesson’s development.
Instead, activists provide information and, perhaps, action plans while SJE teachers
plan activities to connect it to the current lesson. Playing separate roles is not the
most effective way to address issues nor fill the divide between those issues and
students’ lives (Burnham 2003; Cohen-Cruz 2002).
Even if SJE teachers can relate the issue to students’ lives, the information is usually
conveyed through traditional methods: lectures and presentations. These methods
require only passive student participation. When they have not fully engaged in the
experience, the transition from learning to taking action is particularly challenging
(Borrup 2007; Cleveland 2005; Greene 1995).
Likewise, instituting agency is difficult without developing innovative, inspiring ideas.
Even though students are asked to envision creative answers, their ideas will likely be
based on traditional thinking, resulting in traditional action choices that they often view
as intimidating and unexciting. It could be compared to asking students to use a tool
without demonstrating how to use it. Before they can employ creativity, methods to
develop that creativity need to be established (Adams and Goldbard 2002; Greene
2.3 SJE and CCD Integration
“In our era, many pressing social problems–racism, homophobia, conflicts over the
nature of public education and conflicts over immigration, etc.–are understood to be
essentially cultural. Cultural responses are required to address them” (Adams and
Goldbard 2005, pg. 65). CCD practitioners argue that placing an art-making
experience at the center of learning is vital to moving participants to take an active role
in society (Adams and Goldbard 2002; Adams and Goldbard 2005; Cleveland 2005;
Cohen-Cruz 2002). By adding this element to the five critical components shared by
SJE and CCD, the potential of the arts to increase participation in social transformation
through personal liberation is explored as a solution to challenges faced by SJE.
For students to feel ownership, a real connection between their lives and the issue
must be established (Adams and Goldbard 2005; Cohen-Cruz 2002). Both SJE
teachers and CCD practitioners strive for this, but the arts tell stories through which
connections can be made between the learning and the young people’s personal
struggles (Greene 1995). Artists shape these connections by blending symbolic
imagery, creative techniques, and cultural vocabulary to create an artistic expression
that records the participants’ engagement in processing their feelings on the issue
(Adams and Goldbard 2005). To create the environment needed for non-judgmental
reflection, the arts ask, “Imagine if,” rather than state, “This is.” Cultural activities
naturally provide a shield against activists’ tendency to convince others to believe just
as they do (Cohen-Cruz 2002).
Organic Community Collaboration
SJE teachers can become static when the activist’s role is independently developed.
CCD involves more organic and integrated collaborations with all partners contributing
to all stages of the planning, implementation, and follow through. This intertwines the
goals so that learning is focused, methods are effective, and desired results are
achieved (Burnham 2003; Cohen-Cruz 2002).
CCD practitioners customarily involve as many collaborators from varying sectors as
the project requires. Community artist, A.B. Spellman, observes this is because
“problems and issues are not segregated—they are complicatedly connected”
(Burnham 2003). Navigating complex partnerships without succumbing to rigid roles is
difficult; however, past CCD experiences reveal that a project is only as good as these
relationships. Therefore, collaborators must approach it creatively and openly—an
ability that is nurtured through developing and implementing cultural activities, which
require out-of-the-box thinking (Cleveland 2005).
The quest for answers to questions posed by those involved in SJE and CCD is about
discovering creative solutions and about finding a deeper meaning that inspires action.
It asks, “How does this make me feel? Why does this matter? Is it important to me to
be part of changing something?” These are questions of the heart, the place where
real change takes place (Cohen-Cruz 2002).
Cultural activities can potentially bring “deeper meanings of experience to the surface
so they can be explored and acted upon” (Adams and Goldbard 2005, pg. 64). When
participants create while thinking about the questions surrounding the issue, they
unearth their own feelings and eventually connect to their spirits (Cleveland 2005).
Once their hearts and spirits are engaged, passion can follow.
Because CCD practitioners have high expectations for the product, they teach an array
of artistic techniques they can use to yield satisfying results (Cleveland 2005). They
do not simply ask participants to be creative; they show them how.
Through the art-making process, participants learn a repertoire of tools and
possibilities. Eventually, they can progress beyond what they have been taught to
imagining new ways of combining those tools and possibilities. This can lead to
innovative answers to the questions—answers for which participants can feel
ownership and which help them imagine a better world and how they can be a part of
effecting change (Greene 1995; Schwarzman 1999).
“CCD aims to change our ‘operating systems’ by providing new and fundamental tools
of comprehension, analysis, and creative action” (Adams and Goldbard 2002).
Indeed, imagination cultivates new ways of acting, providing more accessible paths for
people to become history-makers rather than passive subjects of the human story.
The idea of activism is expanded beyond the traditional methods of petitions and
protests to more inclusive, approachable activities such as exhibitions, performances,
or educating fellow classmates (Cleveland 2005).
Additionally, by taking part in a cultural activity, participants are already taking action.
As opposed to being passive students, they are physically forming a work of art and
their lesson. Practicing action has a greater potential to lead to further action as
participants become familiar with the process (Borrup 2007).
The issue needs to be thoroughly connected to students' lives in order for them
to feel motivated to tackle the problem.
The project's meaning must reach beyond a school assignment to students'
hearts to ignite a passion that is more likely to inspire life-long activism.
Imagination Cultivation /
Students need more accessible, approachable ways to take action.
Students need freedom to formulate their own thinking on an issue - not simply
inherit an activist's formed opinion.
In collaborations, completely separate roles make it difficult for SJE teachers to Organic Community
ensure the issues remain relevant to students' lives. Collaboration
It is a big leap for students to transition from passive participation in learning
about an issue to taking action on its behalf.
Methods to develop creativity need to be part of the work in order for students to
imagine creative solutions in which they can and want to participate.
Illustration 2. SJE Challenges and CCD Enhanced Components
To determine if integrating CCD practices into high school SJE can increase the
participation of young people in transforming society, this study analyzed two different
workshops with one common topic: the Iraqi Refugee Crisis. The first workshop,
Phase One, utilized the traditional lecture method, and the second workshop, Phase
Two, used CCD practices to develop an arts-centered experience. Results from both
were collected through student surveys, collaborator interview questions, and the
researcher’s observations. These results were analyzed to create a model for utilizing
CCD to teach social justice issues in a way that could increase the potential of
students becoming life-long activists.
Facilitated by the researcher, the study included an activist, a community artist, three
high school SJE teachers, and as many as 59 high school students. The activist, Jill
Doub, works at the Chicago office of the American Friends Service Committee
(AFSC), an international organization dedicated to peace and social justice. The
community artist, Carla Paynter, teaches art in conjunction with several non-profit
organizations. The three SJE high school teachers, Rhiannon Borgia, David Doll, and
Matthew Kayser, teach at Perspectives Charter School–Joslin Campus, a high school
Students attending this charter school come from a variety of neighborhoods and most
are African-American or Latino. Both phases were carried out in one class of each
teacher, including a ninth grade A Disciplined Life class, tenth grade Humanities class,
and eleventh grade History class. During a recent project, AFSC established a good
working relationship with teachers and administrators at this school. It was selected
because the school was founded and driven by SJE values.
A PowerPoint presentation created by AFSC staff was used as the starting point for
Phase One (AFSC 2009). It included background on events leading up to the Iraqi
Refugee Crisis, images from refugee life, statistics, and ideas on how the U.S. can
move forward in addressing the issue.
Phase Two utilized images from Iraqi life and statistics on the Crisis, poems from
Battlefield Without Borders (Smith-Ferri 2008), and three articles, “The Militias in
Middle East Classrooms” (Moskowitz 2008), “Children of Iraq Make an ‘Appeal’ to
Government Leaders” (Dahyi 2008), and “Teenage Iraqi Refugees Focus on Career in
Damascus Exercise” (Van Gendersen Short 2008). Students created artwork with
markers, colored pencils, oil pastels, photocopies of images of Iraqi people, various
types of paper, fabric, string, glue, and scissors.
Phase One consisted of an introduction to the project followed by the Iraqi Refugee
Crisis PowerPoint presentation given by the activist. Afterwards, students briefly
discussed the Crisis and, then, they completed a short survey that gauged their activist
tendencies, what they found impactful and relevant about the workshop, and their
perceptions about their own ability to effect change. The researcher, community artist,
and teachers noted students’ reactions and what needed improvement and all
collaborators were asked interview questions.
The following week, the researcher and collaborators met to share their goals, provide
feedback on the presentation, and to discuss the student survey results. Based on this
information, a new workshop was developed using CCD practices as a mode of
transferring the information and engaging students in the issue.
Two class periods were needed for students to learn more information, create art, and
develop an action plan in Phase Two. During the first class, the activist and
community artist focused on Iraqi refugee youth as the surveys showed that students
identified with this part of the Crisis. The class began with an Imagining Story in which
the activist asked students to put themselves in the shoes of the young Iraqi in the
story, making parallels between his life and theirs.
Students were, then, each given one of three different articles to read. Each article
was about one of the top three facts students previously identified as particularly
impactful. Students were broken into groups according to their article where they
answered discussion questions with their group members.
When finished, the community artist recited a poem about one of those three facts as
the activist showed images. The group with the article on that fact shared the
message of their article and what they thought about it. This process repeated itself
for the other two facts. Lastly, students were presented with a variety of ideas for
producing art projects on the new information. Students voted for their favorite idea,
each class choosing a different project.
Before creating the art project next class, students engaged in a discussion on what
they could do to make it activist art. Each class displayed their project in a different
part of the school to educate fellow schoolmates. One class decided to write
postcards to their government representatives. Two classes wanted to hang graffiti
walls by their artwork, showing statistics about the Crisis and leaving space for others
to write comments. All three classes crafted a morning announcement, informing the
school about the project. It was determined that the comments on the graffiti walls and
postcards could be sent to government representatives in one package.
Finally, the community artist guided students in creating visual artwork. There was not
enough time during this second class to finish, so teachers facilitated the completion of
their students’ projects. The researcher returned to conclude the study and assist in
installing the final product. Once again, students were given the same survey as in
Phase One and collaborators were interviewed.
Data Collection and Manipulation
To determine a research posture, the researcher answered questions presented in
“Navigating the ‘Seven C’s’: Curiosity, Confirmation, Comparison, Changing,
Collaborating, Critiquing, and Combinations” (Chenail 2000). Because this study can
be characterized by a desire to build “collaborative systems with the purpose of joint
problem-solving and positive social change” the author recommended Collaborative
Action Research Methods.
This method is most commonly used in classrooms. It requires little interference in
teachers’ primary role of teaching and is centered around the development of methods
pertinent to the classroom dynamic. The Center for Collaborative Action Research
(2006) further explains that “because practices involve other people, action research is
participatory, often highly collaborative, and employs both qualitative and quantitative
The researcher compiled answers from student surveys completed after Phase One
and Phase Two (Appendix A). The first section of the survey asked students to rate
their responses on a scale of 1-5. It was determined how many times each number
was circled and multiplied by the circled number. Those totals were divided by the
total number of students who completed the question to arrive at the average number
for each question.
Students also had to answer “yes,” “no,” or “maybe” and “true,” “false,” or “maybe” on
some questions. How many times each was answered on each question was counted
and the totals were divided by the total number of students who completed those
questions to ascertain percentages.
Lastly, students were asked to define certain relevant terms to which they either
answered it correctly, partially correctly, incorrectly, or they did not answer it. An
answer was partially correct if it included only parts of the entire definition. How many
times it was answered each of those ways was totaled and divided by the total number
of students completing the question to compute percentages.
The researcher compared the averages and percentages of the first and second
surveys to see if they increased, decreased, or remained the same after Phase Two in
order to determine whether or not integrating CCD practices increased the
participation of these young people in transforming society.
The Interview Questions (Appendix B) given to the activist, community artist, and SJE
teachers after Phase One and Phase Two included three questions requiring a
response on a scale of 1-5. Responses were totaled for each question and, then,
divided by 5 (the number of adult collaborators) to reach an average. The averages of
each phase were compared to see if they increased, decreased, or remained the
In addition to answering quantitatively, students were invited to write their thoughts on
many questions. Those thoughts were compiled under the question being asked to
gauge an overall perception and to sense the differences in opinions, attitudes, and
ideas (Appendix A).
Many of the interview questions asked collaborators to share observations on how
students engaged within the workshops and why, as well as their ideas on what should
be changed. Their responses helped to portray the atmosphere of the experience and
students’ reactions, which can be difficult to capture in measurable ways (Appendix B).
The students’ art projects also provided insightful information. One class designed
protest posters around a fact of their choosing on the Iraqi Refugee Crisis. They drew
images and came up with actions for viewers to take. Another class created collages
with images and words that described their emotions on some of the same facts. The
last project involved students drawing themselves, transferring images, and writing one
wish that they had for Iraqi refugees. (See Appendices C–H.)
Finally, the researcher was present for all of the components of the study, directly
participating in both phases as well as the collaboration procedure. Observations were
noted during the process and used in addressing the hypothesis.
A lack of funding for this project meant that the community artist was not paid for her
time. Therefore, the researcher developed art project lessons and helped install the
artwork while the community artist taught the lessons, helping students with
techniques. This also meant that the art materials were limited to what the researcher
already possessed, contributing to students not being able to completely develop the
concept of the art project themselves.
Lack of time was also a limiting factor. Class periods were only 50 minutes and the
teachers only had four days that they could devote to the project. Therefore, the
researcher and artists could not spend the time necessary to enable students to
imagine and create a project of their own invention. Instead, various options were
made available and projects were adjusted if suggestions for improvement were made.
Additionally, the creative actions were squeezed into the end of the school year and,
therefore, were a bit rushed.
What students were moved by and what they felt was relevant was the basis for Phase
Two. However, to gauge this, a wide range of issues on the topic of Iraqi refugees
needed to be presented. As a result, some aspects of Phase Two relied on Phase
One, and this must be taken into consideration. Lastly, the same students were not
necessarily present for all sessions of the project and not all students who returned
surveys completed all of the questions.
Despite the limitations, the study produced a plethora of data worthy of examination.
Time constraints and funding issues are typical challenges that CCD practitioners and
SJE teachers face and need to effectively resolve. The most crucial concept is that
Phase One was completely devoid of an arts component and that Phase Two
integrated the arts using CCD practices. As a result, it appears that conclusions can
be drawn as to whether or not the methods applied in Phase Two increase the
participation of young people in transforming society.
4.1 Student Surveys
This section summarizes the pertinent results of the student survey as measured by
the quantitative and qualitative data collected after Phase One and Phase Two.
Please refer to Appendix A for all results in table and written form.
It is imperative that the issue’s relevance be established to create the Connecting
Ownership and Meaningful Investigation that inspires agency (Adams and Goldbard
2005; Cochran-Smith et al. 2009; Cohen-Cruz 2002; Duncan-Andrade 2007). One
way to achieve this was to involve students in exploring commonalities between
themselves and Iraqi refugees. Table 9 reflects that 11.94% less students saw these
similarities after Phase Two than after Phase One. Phase One responses
demonstrated that this is because they do not share the exact same experience,
whereas following Phase Two, many students seemed to say “no” because they did
not experience things at the same level. This was apparent in comments like, “not
really because they have everything worse.”
Likewise, Table 13 demonstrates a decrease of 14.17% from one phase to the next in
the number of students who found the workshop to be relevant to their lives. Some
students who did find it relevant, especially after Phase One, explained that they have
new knowledge that can be used as a resource. This subtly shifted in Phase Two,
which revealed that learning about the plight of the Iraqi refugees made students feel
grateful for what they have. There were also several more action-oriented responses
after Phase Two: it alerted them to the problem so they could help, it showed them
how to help, and it changed their way of thinking. It is also interesting to note that a
significantly greater number of students who found relevance included a written
response in comparison to those who did not see its pertinence.
Along with Imagination Cultivation, engagement is another crucial factor in establishing
Connecting Ownership and Meaningful Investigation. These are all pre-requisites for
taking action (Borrup 2007; Cleveland 2005). When asked why students participated,
the most common response after both phases was, “My teacher told me to.” After
Phase One, some students participated because they thought that it was interesting or
because they learned something new. Only one student made an action-oriented
There were slightly more responses after Phase Two and many were increasingly
thoughtful, such as “making the happiness of others” or “the safety of the world.” The
cultural component was noted several times as students commented that they enjoyed
making drawings and exploring their creativity. Table 14 shows that 89.80% of
students already found creative activities to be enjoyable and this number slightly
increased to 90.57% after Phase Two.
Table 1 and Table 2 demonstrate that, after Phase Two, students were slightly more
likely to take action if they believe in a cause than they were after Phase One. In
terms of relevant issues, Tables 2 through 6 depict that the students’ interest in
discrimination and refugee rights increased by a small amount, while they felt slightly
less strongly about immigration and terrorism following Phase Two.
Table 7 shows that 5.11% more students considered themselves activists after Phase
Two. Students offered reasons as to why they might become an activist, many
indicating that they want to fight for what is right. Some are written in the present
tense, implying that they already possess an activist attitude. A few provided insight
into why they are not activists: they feel too young, they want to have money to
support the cause, and they feel too shy or not smart enough. A handful of students
might become activists if a cause they really believe in presents itself, while others
were worried about more practical issues like having the courage to participate in a
traditional mode of activism or knowing how they can help.
Most students who do not consider themselves activists and do not think they will ever
become one, reply that they simply do not care or that they do not like to get involved.
Twenty-six of those students wrote responses, but 15 of those responses seemed like
their answers should have been “maybe” as their reasons included not liking protests
or speaking up, not having a cause, and only being able to change little things.
Table 15 depicts that those who think it is important to care about the world decreased
by 8.45% from one phase to the next. The same number of students circled “yes,” but
five more students answered the question and they circled “no.” This is then
contrasted by a 10.20% increase, following Phase Two, in the number of students who
believe that their ideas, opinions, and beliefs are valuable, as well as a 13.30%
increase in the number of students who found that they have the ability to be a part of
making change happen. (See Tables 16 and 17.)
4.2 Collaborator Interviews
The three SJE teachers, community artist, and activist were asked the same series of
interview questions for each phase. Following Phase Two, there was one additional
question asking them to compare the effectiveness of the two phases. Refer to
Appendix B for all results in table and written form.
Organic Community Collaboration establishes relevancy while aiding partners in
achieving their goals (Burnham 2003; Cohen-Cruz 2002). Therefore, the first interview
question asked collaborators to list their goals for the project. The responses revealed
common reasons for them to be involved, such as expanding students’ minds to other
cultures and inspiring empathy and activism. Each collaborator also had unique
reasons for participating. Teachers were interested in enhancing their lessons, the
community artist wanted to create an engaging artistic experience for high school
students, and the activist sought to develop a replicable model for her organization.
All collaborators saw some validity in Phase One’s ability to help them achieve their
goals, but the SJE teachers clearly demonstrated that it was not the most effective
means. They noted that students “tuned out,” did not have “any overwhelming sense
of urgency,” and that they did not fully make the connection between themselves and
Four out of five collaborators responded to the question following Phase Two of which
all were positive. Phase Two involved students in “the art of doing something,” it “was
essential in breaking down stereotypes,” “students were much more engaged,” and
they were “enthusiastic about the art activity.”
SJE teachers were asked if they found each phase to be helpful to their teaching. One
did not find Phase One to be very helpful, although she appreciated the information.
Another liked that it provided an opportunity to discuss current events, and the last
teacher found it useful to observe others teaching his students for insight into what
does and does not engage them.
All were in agreement that Phase Two was helpful. They reported that it assisted in
opening students’ minds, engaging them, and evoking empathy. It also presented an
opportunity to discuss current events, connected students to things happening outside
of their lives, and taught the teachers techniques in leading an art project.
Following Phase One, the relevance of the project was averaged at 2.80. This
increased to 4.00 after Phase Two, as indicated in Table 19. After Phase One, there
were three comments. One SJE teacher offered that it was less relevant to those
students who suppported the Iraq war. The other two comments reflected that the
topic was “too far from home” and that students cannot grasp the concept of war and
its ensuing suffering. Following Phase Two, only one comment was made. The
community artist said it would be difficult for any student to find the topic relevant
unless they were told it was relevant and made a personal connection.
Several collaborators replied that they did not observe any students being particularly
impacted during Phase One. During Phase Two, it was noticed that the thoughts
students wrote in their artwork confirmed that they were being affected. Two
collaborators observed students getting “wrapped up” in the art-making, approaching it
with excitement and concentration. The activist witnessed a debate on whether the
students shared similarities with Iraqi refugees.
Table 20 shows that the level of student engagement was determined to be 2.50 after
Phase One and 4.20 after Phase Two. Four collaborators commented and all agreed
that, during Phase One, the level of engagement was not high enough. Reasons
given included that more time was needed to clarify misunderstood information and
that the presentation was too long and beyond the students’ comprehension level.
Following Phase Two, the community artist commented that she observed students
being “very engaged during the art project workshop.”
On average, the collaborators found the effectiveness of Phase One to be 2.90 and
Phase Two to be 4.11. Table 21 depicts this increase.
Two SJE teachers did not find Phase One to be very effective, saying students were
not engaged enough and did not talk about the experience after the visiting
collaborators left. However, it was noted that “the kids did get something out of it and
their interest was peaked.” The community artist thought that good information was
presented “clearly and effectively.”
One SJE teacher replied, “I believe you accomplished exactly what you intended to” in
Phase Two. The community artist thought that Phase Two was “most effective in
terms of absorbing the students’ attention and allowing for their self-expression,” but
Phase One was more effective in informing students about the Iraqi Refugee Crisis.
Four out of five collaborators agreed that Phase Two was more effective. Their
reasons include the level of engagement, the ability for students to choose how to
display their activism, the hands-on approach, the art project itself, the opportunity for
self-expression, and the chance to explore what was learned by doing something. The
focus on the pictures and real life stories, the open format, and the fact that it resulted
in a tangible object were also noted. The community artist, though, observed that the
phases would be most effective combined because there would be an “information
gap” without the PowerPoint presentation.
Because they knew the students best, the SJE teachers were asked if they thought
this effectiveness would translate into activism. Two of them said “yes” after Phase
One, guessing that 8% to 10% would become more active. One teacher did not find it
likely, but “wouldn’t rule it out.” He explained that this is because the lesson was more
about Iraqi refugees rather than activism. After Phase Two, two of the teachers
responded “yes,” guessing 10% and 5-10%. The same teacher who responded “no”
previously had the same answer, explaining that the connection to activism was not
4.3 Researcher Observations
Phase One did not include any components that sought to establish relevancy.
During Phase One, the researcher noticed that most students were paying attention at
the beginning of the PowerPoint presentation. Some began loosing interest after 15 to
20 minutes and, by the end, one-third to one-half of each class appeared to no longer
be listening. Evidence included stretching, fidgeting, shifting in seats, yawning, and
several students had their heads down on their desks.
A few discussions were took place around several issues in which four to five students
in each class participated. Overall, students seemed interested in certain aspects, but
were mostly passive in their engagement.
When presented with a list of actions to take, not one student expressed interest in
doing something on behalf of the Iraqi refugees. There were a few clarifying questions
asked, demonstrating that they did not yet fully understand the topic, much less their
relation to it.
The Collaboration Process
The researcher facilitated the collaboration process between the SJE teachers,
community artist, and activist. After Phase One, collaborators responded to interview
questions thoughtfully and in a timely manner. Everyone arrived at the collaboration
meeting prepared to give feedback and participate in the process of creating an
The researcher noted that co-teaching could be challenging. A variety of teaching
styles had to be navigated and it seemed that some SJE teachers were extra
conscious of their students “behaving” for visiting collaborators. It was observed that,
at times, the discipline being administered by an SJE teacher was a bit overbearing
resulting in the students’ dampened spirits.
Upon completion of the project, all SJE teachers expressed interest in working with the
activist and facilitator in future projects. They were interested in seeing the results of
the survey and the conclusion of this study.
With the exception of one or two in each class, students took the time to carefully read
the articles, but when collaborators circled the room to see how they were answering
the comprehension questions, it was obvious that many found it difficult to fully
understand what they were reading. Therefore, each collaborator concentrated on a
group and, with a bit more understanding, students were engaged in conversations
and debates on the topic.
In general, students were more enthusiastic when the collaborators were enthusiastic.
If they energetically asked the students to do something and read with emotion,
students listened more attentively and responded. Overall, the variety of activities
worked well as different students shined during different parts of the workshop. It
seemed to address the numerous ways that young people learn and feel comfortable
When presented with a choice of art projects, students listened attentively to the
descriptions of each. They were very excited to have a chance to vote on which
project their class would complete. There were many students trying to convince their
friends to vote the same way.
When engaged in making the artwork, it was not necessary for the SJE teachers to
discipline anyone. Students asked visiting collaborators many questions that helped
make everyone feel more comfortable with one another. They also had interesting
relative questions that, in one case, dispelled a common misconception.
Initially, students were unsure about how to use art to take action. After being
presented with examples, though, they began to offer ideas. Again, they were excited
to be a part of determining what their class would do. Overwhelmingly, their favorite
idea was the graffiti walls, which was a new concept to most.
Because time ran short on the scheduled workshop days, the researcher returned
once more to help students hang their work and bring closure to the project. It was
obvious that the Protest Poster project was the weakest (Appendix C). The finished
pieces demonstrated students were moved and wanted Iraqi refugees to get help, but
the visual result was not impressive. Approximately three-fourths of the class was
enthusiastic about hanging their work in the middle school hallways to teach those
students about the Iraqi Refugee Crisis and the posters were very informative in
The researcher also assisted another class in installing their work. This was the
Collage and String project and the results were visually impressive (Appendix D). The
project required students to record their thoughts on certain Iraqi refugee statistics for
integration into the artwork. Their responses were very emotional. Students seemed
to hang their work with pride, conscious of them being straight and evenly spaced.
Many were asked if they liked their finished project and all said, “yes.”
The last class had already hung their work, but the researcher stopped in the
classroom to thank students for their participation and to see what they thought about
the project. Students, in turn, emphatically thanked the researcher for taking the time
to do the project with them. Several students described which piece was theirs and all
were happily surprised with how they were able to capture their own likeness in this
self-portrait Connecting Quilt project (Appendix E). They wanted to know if they would
get to do another project like it. The SJE teacher commented that his other classes
In this project, each student wrote poignant wishes that they had for the Iraqi refugees
on their artwork. Their pieces hung near the collage pieces and several teachers were
in the hallway looking at them. These teachers, as well as a school administrator,
complimented the researcher on the work.
With the exception of installing the work, the actions in the action plan seemed to be
rushed. This plan entailed creating an announcement to be read over the school PA
system in order to entice fellow schoolmates to write responses on the graffiti walls by
their artwork and compiling their comments to include in a mailing with postcards
asking government representatives to take appropriate action. The community artist
and the activist left these activities with the SJE teachers, who indicated that they
would follow through. However, the researcher observed them feeling stressed and
overwhelmed as the end of the school year drew near.
5. Discussion of the Results
The SJE challenges identified in Chapter Two are indeed true for Phase One. This
chapter discusses whether or not Phase Two, which incorporated CCD methods into
the workshops on the Iraqi Refugee Crisis, addressed those challenges by enhancing
the components that they share. Furthermore, the resulting short-term and long-term
impact of Phase Two is presented in order to determine if integrating CCD practices
into high school SJE increases the participation of young people in transforming
society. The compilation of this information results in a model for CCD collaborations
focused on SJE. It is a summary of the best practices learned from this study that can
produce results in accordance with the hypothesis.
5.1 Addressing Challenges
Challenge: The issue needs to be thoroughly connected to the students’
lives in order for them to feel motivated to tackle the problem (Adams and
Goldbard 2005; Cochran-Smith et al. 2009; Cohen-Cruz 2002; Duncan-Andrade
Following Phase One, students, overall, felt like the Iraqi Refugee Crisis was irrelevant
and that they did not share similarities with the Iraqi people because they were not
refugees themselves. Only a few realized that they shared some of the same
experiences and desires.
The collaborators agreed. When asked to rank the relevance of the first phase to
students’ lives, their responses averaged 2.8 on a scale of 1–5 (Appendix B, Table
19). To increase this average, Connecting Ownership was needed (Adams and
Goldbard 2005; Cohen-Cruz 2002; Greene 1995A). Phase Two involved students in
envisioning themselves as Iraqi refugees through story-telling and exploring their own
thoughts through discussion and art-making. It was also based on what they found
most impactful during Phase One.
Several student survey and collaborator interview questions gauged the effectiveness
of these particular practices. The numeric results of the student surveys alone would
indicate that Phase Two was not successful in establishing Connecting Ownership as
the percentages of those who found similarities with Iraqi refugees and of those who
found the workshop relevant decreased from one phase to the next.
When asked how strongly they felt about the related issues of Discrimination,
Immigration, Refugee Rights, and Terrorism, students’ responses changed by
miniscule amounts. However, the averages in both phases signified that students
already felt strongly about these issues.
Upon evaluation, it is apparent that a real opportunity was overlooked. Students
identified with discrimination and immigration issues that could have been used as
relevant entry points into discussing the Crisis. Additionally, students were highly
concerned about terrorism and a connection between that, war, and how refugees are
treated could have made the information more pertinent.
Despite the quantitative results after Phase Two, the creation process did cause
students to grow more empathetic. As shown in written survey statements, classroom
comments, and messages in their artwork, it seems that, as they empathized, they felt
less like Iraqi refugees due to the number of problems refugees face at a such a
severe level. It was not that students could not relate to their issues, it was that they
just could not relate to the depth of despair. As they struggled with this, it was
apparent that their concern for the refugees grew.
The collaborators, on the other hand, rated Phase Two much higher in relevance to
students’ lives. Perhaps it was because they noticed the way students were being
affected or because they are more able to see the big picture. It is a difficult topic to
make significant to students, but it is the students who need to understand that
relevance (Adams and Goldbard 2005; Cochran-Smith et al. 2009; Cohen-Cruz 2002;
Duncan-Andrade 2007). Therefore, it appears that while these CCD practices did take
steps towards Connecting Ownership, they could have been done more effectively.
Challenge: The project’s meaning must reach beyond a school
assignment to students’ hearts to ignite a passion that is more likely to
inspire life-long activism (Adams and Goldbard 2005; Cleveland 2005; Cohen-
When asked why students were motivated to participate in Phase One, most stated
that they had no choice – it was part of their grade. This workshop was like a typical
class in that it was taught using the traditional lecture method with the activist in the
front of the room presenting and asking comprehensive questions. As a result, only a
handful of students in each class interacted.
CCD practices demand a more interactive approach in order to challenge students to
see beyond a school project to an issue that needs their attention. This necessitates
students taking part in Meaningful Investigation (Adams and Goldbard 2005;
Cleveland 2005; Cohen-Cruz 2002). Therefore, in Phase Two, students read things
for themselves, moved around the room for group discussions, closed their eyes to
picture themselves somewhere else, and created art in order to find deeper meaning.
These techniques were integral to students achieving a better understanding of the
Crisis and becoming moved by the refugees’ plight. As students investigated the issue
during Phase Two, their level of engagement was reported as significantly higher.
Although many still replied “my teacher made me,” there were more comments
reflecting that students now genuinely cared about what happened to the Iraqi
Challenge: Students need more accessible, approachable ways to take
action (Cleveland 2005).
The final slide of the PowerPoint presentation in Phase One included traditional
methods of how students can take action. The same list was given to teachers to
share with their students. Not one student expressed interest nor asked any questions
about the actions.
Students were asked if they considered themselves activists and 43.10% of them did
after Phase One, which is a surprisingly high amount. However, the majority still did