Date of Award


Degree Name

EdD Doctor of Education

Dissertation Committee

Robert Donmoyer, PhD; Fred J. Galloway, EdD; Sally Yard, PhD


artists, arts education, improvisational teaching, Leadership studies, principals, public school districts, San Diego County (California), school administration, sequential quantitative-qualitative analysis, teaching artists


Nationwide, many public school districts are struggling to keep arts education available for their students. California public school districts, in particular, are hard-pressed to provide arts instruction to their students. One response to dwindling arts instruction has been the use of teaching artists. A teaching artist is at once a practicing artist and an educator. Very little is known about teaching artists, and the formal empirical research on them is limited. This dissertation used a mixed-method design, incorporating both surveys of principals and teaching artists and interviews with teaching artists, to develop a better understanding of the experiences and impact of teaching artists. The research questions focused on the demographic characteristics of the San Diego County teaching artist population; teaching artists' experiences in public schools; and the impact that teaching artists make on public schools. A sequential quantitative-qualitative analysis process integrated two different data sets into a comprehensive whole that provided a general sense of teaching artists and their impact as well as a more detailed look at particular practitioners and their work in schools. Findings suggest that teaching artist work can be a largely improvisational undertaking. In approaching their work, teaching artists utilize key concepts from theatrical improvisation—learning through doing; being in the moment; and connecting with others (Johnstone, 1994; Spolin, 1963). In addition, both principals and the teaching artists, themselves, perceive teaching artists as making significant and positive contributions to public schools. Finally, by utilizing the mixed methodology approach, this study was able to suggest the beginnings of a stage theory of teaching artist development. Teaching artists begin at an improvisational stage when their approach to the work is spontaneous. Some move to a "growth" stage where they explore and develop their teaching artist work and then to an "experienced" stage where teaching artist work is focused and refined. Some artists, however, struggle with teaching work and are at the "mismatched" stage. There also appears to be two different orientations of teaching artists—art-oriented and teaching-oriented. These findings have implications for schools and arts organizations in their use and preparation of teaching artists in public schools.

Document Type

Dissertation: Open Access