Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)



First Advisor

Dr. Courtnie Wolfgang

Second Advisor

Dr. Caitlin Black


In many societies, the process of art is recognized as a healing and transformative practice. In recent years, it has been emerging in tandem with social emotional practices and procedures in American education. However, it is also a fact that social emotional learning (SEL) does not account for all students due to its inability to account for the needs of all students in the classroom. SEL alone aims to teach healthy development and emotional management skills, but fails to account for students with varying experiences. While there are those who can and do integrate the skills from the Social Emotional curriculum, students who do not can be labeled as troubled, which begins a vicious cycle of shame, isolation, and/or marginalization of certain groups of students.

SEL, for instance, is not trauma informed despite the prevalence of trauma in American society. It is entirely possible that a large number of children who are exposed to social emotional learning, are not able to reap the benefits of SEL due to institutional failures to account for their needs.

Assuming that all students will respond to the same approaches, is an assumption that erases the identities of marginalized children. This not only perpetuates a harmful cycle of systemic oppression, not just for the students, but for everyone. While art educators and educators in general are not therapists, I believe that we should have an understanding of how trauma works not only in the mind but through the ways trauma is ingrained in societal systems and institutions. While it is not necessary for educators to know every detail of a student’s life, it is within our capability to be compassionate and supportive of the students who come into our learning spaces. But in order to do this, we must have support from other staff and the institution itself. In this thesis, I will engage in a qualitative research project employing a narrative ethnography approach along with elements of emergent pedagogy to analyze effectiveness of my teaching in an art classroom, exploring what hinges on activating the social emotional experiences for students within art educational experiences. I will also demonstrate why incorporating trauma informed pedagogy into educational environments, for both the students and educators, deserves institutional support.



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