Enhancing Teacher-Child Relationships Through Art

Graduation Date

Spring 2004

Document Type

Master's Thesis

Document Form


Degree Name

Master of Arts in Marriage and Family Therapy

Degree Granting Institution

Notre Dame de Namur University

Program Name

Art Therapy


Lizbeth Martin, PhD

First Reader

Richard Carolan, EdD, ATR-BC

Second Reader

Carolee Stabno, PsyD, MFT


There has been much research on the factors influencing academic success and how to create this for all children. Lev Vygotsky’s theory recognizes all learning happens in relationships first before it can be internalized and known independently (Bodrova & Leong, 1996; Daniels, 1996; Goldstein, 1999; Pianta, 1999; Vygotsky, 1997; Rogoff, 1990; Berger, 2001). Decades of research showed that the relational dynamics between a child’s self-concept and the teacher-child relationship have the greatest degree of influence over success in school (Hall & Hall, 1988; Goldstein & Lake, 2003; Pianta, 1999). Within die first few years of elementary school there is a dip in achievement as each child adjusts to school and if this dip is not regained it is carried forward throughout the child’s school career (Berk, 1998; Maher & Zins, 1987). This study will focus on art as a nonthreatening mediating tool between teacher and child to communicate each child’s concept of self, as well as a peer, student, and learner, but more importantly for the teacher to practice the Caring model (Noddings, 1984) of teacher-child relationships. By using art journals with small groups of children for one week, teachers will practice daily with each student. First-grade curriculum already combines drawings with each child’s experiences to learn symbolic communication, thus, building literacy skills while building stronger relationships (Wood, 1997) and boosting the learning/teaching process with minimal disruption to classroom routine or the time constraints on teachers.

Only available in print