Cultivating the Whole: The Development of Critical Acuity Through Poetry Programs

Graduation Date


Document Type

Honors Thesis

Degree Name

Bachelor of Arts



Director of the Honors Program

Gigi Gokcek, PhD

First Reader

Rosemarie Michaels, EdD

Second Reader

Thomas Burke, MFA


Poetry programs in schools, although implemented internationally, are often marginalized by educators (Wilson, 2010). Poetry has even been documented as one of students’ least favorite subjects (Vala et al., 2012). This is unfortunate given that such programs can encourage creative and reflective thinking skills (Cumming, 2007). This type of thinking can lead students toward the understanding of the interconnectivity of all things on Earth (Yaqoob, 2012). Consequently, the purpose of this research was to determine how teachers’ preconceptions of poetry affect their instruction, as well as specific teaching strategies that effectively promote creative and reflective thinking skills through poetry. It addressed the research question: What are effective teaching strategies to promote creative and reflective thinking skills through poetry? To answer this question, the researcher observed two middle school classes and three elementary school classes, each for a total of eight weeks, during their poetry sessions. The middle school sessions lasted 90 minutes; the elementary school lessons lasted 50 minutes. All sessions were taught by two educators from an education nonprofit organization. The researcher also interviewed these educators. The study was analyzed using a thematic analysis of recurring themes in the observations and interviews. Strategies observed and discussed were categorized and emphasized. All interview data was collected and interpreted qualitatively. The results indicated that the most effective strategies and pedagogy include implementing lessons that explore existing poems that exemplify creative or reflective thinking, offering poetry prompts that encourage students to consider different perspectives, and setting high expectations. Additionally, it is important to consider an educator’s preconception of learning, making the purpose of poetry a practice of self- awareness and observation, and including the goal of attuning to the natural rhythm of the universe. For further research, the researcher will focus on pedagogy that promotes critical acuity, rather than strategies that promote creative and reflective thinking.

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