Date of Award

August 2016

Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Teaching and Leadership


James H. Rolling, Jr.


agency, creativity, democratic classroom, elementary, empowerment, self-initiated creativity

Subject Categories



In this study, the researcher used an action research methodology to investigate the self-initiated creative processes and artifacts of his fourth and fifth grade students over the course of one school year in an attempt to shed light on the pedagogical effects of an elementary classroom that allows its students significant creative agency. The majority of the literature on the self-initiated creativity of children examines the work of primary grade students in an art room setting, revealing a gap in the literature and the need for a study regarding self-initiated creative processes and products made by children in an intermediate general classroom setting. The research site was a democratically based, child-centered classroom in a private day school where students were encouraged to share in the development of the conceptual, curricular, and physical aspects of the learning environment. The self-initiated creative activities of the children provided a unique lens through which the researcher was able to view and understand his students’ learning styles, gain insight into their metacognitive processes, and observe the ways they navigated their classroom space. Empowering students to become critical agents through choice and autonomy led to arts-based approaches of inquiry and spontaneous creative learning experiences. An analysis of the data contributed to an understanding of six essential principles for facilitating self-initiated creativity within the everyday constraints of a traditional schooling environment, as well as cautionary revelations about how I could have been more effective at co-constructing an enduring culture that supported self-initiated creative learning in collaboration with my colleagues at the research site.


Open Access

RufoD2016AppendixA.pdf (166 kB)
APPENDIX A - Data Images 001-253

RufoD2016AppendixE.pdf (96 kB)
APPENDIX E - Study Overview

RufoD2016AppendixF.pdf (73 kB)
APPENDIX F - Class list with creative artifacts

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