First Advisor

Bethards, Connie

Degree Name

Master of Arts

Document Type


Date Created



This thesis explores the nature of generative parameters, and their present – as well as their much greater potential – function in visual art assignments. An effort of thoughtful self-study, it examines important questions that were revealed during the teaching of a fifth grade art unit. Collaboration and chance were used in that unit as productive constraints. Bringing together insights gathered from a number of sources and my own classroom action research, a theory of teaching for creative behavior is offered with suggestions for good practices in the art room. Promoting creative thinking in the art classroom does not require that students have complete freedom. Actually, the parameters or constraints that the art teacher imposes on students’ artmaking helps to focus their efforts and can lead to creative breakthroughs. The goal is that students progressively develop their own aesthetic preferences and self-impose constraints on their art. Artists must create their own problems to solve; the learning of problem-finding behavior is a major educational necessity beneficial to artmaking and nearly every other mode of human inquiry. The components of problem theory are discussed (problem identification, problem finding, and problem solving). Various conceptions of creativity are examined; most importantly, creativity as synthesis. Special attention is given to the implications of cognitive theory, stream of consciousness, synectics, randomization, exercises in empathy, analogies, and other methods of ideation for the generation of novel ideas. Elements of arousal theory, the structure of memory, and phenomenology are also referenced. Connections are made to the philosophies and techniques of prominent art figures, both historical and contemporary.

Abstract Format



Art education; Problem theory; Creativity; Cognition; Ideation; Problem-based learning; Generative constraints; Artistic process; Surrealism; Synectics; Lateral thinking; Thematic Apperception Test; Arousal theory; Information-processing theory; Phenomenology; Constructivism; Aesthetic preference; Synesthesia; Unconscious processing


151 pages

Local Identifiers


Rights Statement

Copyright is held by author.