Research Projects

Back to Projects List

Strengthening Nebraska's Communities and Cultivating Better Teachers through Arts-Based Education

Research Team


Principal Investigator: Theresa Catalano

Funding Information

Funding Agency: Humanities Nebraska

Award Date: Nov 30, 2018

End Date: Apr 30, 2020


Approximately 7 percent of Nebraska’s population are immigrants, and the number of immigrants in Nebraska continues to grow at an annual rate of 12 percent. Given the current political climate and lack of civil discourse in the United States, there is a need to understand how teachers — preservice and inservice — might develop the knowledge, skills, dispositions and attitudes to participate in civil discourse and create it in their future classrooms.

This multilayered qualitative study explores how arts-based interventions that include both preservice teachers and Yazidi women refugees can be used to foster civil discourse among preservice teachers and prepare them to create effective classroom environments. The study takes place in Lincoln, Nebraska, which is home to more than 3,000 Yazidi immigrants — the largest number in North America — who fled religious and ethnic persecution in Iraq, including genocide in 2014. 

The study aims to explore how an arts-based project impacts preservice high school teachers’ ability to see other perspectives and engage in civil discourse regarding immigration issues. It also will examine participants’ perceptions of the usefulness of the various elements of the project.

Two half-day workshops and one reflection session will be conducted. Participants include 8-10 Yazidi refugees in Lincoln and pre-service high school teachers enrolled in a University of Nebraska–Lincoln teacher education course for future high school teachers. The workshops will be at the Sheldon Museum of Art, and will coincide with a media exhibition focused on experiences of displaced people and immigrants. For the two-week period of the workshops, the Sheldon will also display artwork from local Yazidi artists. 

Yazda, a local non-profit cultural center whose mission is to improve the lives of Yazidi immigrants in Nebraska, will recruit Yazidi participants and collect Yazidi artwork to be displayed. The Yazidi refugees will share their stories with the students and the refugees and students will create dances to share the stories. Finally, all participants will take part in focus groups. 

Academic Intervention & Learning

Student and Yazidi participants inspect part of the “Unquiet Harmony: The Subject of Displacement” exhibit at the Sheldon Museum of Art.
News Articles Videos Photo Gallery