How fine arts electives create the finest students : a qualitative case study.


Access rights

No access – contact

Journal Title

Journal ISSN

Volume Title



The lack of fine art courses offered to non-art majors at liberal arts colleges hinders students’ growth and development of 21st-century skills. It is well-established that the arts provide invaluable experiences that broaden students’ perspectives and prepare them for the increasingly globalized workforce. This study explored how the arts and design thinking helps undergraduate university students develop 21st-century skills. Specifically, it investigated the experiences of non-art majors taking a fine arts elective to gain insight into how artmaking promoted or restricted design thinking strategies. This study used a qualitative single case study research design informed by design thinking principles and a constructivist theoretical framework. Over the course of one semester, data collection followed a three-step process, including observations, interviews, and an end-of-semester survey. Uninterrupted observations occurred in person at the beginning of the semester. The setting for observations comprised of three fine art classrooms at a liberal arts college. Afterward, using a snowball sampling process, three students from each class observed participated in one-on-one interviews via Zoom. Finally, participant responses to a reflective electronic survey at the end of the semester completed the data collection process. The results provided evidence for student acquisition of 21st-century skills and revealed their eagerness to continue exploring the arts. The research findings provide evidence that exposure to fine arts electives helped non-art majors engage in reflection, develop critical thinking skills and emotional intelligence, and learn to collaborate with others from different backgrounds through the design thinking and creative processes. Additionally, participants identified that exposure to the fine arts expanded their emotional intelligence and worldviews, improving creative problem-solving skills, and developing increased confidence and desire for personal growth. Consequently, the findings of this study indicated the need for more fine art course offerings specifically accessible to non-art majors, as well as an opportunity for interdisciplinary cross-departmental collaboration through arts integration.