To read this content please select one of the options below:

Esthetic development: a model for the undergraduate experience

T. Dary Erwin (School of Strategic Leadership Studies, James Madison University, Harrisonburg, Virginia, USA)

Quality Assurance in Education

ISSN: 0968-4883

Article publication date: 1 July 2014




The purpose of this paper is to refine and measure esthetic development.


Three phrases of data collection were conducted utilizing four separate student samples (n = 120, 154, 241, and 343). In Phase I, an initial esthetic development stage model was tested with a constructed response test format using generalizability measurement theory. In Phase II, this conceptual model in esthetic development was refined with a modified constructed response format. In Phase III, a selective response test format was designed with five esthetic development stage scores, which were correlated with several artistic discipline-based and interdisciplinary courses.


Higher esthetic development stages correlate with verbal ability and grades in interdisciplinary general education arts courses. Lower esthetic development stages were associated with lower verbal ability and grades in traditionally taught discipline-based arts courses.

Research limitations/implications

What this study did not do is examine whether attendance at arts events and activities support or lead to higher esthetic development.

Social implications

People at Stages Four and Five of this esthetic development model are able to compare artistic experience – whether visual or performing art – within a historical and cultural context or perspective. Individuals at these highest stages are able to communicate about the social significance and societal themes of the artistic experience to wider audiences.


No accepted model or assessment method about the arts in higher education is available. Although the arts are commonly accepted as important in higher education, there is a paucity of research about esthetic development in the curriculum. This paper attempts to address this gap, in part, and to advance further study about quality of arts’ programs and activities in higher education.



The author wishes to thank Gretchen Hazard, Linda Cabe Halpern and Pam Johnson for their earlier contributions to this project.


Dary Erwin, T. (2014), "Esthetic development: a model for the undergraduate experience", Quality Assurance in Education, Vol. 22 No. 3, pp. 286-296.



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2014, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Related articles