Alumni Dissertations and Theses

 
 

Alumni Dissertations and Theses

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  • IN THESE BONES THE ECONOMY OF THE WORLD: A MULTI-LOGICAL, MULTI-REPRESENTATIONAL CULTURAL STUDY

    Author:
    Carolyne Ali-Khan
    Year of Dissertation:
    2011
    Program:
    Urban Education
    Advisor:
    Kenneth Tobin
    Abstract:

    In this work I offer critical interpretations of street skaters, images in schools, collaborative writing and discourses on Muslims in schools. Employing a phenomenological, hermeneutic approach, I have thought back on my experiences, made claims and supported them hermeneutically. As I have (in the tradition of critical pedagogy) told stories of being in the world, a critical perspective has anchored these stories to broader social, political and economic frameworks. Axiological concerns are at the forefront of this work, and the "so what?" question implicitly weaves through it. I do not seek to provide the answers, but rather to illuminate, through example, that asking questions of that which is taken for granted and connecting these questions to issues of power is a valid undertaking. In a world of truncated educational "accountability" this work joins those that seek to offer a counterpoints. This dissertation explores work that has been done over the past three years in a variety of pedagogical contexts. As a manuscript style dissertation, it sews together freestanding texts with the thread of critical pedagogy. Each chapter (including half of the first chapter) has been published, only the last chapter (which discusses future work) is new. In each of these research projects I set out to use interdisciplinary and multi-textual approaches to focus on "other" ways of being in the world, and to question privileging practices and discourses that have been normalized in everyday life. As a bricolage, this work brings together multiple disciplines and theoretical discourses. I draw from a range of critical pedagogies and visual and literary methods. Throughout, I employ autoethnography as an entry point, to render accessible the worlds and worldviews that I seek to shed light on.

  • Left Behind: Children of Dominican Deportees in a Bulimic Society

    Author:
    Fenix Arias
    Year of Dissertation:
    2011
    Program:
    Urban Education
    Advisor:
    Nicholas Michelli
    Abstract:

    The United States has always taken great pride in its children's protection programs that have served as an example to developing countries. As a beacon of opportunity to poor and underdeveloped countries, the country is also known amongst third world nations, as the only hope to achieve social mobility because of its educational and labor market opportunities. Recently, in an apparent contradiction to its protection programs, social, and economic opportunities, the nation has instituted laws that undermine the welfare of children of immigrants and immigrant children by deporting people, regardless of their immigration status. Qualitative data were utilized to examine the impact of deportation on Dominican children and families left behind in the United States. The study's aim was to articulate the impact of parent's regurgitation/ejection on children's education, social integration, economic, and health and mental health status. The theories of social bulimic-exclusion and inclusion-, human waste, and toxic environment served as a framework for understanding how the society has become bulimic by both massively importing and deporting human capital. Social exclusion forces low-income and marginalized children to multi-levels of stigmatization by reinforcing the poverty cycle. Fragmented assimilation, a form of social inclusion, further compounds the exclusion of minority and immigrants because it does not fully integrate individuals into the fabric of society. The study found that U.S. born children left behind in a single parent household, ultimately face multi-levels of social exclusion. Hence, mandatory deportation negatively impacts children of deportees' social integration to mainstream society. Findings revealed that children of deportees experience tremendous sense of abandonment, insecurity, and isolation, which affect their educational attainment, socioeconomic status, social capital, and health mental status. In conclusion, social bulimic cannot co-exist with democracy because everyone is not fully included into mainstream society. What exists therefore, is an oligopoly democratic system that influences an oligarchy society in which a group of people--usually those in power--have control over the policy-making process and implementation with no accountability or assessment on collateral damages or the further social bulimization of children of deportees left behind in the United States.

  • Assessing Emergent Bilinguals: Teacher Knowledge and Reading Instructional Practices

    Author:
    Laura Ascenzi-Moreno
    Year of Dissertation:
    2012
    Program:
    Urban Education
    Advisor:
    Ofelia Garcia
    Abstract:

    Assessments are viewed as primary vehicles for improving the educational outcomes of all students since they can lay the foundation for effective teaching practices. However, assessment can only achieve this effect of supporting student learning if the knowledge that teachers gain from using them is put into direct use in classrooms. This process of administering assessments, analyzing them, learning from the results, and subsequently tailoring instruction based on what has been learned about students is referred to as the assessment-instructional cycle. The assessment-instructional cycle is critical for all students. Yet, assessments of emergent bilingual students, in this case those students who are becoming bilingual by developing English language and literacy (often referred to as English Language Learners or Limited English Proficient students), most often do not accurately capture these students' knowledge. The problem lies in that for these students, assessments in English measure content knowledge as well as language (Abedi, 2009; García 2009). This obscures teachers' understanding of what these students know and may steer the assessment-instructional cycle off course. Using interviews and surveys, this mixed-methods study focuses on how teachers of emergent bilinguals view and use summative and formative assessment. The study also attempts to ascertain the kinds of knowledge that these teachers gain from the use of assessments, as well as the consequences that acquired knowledge has on their practices to teach reading. In the climate of test-based accountability, teachers are caught in a cycle of ritualized assessment practices. Ritualized assessment practices direct teachers to sort and group students under the guise of "analysis," and do not engage teachers in a solid examination of bilingual students' reading development. Ritualized assessment practices ultimately do not yield teacher knowledge that is meaningful to instruction. Furthermore, these ritualized practices change the character and use of these assessments - summative assessments are used formatively and formative assessments become summative. This study provides evidence that both summative and formative assessments are missed opportunities for teacher learning and do not fulfill the potential of providing teachers with a solid knowledge base of their bilingual students' reading development so as to meaningfully direct instructional practices.

  • IMPROVING THE TEACHING AND LEARNING OF SCIENCE IN A SUBURBAN JUNIOR HIGH SCHOOL:ACHIEVING PARITY THROUGH COGENERATIVE DIALOGUES

    Author:
    Eileen Baker
    Year of Dissertation:
    2010
    Program:
    Urban Education
    Advisor:
    Kenneth Tobin
    Abstract:

    The research in this dissertation focuses on ways to improve the teaching and learning of science in a suburban junior high school on Long Island, New York. The study is my attempt to find ways to achieve parity in my classroom in terms of success in science. The goal of parity is for all students to have equal opportunity to enjoy a basic education of high quality, achieve at high levels, and enjoy equal benefits from education. I was specifically looking for ways to encourage Black female students in my classroom and in other classrooms to continue their science education into the upper grades. The participants were the 27 students in the class, a friend of one of the students, and I, as the teacher-researcher. In order to examine the ways in which structure mediates the social and historical contexts of experiences in relation to teacher and student practices in the classroom, I used collaborative research; autobiographical reflection; the sociology of emotions; immigration, racialization, and ethnicity, and cogenerative dialogues (hereinafter, cogens, singular cogen) as tools. Cogenerative dialogues are a way for students and teachers to accept shared responsibility for teaching and learning. This study is of importance because of my school's very diverse student body. The school has a large minority population and therefore shares many of the characteristics of urban schools. In my study I look at why there are so few Black female students in the advanced science course offered by our district and how this problem can be addressed. I used a variety of qualitative approaches including critical ethnography and micro analysis to study the teaching and learning of science. In addition to the usual observational, methodological, and theoretical field notes, I videotaped and audiotaped lessons and had discussions with students and teachers, one-on-one and in groups. In the first year the cogenerative group consisted of two Black female students. In the second year of the study there were four Black and one White-Hispanic female students in the cogen group. Below, I discuss my journey toward a career in science education and explain how I became a teacher-researcher. In my research I studied the interactions of the students between lessons and during laboratory activities as well as the cogens themselves in order to get the data needed to identify the role of science cogens in the learning and teaching of science. The students both in my cogen and in my science class collaborated with me as we worked to create new culture through conversations. I also used cogens to examine the influence of immigration, race, ethnicity, and gender in my science class. The students in the cogen were native-born children of immigrants, known as the second generation and/or 1.5 generation. In the first year one of these students was the daughter of Jamaican-born parents and the other native Black. The students in the second year included one each of Haitian and Jamaican descent, one with Dominican parents, and two native Blacks. Interestingly enough, if I had not conducted the cogenerative dialogues, I might never have become aware of their ethnicities. The cogens helped me to become a better teacher by allowing me to understand what racialization was and how it impacted students as well as teachers. The cogens helped students voice their opinions in a manner and in a place that supported their understanding of both the similarities and differences among students in the class in addition to contradictions in their science class as well as in other nested fields. Contradictions are differences between people and groups that arise as a normal part of social life in the classroom (and elsewhere, of course), and I looked for ways to retain these differences as we learned to deal with them. I looked especially for contradictions that were evident between the larger culture of the school and that of the students in the cogen. I studied the dialectical relationship between agency and structure in my science class and within the cogenerative dialogue group. I found that as students gained agency, they were more successful in obtaining entry into accelerated science classes and succeeded in those classes. I found that some marginalized students were shut down in their classrooms. During the common planning time within the science department, we discussed the lack of minority students in our advanced science classes. I introduced the idea of cogens and described how they could encourage more students to become involved in the process of learning. Although my colleagues did not institute cogens with their students, they did listen to the ideas about culturally relevant teaching which I communicated, and, although I have not witnessed it myself, I was told by some of my colleagues that they were trying to address the cultural mismatch found in their classrooms. The science faculty and I spoke to administrative personnel, and they saw how their goals and ours were aligned. Soon, all stakeholders were on board: my chairperson, the science department, and the administration. For many Black female students in our district, access to advanced science classes was largely unavailable because students had not learned to communicate scientific literacy in ways that were recognized and acknowledged in our school district. My research supports the theory and research that point to the desirability of building positive emotional energy through chains of interactions and transactions that produce success among most, if not all, participants. This study increases the understanding of the structure of interactions in a science class by building understanding of the face-to-face encounters associated with organizing, establishing, and maintaining conversations. As a teacher-researcher, I found that cogenerative dialogues also helped to create emotional energy and student engagement as well as synchrony and entrainment among students in the cogen and in the classroom. A community of learners formed, and this contributed to a positive learning environment. This environment in turn produced positive emotional energy and community. Cogenerative dialogues became a tool to build community in my science class. It also became a tool to introduce a new way of teaching and learning to me as well as to my colleagues. I began discussing the use of cogens in my science department meetings so that, by understanding different ways of thinking and being, my colleagues and I might find ways to transform science education at our school. Becoming aware is an important step for teachers and students to use their cultural capital to eliminate practices that prevent students from connecting with science. In cogens teachers and students can identify important shared classroom experiences and together fashion new roles for each of them. Teacher-researchers can effect change in their classrooms and, by letting others in the school and academic community become aware of their research, effect change in other schools as well. The results of the latest Regents exam have convinced the administration, the math, and the science departments as well as other faculty members of my junior high school that, when all stakeholders are involved, change can happen. The students who had been marginalized were as successful in the advanced science classes as those who were not. My school district took note of this and proudly continues the program.

  • Policy Partners in the Neoliberal Age: Corresponding School and Prison Reforms Since 1970

    Author:
    Jeremy Benson
    Year of Dissertation:
    2014
    Program:
    Urban Education
    Advisor:
    Ira Shor
    Abstract:

    This dissertation is a comparative policy study of changes in education and incarceration of the past 40 years. Following national and global trends, New York City saw public school and carceral policies converge as the city experienced massive deindustrialization and governmental cutbacks while its political economy shifted to one driven by finance, investment, real estate, and the growth of a low-wage service sector. These changes dramatically increased economic inequality across racial lines, and spurred the intimate linkage of public education and state incarceration as institutional tools for the mass management of low-income communities of color. Following from a growing policy debate in education and criminal justice around the "school-to-prison pipeline," this study analyzes the emergence and structure of correspondence in these two major social sectors. This multiscalar research draws on critical policy analysis and critical discourse analysis to examine federal and state policy vis-à-vis case studies of local charter school and drug court reforms. Findings include correspondence in the implementation of data-driven managerial practices and representations, the extension of private nonprofit and foundation influence on policy, and the (re)production and circulation of what Melamed (2006) terms official antiracisms- knowledge systems which deracialize inequality on the one hand, while constructing neoliberal subject positions amenable to racialized processes of disinvestment, dispossession, and discipline on the other.

  • Being, Doing, Knowing, and Becoming: Science and Opportunities for Learning in the Out-of-School-Time Setting

    Author:
    Bronwyn Bevan
    Year of Dissertation:
    2010
    Program:
    Urban Education
    Advisor:
    Anna Stetsenko
    Abstract:

    This dissertation addresses the question of how structured out-of-school-time settings, such as afterschool programs and summer camps, are positioned to support children's engagement and learning in science. This study addresses a gap in the research literature that does not fully specify the nature of the out-of-school-time (OST) setting and that generally does not position learning and development in relationship to one another, instead focusing on one or the other. As a result of an incomplete conceptualization of the OST setting as a site for learning and development, the OST field is becoming increasingly academicized, and its developmental qualities and benefits for children are under siege. A transformative activist stance (Stetsenko, 2008) guides my goals in undertaking this study - to produce knowledge that can inform the design and implementation of OST science programs - and it also guides my analysis of what constitutes learning in OST science. A transformative activist stance is a perspective on cultural-historical theory that understands individual development as occurring through agentive, goal-directed efforts to change one's self and one's world. These goals and actions are always developed and enacted in cultural-historical context. Learning, which occurs through the appropriation of cultural tools and schema to achieve one's purposes, and which leads human development, is understood broadly, as entailing processes of being, doing, knowing and becoming (see Herrenkohl & Mertl, in press). I also draw on bioecological theory (Bronfenbrenner, 1979) to analyze the proximal processes that support and sustain children's participation in the OST setting. In this study, I analyze the structural, developmental, and conceptual features of three different OST science programs to understand how they create opportunities for learning and engagement in science. The contributions of this study are to better specify the nature of the OST science program setting and to better conceptualize how learning and development relate to one another in the context of OST science. I draw on my analysis to make recommendations for ways in which OST science learning can be expanded and enriched for more children in more settings.

  • Teaching style: an investigation of New York City public high school teacher dress practices

    Author:
    Anne Brownstein
    Year of Dissertation:
    2010
    Program:
    Urban Education
    Advisor:
    Nicholas Michelli
    Abstract:

    In recent decades there has been increasing interest in regulating teacher appearance in the schools. While there is a great deal of anecdotal data available about what dress standards for teachers should be, to the best of the researcher's knowledge no one has undertaken scholarly research to investigate teacher attitudes towards their constructions of self, self-as-teacher, and educational philosophies as expressed by dress practices. Predicated upon the theory that the study of self presentation provides a window through which we can gain insight into these constructions, this dissertation investigates how a sample of nine New York City public high school teachers use dress to define `personal self' and `self-as-teacher' identities as well as their educational beliefs. It is hoped that the findings of this research will contribute to better understanding of a topic that thus far has largely been neglected by educational scholars even while it has nationally attracted both interest and debate within and beyond the realm of public schools.

  • TRANSFORMATIVE SCIENCE EDUCATION THROUGH ACTION RESEARCH AND SELF-STUDY PRACTICES

    Author:
    Olga Calderon
    Year of Dissertation:
    2014
    Program:
    Urban Education
    Advisor:
    Kenneth Tobin
    Abstract:

    The research studies human emotions through diverse methods and theoretical lenses. My intention in using this approach is to provide alternative ways of perceiving and interpreting emotions being experienced in the moment of arousal. Emotions are fundamental in human interactions because they are essential in the development of effective relationships of any kind and they can also mediate hostility towards others. I begin by presenting an impressionist auto-ethnography, which narrates a personal account of how science and scientific inquiry has been entrenched in me since childhood. I describe how emotions are an important part of how I perceive and respond to the world around me. I describe science in my life in terms of natural environments, which were the initial source of scientific wonder and bafflement for me. In this auto-ethnography, I recount how social interactions shaped my perceptions about people, the world, and my education trajectory. Furthermore, I illustrate how sociocultural structures are used in different contexts to mediate several life decisions that enable me to pursue a career in science and science education. I also reflect on how some of those sociocultural aspects mediated my emotional wellness. I reveal how my life and science are interconnected and I present my story as a segue to the remainder of the dissertation. In chapters 2 and 3, I address a methodology and associated methods for research on facial expression of emotion. I use a facial action coding system developed by Paul Ekman in the 1970s (Ekman, 2002) to study facial representation of emotions. In chapters 4 and 5, I review the history of oximetry and ways in which an oximeter can be used to obtain information on the physiological expression of emotions. I examine oximetry data in relation to emotional physiology in three different aspects; pulse rate, oxygenation of the blood, and plethysmography (i.e., strength of pulse). In chapters 3 and 5, I include data and observations collected in a science education course for science teachers at Brooklyn College. These observations are only a small part on a larger study of emotions and mindfulness in the science classroom by a group of researchers of the City University of New York. In this context, I explore how, while teaching and learning science, emotions are represented facially and physiologically in terms of oxygenation of the blood and pulse rate and strength.

  • From the BX to a BA: Latino Male Students and the Transition from High School to College

    Author:
    Alejandro Carrión
    Year of Dissertation:
    2014
    Program:
    Urban Education
    Advisor:
    Ofelia García
    Abstract:

    This study aims to provide a counter narrative to the deficit filled discourse surrounding Latino males by informing teachers, policymakers and researchers of the barriers and resources encountered by this population as they make the transition from high school to college. A qualitative research design was utilized for this study, which focused on 10 Latino males who mainly identified as Puerto Rican and Dominican, from the Bronx. Bourdieu's Theory of Practice, and his theoretical tools of field (structures), habitus (dispositions) and capital (social, cultural and economic), was used as the theoretical framework guiding this study. Participants shared the nuances of the college transition, which required them to negotiate various fields. Their interactions with the fields of the Bronx, school, and family provided messages and capital concerning college that either aligned or detoured their habitus toward college. These fields, at times, created "physical barriers" to accessing college such a lack of financial aid and inadequate schooling. But the fields also provided a layer of barriers which lived in the discourse and messages they received about college. This discourse informed the students' habitus which constructed a "college imagination" that perceived institutions of higher education as a dark, lonely place where no one would care for them. Moreover students discussed how teachers tried to "scare them straight" with a "caring" discourse that attempted to align their academic actions and behaviors towards what teachers envisioned as more appropriate for college "survival" and "success". Many of the participants were able to navigate issues around masculinity and academic unpreparedness to "successfully" transition to college by leaning on the support they received from their peers, college counselors, and their mothers. Ultimately the majority of the participants were able to navigate the college transitions through their habitus, which was aligned to interpreting college as a natural step in their life's journey.

  • Real-World Contexts in Urban High School Mathematics Lessons

    Author:
    Andrew Chu
    Year of Dissertation:
    2013
    Program:
    Urban Education
    Advisor:
    Ofelia Garcia
    Abstract:

    This study analyzes the uses of real-world contexts in mathematics lessons in the classrooms of four teachers across two school years at an urban high school. Drawing upon a framework of culturally relevant mathematics pedagogy, this dissertation focuses on how real-world contexts are connected to teaching mathematics for understanding, centering mathematics instruction on students' experiences and classroom participation, and developing students' critical consciousness. Analysis of real-world contexts in lessons focuses on the extent to which they are adapted from curricular sources and the role that lessons play within the lesson. For those real-world contexts which are at the center of a mathematics lesson, the nature of the mathematical modeling in which students engage is analyzed. Finally, the extent to which students and the teacher participate in the process of elaborating key features of the context whether in terms of experiences, perceptions, or opinions, is also considered. These different categories for real-world contexts are then used to compare three different measures of the lesson. These include the cognitive demand of the main mathematical task, different ratings of the instructional environment, and the distribution of class time in terms of the participation categories offered to students. Results point at the promise of real-world contexts as the basis for motivating metaphors to explore noncontextualized mathematical procedures and concepts, the need to structure lessons so that students can develop models rather than apply given models, and the importance of elaboration in supporting student understanding and participation.