Alumni Dissertations and Theses

 
 

Alumni Dissertations and Theses

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  • Street Smarts, School Smarts, and the Failure of Educational Policy in the Inner City: A Multilectical Approach to Pedagogy and the Teaching of Language Arts

    Author:
    Gene Fellner
    Year of Dissertation:
    2012
    Program:
    Urban Education
    Advisor:
    Kenneth Tobin
    Abstract:

    Abstract STREET SMARTS, SCHOOL SMARTS AND THE FAILURE OF EDUCATIONAL POLICY IN THE INNER CITY: A MULTILECTICAL APPROACH TO PEDAGOGY AND THE TEACHING OF LANGUAGE ARTS by Gene Fellner Adviser: Professor Kenneth Tobin Over the past five years, I have mentored language arts teachers, and their students, in one of the poorest cities in the United States. Though official transcripts stigmatize most of these students as failures, their written and spoken words, and the ways they interact, show them to be intelligent, thoughtful, witty, and inquisitive. How could policymakers and school officials be so inept at assessing the students they are authorized to serve? In this dissertation, I explore why educational leaders ignore, suppress, and are oblivious to the incredible vibrancy and brilliance of the students I've worked with. I examine the disastrous consequences that result from official policies, mediated by the inadequacy of the theoretical lenses and the methodologies they employ. I suggest alternate lenses and pedagogical methods that welcome students in their multi-dimensionality, focusing particularly on practice in language arts classrooms. These facilitate the creation of an environment in which learning is an adventure rather than a chore, and writing a tool to explore students' ideas rather than an exercise in drudgery. Central to the inability of the educational establishment to evaluate my students is its fixation on measuring knowledge and enforcing standards that reflect dominant ways of perceiving and quantifying worth. I propose alternate "multilectical" lenses that are able to see students in their rich complexity. Multilectics makes visible the immeasurables on which student knowledge rides. These include curiosity, exuberance, thoughtfulness, and collaborative engagement. Because these qualities can't be measured in any static way, they are excluded as conveyers of knowledge by educational policymakers. Moreover, since these attributes are manifested through language in its fullest sense (speech, gesture voice), and student language is often suppressed because it threatens dominant discourse practices, the very tools students have to communicate are shut down. When schools prohibit the tools of expression that students have available to them, they censure the very essences of who these students are. Schools then become terrains of hostile encounters in which the values of academia clash relentlessly with the values of home and street. In the language arts classroom, the mania to enforce dominant standards and to quantify achievement at every level facilitates formulaic teaching and the prioritization of spelling and grammar over ideas and passions. Even though ten years of such enforced practices have not raised academic achievement, schools continue to dull down the curricula, taking the art out of language arts and turning it into a series of task-intensive exercises. In the final section of the dissertation I view a group discussion of a 7th grader's poem through a micro analytic lens. Perceiving students close up and in slow motion offers a new way to reveal their strengths and some pedagogies that serve them.

  • A Quest for Awareness: Gender-Differentiated English Language Arts Resources and Instructional Techniques to Acknowledge the Needs and Passions of Fourth and Fifth Grade Boys

    Author:
    Todd Feltman
    Year of Dissertation:
    2013
    Program:
    Urban Education
    Advisor:
    Anthony Picciano
    Abstract:

    A Quest for Awareness: Gender-Differentiated English Language Arts Resources and Instructional Techniques to Acknowledge the Needs and Passions of Fourth and Fifth Grade Boys By Todd Feltman Adviser: Dr. Anthony Picciano A major educational crisis has been transpiring among fourth and fifth grade boys over the last twenty years (Eliot, 2009; Whitmire, 2010). On average, fourth and fifth grade boys, regardless of racial background or socioeconomic class, are performing below girls, both academically in reading and writing. The Center on Educational Policy reports that boys are approximately ten percent behind girls in reading aptitude and standardized reading tests in all fifty states (Claiborne & Siegel, 2010; Carty, 2010; www.cep-dc.org), with boys continuing to lag behind girls in reading achievement in most countries (Newkirk, 2002; Zambo & Brozo, 2009). This dissertation seeks to examine the degree to which the presence or absence of gender-differentiated English Language Arts resources, curriculum and instructional techniques used with fourth and fifth grade boys can help explain the crisis. The focus is not to create gender-neutral classrooms, but rather to acknowledge the academic, psychological and physical needs of boys, therefore producing gender differentiation with coeducational classrooms. This dissertation focuses on fourth and fifth grade boys because they are at the academic stage at which tasks within English Language Arts instruction, such as reading to learn non-fictional information, become more challenging (Zambo & Brozo, 2009; Gurian, Stevens & Daniels, 2009). The methodology employed examines how fourth and fifth grade boys are unintentionally discriminated against within the elementary school classroom based on the use of several Newbery and Caldecott medal-winning books, Treasures text selections, New York State Standardized English Language Arts test reading and listening passages, as well as the common core state standards within reading, writing, speaking and listening. Each of these English Language Arts artifacts was reviewed for gender appeal using a contextual evaluation tool. The findings indicate that even though the literacy resources used within elementary schools largely meet the criteria to appeal to the boyhood culture, awareness by teachers and administrators must be a priority during the selection. The common core state standards were found to be lacking in gender differentiation; therefore I developed boyhood enhancements that would simultaneously support girls. Still, additional factors contributing to this gender achievement gap in literacy of boys must be further researched.

  • Beyond the scores: Mathematics identities of African American and Hispanic fifth graders in an urban elementary community school

    Author:
    Paula Fleshman
    Year of Dissertation:
    2012
    Program:
    Urban Education
    Advisor:
    Anna Stetsenko
    Abstract:

    As mathematics identity affects students' learning and doing of mathematics, it is critical to understand the mathematics identities of African American and Hispanic students as the mathematical performance and pursuits of far too many continue to lag behind. Further, as community schools have been shown to positively impact students in urban communities, it is also critical to understand how mathematics identities are developed within community schools. This study explores the culture, structures, and processes of an urban elementary community school including its afterschool archery program relative to fifth grade students' mathematics identities. It also explores students' math positioning, enactment, and perspectives in the classroom and archery. The theoretical framework encompasses multiple theories and perspectives: identity theory, cultural-historical activity theory, ecological systems theory, and culturally responsive pedagogy. Ethnography of one urban elementary community school was conducted over one school year plus summer camp using mixed methods. In total, 33 fifth graders and 13 adults participated in the study. In addition to school and community agency artifacts collected, observations inside and outside of the classrooms were conducted along with student brainstorming exercises and student and adult interviews. State math assessment scores were collected for 2009 and 2010 and pre- and post-surveys on students' mathematics beliefs and attitudes were conducted. While 7 out of 10 fifth graders favored mathematics and considered themselves as mathematicians, as defined in a broader sense that reflects habits of mind as opposed to simply skills, less than four out of 10 saw themselves in careers considered math- or science-related. Interestingly, students who had heard the word "mathematician" scored significantly higher on state math assessments than their peers who had not. In the classroom, students positioned themselves in different ways relative to their mathematics identity such as leader, helper, independent, math smart, social learner, and agent of their own learning. Outside of the classroom, the afterschool archery program bore positive relevance in students' mathematics identities, including a student with Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder, through culturally responsive instruction, a culture of respect, and goal-setting. Study results can inform community school processes, cultures, and structures as well as children's media.

  • From Nation-States to Neoliberalism: Language Ideologies and Governmentality

    Author:
    Nelson Flores
    Year of Dissertation:
    2012
    Program:
    Urban Education
    Advisor:
    Ofelia Garcia
    Abstract:

    Building on Foucault's concept of governmentality this research study examines the ways that current language ideologies marginalize the language practices of language minoritized students. The first half of this study examines the emergence of nation-state/colonial governmentality and its accompanying language ideologies as part of the European modernist project. It examines the emergence of nation-state/colonial governmentality in early US society with a particular focus on the early debates on language policy in the new nation. It then analyzes the impact of nation-state/colonial governmentality on contemporary US society through an exploration of the language ideologies utilized by both sides of the current debate over bilingual education. The second half of this research study engages with recent insights from poststructuralist theory to examine the emergence of neoliberal governmentality and its accompanying language ideologies as part of the spread of global capitalism. It argues that dynamic language ideologies such as those used in the first half of this study reflect new understandings of language that are complicit in the production of flexible workers and life-long learners that lie at the core of neoliberal governmentality. Specifically, this study offers a reading of the concept of plurilingualism developed by the Council of Europe through the framework of neoliberal governmentality and argues that the movement in political and academic circles toward more dynamic understandings of language marks an epistemological shift that is mutually constitutive with the corporatization of society occurring as part of neoliberal governmentality. The study then examines the ways that nation-state/colonial and neoliberal governmentality are begin to converge in contemporary US society in ways that maintain US hegemony within the new global order through three interrelated frameworks: (1) Global English, (2) the securitization of bilingualism, and (3) the commodification of bilingualism. Finally, the study explores implications of the critiques of nation-state/colonial and neoliberal governmentality through a conceptualization of language education policies that subvert both forms of governmentality through language minoritized students in developing meta ethnolinguistic subjectivities. It argues that the fluidity of these subjectivities challenges nation-state/colonial governmentality while the "meta" aspect empowers language minoritized students to resist the corporatization of their fluid language practices.

  • Basic Mathematics Education and Graduation from Community College: An Interpretative Study

    Author:
    Eric Fuchs
    Year of Dissertation:
    2011
    Program:
    Urban Education
    Advisor:
    Kenneth Tobin
    Abstract:

    This research examines the relationship between basic mathematics courses and educational attainment at a City University of New York (CUNY) community college in the Bronx, where graduation rates hover at 25% or less even after students have attended classes for seven or eight years. Three-quarters of students leave college within the first three years after their original enrollment. This research examines the extent to which failure in mathematics basic courses is associated with the high dropout rate, low graduation rate, and length of time-to-degree. The students in this study are primarily low-income Hispanics or Blacks. This research documents that the failure in basic mathematics contributes significantly to failure to graduate from a CUNY community college and offers a critique of the system that maintains this state of affairs. It also presents concrete steps for changing this situation. This research is an interpretive study that employs mainly qualitative data and descriptive analyses, though quantitative data are also used as part of the overall analysis. The fields of investigation included my practice in a basic arithmetic course at Highland (a pseudonym) Community College, other basic mathematics courses at the college, and mathematics achievement data from several CUNY community colleges. The theoretical framework encompasses sociocultural theory, the sociology of emotions, and educational psychology. The data resources included college and CUNY retention and graduation rates, autoethnography, students' autobiographies, questionnaires, and interviews with students and faculty. The research also examines community college structures, including policies, mathematics curriculum and mathematics pedagogy, and sociocultural and socioaffective factors that potentially mediate the graduation rate. The study finds that quality teaching and implementing innovative structural changes in community colleges will increase the retention rate, improve the graduation rate, and shorten the time-to-degree without diluting the quality of academic content.

  • Basic Mathematics Education and Graduation from Community College: An Interpretative Study

    Author:
    Eric Fuchs
    Year of Dissertation:
    2011
    Program:
    Urban Education
    Advisor:
    Kenneth Tobin
    Abstract:

    This research examines the relationship between basic mathematics courses and educational attainment at a City University of New York (CUNY) community college in the Bronx, where graduation rates hover at 25% or less even after students have attended classes for seven or eight years. Three-quarters of students leave college within the first three years after their original enrollment. This research examines the extent to which failure in mathematics basic courses is associated with the high dropout rate, low graduation rate, and length of time-to-degree. The students in this study are primarily low-income Hispanics or Blacks. This research documents that the failure in basic mathematics contributes significantly to failure to graduate from a CUNY community college and offers a critique of the system that maintains this state of affairs. It also presents concrete steps for changing this situation. This research is an interpretive study that employs mainly qualitative data and descriptive analyses, though quantitative data are also used as part of the overall analysis. The fields of investigation included my practice in a basic arithmetic course at Highland (a pseudonym) Community College, other basic mathematics courses at the college, and mathematics achievement data from several CUNY community colleges. The theoretical framework encompasses sociocultural theory, the sociology of emotions, and educational psychology. The data resources included college and CUNY retention and graduation rates, autoethnography, students' autobiographies, questionnaires, and interviews with students and faculty. The research also examines community college structures, including policies, mathematics curriculum and mathematics pedagogy, and sociocultural and socioaffective factors that potentially mediate the graduation rate. The study finds that quality teaching and implementing innovative structural changes in community colleges will increase the retention rate, improve the graduation rate, and shorten the time-to-degree without diluting the quality of academic content.

  • I HOPE I DON'T SEE YOU TOMORROW: A PHENOMENOLOGICAL ETHNOGRAPHY OF THE PASSAGES ACADEMY SCHOOL PROGRAM

    Author:
    Lee Gabay
    Year of Dissertation:
    2014
    Program:
    Urban Education
    Advisor:
    David Brotherton
    Abstract:

    This study examines Passages Academy, a school program that offers educational services for court-involved youth in New York City. Looking specifically at the Department of Education teachers who work in facilities run by the Department of Juvenile Justice, this research focuses on the beliefs and behaviors that inform the teaching experience within these facilities. The critical question of how these educators negotiate the learning spaces within this school community is also examined. The question that informs much of this study is: how are the philosophies of the various stake-holding agencies enacted daily in real classroom settings? This leads to a discussion concerning the specific agenda of each agency and a focus on how the competing philosophies are realized within such a small and limited physical space. In addition, this study considers the ways in which classroom protocols and teachers' pedagogies--including curriculum, instruction, classroom management and assessment--are shaped by their students' status as incarcerated youth. Such are the social, political and pedagogical forces that determine how court-involved youths are educated.

  • Spaces of Inspiration, Affirmation, and Resistance: African-American Music Teachers' Racially and Culturally Inclusive Experiences and Perceptions of Being a Teacher

    Author:
    Altovise Gipson
    Year of Dissertation:
    2013
    Program:
    Urban Education
    Advisor:
    Terrie Epstein
    Abstract:

    The experiences and perspectives of music teachers of color should be included and validated as being an integral part of understanding what it means to be a music teacher. Many current practices for preparing and developing music educators are implemented within a framework that is deceptively considered to be culturally, theoretically, and politically neutral. The experiences and narratives of music educators of color may help to inform current thinking and understanding surrounding the professional experiences of music teachers. My dissertation study seeks to amplify the voices of African-American music teachers by illuminating how their experiences within racially and culturally inclusive spaces have influenced their perceptions of what it means to be a teacher. I employed theories within a critical race paradigm to provide inclusive, authentic contexts for the often-silenced stories of participants to be told and constructed, while allowing participants to create definitions and representations of what it means to be a music teacher. Using life history and collective memory methodologies, I elicited the valued, insider knowledge of three African-American music teachers who have had influential experiences within artistic communities of resistance. Thematic analysis was employed to explore narrative content and to attend to nuanced and collective understandings among individuals and groups. Findings of this study indicated the possibilities of music teacher narratives to serve as epistemological and pedagogical resources for pre-service teacher education and in-service professional development.

  • Culturally Responsive Pedagogy for Teacher Candidates of Color in Teacher Education Programs

    Author:
    Conra Gist
    Year of Dissertation:
    2011
    Program:
    Urban Education
    Advisor:
    Terrie Epstein
    Abstract:

    This dissertation study uses culturally responsive pedagogy as a conceptual framework for exploring how teacher educators structure content, pedagogy, and classroom communities for teacher candidates of color at two model teacher education programs. Using multiple data sources including interviews, focus groups, classroom observations, faculty and teacher candidate logs, and course syllabi and assignments, this study found that the content knowledge and learning experiences of teacher candidates of color was enhanced by pedagogy that was culturally and linguistically raced, gendered and couched in a critical analysis of inequality. "Critically conscious" teacher educators were more likely to integrate "sociocultural consciousness" into their pedagogy, which resulted in the following changes in teacher candidates of color: 1) facilitated among teacher candidates of color an empowered view of their academic abilities and resources; 2) equipped them with critical epistemology to be "change agents" in public schools; and 3) provided them with a cultural and linguistic toolbox for instruction for all students. Findings suggest that "critically conscious" teacher educators may increase the likelihood of teacher candidates of color becoming highly qualified and effective teachers in the future. A theoretical framework for cultivating and identifying "critically conscious" teacher educator pedagogy for teacher candidates of color is also provided, in addition to a discussion of the implications for accountability measures in teacher education policy.

  • Culturally Responsive Pedagogy for Teacher Candidates of Color in Teacher Education Programs

    Author:
    Conra Gist
    Year of Dissertation:
    2011
    Program:
    Urban Education
    Advisor:
    Terrie Epstein
    Abstract:

    This dissertation study uses culturally responsive pedagogy as a conceptual framework for exploring how teacher educators structure content, pedagogy, and classroom communities for teacher candidates of color at two model teacher education programs. Using multiple data sources including interviews, focus groups, classroom observations, faculty and teacher candidate logs, and course syllabi and assignments, this study found that the content knowledge and learning experiences of teacher candidates of color was enhanced by pedagogy that was culturally and linguistically raced, gendered and couched in a critical analysis of inequality. "Critically conscious" teacher educators were more likely to integrate "sociocultural consciousness" into their pedagogy, which resulted in the following changes in teacher candidates of color: 1) facilitated among teacher candidates of color an empowered view of their academic abilities and resources; 2) equipped them with critical epistemology to be "change agents" in public schools; and 3) provided them with a cultural and linguistic toolbox for instruction for all students. Findings suggest that "critically conscious" teacher educators may increase the likelihood of teacher candidates of color becoming highly qualified and effective teachers in the future. A theoretical framework for cultivating and identifying "critically conscious" teacher educator pedagogy for teacher candidates of color is also provided, in addition to a discussion of the implications for accountability measures in teacher education policy.