Alumni Dissertations and Theses

 
 

Alumni Dissertations and Theses

Filter Dissertations and Theses By:

 
 
  • 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.

  • "In a Position I See Myself In:" Young Men of Color (Re)Negotiating Educational Identities

    Author:
    Noah Golden
    Year of Dissertation:
    2013
    Program:
    Urban Education
    Advisor:
    Wendy Luttrell
    Abstract:

    Challenging deficit framings of young men of color in educational research, this dissertation seeks to build knowledge on how a group of young men of color in a second-chance secondary level program understand the ways in which they are positioned in and out of spaces of formal education. Specifically, this work seeks to answer the following questions: How do young men of color understand the ways in which they are represented in educational and life-outcome disparity discourse? How do these young men renegotiate and resist these namings? In exploring these questions, this dissertation offers analysis of both the young men's understandings of how they are positioned and documents strategies and cultural tools that the young men draw on when working to reposition themselves. These strategies and cultural tools have implications for a learning process dedicated to educational and life-outcome equity. The ways in which the `crisis' of young men of color in formal education and life-outcomes is framed is both a consequence of and has consequence for understandings of learning, particularly within the field of literacy. Exploring the ways in which framings of the `crisis' enable and engender both conceptions of literacy and a range of potential solutions, this work argues for a critical socio-cultural approach to literacy education that begins with a radical listening-with. A literacy education that begins with a radical listening-with has the potential to support sites of solidarity for learners who have historically been minoritized, and to make identity-negotiations central to understandings of what it means to be literate. The young men in this study are learners in the GED Connect program, a secondary-level educational alternative run by the New York City Department of Education, one of the centers of large-scale neoliberal education reform. These young men participated in an after-school Men's Group of which the primary functions were to create a network of support and engage in a concurrent [alongside the dissertation research project] Youth Participatory Action Research project. Data consist of the young men's narratives that were collected during select Men's Group sessions, and narrative analysis was employed to analyze the structures, themes, and positioning/repositioning practices present in the young men's narratives. Findings suggest that the young men are very much aware of the ways in which they are negatively positioned in discourses in and out of school, and that group identity has been tarnished in ways that diminish space for solidarity and encourage understandings of life-outcomes based on individual merit. In attempting to refuse undesirable positions, the young men draw on a variety of cultural tools and resources to reposition themselves when confronted with prevalent negative discourses on what it means to be a young man of color.

  • Notes from the Blogging Field: Teacher Voice and the Policy-Practice Gap in Education

    Author:
    Kiersten Greene
    Year of Dissertation:
    2013
    Program:
    Urban Education
    Advisor:
    Jean Anyon
    Abstract:

    Public education is in crisis. From the proliferation of reforms that support high-stakes testing and one-size-fits-all curricula to the overt privatization of schooling via the charter school movement, the system of public education in the United States is in dire need of repair. However, as many scholars, educators, and students have noted over the last century, public education has often--if not always--been in a state of constant crisis, reform, and hopeful repair. Parents, students, policymakers, and most recently the teachers, have been blamed for the failure of public education, though no viable, long-term solution has been successfully conceived and put into practice as long as there has been public schooling. This dissertation investigates teachers' daily work inside classrooms via blogs written by New York City public school teachers, and posits that 1) teachers, whose work provides the fulcrum around which all activity in a school revolves, have an important critique of policy to offer from the view of the classroom, and should be heard by policymakers; and 2) online spaces, and blogs in particular, provide a new venue by which to hear teachers' voices, which have long been both largely inaccessible due to the isolation inherent in teaching, and silenced by the policymaking process. This project is built on the acknowledgment that policymakers do not often consider teachers' voices in the policymaking process, but also on the hope that if enough voices are heard, they will have no choice but to listen.

  • CONTESTATION AND POSSIBILITIES: EXPERIENCES IN THE `OTHER' URBAN CLASSROOMS

    Author:
    Nicole Grimes
    Year of Dissertation:
    2011
    Program:
    Urban Education
    Advisor:
    Kenneth Tobin
    Abstract:

    The research presented in this dissertation is a response to the general lack of research conducted in independent urban schools. In my work, I present varied vignettes that aim to provide a glimpse into the lifeworlds of students within such schools and how they too struggle to learn science. There are two major goals of this study. First, I encourage readers to rethink current conceptions of urban schooling and redefine what it means to be an urban learner. Secondly, I intend to demonstrate how the cogenerated action plans of coteachers and cogenerative dialogue groups can serve to make science accessible to students whom are diagnosed and placed in mainstreamed educational settings. The idea is to show that by transforming science learning contexts into cosmopolitan learning communities, students can become successful in science. Through a three-year ethnographic study of middle science classrooms in an independent school in New York City, I present explorations of the culture and context of the independent urban classroom as a chief means to meet my stated goals. By utilizing cogenerative dialogues and coteaching, I show how students and teachers can work together as co-researchers and coteachers that engage in a dual process of creating structures that support science success.

  • IDENTITY DEVELOPMENT IN PRE-SERVICE TEACHERS WHO ARE EXPLAINERS IN A SCIENCE CENTER: DIALECTICALLY DEVELOPING THEORY AND PRAXIS

    Author:
    Preeti Gupta
    Year of Dissertation:
    2009
    Program:
    Urban Education
    Advisor:
    Kenneth Tobin
    Abstract:

    This dissertation investigates how teaching in a hands-on science center contributes to re/shaping one's teaching identity. Situated at the New York Hall of Science (NYHS) in Queens, New York, my research approach is to conduct a critical ethnography where the focus is on improving the teaching and learning of science for all involved. In particular, Explainers, floor staff at NYHS, who are studying to be science teachers, are invited to become co-researchers with me. Written as a manuscript style, this dissertation consists of six chapters. Each chapter foregrounds certain events and phenomena, and theory and method are woven in to theorize identity construction. Grounded in cultural sociology, the frameworks of Cultural Historical Activity Theory (CHAT), and the sociology of emotions, illuminate key understandings about the construction of teaching identity. Multiple data sources including field notes, transcribed audio and videotapes, and cogenerative dialogues are used. I employ a hermeneutic phenomenological approach to data analysis. This research has salient implications for museum-university partnerships, and training for museum floor staff and has the potential to inform policy-making for pre-service teaching clinical fieldwork experiences.

  • KEEPING COUNT OF ALL AND LOSING COUNT OF A FEW: THE CONSTRUCTION OF THE HIGH SCHOOL DROPOUT RATE

    Author:
    Shana Henry
    Year of Dissertation:
    2012
    Program:
    Urban Education
    Advisor:
    Nicholas Michelli
    Abstract:

    The quality of the construction of the high school dropout rate is the policy issue investigated in this dissertation. This qualitative dissertation explores the constructs necessary to create a high school dropout rate and seeks to unearth complexities in the construction of the high school dropout rate. Every single year, approximately 1.2 million students do not earn a high school diploma. Dropout rates are one method of assessing the magnitude of the problem and helps to shed light on the health of the public school system. A number of researchers have questioned the accuracy of data reported by schools for public information. Current educational procedures regarding non-completion are ineffective with respect to calculating dropout rates. In the absence of clear standardization of student exit codes at any level of government, comparisons across states are arbitrary and therefore invalid and by extension meaningless. It is imperative to examine how the data is collected, reported, and verified. Several factors undermine the comparability that is assumed when educational statistics are reported. This investigation shows different ways by which high school dropout rates are constructed. The quality of the educational statistics should be paramount since they show trends in the health of the public school system and are useful for decision making. The youths that are exempt from counting in the dropout rate will continue to be ignored until this policy issue is addressed.

  • To Educate Feeling: Implementing Social Integration Curriculum in Trinidad and Tobago, 1950 to 2000

    Author:
    Heidi Holder
    Year of Dissertation:
    2011
    Program:
    Urban Education
    Advisor:
    Christa Altenstetter
    Abstract:

    In Trinidad and Tobago, a small multiethnic state in the Caribbean, education policies aimed at reducing inter-ethnic and inter-religious tensions, and at integrating diverse ethnic and religious groups into a national identity were implemented as content and pedagogy in the social studies curriculum and as structural education policies meant to improve access to secondary schooling and social mobility for disadvantaged groups. Historical institutionalism theory in conjunction with frameworks and theoretical perspectives from comparative and international education, globalization and education, political science and public administration were used to analyze primary and secondary historical documents from the 1851 to 1950 period, semi-structured interviews of government bureaucrats and educators, and policy documents and policy-related documents from 1950 to 2000. Data analysis revealed that rules, routines and procedures from the 1851 to 1950 period were so institutionalized in the Trinidad and Tobago education system that they constrained the behavior of policy actors making it difficult for actors to adjust rules, routines and procedures to do things differently than they had in the past. As such, curriculum and structural education policies aimed at reducing inter-ethnic and inter-religious tensions, and at integrating diverse groups into a national identity during the 1950 to 2000 period were often formulated and implemented in much the same way as they were during the 1851 to 1950 period. Data analysis also revealed that the implementation of structural and curriculum policies aimed at reducing inter-ethnic and inter-religious tensions and at integrating diverse ethnic and religious groups into a national identity were hindered by several factors, including: the command and control nature of the Trinidad and Tobago bureaucracy; poor coordination between ministry of education agencies; the wording of statues; the knowledge and attitude of teachers; managerial skills; work load at all levels of the education system; as well as other contextual factors that are inherent to the Trinidad and Tobago case.