Alumni Dissertations and Theses

 
 

Alumni Dissertations and Theses

Filter Dissertations and Theses By:

 
 
  • 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.

  • "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.

  • On Becoming a Teacher (or Not): Students of Color's Perceptions of Teachers' Work, Consideration of Teaching as a Career, and Implications for Diversifying the Teaching Force

    Author:
    Amanda Winkelsas
    Year of Dissertation:
    2014
    Program:
    Urban Education
    Advisor:
    Nicholas Michelli
    Abstract:

    The racial/ethnic demographics of the American public school teaching force stand in contrast to the racial/ethnic demographics of the students and families who are served by our public school system. In an effort to understand the racial/ethnic demographic disparities between the teaching force and the public school student population, this study explores the perceptions of students of color as they relate to teachers' work, authority, and power. Utilizing a participatory, mixed methods approach in one public, urban, college preparatory school, I analyze the experiences, cultural models, and knowledges that shape students' perceptions of teachers' work and their own consideration of teaching as a potential career. I reflect on the value and transformative power of a truly diversified teaching force and the relationship between teacher diversity, social justice, and the emerging American democracy.

  • Neglected in their Transitions: Second Generation Muslim Youth Search for Support in a Context of Islamaphobia

    Author:
    Mayida Zaal
    Year of Dissertation:
    2009
    Program:
    Urban Education
    Advisor:
    Nicholas Michelli
    Abstract:

    In the Netherlands, anxieties about immigrants, Islam, and the preservation of Dutch values have amplified fears of Muslim youth despite the public discourse of tolerance. While the burgeoning second-generation of Dutch-born Muslim youth faces discrimination in the public sphere, the labor market, and school, they search for services to support their efforts to navigate the formally tracked system of schooling. This dissertation reports on a year-long, qualitative study conducted in Amsterdam, The Netherlands. Research questions focused on second-generation Muslim youth (mostly of Moroccan origin) and their experiences in youth programs created to support their educational needs. The study employed ethnographic methods including participant observations, focus groups, in- depth interviews with youth, and interviews with adults (namely, program coordinators, mentors/instructors, community leaders, and teachers). Youth (N=25) and adult (N=25) participants were recruited from youth programs citywide. Data from different participant groups were triangulated to identify patterns, contradictions or outliers that confirmed, challenged or supported findings focused on the experiences of youth. Additionally, theories of ecological contexts and intersectionality informed the interrogation of the multiple identities embodied by immigrant-origin youth and the social and policies forces that create the conditions under which they live. Findings indicate that two overarching discursive themes - tolerance and criminality - penetrate every experience for Muslim youth. These dominant discourses affect the structure and the content of youth programs, often interfering with the goals of youth workers. Nonetheless, there are significant benefits to those who participate in youth programs; they engage with caring adults who provide safe havens and important academic support. Theoretically, the study's conclusions point to the accumulation of burden Muslim youth experience within a context of Islamaphobia. Moreover, results of this study highlight the need for greater support at critical junctures and transitions within the Dutch system of schooling. Findings have implications for how programs serve the educational needs of immigrant youth; specifically, the study raises questions about repressive policies and funding constraints that affect the services youth programs can offer.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • Teachers at Work: Factors Influencing Satisfaction, Retention and the Professional Well-Being of Elementary and Secondary Educators

    Author:
    Patrick O'Reilly
    Year of Dissertation:
    2014
    Program:
    Urban Education
    Advisor:
    Nicholas Michelli
    Abstract:

    The purpose of this study has been to explore the question of how factors in the work lives of teachers influence their experience of workplace satisfaction, and how satisfaction influences retention in the teaching profession. This study had three specific goals: (1) to examine whether five specified factors that teachers' encounter as workers influence their professional satisfaction, (2) to explore whether teacher satisfaction influences retention in the profession and (3) to determine whether school level taught plays a role in degrees of satisfaction a teacher experiences. Data was collected over a period of five months, using a survey administered to 133 teachers, and follow-up interviews with 15, ten of whom also took the survey. Analysis indicates that both intrinsic and extrinsic factors influence teachers at their work, that teaching is a demanding profession yet one that evokes significant loyalty among its workers, and that while school level taught does indeed play a role in professional satisfaction, teachers at elementary and secondary levels are most satisfied with their work when intrinsically motivated. Intrinsic motivation is fueled by a love of students, of particular subject areas, and of the teaching profession. External factors, such as mandated testing and teacher performance evaluation systems, seriously erode satisfaction. Teaching is both a highly personal and highly public profession; satisfaction is influenced by the extent to which factors such as school climate and support are oriented to allow for teacher autonomy in the classroom. The value of this study lies in the stories told, both through the survey administration and follow-up interviews, of the daily work-lives of teachers. Teachers are powerful work-agents insofar as they have the ability to shape the lives of succeeding generations. Their success depends on access to resources, appropriate support, and a measure of understanding of the complexities inherent in the teaching profession. It is hoped this study will contribute to that understanding and help enable teachers to translate improved work satisfaction to ever more successful teaching, with the likely outcome of well-educated generations of students.

  • Adding Students' Voices to the Discourse on Effective Teaching

    Author:
    Jennie Yi
    Year of Dissertation:
    2014
    Program:
    Urban Education
    Advisor:
    Nicholas Michelli
    Abstract:

    There is tremendous pressure at the national, state, and locals level to improve schools and close the achievement gap of education. In an attempt to solve these education questions, policymakers and education administrators are focusing on quality control of what they consider an essential element in education: teachers. Teachers across the nation are put on the defensive as each state tries to somehow measure and assess teacher effectiveness to ensure their schools have teachers that can yield the highest growth among their students. What has been missing in this inquiry and process, however, are the students' voices. Despite that they are truly the major stakeholders of public education, the students' input and perceptions have not been studied in depth. While some current research includes student surveys, such as studies by the Gates Foundation and the MET (Measurement of Effective Teaching), there is a greater need to focus school and teacher effectiveness studies on student input. This research sought to conduct an inquiry into students' perceptions of education, schooling, and qualities of effective teachers. We conducted our participatory action study with student researchers at a successful suburban high school. A survey targeting 11th grade class of 306 students was administered (N=249). The survey consisted of a self-identified demographic profile, open- and closed-ended responses. The survey was supplemented with10 personal interviews. The interviews revealed a clear understanding on the part of students between school quality/teacher effectiveness and economic variables. The students at this site school have a clear understanding that their families reside in this community for the purpose of their children receiving a high quality education. School and education are instrumental to a common goal: getting into the best college possible and gaining economic benefits, such as high status and or high paying jobs. Academic achievement for students at Eastland High School is quantitative. Scores on local, state, and national exams are a clear measure of academic growth and achievements. The relationship the students perceive between the school and themselves is that of a consumer and producer.  

  • Navigating the Gaze: Young People's Intimate Knowledge with Surveilled Spaces at School

    Author:
    Patricia Krueger
    Year of Dissertation:
    2009
    Program:
    Urban Education
    Advisor:
    Nicholas Michelli
    Abstract:

    The 1980s introduced numerous state and federal policies that created a similar ideology of discipline and punishment in the educational system and the criminal justice system, a phenomenon known today as the school-to-prison pipeline. Several critical elements are involved in the production and maintenance of the school-to-prison pipeline, such as zero tolerance regulations, surveillance technologies, and strengthened in-school discipline practices. In this dissertation I argue that these elements of the pipeline maintain a strong presence and occupy the physical spaces of public schools. Moreover, surveillance cameras and police officers are most often installed in the cities' most under-resourced public schools, and poor, immigrant and students of color are most likely to attend these same schools. In this study I describe the research process of the youth participatory action research collective called Student Supporting Action Awareness formed for this study. Collectively, we document how students navigate through the surveilled spaces of some of New York City public high schools. Through spatial examination and analysis of our citywide youth survey, as well as youth researchers' written and visual narratives, this mixed method participatory action research interrogates the social fabric as produced by dominant social institutions, and it investigates how the criminalization of youth affects student academic motivation and resourcefulness. This study selects methodologies from education, environmental and social psychology, but also relies on critical theory, political economy, and participatory action research to document student narratives, their perceptions of space and place, and their lifeworlds amidst intensified school policing procedures. The data analysis in this dissertation is inspired by the work of geographers Cindi Katz, Henri Lefebvre, and especially by Edward Soja and his theoretical framework of "Third Space" to situate young people's lifeworlds within the constantly redefined, restructured and reshaped spaces at urban public schools. The concluding chapter challenges mainstream epistemologies of the school-to-prison to reframe and change the discourse, research, policy and practices concerning school safety. The last chapter also provides considerations for data analysis, research methods and policy recommendations for this work.

  • Promoting Wellness Through Mindfulness-Based Activities

    Author:
    Malgorzata Powietrzynska
    Year of Dissertation:
    2014
    Program:
    Urban Education
    Advisor:
    Kenneth Tobin
    Abstract:

    The central idea of this dissertation is mindfulness framed as a sociocultural, secular, and multidimensional construct involving attention that is purposeful, in the present moment, and non-judgmental. Mindfulness represents a unification of century-old contemplative Eastern traditions (including Buddhism) and the recent developments of modern, Western science. Hence, supported by the emerging scientific evidence, I argue that mindfulness practices have a potential to offer a wide range of benefits related to wellness. In particular, I report on our hermeneutic-phenomenological studies investigating the centrality of emotions in teaching and learning. Our findings confirm that when adopted in education, mindfulness may mediate positive socio-emotional and cognitive changes stretching beyond the immediate school environments and their narrowly defined outcomes. In my discussion of methods and methodologies used in our research, I highlight theory and practical applications of mindfulness-based interventions. I specifically address two such interventions-breathing meditation and reflexivity-boosting heuristics-that were developed and enacted in our studies. Considered in ontological terms, the interventions are meant to afford shifts towards enactments saturated with focus, open awareness, and the ability to detach from thoughts and emotions. Axiological considerations point to compassion towards all sentient beings and the non-animate world as a highly valued component of a mindful disposition. The principles of authentic inquiry we practice stipulate that research participants benefit from the study. Accordingly, my engagement in this research afforded ontological changes towards more mindful ways of being. In addition, I was able to witness and contribute to similar transformations in people occupying different fields of my social life. When viewed through an epistemological lens, wellness-mediating mindful enactments constitute knowledge that is profoundly desirable and distinct from a canonical tradition that continues to be privileged in education. As a researcher, I consider it an ethical obligation to persist in mindfulness-promoting activism towards achievement of ontological, educative, catalytic, and tactical authenticity. The relationships with like-minded scholars that emerged in the course of my research open up new possibilities for the collaborative work to continue.