Alumni Dissertations

 

Alumni Dissertations

Filter Dissertations By:

 
 
  • USING COGENERATIVE DIALOGUE TO AFFORD THE TEACHING AND LEARNING OF BIOLOGY IN AN URBAN HIGH SCHOOL

    Author:
    Femi Otulaja
    Year of Dissertation:
    2010
    Program:
    Urban Education
    Advisor:
    Kenneth Tobin
    Abstract:

    Abstract The body of research work presented in this dissertation integrates critical ethnography with video and conversation analyses in order to provide ways to articulate and understand the complexities associated with social life enactment as it unfolds during cogenerative dialogues and in the science classroom as the teacher and her students engage in science teaching and learning. The primary goal is to improve the teaching and learning of science in an urban science classroom at a public high school in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. In order to understand what is going on in the classroom and why, I worked with a female science teacher who identify as an African-American and her culturally diversified students in a biology class to examine teacher's and students' conscious and unconscious patterned actions, (i.e., classroom practices, that structure teaching and learning in the classroom. It is my belief that to improve science teaching and learning in the classroom, it is salient to improve science teacher's practices as a precursor to transforming students' practices. In order to ameliorate breaches in the fluency of encounters in the classroom, the teacher and her students need to establish and sustain critical, collaborative and collective conversations through cogen. I employ theoretical lenses of cultural sociology that I triangulate with sociology of emotions and critical pedagogy. I focus on culture as schemas and associated practices layered with the triple dialectics of agency, passivity and structure as new or hybridized/interstitial cultures that are produced get enacted in the science classroom to transform teacher's and her students' encounters with each other. The salient implication is that since encounters are imbued with emotions, teacher and her students learn to generate positive emotional energy during cogen that gets reproduced and transformed in the science classroom. Positive emotional energy creates resources that help to initiate and sustain interaction ritual chains that support synchrony, solidarity, sense of affiliation and identity that are necessary for the teacher to be successful as a science teacher and her students to be successful as science learners. Salient to the findings in this study is the need for teachers to envision teaching and learning as a collaborative and collective endeavor with their students. Teachers need the perspectives of others; and students are in the best position to provide the teacher with the authentic perspectives she needs to improve her practice. By being with and working with their teacher, students and teacher share their classroom experiences with each other, in an environment void of hegemony, in order to achieve their individual goals and collective motives in the urban science classroom. Teacher and her students get to know more about each other socially and culturally and are able to work through their differences to achieve success.

  • USING COGENERATIVE DIALOGUE TO AFFORD THE TEACHING AND LEARNING OF BIOLOGY IN AN URBAN HIGH SCHOOL

    Author:
    Femi Otulaja
    Year of Dissertation:
    2010
    Program:
    Urban Education
    Advisor:
    Kenneth Tobin
    Abstract:

    Abstract The body of research work presented in this dissertation integrates critical ethnography with video and conversation analyses in order to provide ways to articulate and understand the complexities associated with social life enactment as it unfolds during cogenerative dialogues and in the science classroom as the teacher and her students engage in science teaching and learning. The primary goal is to improve the teaching and learning of science in an urban science classroom at a public high school in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. In order to understand what is going on in the classroom and why, I worked with a female science teacher who identify as an African-American and her culturally diversified students in a biology class to examine teacher's and students' conscious and unconscious patterned actions, (i.e., classroom practices, that structure teaching and learning in the classroom. It is my belief that to improve science teaching and learning in the classroom, it is salient to improve science teacher's practices as a precursor to transforming students' practices. In order to ameliorate breaches in the fluency of encounters in the classroom, the teacher and her students need to establish and sustain critical, collaborative and collective conversations through cogen. I employ theoretical lenses of cultural sociology that I triangulate with sociology of emotions and critical pedagogy. I focus on culture as schemas and associated practices layered with the triple dialectics of agency, passivity and structure as new or hybridized/interstitial cultures that are produced get enacted in the science classroom to transform teacher's and her students' encounters with each other. The salient implication is that since encounters are imbued with emotions, teacher and her students learn to generate positive emotional energy during cogen that gets reproduced and transformed in the science classroom. Positive emotional energy creates resources that help to initiate and sustain interaction ritual chains that support synchrony, solidarity, sense of affiliation and identity that are necessary for the teacher to be successful as a science teacher and her students to be successful as science learners. Salient to the findings in this study is the need for teachers to envision teaching and learning as a collaborative and collective endeavor with their students. Teachers need the perspectives of others; and students are in the best position to provide the teacher with the authentic perspectives she needs to improve her practice. By being with and working with their teacher, students and teacher share their classroom experiences with each other, in an environment void of hegemony, in order to achieve their individual goals and collective motives in the urban science classroom. Teacher and her students get to know more about each other socially and culturally and are able to work through their differences to achieve success.

  • Schooled Out: Black male teachers experiences schooling in, teaching and leaving New York City Public Schools

    Author:
    Amber Pabon
    Year of Dissertation:
    2013
    Program:
    Urban Education
    Advisor:
    Ofelia Garcia
    Abstract:

    Black male teachers make up less than 2% of the American public school labor force (Brockenbrough, 2008; Dee, 2005; Lewis, 2007). We know little about their life histories and teaching experiences. This qualitative study draws from concepts on languaging (Garcia, 2006) and African oral tradition (Smitherman, 1977) and life history (McAdams, 2008) and critical race theory. I utilize life history interview methods and narrative analysis to examine the narratives of seven Black male teachers. Former students of urban schools and current teachers in New York City public schools, these "inner-city griots" (Freestyle Fellowship, 1993) speak their truths to power.

  • School Closings and Governance Changes in New York City: The Battle over Equity, Accountability, and Community Engagement Across Shifting Terrain

    Author:
    Liza Pappas
    Year of Dissertation:
    2013
    Program:
    Urban Education
    Advisor:
    Ofelia Garcia
    Abstract:

    This dissertation describes and captures the contentious politics concerning school closing proposals introduced by Mayor Michael Bloomberg and the New York City Department of Education (NYCDoE) in years 2010-2011. It analyzes a variety of actors' framings of school closures, as well as respective actions they take to influence policy. Drawing upon interviews, observations, surveys, and documents, this study explores two fundamentally distinct and non-communicative theories of school improvement. The NYCDoE's rationale for school closings is part of a larger school improvement framework built on the pillars of choice, accountability, and a new management and governance structure, what can be understood as neo-decentralization. The Coalition of Educational Justice (CEJ), a parent-led education coalition, challenges the rationale and implementation of school closure policy, and proposes an alternative vision and set of actions for schools to improve. Utilizing interpretative policy analysis (Yanow, 2000) across data and settings helped focus on how the meanings of policies are communicated to and "read" by various constituencies. Analysis revealed a sharp contrast between philosophies and practices promulgated on how schools improve. Other findings point to strategies for those school communities engaged in the phenomenon of school closings, contesting specific school closing proposals or proposing viable alternatives. The central finding of this dissertation is the role that delocalized centralism plays as part of the Portfolio Management Model (PMM), and the challenges it presents to the communities it purports to serve. PMM offers more than a new approach for restructuring the delivery of education services; it remaps the school district into an open marketplace and reshapes schools' relationships to neighborhoods and student and families' relationships to their neighborhood schools. Delocalized centralism extends the notion of decentralized centralism (Karlsen, 2000) by emphasizing the geographical aspects of governance arrangements. Delocalized centralism explains how accountability is removed from local agents, leaving families without actual places to go with their questions and concerns about their children's education. The NYCDoE's new management structure serves a function of conflict management and appears to buffer the Central Office from the needs and input of students, parents, and teachers. The remapping of the school governance terrain poses significant new challenges not only to families, but also for education organizing.

  • Two Tales of One City: A Political Economy of the New York City Public High School Admissions Process

    Author:
    Madeline Perez
    Year of Dissertation:
    2011
    Program:
    Urban Education
    Advisor:
    Jean Anyon
    Abstract:

    Increased choice about which public school to attend is advocated by policy makers as a strategy for urban education reform and for improving school quality (Fuller & Elmore, 1996). This strategy cannot be effective if only families who already have multiple educational options are able to utilize these opportunities. This dissertation addressed the process of NYC Public High School Admissions and how this is experienced differently by families and school staff across race and class lines. This study utilized a multi-sited qualitative approach with a focus on ethnography and interviews to study two middle schools. Questionnaires were also used to gain a larger picture of how families experienced school choice. Central to the research design and analysis was MADRES, an advisory group of mothers of color who, themselves, has recently undergone the high school application process with their own children. The data show that families' familiarity and comfort level with navigating the school system was linked to class-based experiences and the resources and support they received from their middle school. Parents' ability to intervene effectively in a way in which their actions influenced the school applications process was shaped by the social, cultural, and economic capital that they had been provided or denied. The Department of Education often misrecognized families' capital for competence and caring about their children's education. Middle Schools were the most important link between eighth-grade families and the high school admissions process, and their ability to support families heavily relied on the amount of resources, time and expertise that staff members have available. Moreover, the political economy creates the conditions in which the DOE is dependent on white middle-class families for their dominant capital, and caters to them without seeming to do so. The data illuminate what it is like to navigate a system that is already set up to privilege those who already have resources. Ultimately, high school admissions will only fulfill its espoused theory of ensuring choice and equity when educational administrators cease to operate a process that serves a majority of low-income people of color based solely on white middle-class assumptions and redesign appropriately.

  • 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.

  • Youth Engagement: A Study of the Impact of Students' Beliefs and Attitudes towards Civic Participation

    Author:
    Ramón Robles-Fernández
    Year of Dissertation:
    2011
    Program:
    Urban Education
    Advisor:
    Nicholas Michelli
    Abstract:

    This dissertation studies the impact of after school clubs and service learning activities on students' beliefs and attitudes towards citizenship (civic participation in a democracy), civic engagement, and political and social participation. This study focuses on two different organizations: Spectrum, a Gay-Straight alliance; and AMIGOS, a service learning program. Both environments presented students with opportunities to engage in civic activities, while informing their understanding of citizenship (civic participation). The purpose of this study was twofold. First, I wanted to better understand the impact of after school clubs and service learning activities on students' beliefs towards civic participation and civic and political engagement. Second, using as my lens such issues as empowerment, inequality, oppression, domination, and alienation, I sought to gauge whether participation in programs like the ones above altered preconceived ideas students held about others. A mixed-methods approach (quantitative/qualitative) was used to examine the impact of participation in AMIGOS and Spectrum. Data sources included participant interviews, surveys, field notes, observations of training/meetings, and documents. Data were first analyzed separately and then triangulated to investigate consistency in the findings. Data from the observations were analyzed at three different stages: (1) analysis done as an on-going process while reflecting on what was observed; (2) analysis after the study was completed; (3) analysis performed over the summer, after some time and at some distance from the study. AMIGOS provided volunteers with ideal opportunities to build a sense of civic and political engagement in youth. AMIGOS integrated key elements identified by current research: it provided opportunities for teaching about civic and political engagement, and provided opportunities for reflection. In addition, it incorporated real activities: students spent from six to eight weeks in a host community trying to effect positive change. Finally, their efforts were supported, recognized and praised by family members, the communities they come from, and the communities they were assisting. Spectrum also had the potential to build a sense of civic and political engagement in their members. However, they faced challenges that risked lessening their potential impact. The club engaged in "teaching" about civic and political and engagement and provided the members with opportunities to engage in real activities. However, they did not always receive the support and recognition of their communities (school) or families, and often faced opposition to achieving their goal of equal LGBT rights.

  • Playing on Two Courts: Factors that Facilitate and Constrain Teacher Learning in a Lesson Study Group

    Author:
    Rebecca Rufo-Tepper
    Year of Dissertation:
    2009
    Program:
    Urban Education
    Advisor:
    Nicholas Michelli
    Abstract:

    This purpose of this study was to explore the question "What are the factors that facilitate and constrain teacher learning in a lesson study group?" through an ethnographic case study of five teachers involved in a lesson study group at a Manhattan middle school. This study had two specific goals: (1) To contribute to existing theories on how and why lesson study leads to a sense of instructional improvement and (2) To examine the larger institutional and personal factors that may contribute to or present obstacles to instructional change. Data was collected over the course of two school years, and consisted of observation notes from lesson study meetings; observation notes of teachers in their classrooms; field notes; interviews with participants and school leaders; a variety of documents, including artifacts from the lesson study group, emails, student work, and memos; audio recordings of lesson study meetings and interviews, which were transcribed, and a pre-lesson study questionnaire and survey. In order to examine the factors inside and outside of the lesson study group that affected the learning of the participants, data was coded based on factors that facilitated a sense of growth and factors that constrained a sense of growth. A framework for data analysis emerged out of the data and consisted of four main elements: structural features of lesson study, foundational features of the school and larger system of schooling, experiences within lesson study, and teacher characteristics. Analysis suggests that lesson study can create a sense of growth in teaching practice, yet lesson study in itself does not always lead to instructional change. It appears that teacher characteristics, structural and experiential features of lesson study, foundational features within the school, and larger institutional factors both facilitate and present obstacles to change in teaching practice. Findings indicate that though teachers may feel a sense of growth in their practice, they still may not change their instruction or curriculum. The implication from these findings is that lesson study alone - at least for a short period of implementation - is unlikely to create long term change in instruction.

  • Playing on Two Courts: Factors that Facilitate and Constrain Teacher Learning in a Lesson Study Group

    Author:
    Rebecca Rufo-Tepper
    Year of Dissertation:
    2009
    Program:
    Urban Education
    Advisor:
    Nicholas Michelli
    Abstract:

    This purpose of this study was to explore the question "What are the factors that facilitate and constrain teacher learning in a lesson study group?" through an ethnographic case study of five teachers involved in a lesson study group at a Manhattan middle school. This study had two specific goals: (1) To contribute to existing theories on how and why lesson study leads to a sense of instructional improvement and (2) To examine the larger institutional and personal factors that may contribute to or present obstacles to instructional change. Data was collected over the course of two school years, and consisted of observation notes from lesson study meetings; observation notes of teachers in their classrooms; field notes; interviews with participants and school leaders; a variety of documents, including artifacts from the lesson study group, emails, student work, and memos; audio recordings of lesson study meetings and interviews, which were transcribed, and a pre-lesson study questionnaire and survey. In order to examine the factors inside and outside of the lesson study group that affected the learning of the participants, data was coded based on factors that facilitated a sense of growth and factors that constrained a sense of growth. A framework for data analysis emerged out of the data and consisted of four main elements: structural features of lesson study, foundational features of the school and larger system of schooling, experiences within lesson study, and teacher characteristics. Analysis suggests that lesson study can create a sense of growth in teaching practice, yet lesson study in itself does not always lead to instructional change. It appears that teacher characteristics, structural and experiential features of lesson study, foundational features within the school, and larger institutional factors both facilitate and present obstacles to change in teaching practice. Findings indicate that though teachers may feel a sense of growth in their practice, they still may not change their instruction or curriculum. The implication from these findings is that lesson study alone - at least for a short period of implementation - is unlikely to create long term change in instruction.

  • Death of a Dropout: (Re)Theorizing School Dropout and Schooling as a Social Determinant of Health

    Author:
    Jessica Ruglis
    Year of Dissertation:
    2009
    Program:
    Urban Education
    Advisor:
    Nicholas Michelli
    Abstract:

    In this dissertation I posit that schooling is a social determinant of health. Employing a mixed method, participatory action research design, this study examines and offers original theorizing on the ways in which schooling affects educational and health outcomes. This research explores how and why education is the most significant predictor of lifetime health. Grounded in critical race theory, this dissertation spans conceptual frameworks from critical theory, participatory action research, political economy, social and environmental psychology, social epidemiology and public health as a way to understand the relationship that education level has to health. It offers a detailed analysis of the relationship between education and health, the current graduation rate crisis and its historical origins, school dropout and the costs of diploma denial. I describe the research process of the youth participatory action research collective called ProjectDISH (Disparities in Schooling and Health) formed for this study. ProjectDISH created the research questions, methodology, design, protocol and methods of analyses for this mixed-method (mapping, focus groups, and survey) research study. The purpose of our research was to investigate and document the ways in which schooling and health are related, and how racialized urban educational inequities and outcomes correlate with health disparities. Supporting literature and policy suggestions are woven throughout the findings chapters. I end this dissertation by introducing a new theory of school dropout, called school non-completion, as a way to speak back to, reframe and move forward the discourse, research, policy and practices concerning school dropout. The concluding chapter also provides methodological considerations and policy recommendations for this work.