Alumni Dissertations

 

Alumni Dissertations

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

  • Open Admissions and Remediation: A Case Study of Policymaking by the City University of New York Board

    Author:
    Suri Duitch
    Year of Dissertation:
    2010
    Program:
    Urban Education
    Advisor:
    Nicholas Michelli
    Abstract:

    An open admissions policy for the City University of New York was approved by the University's Board of Higher Education in 1969, ushering in a new era of greater access to college for the city's poor and working class Blacks, Latinos, and white youth. This policy change was made in response to demands from students, civil rights organizations, minority elected officials, and civic organizations for access to higher education for historically underserved populations in the city. It also satisfied the political exigencies of the time, allowing the city and Mayor John Lindsay, who was seeking to tamp down civil unrest, to support open admissions as a response to the demands of the civil rights movement. As part of the implementation of open admissions, CUNY developed an infrastructure to support remedial work for students starting college without adequate academic skills. Almost thirty years after the open admissions proposal was approved, in a markedly different political climate, the CUNY Trustees voted to end remediation at the system's baccalaureate degree-granting colleges, bringing the era of open admissions to an end. This time, the decision was made in response to the demands of the Mayor and Governor and strong advocacy on the part of some of the City's media. The debate took place within the context of a shift away from programs for the disadvantaged and back toward the focus on quality and prestige that had been CUNY's hallmark before 1969. Both the vote to institute open admissions and the vote to remediation came at the end of a highly visible, highly contested policy debate in which internal and external constituents weighed in, the mainstream media highlighted the debate, and city and state elected officials played a significant role. As well, both policy debates were highly ideological in nature, with Board members and other participants acting on deeply held beliefs regarding the mission and purposes of public higher education. This comparative case study discusses both decisions within their larger social context, considering how they were shaped by politics and the ideologies of the respective CUNY Boards and key constituencies.

  • The Comprehensive High School in Transition: A Study of Small Learning Community Reform

    Author:
    Mark Dunetz
    Year of Dissertation:
    2009
    Program:
    Urban Education
    Advisor:
    Nicholas Michelli
    Abstract:

    For over forty years, the dominant secondary high school model in urban school districts was the comprehensive high school. As various attempts to turn around failing high schools in the 1970s and 1980s failed, increasing numbers of educators, researchers, and policy makers began to question whether the comprehensive high school model was viable. The history of small school reform over the last two decades represents an ambitious attempt to remedy the perceived disconnect between school structures and desired outcomes. But while hundreds of small schools have been created in New York City over the last two decades, small high school reform as an exclusive response to underperformance has increasingly been seen as untenable. As a result, there has been renewed interest in structures which allow for more personalized educational experiences while maintaining large schools intact. Small Learning Communities represent one such structure and this study examines an attempt to create semi-autonomous institutes within a comprehensive high school. The data analyzed for this research were generated during the planning phases of this project (2005-2006) and during the first two years of implementation (2006-2008). The quantitative data analyzed included standardized exam scores, demographic indicators, class lists and course offerings, course passing rates, credit accumulation patterns, the results of diagnostic tests, and attendance rates. In addition, this research involved an analysis of a range of qualitative data generated by the reform process including organizational charts, meeting minutes, and memos. Finally, the researcher conducted observations of a wide range of school settings and interviewed key stakeholders. Findings indicate that the creation of semi-autonomous institutes were related to positive shifts in school culture for teachers and created the potential for increased academic performance. These shifts in faculty perceptions of school culture were related to improved communication, expanded professional opportunities, and more robust relationships between adults and students. Involving broader segments of a school's faculty in decision-making was found to generate broader investment in collective goals and more effective problem solving but was not in itself sufficient to generate consensus around contested goals or to result in changes to instructional practice.

  • 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.

  • LEARNING TO STAY: A CASE STUDY ON AGROFORESTRY EDUCATION FOR THE SUSTAINABILITY OF RURAL YOUTH IN DARIEN, REP. OF PANAMA

    Author:
    Fulvia Jordan
    Year of Dissertation:
    2012
    Program:
    Urban Education
    Advisor:
    Joel Spring
    Abstract:

    Attending and completing upper secondary school in Darién, located on the eastern side of Panama, presents several challenges for the youth; these are largely attributed to: 1) lack of access to upper secondary schools, caused by geographic and socioeconomic factors; 2) poor regional education policies; and 3) inadequate infrastructure (e.g. transportation, potable water and electricity) that supports inconsistent school attendance. The purpose of this dissertation was to learn about an alternative solution to the educational problems in Darién, offered by Colegio Agroforestal de Darién, a boarding school. The research question that guided this study was: in what ways does a school with an agroforestry curriculum contribute to the sustainable development of the youth in Darién? Sustainable development here refers to the prospects for students to improve their socioeconomic conditions as a result of their technical education, while acquiring competencies to support the preservation of their ecosystem (UNESCO, n.d.). Darién is the most sparsely populated region of the country--3.7 inhabitants per square kilometer--and the region with the highest rate of extreme poverty; Darién accounts for 52.7% of the national poverty rate (Contraloría General, 2008). It is also home to a diverse population; 23% Afro-Latino, 30% Indigenous and 47% Colono-Latino (IADB, 2002). Using a mixed methods approach informed by rural development and place-based education (Gruenewald, 2003) conceptual frameworks, the study focused on data from the 2007, 2008 and 2009 graduates and from the 2010 current students. Findings in this study revealed that graduates assessed their training in agroforestry --agriculture, animal husbandry, forestry and land management--as significant in preparing them for employment and motivated many to pursue tertiary education. However, limitations to the continued accomplishments of the school were also found. This study adds to the body of literature that links the practice of agroforestry systems in developing countries with poverty reduction (Garrity, 2004). Moreover, there is a paucity of empirical qualitative literature that speaks to the contribution of education, particularly in rural places, in the livelihood of youth in Panama.

  • The Social Network of US National Math Education

    Author:
    Mark Wolfmeyer
    Year of Dissertation:
    2012
    Program:
    Urban Education
    Advisor:
    Joel Spring
    Abstract:

    This dissertation investigates the emerging US national math education, its curriculum and purpose, with respect to the individuals and organizations comprising its social network. National math education means two things: a circumstance in which all students across the US are offered primarily the same instruction from among mathematical topics, and a process whose outcome is in the national interest. The method of inquiry relies on a new perspective of governance in which social networks operate among official governing structures. Upon constructing a representative social network surrounding US national math education, the following interests were found: developing a national math education that enhances the productivity of US workers, advocacy for either a traditional or reform mathematics pedagogy, improving the content knowledge of US math teachers, and a national math education that fuels an education services industry. Taken together, these interests undermine each other and are argued to fail at national math education's purported objective, namely, to increase the knowledge and use of mathematics by persons living in the US.