Alumni Dissertations

 

Alumni Dissertations

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  • Restructuring High School Math Learning Spaces with Interactive Technology and Transformative Pedagogy

    Author:
    Roland Lucas
    Year of Dissertation:
    2013
    Program:
    Urban Education
    Advisor:
    Kenneth Tobin
    Abstract:

    There are three hypotheses for this research: 1. High school mathematics students in urban public schools, who are provided interactive technology resources during normal course work, will experience a multiplier effect of enhanced learning in mathematics. They will have an increase in positive dispositions indicative of their identity development as competent doers of math. 2. Through focusing on solving problems that relate to the life-world of students, students will experience an increase in the levels of solidarity with participants of the course. This will have a positive impact of the learning experiences and achievement of students. 3. Students will develop increased value of using their developing competencies in math to model and analyze issues relevant to their communities. The purpose of this research is to study effective utilization of interactive technologies and math computer programs in public high school mathematics classes. The interactive technologies used in classes are to support graphical, tabluar, verbal and analytical representations of the mathematics in hopes of increasing the learning potential and math fluency of students. The research will serve as a basis for ongoing development of teaching practices that improve student achievement in mathematics. The research design is an interpretive / phenomenological study of evolving attitudes and practices of students as they are engaged with math problem solving. Students will not be asked to produce any data solely for the purposes of the research. All activities that students do, and all data that will inform the research, will emerge from best teaching practices, which are supported by the school principal and have been formally approved by the school board. All methods and strategies employed in this study are ones I have used, over the past six years, in my role as a highly qualified math teacher in Newark public schools. No changes in what happens will occur because of this dissertation study. The research design is an interpretive / phenomenological study of evolving attitudes and practices of students as they are engaged with math problem solving. Students will not be asked to produce any data solely for the purposes of the research. All activities that students do, and all data that will inform the research, will emerge from best teaching practices, which are supported by the school principal and have been formally approved by the school board. All methods and strategies employed in this study are ones I have used, over the past six years, in my role as a highly qualified math teacher in Newark public schools. No changes in what happens will occur because of this dissertation study. Not all teachers are implementing the best practices that this study focuses on. I want to shed light on these practices and show how they can become more common and done in a more collaborative way. Students can opt not to use technologies at all, but it is not likely they would want to since doing so would slow down their progress. Teachers, however, are required to teach math with using various technologies, such as in an advanced graphing calculator or an interactive smart board. This is a case of, students are using technology in classes, gaining advantages with this technology use, and I would just like to analyze it write about my findings in my dissertation. Please see the school issued student calculator contract included with this application. It shows that math teachers are required to teach with school approved technologies, in this case a newer handheld graphing calculator), but that students may opt not to use it. Furthermore, many teachers don't yet know how to use these newer school approved technologies and must be shown the methods and benefits.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • Using Cogenerative Dialogue to Transform the Teaching and Learning of Mathematics in Urban High School

    Author:
    Samuel Jackson
    Year of Dissertation:
    2010
    Program:
    Urban Education
    Advisor:
    Kenneth Tobin
    Abstract:

    This dissertation focuses on improving the teaching and learning of mathematics in urban schools for African-American and minority students. My students played important roles as co-researchers in this two years ethnographic study conducted in a Queens, New York high school in which I employed cogenerative dialogue and coteaching as the two central research methods for connecting with students socially, culturally, and academically as I believe in a polyphonic and polysemic characterization of our classroom experiences. This is central in understanding how African-American and minority students interact, construct knowledge, and experience learning in urban schools. As such, different theories were utilized at different times to make sense of our practices and understandings as new outcomes are produced, as the study progressed. At the same time, my identity along with students' identities was constantly being transformed by our experiences in the classroom. At different stages of the research, our changing focus, ontology and epistemology dictated the theoretical method that was employed.

  • The Paradox of Concern: Nationalist Discourses and the Education of "Immigrant" Youth in a Danish Folkeskole

    Author:
    Reva Jaffe-Walter
    Year of Dissertation:
    2011
    Program:
    Urban Education
    Advisor:
    Stacey Lee
    Abstract:

    This dissertation, drawing from an ethnographic study of the experiences of Muslim first and second generation Muslim youth in a Danish Folkeskolen, examines the conflicting narratives of immigration in Danish society and how these discourses influence the schooling and the identitification processes of Muslim immigrant youth. Prior to 1960, Denmark was, ethnically, a relatively homogenous country that prided itself on its commitments to social equality, humanitarian aid and openness to refugees. However, since the 1990s Denmark has experienced the emergence of nationalist discourses that construct immigrants as racialized outsiders. This dissertation explores how social stereotypes of Muslim identities are produced, circulated and debated within the media and education policies and how they are taken up within everyday school practices of teaching and learning as well as in interactions between different actors in schools. It considers how Muslim immigrant youth position themselves and are positioned within hierarchies of racial and cultural difference that influence their access to resources in school and society. However, it also explores how immigrant youth and teachers create critical counter-narratives that challenge and reframe negative social stereotypes in ways that forward new conceptions of belonging within Danish society. In educational spaces long committed to social equality and child-centered education, teachers expressed desires to help immigrants, to extend the benefits of "democratic" society as they enacted assimilitive practices that were cloaked in the benevolent language of "concern". School was imagined as a site to enlighten and civilize Muslim students. While teachers conceived of school as being "open" and inclusive of cultural and religious differences, findings suggest that school is implicitly a Danish and Christian space where immigrant students were positioned as racialized outsiders. The data presented here reveal how immigration discourses inform the amplification of everyday events and particular moments in adolescence that are understood to be critical opportunities for cultural and national intervention. This work therefore seeks to reveal the complex dimensions of concern that may mask coercive and assimilative practices. Paradoxically, concern may lead to misrecognition and derail the types of authentic student teacher relations that are associated with educational and civic engagement.