Alumni Dissertations

 

Alumni Dissertations

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  • Improving Mathematics Teaching and Learning in an Adult Basic Education Program Using Cogenerative Dialogues

    Author:
    Felicia Wharton
    Year of Dissertation:
    2010
    Program:
    Urban Education
    Advisor:
    Kenneth Tobin
    Abstract:

    This study explores the use of cogenerative dialogue (cogen) in an Adult Basic Education (ABE) program located in New York City, and the ways in which students and teachers collaborated to cogenerate resources that afforded a positive and equitable learning environment built on solidarity and new perspectives on teaching and learning of mathematics. Cogen was introduced to understand how certain structural characteristics within the classroom environment enable or constrain students' agency and understandings of mathematics. The research presented in this study focuses on improving the teaching and learning of mathematics in a General Education Development (GED) mathematics class from the perspectives of the students--the immediate stakeholders. The theoretical frameworks employed in this critical ethnography are cultural sociology, sociology of emotions and hermeneutic phenomenology, which are used to describe and interpret students' experiences within GED mathematics classrooms and their associated computer-assisted instructed class. Cogen and conversion analysis were used to gather data and process multiple data sources such as observations, interviews, video and audio recordings. Findings from this research depicts that cogen created learning environments that fit the needs of adult learners in which they were afforded the opportunity to co/plan, critique and implement curriculum and instructional practice that value how they learn mathematics as adult learners. Thus, students engaged in the process of evaluating, analyzing and interpreting their mathematical knowledge in the form of sharing, coteaching, and helping each other understand ideas regarding problem solving in a collaborative setting. This research has salient implications for the teaching and learning of mathematics in urban ABE programs, the use of computer-assisted instructed programs and provides insight on how collaborative approaches among math teachers and their students improve and enhance mathematics teaching and learning.

  • Alternatively Certified Teacher and Technology: Agency|Structure Dialectic - Integration of Technologically Mediated Instructions to Improve Literacy by Creating Comic Books in a Special Education learning Community

    Author:
    Eydie Wilson
    Year of Dissertation:
    2009
    Program:
    Urban Education
    Advisor:
    Kenneth Tobin
    Abstract:

    The United States Department of Education is increasingly looking toward technology as a means to improve student academic achievements in schools. This auto/ethnographical and auto/biographical brings to the foreground issues of identity, culture, and equity as it documents my collaborative journey as an alternatively certified, highly qualified teacher with Brock and Stewie, students educated in a general education class and receive special education services in a socio economically challenged New York City District 75 school, as they integrate technologically mediated instruction through the creation of comic books as a teaching tool to improve their literacy. By describing and exploring patterns of cultural enactment (and contradictions to those patterns) within our comic book research dialogue group (CBRDG) and school, this study examines how our agency and identity re/construction were afforded or limited by communities of practice and school structures. Our experiences were analyzed on the micro, meso, and macro levels using data sources including videotapes, audiotapes, written reflections, and various other artifacts. In response to two broad questions, I learned that examining technology integration meant addressing the very core of what it meant to be an alternatively certified special education teacher and students labeled with a disability in an urban public school. At times, Brock, Stewie, and I found it difficult to re/construct our identities in settings where we were pulled in different directions at once. As the teacher with strong technology knowledge, skills, and a community of computer users for support, I needed to address urban schooling issues of outdated computer equipment and access to it. As inclusion students, Brock and Stewie had to navigate and function in more than one school to be active members of CBRDG. By utilizing CBRDG (dialogue discussions and technology instructions) as tools for cultural enactment, I show how Brock and Stewie transform and emerge as coteachers. I also began to see CBRDG's members in a new light as they interacted with technology practices to support both personal and collective learning.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.  

  • 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.

  • From the BX to a BA: Latino Male Students and the Transition from High School to College

    Author:
    Alejandro Carrión
    Year of Dissertation:
    2014
    Program:
    Urban Education
    Advisor:
    Ofelia García
    Abstract:

    This study aims to provide a counter narrative to the deficit filled discourse surrounding Latino males by informing teachers, policymakers and researchers of the barriers and resources encountered by this population as they make the transition from high school to college. A qualitative research design was utilized for this study, which focused on 10 Latino males who mainly identified as Puerto Rican and Dominican, from the Bronx. Bourdieu's Theory of Practice, and his theoretical tools of field (structures), habitus (dispositions) and capital (social, cultural and economic), was used as the theoretical framework guiding this study. Participants shared the nuances of the college transition, which required them to negotiate various fields. Their interactions with the fields of the Bronx, school, and family provided messages and capital concerning college that either aligned or detoured their habitus toward college. These fields, at times, created "physical barriers" to accessing college such a lack of financial aid and inadequate schooling. But the fields also provided a layer of barriers which lived in the discourse and messages they received about college. This discourse informed the students' habitus which constructed a "college imagination" that perceived institutions of higher education as a dark, lonely place where no one would care for them. Moreover students discussed how teachers tried to "scare them straight" with a "caring" discourse that attempted to align their academic actions and behaviors towards what teachers envisioned as more appropriate for college "survival" and "success". Many of the participants were able to navigate issues around masculinity and academic unpreparedness to "successfully" transition to college by leaning on the support they received from their peers, college counselors, and their mothers. Ultimately the majority of the participants were able to navigate the college transitions through their habitus, which was aligned to interpreting college as a natural step in their life's journey.