Graduate Theses & Dissertations

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Story is Medicine
This is a story within a story that spans over a hundred years and four generations. It takes the reader from war-torn Russia during a famine to the urban streets of Toronto and then to the Canadian North. The story is a memoirette, or a ‘not quite long enough, but almost a memoir’ of a mother’s journey navigating life after her son discloses his addiction to Fentanyl. The mother finds little if any support from family, friends or conventional support programs and instead turns to her oma’s harrowing stories of survival as a source of knowledge, strength and medicine. The analysis explores storytelling as a legitimate method of learning, pedagogy and research. It explores the concept of story as medicine through Etuaptmumk. A Two-Eyed Seeing framework created by Mi’kmaq elders in 2004 (Sylliboy, Latimer, Marshall & McLeod, 2009). The power of the narrative is discussed through ‘Western’ and ‘Indigenous’ lenses. Author Keywords: addiction, Etuaptmumk, Fentanyl, story as medicine, story as pedagogy, Two-Eyed Seeing
History Majors During the Humanities Crisis
This qualitative case study explored the experience of members and associates of one university history department in order to examine the phenomena of choosing and working within the history major in the context of current declines in humanities enrolment. Drawing on interviews with 7 professors, 8 student majors, and 10 professional staff, it analyzed beliefs about how students should choose their majors, benefits of historical thinking, the current climate of crisis in history, and resources to support history students. Participants agreed that students should choose a major based on intrinsic factors and shared a common vision of the meaning and importance of historical thinking. However, participants experienced tension between these intrinsic values and extrinsic pressures regarding the humanities crisis and the efficacy of student-support resources. These results have implications for understanding pressures felt by current humanities students and for developing new resources to better support history majors. Author Keywords: case study, choice of major, historical thinking, history department, humanities crisis, student affairs
Resistance Revisited
This study examines how student activism around the closure of Peterborough Collegiate and Vocational School (PCVS), an inner-city school in a medium–sized Ontario town has influenced youths’ life experiences, views on power, political engagement, and personal agency. Following a critical narrative methodology, this qualitative study, conducted four to five years after the school closure, focuses on interviews with fourteen participants who were part of the high-school group Raiders in Action and explores both what they learned from their protest and its influence on their lives over the ensuing years. The study identifies the researcher’s subjective position as a teacher and an adult in solidarity with the group’s work. Critical pedagogy, critical youth studies, and feminist approaches inform the researcher’s perspective. This project is inspired by an image of young people as citizens who actively challenge and change educational institutions to create a more participatory democracy in our city, country, continent, planet. Author Keywords: critical pedagogy, critical youth resistance, neoliberalism, school closure, student activism, youth organizing
Marginalization and Alternative Education in Ontario
In Ontario, mainstream education often does not meet the individual learning needs of high school students who experience marginalization. Alternative school programs may offer these students greater support and flexibility in completing their high school diploma. While previous research on alternative education in Ontario is thorough, it is limited to the Greater Toronto Area (GTA). To address the lack of research within smaller communities, this project uses the experiences of alternative education students in the City of Peterborough to explore how alternative programs meet student needs. Using a narrative methodology, the project relies on interviews with six students who offer their stories of attending alternative education programs. Research findings suggest that alternative education programs offer a meaningful and effective way for students to complete high school. Participants emphasize the importance of positive relationships with teachers and staff, student-driven curriculum, paid co-operative credits, and material benefits. Author Keywords: Alternative Education, Critical Pedagogy, Marginalization, Narrative Inquiry, Ontario, Student Experiences
Mapping a Learning Trajectory and Student Outcomes in Unplugged Coding
This thesis reports the outcomes of a mixed methods exploratory study on young children’s spatial reasoning and mathematics involving unplugged (offline) coding with young children (JK-Grade 2). Intrigued by the increased push for coding in schools, teachers and researchers worked together in a collaborative research process to design a sequence of unplugged coding activities and document student thinking. Qualitative results include the mapping of a hypothetical learning trajectory for unplugged coding focused on location and movement, as well as an analysis of the computational, spatial and mathematical thinking in unplugged coding. The grid was found to be a fundamental spatial structure that supported student thinking across all domains. Quantitative data included a range of spatial and mathematics measures that were administered pre-post with a subsample of 55 students. Findings showed strongest gains in mental rotations/visualization and magnitude comparison, suggesting this as a promising area for further study. Author Keywords: Early Years, Learning Trajectories, Spatial Reasoning, Unplugged Coding, Young Children
“Has anybody got my back?”
Drawing on pedagogies of care, queer pedagogy and Foucault’s concept of biopower, this critical narrative study of six women teachers at an Ontario school uses interview data to explore how teaching affects women’s bodies. Findings include the dominance of men in schools; the high rate of violence against teachers committed by students; participants’ unwillingness to show bodily discomfort to students; and the profound effect of motherhood on teaching practice. I call on educators and school administrators to embed care of students’ and teachers’ bodies into the practices of schooling. I also propose that instead of erasing teacher corporeality from classrooms, we allow students to care for teachers’ bodies as part of a healthy, reciprocal caring relationship, developing students’ and sustaining teachers’ capacity to care. Given the underrepresentation of women’s voices speaking about violence against teachers, this thesis is also a repository for women’s narrated stories of assault in Ontario schools. Author Keywords: biopedagogies, body, care, narrative inquiry, pedagogy, teacher
Reconceptualising the Heteronormative Curriculum Through Autobiographical Methodology - A Study of Heteronormativity within Ontario Ministry of Education Curriculum Documents
This thesis is about the negative impacts on queer identities caused by the lack of diversity related to sexual orientation within Ontario Ministry of Education curriculum documents, both at the elementary and secondary level. Curriculum documents as well as policy documents are analysed and compared in order to address the lack of diverse sexual orientation representation within Ontario’s education system. The study is guided by the question: “who benefits from the current representations of sexual orientation in the curriculum?” This conceptual study advances autobiographical methodology and the concept of Currere in relation to queer theory that allows researchers to analyse their educational experiences throughout the course of their lives and then become agents of social change. The results of my personal curriculum analysis have shown that curriculum documents lack diverse sexual orientation representation and that this has negative impacts how LGBQQ people identify and on the course of their lives. Author Keywords: Curriculum, Homophobia, LGBQQ, Ontario Curriculum, Ontario Education, Sexual Orientation
Along the Path
This thesis is written in three parts and supported throughout by feminist critical pedagogical analysis and a narrative methodological approach. In Part I I lay a theoretical groundwork that weaves the Freirean roots of critical pedagogy with its more contemporary theories in application to K-12 schooling, and with feminist thinking, most notably Sara Ahmed whose work has moved me both as a human and a teacher. In Part II, I take a deep dive into autoethnography (Bochner, (2017), Ellis, 1999). In Part III, I offer a memoir of my experience as a classroom teacher over a nearly 20 year period. The story of my work as an activist elementary school teacher oscillates between phases of hope and despair around the potential for forwarding a broad range of social and ecological justice ends through teaching and learning in the Ontario public school system. Finally, in Part IV, I return to conceptual analysis to reflect on the key themes of my memoir including teacher burnout, teacher efficacy, teacher resilience, and the ways in which these interact with teacher learning communities, school cultures and the relationships that underpin the work of teachers and educators. Author Keywords: Activist, Autoethnography, Critical Pedagogy, Resilience, Social-Change, Teaching
From Cultural Barriers to Educational Breakthroughs
This study examines critical pedagogy as a novel approach to diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) education at Peterborough Police Service (PPS). To begin, the present study examines hypermasculinity and isolationism as cultural traits in policing that serve as barriers to DEI education. Later, results of focus groups with PPS members that investigated negative and positive experiences with DEI training, barriers to meeting DEI education outcomes and, perceived goals of future DEI education at PPS are discussed. Drawing from findings from the literature review and focus groups, this thesis argues that critical pedagogy offers a useful framework to explore divisive subjects like systemic racism, power and privilege, colonialization, etc. and contributions of police in maintenance of the status quo. Raising the critical consciousness of PPS members by unveiling systems of domination may provide a starting point for enhancing police service to groups that are racialized and minoritized. Education of this kind may also involve a reconceptualization of the role of police as allies to marginalized communities. Author Keywords: Community, Critical Pedagogy, Diversity, Education, Police, Police Culture
Teacher Efficacy as an Indicator of how Mathematics Educators Perceive the Value of Professional Learning Experiences
This study investigates the potential for a responsive model of professional development in mathematics education which acknowledges how teachers perceive the value of professional learning, and examines how those perceptions are connected to teacher efficacy. Three fields of educational research ground this study: (i) professional development strategies in mathematics education, (ii) teacher efficacy, and (iii) self-determination theory and andragogy. Data collection and analysis involved four detailed case studies and a cross-case analysis of similarities and distinctions among the cases, in an instrumental-multiple-case study design. Results suggest: (1) some characteristics of professional development were consistently designated as high or low value, independent of efficacy ratings, (2) other professional learning experiences were valued relative to the participants’ sense of efficacy at different times in their careers, and (3) characteristics of professional development designated as high value during periods of low efficacy were fundamentally teacher-centric, but during periods of high efficacy, they were fundamentally student-centric. Author Keywords: efficacy, mathematics education, mathematics teachers, professional development, professional learning, teacher efficacy
Enhancing interpretive trails with technology
Enhancing interpretive trails with smartphone technology may enrich the visitor’s educational experience by stimulating deeper engagement and enjoyment that will improve immediate knowledge and help promote the development of environmental literacy. This connection between technology and environmental education can only be considered successful if enhanced enrichment and educational value is found in the integration. Currently there is a substantial gap in research on the incorporation of technology into an interpretive trail experience. For this study, information on the local fauna and flora was produced and linked to Quick Response Codes (QR codes) installed along an outdoor trail. The QR codes were designed to be read using the participant’s personal smartphone. Immediately after completing the trail participants could volunteer to describe their smartphone-led experience through a self-administered cross-sectional questionnaire offered in hard copy at the study site. A non-experimental quantitative research methodology was employed to evaluate the survey data and determine the educational and enjoyment value of the experience. This research is of potential benefit to educators of science, technology and the environment. The research may also assist parks and recreation facilities wishing to offset the costs of building and maintaining traditional interpretive trails by eliminating the need for the printing of booklets, maps and signage. Author Keywords: education, environment, interpretive trails, science, smartphone technology
Experiences of Seven Deaf & Hard-of-Hearing Alumni of Ontario’s Education System
Through narrative/life story research this study explores the educational experiences of six individuals identified as Deaf or hard-of-hearing. The research presented will be conveyed in the form of an autoethnography, an approach to research and writing that seeks to describe and analyze personal experience to understand cultural experience. I will combine the views of participants who have been part of the Ontario Public School System within the last 10-15 years (2004-2019), with my own educational experience, learning with hearing loss. In this study, three interrelated concepts—student engagement, motivation, and resilience—are examined through the lens of “mindsets.” Mindsets are “assumptions that we possess about ourselves and others that guide our behaviour” (Brooks, 2012, p. 1). The research reviewed in this paper, shows that students’ beliefs about their academic ability can influence their academic tenacity. Academic tenacity refers to the mindsets and skills that enable students to: establish long-term goals and persevere in the face of adversity. I illuminate some of the systemic factors which impact the mindsets of students who are Deaf and hard-of-hearing. The design lies within the qualitative spectrum; data were gathered and analyzed from open-ended interviews conducted with purposively selected participants. Author Keywords: Academic Tenacity, Autoethnography, Deaf, Education, Hard-of-Hearing, Mindsets

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