Graduate Theses & Dissertations

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Reconceptualizing a Post-Secondary Program for Students with Intellectual Disabilities
The number of post-secondary programs for students with intellectual disabilities has been on the rise since the early 1990’s (Plotner & Marshall, 2015). However, research focused on student experiences within these programs has been predominantly from faculty, mainstream students and parent’s perspectives without accounting for what the students themselves are experiencing. This thesis however utilizes critical narrative inquiry as a methodology to listen the stories of students with disabilities, in conjunction with the researcher’s personal and professional experiences to reconceptualize the CICE program at Fleming College in Peterborough Ontario in order to provide students with more responsive and inclusive educational experiences. Six themes emerged from interviews conducted in the research: friendship/social opportunities, career/goals, supports, barriers/challenges, independence/freedom and finally identity/inclusion. A critical exploration of these themes is provided to develop programmatic, college and community level changes that forward a reconceptualized view of post-secondary education for adults with disabilities. Author Keywords: Critical disability theory, Critical narrative inquiry, Post-secondary programs for students with disabilities, Student voice
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
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
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
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
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
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
“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
Achieving Equity in Mathematics Education
Little thought is given to how equitable mathematics would better the lives of those marginalized, or how the increased inclusion of marginalized voices improves the practice of mathematics. The purpose of this narrative research is to explore students’ voices and analyze aspects of math identity: the reported beliefs and practices of a group of elementary urban students who identify as Black/Brown. Understanding voice through counter-narrative is a methodology for the equitable practice of teaching/learning mathematics. CRRP describes participants engaged in the metacognitive task of writing untold stories as it relates to their beliefs, practices, and experiences in mathematics learning. The findings offer meaningful and appropriate insights to math educators about student competency, belongingness, and agency. Keywords: Black and Brown, marginalized students, student engagement, math identity, mathematical competence, sense of belonging to mathematics, mathematical agency, gateway, gatekeeper, fixed mindset, growth mindset, STEM pipeline, counter narrative. Author Keywords: Black and Brown, marginalized students, mathematical competence, math identity, sense of belonging to mathematics, student engagement
Experiences of Five Undergraduate Academic Advisors in Ontario Universities
This study used qualitative research methods to develop an understanding of the landscape of undergraduate academic advising in Ontario universities as well as deeply explore the experiences and practices of five full-time academic advisors. Phase one of the study consisted of a document analysis of Ontario universities' public-facing websites. Phase two of the study consisted of five interviews with five undergraduate academic advisors from four Ontario institutions. The findings of the study demonstrated a variable landscape of academic advising across universities with responsibilities of advising ranging from solely course selection to a much broader role inclusive of helping students navigate their educational journey. Additionally, a relationship between external influences including institutional mission and organizational structure, and internal influences including advisors’ values, beliefs, and theoretical knowledge was identified. This relationship informed current advising strategies. These findings were used to develop a praxis of academic advising as well as five promising practices. Author Keywords: Academic Advising, Practice of Advising, Strategies of Advising, Universities
This Is It, I Guess
Queer youth are an at-risk group, with an incredibly high rate of harm and death as they grow into themselves. They are often advised to wait until they finish school to express their sexuality more openly, when they can leave to somewhere that is “better”, which in this context can mean safer, more accepting, or far away from friends and family who may reject them. Unfortunately, much of the media representation of queer people is regressive or stereotypical, usually involving the suffering or death of its queer-identified characters. It is telling that a recurring theme in queer stories is that empathy and understanding for queer people can only be attained through their suffering. Non-queer people do not have to suffer to be understood. In this thesis I discuss the potential of creativity in academic works, I examine queer stories that buck the trend of tragedy through queer and pop culture theory, and I write a queer young adult novel in response, featuring a self-actualized protagonist whose sexuality does not cause him pain or trauma. Author Keywords: creative writing, queer literature, queer protagonist, queer theory, queer youth, young adult literature
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

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