Dissertation Defense Announcements

Candidate Name: Elijah Eddie Dunbar
 April 09, 2024  2:00 PM
Location: https://charlotte-edu.zoom.us/j/93983683499

Culturally Responsive Teaching is a holistic pedagogical approach that appeals to the “whole child,” “whole school,” and “whole community” (Gay, 2001; Teschers, 2020); it is a multicultural practice that improves teaching and learning, promotes quality education, taps into the potential and uniqueness of students, and impacts learners intellectually, emotionally, kinesthetically, and physically (Gay, 2010; Widodo, 2019). This qualitative phenomenological case study examines the concepts and pedagogical practices of culturally responsive teaching through the shared experiences of educators and implementers of culturally responsive pedagogy to find out how effective those concepts and practices are in improving the academic outcomes of marginalized students (K-12) in urban classrooms. A purposive case sampling method (PCSM) and semi-structured interview were instrumental elements of the data collection process. A grounded theory method was used to both collect and analyze the data. Themes that emerged from the data of the interviews conducted with the participants were amalgamated to form four main themes for the study. Though this study may be limited by generalizability, it however provides answers to some lingering limitation questions of existing studies on culturally responsive practices. This study draws on and adds to the works of Geneva Gay on Culturally Responsive Pedagogy.
Keywords: holistic education, education equity, educational inequity, multicultural education, opportunity gap, culturally responsive pedagogy

Candidate Name: Yvonna Hines
Title: Teaching During Divisive Times: An Exploratory Study of Black Female Teachers in Social Studies
 April 08, 2024  11:00 AM
Location: Zoom - Contact yhines@charlotte.edu for link

Social studies education has garnered significant national attention as state governments throughout the country have waged an intentional, political attack against the teaching of Critical Race Theory (CRT) and “divisive concepts” in K-12 public schools. Even though CRT is often conflated with diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) initiatives and not actually taught at the elementary or secondary level, since January 2021, over one hundred anti-CRT (or divisive concepts) bills have been introduced in more than thirty different state legislatures throughout the country that would prohibit educators from teaching about concepts rooted in race. For Black women teachers, these legislative restrictions create a teaching context that pressures them to divert from the historical work of their predecessors and go against the grain of Black female identity. As such, this phenomenological study explored how Black female social studies teachers teach about race, racism, and oppression given today’s hostile sociopolitical climate.

Candidate Name: Wally Keith Burgess
Title: The Rearview Mirror: Navigating the STEM (STEAM) Identity of Middle Grades Black Girls Through Online Extracurricular Counterspaces
 April 09, 2024  3:30 PM
Location: https://charlotte-edu.zoom.us/my/wkburges

U.S. school achievement has been the subject of much discussion. In the case of science, technology, engineering, arts, and mathematics (STEAM), the national underperformance across the country, as well as the underrepresentation of minorities are key issues (Anderson et al., 2023; Handelsman & Smith, 2016; National Research Council, 2015; The White House, 2017). Particularly, there is a small, but growing body of research on the low numbers of Black women in STEAM, and the Black girls' STEAM pipeline. Extracurricular STEAM programs have shown some success in increasing minority STEAM participation. As such, this dissertation seeks to investigate the following research questions: RQ1: How do online extracurricular STEAM programs created for Black girls serve as a potential counterspace to increase STEAM identity? RQ2: Are there identifiable features that exist in online extracurricular STEAM programs that are important for creating a counterspace for adolescent Black girls? Through a qualitative case study, this dissertation explored Black girls’ participation in online STEAM programs. The findings of the study reveal that the extracurricular STEAM programs helped to foster STEAM identities in young Black girls. The programs also helped students build a sense of community and created a safe space for Black girls. The study provides implications and recommendations for educators and policymakers who are interested in increasing minority STEAM participation.

Candidate Name: Jordan Zachary Boyd
 April 05, 2024  2:00 PM
Location: Zoom https://charlotte-edu.zoom.us/j/4067468532

This dissertation explores notions of belonging among minority Honors students through student self-identifying questionnaires and semi-structured interviews. One objective of this study is to explore how the Honors educational environment impacts minority student populations and their overall sense of belonging. Another objective of this study is to examine the influence of race, class, gender, culture, and educational experiences prior to entering the Honors College. In the context of this study, a minority classification refers to the student’s self-identification as one or more of the following groups: LatinX, Indigenous American, Black/African American, Pacific Islander, and/or Middle Eastern. The findings indicate that having a fostered identity before entering the Honors College, minority representation, community, and social/emotional safety are aspects of the Honors educational experience that contribute to the participants’ notions of belonging. The study presents implications for diversity, equity, and inclusion in Honors programs, as well as institutional and systemic changes to help promote minority student success.

Candidate Name: Jennifer Nicole Johnson
 April 03, 2024  1:00 PM
Location: 1. Login into Dr. Lewis' Zoom Video Conference Room 2. Use the following Meeting ID: 859-415-6604 3. Meeting Password: 54125

This qualitative study explores the lack of African American students enrolled in AP Calculus courses in North Carolina public high schools. It considered the perception of student-counselor relationships, academic advising practices, and sense of identity of high school counselor participants. In-depth interviews were conducted with three, African American, female high school counselors with five to twenty-four years of experience in high school counseling. The data yielded five domains: characteristics of a school counselor, expected duties of a school counselor, criteria to become an AP Calculus student, student-counselor relationships, and academic advising practices and the outcomes. From the domains, twenty-seven themes were generated: empathetic, open-minded, organized, flexible, creative, knowledgeable, serving the holistic needs of students, classroom guidance activities, non-counselor duties, resource, enrollments, interventions, advocacy, completion of prerequisite courses, exceptions to the rule, teacher recommendation, AP agreement, importance, trust, connections, race, alternatives, methods, encouragement, benefits, awareness, and partnership. Recommendations include universal access to Math I for African American students in 8th grade, update all stakeholders of the role and purpose of school counselors, professional development for school counselors, and an integrated curriculum for school counselors and administrators.

Candidate Name: Stacy B. Moore
Title: Exploring faculty perceptions of active and collaborative learning in one community college’s behavioral and social science department
 December 01, 2023  1:00 PM
Location: Zoom: https://charlotte-edu.zoom.us/j/95998006511

Behavioral and Social Science (BSS) classes in higher education provide students with understandings of human behaviors, motivations, and actions that are crucial to confronting both social and personal problems. Moreover, most community college degrees require that students take at least one BSS class—anthropology, economics, political science, psychology, and/or sociology. While BSS classes are important—both from a philosophical as well as a degree-requirement standpoint—without effective student engagement, that importance may be lost. Oftentimes, BSS classes are still taught largely through didactic instruction. Yet, active and collaborative learning has proven to be a more effective instructional approach. Moreover, the need for active and collaborative learning may be even more crucial in community college BSS classes due to the unique demographics of these institutions. Building on findings that active and collaborative learning in BSS classes is more effective than didactic instruction, the purpose of this study is to better understand BSS instructors’ knowledge of active and collaborative learning and to identify the factors that foster this instructional approach and those that present hurdles. By determining these factors, recommendations can be made for replicating effective active and collaborative learning in BSS classrooms and/or working to minimize the roadblocks to this instructional approach.

Candidate Name: Torie Wheatley
 November 02, 2023  10:00 AM
Location: https://zoom.us/j/8594156604?pwd=enFiT2pXZ1crcHFaeGNwTUF1dWE3dz09

There is a growing mental health concern among Black Ratchet queer womxn in educational and criminal justice realms and the Covid-19 pandemic has left the educational climate in a state of high stress and anxiety. Consequently, Black Womxn in education are quitting from burnout. According to research, teacher burnout has been a concern for more
than 30 years, but currently there is a crisis. According to research “This is a five-alarm crisis. We are facing an exodus as more than half of our nation’s teachers and other school staff are now indicating they will be leaving education sooner than planned.: (Jotkoff, 2022).
Covid-19 has caused an increase in depression, anxiety, suicide ideation, and other health concerns in this population. External hindrances including racism, sexism, homophobia, and other ideologies rooted in America; negatively influence their mental well-being. Black queer womxn and girls are restricted from obtaining proper access to mental health services that take into consideration how identities are critical factors in mental well-being. This analysis will provide a rationale for utilizing culturally relevant mindfulness practices for Black queer womxn in educational sectors.

Candidate Name: William Kessler
Title: A Qualitative Multiple Case Study Exploring High-Performing Teacher Agency and Reform of “Low-Performing” Schools in North Carolina
 November 10, 2023  12:00 PM
Location: https://charlotte-edu.zoom.us/j/96538654400?pwd=YzZCYWUwMVF1MTVaK3VhM3RwSzRsdz09

Since the early 1980s, American educational reformers have tried to improve schools through standards, high-stakes tests, and punishments for those schools that failed to meet the mark. In North Carolina, many schools with diverse populations and low socioeconomic status have struggled to succeed, receiving the state performance grade of D or F and the consequent “low-performing” label. Meanwhile, some teachers in these schools have achieved at high levels and attempted to improve not only their classrooms, but their schools and districts. Few researchers have sought the opinions and expertise of high-performing teachers in order to better understand their experiences, their role as change agents, and their recommendations for other so-called “low-performing” schools. This qualitative multiple case study used in-depth interviews with these high-performing teachers in “low-performing” elementary schools in North Carolina. Specifically, this research gathered information about their backgrounds, their actions for school transformation, and their lessons learned about education and equity. Findings from the study indicated that high-performing elementary teachers tried to reform their “low-performing” schools through teacher agency but were blocked by multiple factors. School administrators and district officials reduced teacher agency and opportunities for school improvement. North Carolina’s “low-performing” schools policy harmed children, reinforced school failure, and produced discriminatory and inequitable results. Teacher agency theory provided a promising approach for the state to change course and improve failing schools.

Candidate Name: Michelle Pazzula Jimenez
Title: English Language Development Teachers’ Experiences with Multilingual Student Advocacy During Mandated School Closures
 October 30, 2023  10:00 AM
Location: Virtual: Zoom - Please contact Michelle Pazzula Jimenez at mpazzula@Charlotte.edu for the link

The effects of the COVID-19 pandemic changed the way education transpired for teachers and learners worldwide. Widespread virtual learning brought deeper academic and social inequities among K-12 diverse learners to light. Multilingual learners and their teachers were no exception. Research has yet to deeply explore the topic of ELD teachers’ experiences with advocating for their multilingual students during this unique time in educational history, as well as the lessons they learned during the pandemic that inform their advocacy work today. This phenomenological study used in-depth, semi-structured interviews to investigate these experiences. Potential implications for this study include teacher preparation, professional development, as well as policy-making decisions surrounding advocacy needs for multilingual learners.

Candidate Name: Jordan Register
Title: Designing for High School Students' Ethical Mathematics Consciousness in an Introductory Data Science Course
 July 26, 2023  10:00 AM
Location: Hybrid: In person: CHHS 109; Zoom link (https://charlotte-edu.zoom.us/j/96937007252?pwd=RU45N1YvbUhuZFp4RnRnVmUvRnM1QT09)

The increased reliance on Big Data Analytics (BDA) in society, politics, policy, and industry has catalyzed conversations related to the need for promoting ethical reasoning and decision-making in the mathematical sciences. While the majority of professional data scientists today come from privileged positions in society, those processed by the decisions made using data science are more often members of one or more marginalized social groups, translating into disproportionately negative outcomes for these individuals in society. Thus, it is argued that future citizens must develop an ethical mathematics consciousness (EMC) that human beings do mathematics; thus, there are potential ethical dilemmas and implications of mathematical work which may affect entities at the individual, group, societal, and/or environmental level. Drawing from this conjecture, the purpose of this Design-based research study was to develop a local instruction theory and materials that promote students’ ethical mathematics consciousness in a high school Ethical Data Science (EDS) course grounded in a feminist, relational ethic of caring and social response-ability. Outputs include the identification of design heuristics, including the task structures, participation structures, and discursive moves that supported students' development of EMC and equitable participation in classroom activities, an initial curriculum for the EDS course, and a student-use protocol and corresponding analytic framework for making critically conscious ethical decisions in data science.