Dissertation Defense Announcements

Candidate Name: Jessica Mitchell Cline
 March 29, 2022  2:30 PM
Location: Zoom

To determine how secondary, Math I teachers understand student engagement in the classroom setting by exploring their lived experiences, the researcher utilized a constructivist paradigm to frame the phenomenological multiple case studies of one
southwestern North Carolina school district. The intent of the researcher was to describe the understanding of the phenomenon of classroom engagement from the perspectives of high school Math 1 teachers. The researcher engaged in conversations with a purpose
which is characterized by Burgess (1984) as a conversational dialogue that is achieved through active engagement by the interviewer and interviewee around a relevant issue.
Research regarding engagement began in the early 1980’s. The topic of engagement has become increasingly popular in education and psychological research due to its emphasis on explaining student behaviors (van Uden, Ritzen, & Pieters, 2013). Multiple definitions and variables within the research have emerged in attempts to articulate a single definition of classroom engagement (Azevado, 2015). Yet, a widely agreed upon definition and measurement of engagement still does not exist.
The findings presented emphasize participants’ understanding of the importance of Cooper’s (2011) Classroom Engagement Framework’s “Connective Teaching” as the foundational point of entry to engaging students within the Math 1 classroom setting.
Furthermore, the findings present the unique challenges faced by Math 1 teachers as they teach primarily freshmen who need to learn content as well as skills for success within the Math 1 classroom and in high school.

Candidate Name: Robert Michael Bickmeier
Title: The Development and Validation of a Measure of the Experience of Dirty Work
 April 01, 2022  2:00 PM
Location: Join Zoom Meeting https://uncc.zoom.us/j/96200300568?pwd=cjJCdVowZHplSy81QVNoUytjV0lkQT09

Dirty work is socially constructed as tainted on one or more domains (physical: dangerous, dirty, or associated with death; moral: underhanded or in contradiction to prevailing norms; social: in association with stigmatized others or done in subservience), and it shapes dirty workers’ perceptions and experiences of their identities. The processes through which the perception of taint shapes identities and associated outcomes (e.g., identity ambivalence, isolation) and the effects of the magnitude of dirt are not fully understood. To understand these processes, the present study describes the development of a tool to measure the dirt of dirty work. First,the author developed a series of item to assess the content domain of dirty work based on a literature review supported by open-ended responses describing work perceptions from dirty workers. In the subsequent studies, the author reduced the item pool by a series of exploratory factor analyses (EFA). Then, the author tested the overall model fit across two separate samples via confirmatory factor analysis (CFA) and identified a three-factor model. Finally, the author gathered validity evidence through convergent and discriminatory validity analyses: the pattern of correlations generally provided convergent validity evidence with the respective covariates, and the data tentatively supported the measure’s ability to discriminate among forms of taint by occupation in a one-way MANOVA.

Candidate Name: Christine H. Weiss
Title: Teacher Practices, Beliefs, and Conceptual Understanding of Mathematics: A Phenomenological Case Study of Teachers Instructing Mathematically Gifted and Promising Students
 April 04, 2022  12:30 PM
Location: UNC Charlotte campus

Students in the United States are not achieving in mathematics as indicated on the NAEP (2019) exams and other measurements of student achievement (OECD, 2019; O’Dwyer, Wang, & Shields, 2015; NCES, 2019). Mathematically gifted and promising students are especially impacted by this phenomenon, though it is not exactly known what factors contribute to successful teachers of these students. This phenomenological case study focused on the beliefs, instructional practices, and conceptual understanding of mathematics of five teachers in a public charter school for gifted students. Data sources collected included semi-structured interviews, classroom observations, and questionnaires based on Swan’s (2006) practices and beliefs research with effective mathematics teachers. Two theories of giftedness served as the theoretical lens for this study: Renzulli’s Three-Ring Model (1978) and Gagné’s Differentiated Model of Giftedness and Talent (1985) to better understand these phenomena. Using an interpretive phenomenological analysis several themes emerged in response to each research question. Findings for instructional practices indicated that teachers used both student-centered and teacher-centered practices and consistently utilized differentiated groupings. Additionally, teacher participants believe that gifted students possess both positive traits and challenges and specifically for math, believe that sense-making is key, and math is a subject students should enjoy. Teachers’ conceptual understanding of mathematics is guided by their ongoing practice, the curriculum, and math experiences prior to teaching. These findings indicate the importance of ongoing training and professional development in mathematics and gifted education, as well as the recruitment and retention of teachers who possess a strong conceptual understanding of mathematics, a passion for the subject, and a student-centered approach to teaching.
Keywords: mathematically gifted, instructional practices, beliefs, teachers’ conceptual understanding of mathematics

Candidate Name: Melissa R. Medaugh
 March 25, 2022  1:00 PM
Location: Zoom: https://uncc.zoom.us/j/91753379241?pwd=T3kxQ1RvSEd3TGIyY0oxZnJKTnlQdz09

To understand why some innovation-driven portfolio firms benefit more from venture capital (VC) funding than others, I explore the salient phenomenon of founder CEO exit. Integrating institutional logics and psychological contracts theories, I propose a meso-level theoretical framework that identifies and explains how an institutional logic of new venture professionalization shapes suboptimal founder CEO exit strategy in portfolio firms. Founder CEO exits may enhance institutional legitimacy, while also fostering contentious relational dynamics that undermine trust and cooperation between founders and venture capitalists; spill over to affect observers; and contribute to a negative sociopolitical climate within portfolio firms. I derive and test hypotheses about the paradoxical effects of founder CEO exit on portfolio firm performance over time and likelihood of failure, including how the conditions of exit – namely, the timing and nature of the exit event – influence those outcomes. I use growth modeling and logistic regression to analyze a unique panel data set of 182 high-technology portfolio firms, founded 1990-2010. Despite mixed empirical results, I found overall support for my proposition: Rigid implementation of founder CEO exit strategy in portfolio firms may improve some short-term metrics of performance (i.e., valuation), while imperiling other longer-term outcomes (i.e., profitability and odds of survival).

Candidate Name: Jimmeka Lashonda Anderson
Title: Incidents in the life of a cyber girl: Exploring Instagram as a potential counterspace for Black girls' literacy practices
 April 07, 2022  12:00 PM
Location: Zoom

Although research has been done to explore social media as a safe space for Black girls (Womack, 2013), there is limited research that assesses social media as a counter space for Black girls’ literacies. According to The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research (2017), Black teens are the largest users of Instagram and SnapChat. While broader research has looked at Black girls' literacies and digital literacies among this population (Price-Dennis, 2016), there is limited research that has explored the literacy practices of Black girls specifically in the digital space they predominantly use, Instagram. Most importantly, the need to explore the elements of literacy that engage Black girls in non-formal academic spaces in which they utilize excessively may provide context for application in academic curriculum. This research study explores whether Instagram may provide a potential counterspace for Black girls' literacies and the ways in which they practice literacy through the examination of digital posts, online observations, and interviews with two adolescent Black girls.
Keywords: Instagram, Counterspace, Black Girls, Literacy, Social Media

Candidate Name: Charlotte Hancock
 March 21, 2022  11:00 AM
Location: Virtual

This quantitative study examined the awarding of the Seal of Biliteracy (SoBL) in North Carolina public schools. Specifically, the study explored through a multiple logistic regression if the intersectionality of race, language, and class was related to whether a district did or did not award students the SoBL. The dependent variable of total student enrollment was also included. Additionally, within districts found to award the SoBL, this study examined through a multiple linear regression if the variables of race, language, and class related to the rate of graduating seniors who received the SoBL recognition. Total student enrollment was also included as a dependent variable. Results from the multiple logistic regression revealed that total student enrollment, while controlling for language, race, and class was related to whether a district did or did not award the SoBL. Within districts that awarded the SoBL, results from the multiple linear regression revealed that while controlling for race, class, language, and total student enrollment, class was negatively related to the rate of seniors who received the SoBL while language was positively related. Results are discussed through the theoretical framework of critical race theory, and salient recommendations are provided for the future.

Candidate Name: Kaitlyn Holshouser
Title: Education for Sustainable Development in Global Ready Schools: A Comparative Case Study
 April 01, 2022  12:00 PM
Location: COED 362 or via Zoom

This comparative case study explored the implementation of Education for Sustainable Development (ESD) at two of North Carolina’s Global Ready elementary schools. The following research questions guided the study: 1) How do educators and affiliates of Global Ready elementary schools perceive global education, specifically Education for Sustainable Development (ESD)?; 2) What sustainability topics are covered most by educators at Global Ready elementary schools in North Carolina?; 3) How is ESD incorporated within global education at Global Ready elementary schools in North Carolina (i.e. examination at the curricular, campus, and community levels)?; 4) How do Global Ready elementary schools compare in their conceptualization and implementation of global education, specifically ESD? Bronfenbrenner’s Ecological Systems Theory (1976) and Elser et al. 's (2011) Sustainable Schools Framework served as useful lenses for examining the affordances and constraints of sustainability education at the curriculum, campus, and community levels. A school-wide survey was disseminated to all certified educators at each school to obtain a broad view of ESD implementation within each case. To explore ESD implementation at a granular level, interviews were conducted with select educators, administrators, community partners, and members of a State Education Agency. Further, artifact collection and field visits allowed for the triangulation of data sources. The constant-comparative method (Glaser & Strauss, 1967) was utilized in the analysis of interviews and artifacts. Findings from both cases suggest that sustainability education was often used as a means for deepening global learning. At the curriculum level, survey results and interviews with participants indicate frequent integration of social sustainability topics into the curriculum with lesser attention given to topics of economic sustainability. Additionally, while there are many challenges to sustainability education at the curriculum and campus levels, findings suggest that community partnerships may play a role in mitigating some of these constraints. To conclude, the researcher discusses the need to complicate frameworks related to Education for Sustainable Development to attend to the complexity of ESD implementation within and across the curriculum, campus, and community.

Candidate Name: Peter Onah Thompson
Title: Three Essays on Conflict and Displacement: Experimental Evidence from Nigeria
 March 28, 2022  9:00 PM
Location: Zoom (Virtual)

Establishing peaceful post-conflict communities requires returning and reintegrating those who left during the violence. With the United Nations and other institutions investing substantial resources to rebuild communities that have experienced violence with limited success, there is a need to further examine the dynamics of conflict and displacement.

I use a series of field experiments in northeastern Nigeria to examine the impact of exposure to conflict on the decision-making of those in transition communities. The first and second studies explore how war-induced psychological trauma impacts displaced persons' ability to be persuaded to return voluntarily, or formerly displaced persons' to return sustainably. In the third study, I investigate the determinants of the reintegration of former members of violent groups into their communities. In the first two studies, I find that war-related psychological trauma reduces displaced persons' ability to be persuaded. In the third study, I find that contrary to long-held beliefs, traditional leadership efforts to reintegrate former violent members of the community by making peace with them may be counterproductive. Finally, I discussed the academic and policy implications of my findings.

Candidate Name: Harriet T. Hobbs
Title: The Influence of Academic Resilience Among African American First Year Males at a Private Historically Black University in the United States
 March 21, 2022  12:00 PM
Location: https://zoom.us/j/8594156604?pwd=enFiT2pXZ1crcHFaeGNwTUF1dWE3dz09#success

This quantitative study sought to operationalize academic resilience through social engagement, family support, capacity for tolerance, and commitment to college among African American first year males at a private, urban HBCU in the United States. This study utilized secondary data from Ruffalo Noel Levitz's College Student Inventory Survey (CSI) Form B administered to incoming first year students over a five-year period from 2011 to 2015. The sample included 223 African American first year male participants. Utilizing a binary logistic regression analysis, the researcher examined the relationship between participants' outcomes and various factors, including social engagement, family support, capacity for tolerance, and commitment to college as a manifestation of academic resilience. The key outcome variables of this study were graduation and retention. Binary logistic regression analyses were conducted in SPSS version 27. Recommendations based on findings are provided for HBCU senior administrators, HBCU faculty, families of African American males, and future research.

Candidate Name: Ali Algarni
Title: Quantifying Co-Creation In Collaborative Drawing Using Creative Thinking Modes
 March 01, 2022  9:00 AM
Location: https://uncc.zoom.us/j/95264049623?pwd=dlhiTWxFOGRZRXNNN2lCQllLM0NIUT09

Co-creation is a form of collaboration in which partners share, improve and blend ideas together to develop a creative product. It helps to share ideas and solve problems in a creative manner. Several co-creativity research works have focused on generating creative artifacts, but there is a limited amount of research in analyzing creative collaborations. Creative collaboration can be evaluated through examining interaction dynamics such as cognitive states, behavior, and the number of ideas generated. This dissertation conducted collaborative experiments to add a new contribution to human-human co-creation by quantifying and evaluating co-creativity using divergent and convergent thinking modes. We conducted 21 dyadic user studies of a turn-based collaborative drawing task to quantify and extract several co-creation patterns and compare co-creativity of users. The results of both studies showed significant differences of creative thinking between high and low creative performance. High co-creativity groups show balanced divergent and convergent thinking compared to other works. The interaction dynamics of different creativity levels were also different in terms of the number of ideas and objects created and modified. The work can be applied to different co-creation applications, and can be the starting point toward designing a computational creative thinking model in the future.