Education - Theses, Dissertations, and other Required Graduate Degree Essays

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Experiencing mathematics through problem solving tasks

Date created: 
2018-05-07
Abstract: 

Learning through problem solving is an old concept that has been redeveloped as a valuable strategy to teach mathematics. Many teachers feel a tension between the value of teaching through problem solving and the necessity of teaching a prescribed curriculum , often resulting in minimizing the time students spend on genuine problem solving. The purpose of this thesis was to investigate the extent that a mathematics student encounters curriculum while working freely on problem solving tasks. A student in a Pre Calculus and Foundations Math 10 course, which already had a culture of thinking and problem solving, was observed for a 1-month period to see what mathematical content they engaged with through problem solving. Observations, photographs, and notes were taken about the tasks and the mathematics that the student encountered during problem solving each day. The variety of tasks was very broad to prevent students from assuming a problem solving strategy based a current unit of study. Through analysis of the content one student engaged with, it was found that almost the entirety of the Pre Calculus and Foundations 10 prescribed learning outcomes was encountered in addition to both a review of some curricular content from Math 6 through Math 9, as well as exposure to curricular content from Math 11 and 12.

Document type: 
Thesis
File(s): 
Senior supervisor: 
Peter Liljedahl
Department: 
Education: Education
Thesis type: 
(Thesis) M.Sc.

Enhancing post-secondary student support and retention: Lessons learned from the storied lives of former first year BDSc students

Date created: 
2018-05-23
Abstract: 

Student retention remains one the most widely researched areas in higher education. However, there exists a paucity of research that has examined student retention through the lens of first-year students who have been dismissed from their institution, particularly within Canadian health-related undergraduate programs. Using a qualitative narrative inquiry, this study explored the lived experiences of 10 former first-year students in the University of British Columbia’s Bachelor of Dental Science (BDSc) program. Informed by Braxton and Hirschy’s (2005) model of student departure for commuter students, goals of the study included investigating students’ experiences as they transitioned into their first year in the program, the influencing factors that contributed to students’ academic performance and subsequent dismissal in their first year of study, and the support mechanisms and resources needed for entering students. Individual interviews were conducted at two separate times with each participant to better understand their challenges and needs as they entered and transitioned through their first year of university. Interviews were audio-recorded and transcribed verbatim to facilitate the thematic coding of emergent themes. Narrative analysis involved an examination of participants’ experiences related to temporality, place, and sociality accomplished through coding, member checking, and researcher memos. Academic under-preparedness, large university class sizes, challenges connecting with faculty, and external influences were identified as factors that contributed to participants’ unsuccessful academic outcome. The social environment for participants was strongly tied to classroom life. Academic learning communities successfully facilitated the establishment of close friendships and feelings of social integration. Disconnection with many faculty members resulted in participants feeling academically not integrated and contributed to lower levels of perceived institutional commitment to student welfare which negatively impacted students’ ability to progress. The existing university student services departments and support resources were under-utilized. Lessons learned from this research have resulted in a greater appreciation for the role that an institution has in supporting its students. Participants’ lived experiences and suggestions have informed recommendations for policy and practice that may assist the BDSc program, the university, and other institutions of higher education in developing more robust, accessible, and visible programming to support student success.

Document type: 
Thesis
File(s): 
Senior supervisor: 
Michelle Pidgeon
Department: 
Education: Faculty of Education
Thesis type: 
(Thesis) Ed.D.

The impact of early adversity on mental health in young adulthood: Findings from the Romanian Adoption Project

Author: 
Date created: 
2018-04-26
Abstract: 

This longitudinal study is a part of the fifth phase of the Romanian Adoption Project and explored the impact of early adversity on mental health and behaviour problems in adolescence and early adulthood in a group of Romanian adoptees (N= 47; 22 males; mean age at assessment= 26.77) who were adopted to Canada in 1990/91 and have been followed in this project since early childhood. Behaviour problems in adulthood were assessed with parent reports on the Adult Behaviour Checklists (ABCL, Achenbach, 1997). In adolescence behaviour problems were assessed with the parent report form of the Child Behaviour Checklist (Achenbach, 1991). Mental health problems both in adolescence and adulthood were assessed using parents’ responses to 12 questions asking if adoptees had received any of a list of mental health diagnosis. The effect of duration of deprivation was examined by dividing adoptees into two groups based on time they spent in adversity pre-adoption; those who spent less than 4 months in adversity, and those who spent more than 8 months in adversity. Statistical analyses showed that in adolescence 34% of the sample had at least one mental health diagnosis and this number increased to 50% in adulthood. Levels of behaviour problems were relatively stable from adolescence to adulthood. Females had higher levels of Internalizing behaviour problems than males in adulthood, but no other gender differences were found. Adolescents with more behaviour problems were more likely to have a mental health diagnosis in young adulthood. Also, adoptees with more than one diagnosis in adulthood had more behaviour problems both concurrently and in adolescence than adoptees with one or no mental health diagnoses. Longer experience of early adversity prior adoption was not associated with either more mental health diagnoses or more behaviour problems at either 16.5 or 26.5 years of age.

Document type: 
Thesis
File(s): 
Senior supervisor: 
Lucy Le Mare
Department: 
Education: Faculty of Education
Thesis type: 
(Thesis) M.A.

Learning foreign languages at school: Experiences and representations of teenage plurilingual learners of ethnic Korean heritage in Northeast China

Date created: 
2018-01-29
Abstract: 

‘Plurilingualism’ is a common phenomenon and an essential part in the lives of many people, while increased globalization makes the learning of languages more important than ever. However, the integration of learners’ multi-/plurilingual resources into the formal education system is still frequently questioned. Addressing this gap, this study aimed to explore strategies for better supporting increased learner diversity in today’s dynamic classrooms characterized by an influx of highly ‘mobile’ learners. From an educational sociolinguistic perspective especially based on plurilingualism and plurilingual competence as the main conceptual lens, it examined the complex relations between learners’ languages, identities and sense of agency, looking into how a new generation of secondary school students in a minority interlink language learning, academic success and career advancement while navigating various geographical and symbolic transitions. Employing a qualitative ethnographic visual research methodology, this four-year longitudinal study documented experiences and perspectives of twenty-two plurilingual youths learning Japanese or English as their foreign language (and L3) in a public ethnic Korean minority nationality school in Northeast China. Data collection methods included participant observation, field notes, screenshots of virtual communication records, photographs of written artifacts, and interview excerpts. With an emphasis on the essential role of the ‘multi’ (-lingual, cultural, and literacy resources) on the participants’ learning experiences, this study argues that learning foreign language(s) at school is a process of experiencing multiple identities. The study showed the very sophisticated competence and complex plurilingual practices that participants engage in their daily practices in and out the classroom. Key findings of this research suggest that student participants were actively learning, navigating, and transforming. Learning foreign/multiple languages strongly affected their life trajectories in three main areas: (i) contributed to enhance their understanding of languages as assets in learning and navigating life transitions; (ii) helped their development of a more nuanced (plurilingual) competence, along with an increased level of ‘mobility’ between multiple (linguistic, cultural, physical and virtual) spaces; and (iii) motivated their active engagement in multiple identity practices. This study highlights the need for action to actively develop educational strategies that capitalize on the ‘multi’ so as to empower all students.

Document type: 
Thesis
File(s): 
Senior supervisor: 
Danièle Moore
Department: 
Education: Faculty of Education
Thesis type: 
(Thesis) Ph.D.

Public school principals’ perceptions of innovation

Author: 
Date created: 
2018-01-15
Abstract: 

Public education has long been reputed to be a system that is outdated. However, public education, like any organization has seen its share of change and innovation. This mixed-method study explored the perceptions of public school principals’ toward individual and organizational innovativeness.The quantitative phase of the study consisted of a purposeful sample of 23 school principals. It was a partial replication of two previous studies conducted by Mitchell 2008 and Williams 2013, who examined school superintendents’ perceptions of individual and organizational innovativeness. Individual and organizational characteristics were analyzed for statistical significance. In addition, principals’ survey responses were calculated to determine their adopter category according to Rogers’ 2003 classifications. Findings were similar to the replicated studies. Principals, like superintendents, viewed themselves to be more innovative than their schools. Significant, but weak differences were found for the tested professional practices, professional capacity, and gender. There were no significant differences found with the remaining characteristics. The qualitative phase of this study consisted of a purposeful sample of 13 principals who volunteered to participate in interviews from the survey phase. This phase explored principals’ views, perceptions, and challenges they faced in fostering innovation in their schools. Findings from this phase further elaborated on principals’ perceptions regarding individual and organizational innovativeness from the quantitative phase. Both phases of this study were conducted and analyzed separately. Findings from each phase were then synthesized to further clarify principals’ perceptions, and common understanding toward fostering innovation. Although some of the variables tested indicated statistically significant differences, principals did not view them as critical to fostering innovation during interviews. The findings from this study indicated that principals’ perceived their own and their school’s innovativeness as essential to providing students with a meaningful education. It became clear through interviews that factors such as financial resources, student socioeconomic status, and enrolment were not as critical to the innovation process in comparison to the human element of fostering relationships. Importantly, principals perceived their role as leaders as being fraught with complexity in terms of setting the right conditions for innovation to blossom.

Document type: 
Thesis
File(s): 
Senior supervisor: 
Dan Laitsch
Sharon Cohen
Department: 
Education: Faculty of Education
Thesis type: 
(Thesis) Ed.D.

Evaluation of school principals: Responses from education leaders in Saudi Arabia

Date created: 
2018-01-18
Abstract: 

The Saudi Arabian education system has experienced several significant restructurings since its creation in 1953. The 2011, administrative reform increased school principals’ responsibilities and their roles became more complex. These changes have increased the need for understanding the principal evaluation process in order to ensure long-term success for all in education. The aim of this study was to identify and examine the current evaluation process as experienced by Saudi high school principals and to present their opinions about how to improve the current criteria and methods used by the Ministry of Education. Two questions were used: What are high school principals’ perceptions of the process and criteria for their evaluation? and What are principals’ opinions about how to improve the criteria and methods used in evaluation compared with the recommendations advocated in the literature? A comparison of principals’ opinions and ideas and the recommendations advocated in the literature was completed. A qualitative research design was used to gather data from 14 high school principals working for the General Department of Education in the Eastern Region within the Ministry of Education in Saudi Arabia. Using a priori themes from the literature related to the research questions, this study presents the processes and procedures used in current principal evaluation. Results show that respondents believe the current principal evaluation processes and methods in Saudi Arabia are ineffective and of little value. Further findings provide suggestions regarding improving the evaluation criteria and procedures to support principals’ development. Study results support the need for change to the principal evaluation system in Saudi Arabia and highlight improving evaluation quality, ensuring purposeful professional development, and including clear performance expectations. Results further suggest the MoE must focus on building a new evaluation by taking into account the opinions of stakeholders, the characteristics of schools, and the need for a sufficient number of qualified evaluators. If education in Saudi Arabia is going to continue moving forward, and if principals are to become the strongest tools for education advancement, then accurate and meaningful evaluation is necessary.

Document type: 
Thesis
File(s): 
Senior supervisor: 
Daniel Laitsch
Rebecca D. Cox
Department: 
Education: Faculty of Education
Thesis type: 
(Thesis) Ed.D.

Reduction of mathematics anxiety through use of vertical non-permanent surfaces and group discussion

Date created: 
2018-01-16
Abstract: 

Mathematics anxiety is a highly relevant issue in mathematics education. Research into pre-service teachers’ mathematics anxiety has indicated a number of worthwhile strategies to help minimize its effect on the nervous learner. Of particular interest is the Thinking Classroom model. However, while the research is comprehensive on pre-service teachers, it is sparse when concerning middle-school aged children. I have implemented a number of these strategies into a middle-school program designed for anxious youth. The current study is an exploration into how the Thinking Classroom model helps students lower their anxiety surrounding mathematics. During the study, students were asked to create a written reflection piece called a Math Autobiography, given a MARS-R several times and then interviewed. While not all students exhibited a decrease in anxiety, most students reported at the end of the study that they felt their abilities had increased in mathematics and felt more positive about the subject.

Document type: 
Thesis
File(s): 
Senior supervisor: 
Peter Liljedahl
Department: 
Education: Faculty of Education
Thesis type: 
(Thesis (Education) ) M.Sc.

From the inside out: A hermeneutic phenomenological exploration of the ethical dilemmas and lived experience of an associate dean

Date created: 
2018-01-12
Abstract: 

Academic administrators in the post-secondary environment, such as deans and associate deans, must make difficult, far-reaching decisions in demanding situations almost daily. Researchers have acknowledged the necessity of moral or ethical decision-making for academic administrators, but they have focused primarily on administrators in the kindergarten-to-grade-twelve system. Thus, little is known about how post-secondary academic administrators arrive at their decisions, many of which demand ethical judgements. In this thesis, I examine from a perspective I call “from the inside looking out” my experiences in my role of associate dean at a large suburban university as I resolve ethical dilemmas in my practice. In the past, most research exploring how academic administrators resolve ethical dilemmas has been written using the traditional approach that van Manen (1990) characterizes as being typical of the natural sciences, one which is concerned with knowledge that is generalizable, using procedures that are reproducible and examining participants and samples that are replaceable. This perspective is what I call an “outside-looking-in” approach and does not, I believe, take into account the lived experience of the researcher: it wants for an “inside-looking-out” perspective. To provide this “inside-looking-out” view point, I use a hermeneutic phenomenological approach to analyze three experiences, what I term “scenarios,” that I have encountered as an associate dean: the first involves the performance evaluation of a contract professor, the second a case of plagiarism, and the third a case of accommodation for a student. I examine these scenarios through the lenses of two moral frameworks, Rawls’ (2001) Justice as fairness and Blum’s (1994) focus on moral perception and particularity, and I discuss the consequences, such as moral distress and moral residue, for academic administrators. The relating of my lived experience and the analysis of my scenarios and the discussion of the effects arising from them should serve to help current or future academic administrators as they learn about resolving their own ethical dilemmas in their practice.

Document type: 
Thesis
File(s): 
Senior supervisor: 
Ann Chinnery
Department: 
Education: Faculty of Education
Thesis type: 
(Thesis) Ed.D.

Language issues in the internationalizing university: Experiences of students, faculty, and staff

Date created: 
2018-04-04
Abstract: 

This research project investigates the experiences of students, faculty, and administrative staff regarding linguistic diversity in an internationalized Canadian higher education institution. Through qualitative interviews I investigate ideologies and assumptions about language and linguistic diversity that shape participants’ experiences with internationalization of education. I find that most student and faculty participants see linguistic diversity on campus as a problem to be fixed in light of the hegemony of the English language. This can lead to inequality and negative perceptions of multilingual students. On the other hand, most staff participants present critical perspectives about the role of language in processes of internationalization. I highlight the need for holistic analysis of the intersections of language and internationalization that consider the voices of staff, in addition to students and faculty. My recommendations for more linguistically-inclusive practices include flexibility in communicative practices, institutional and pedagogical practices that value linguistic and cultural diversity, and cross-cultural professional development for faculty and staff.

Document type: 
Thesis
File(s): 
Senior supervisor: 
Roumiana Ilieva
Department: 
Education: Faculty of Education
Thesis type: 
(Thesis) M.A.

Using patterns-of-participation approach to understand high school mathematics teachers' classroom practice in Saudi Arabia

Author: 
Date created: 
2018-02-26
Abstract: 

During the past decade, the Saudi Arabian education system has undergone major changes. Government agencies involved in education have introduced new policies, standards, programs, and curricula. The recent changes in the education system motivated me to conduct this study. The focus of this research is to describe and understand high school mathematics teachers’ current practices in Saudi Arabia. This research includes four cases of teachers currently teaching high school mathematics in Saudi Arabia. Using the Patterns of Participation concept (PoP) as the main framework, I identified some of the significant practices, or figured worlds, from the teachers’ sense of their practices. Some of the figured worlds that emerged are mathematics, the textbook, reform, responsibility for students’ achievement, and relationship with others. Mathematics, as it has always been, remains an influential figured world for mathematics teachers. Reform and the textbook are becoming as influential because of the current changes in the education system in Saudi Arabia. While some participant teachers are developing a new understanding of what mathematics is and what it means to teach it, they also indicated that they are mostly still using traditional teaching strategies rather than reform teaching strategies. In addition, I conducted a cross-case analysis to connect the findings from each case in order to gain some understanding of how high school mathematics teachers in Saudi Arabia respond to the shared or common circumstances they are facing in the current reform movement. I identified and described six common themes from the cross-case analysis. These themes are useful for showing the range of mathematics high school teachers’ practices in Saudi Arabia and the ways in which their practices differ. Participant teachers responded differently to the shared or common circumstances they face in the current reform movement. I found more differences than similarities in the current teaching practices of the participant teachers.

Document type: 
Thesis
File(s): 
Senior supervisor: 
Peter Liljedahl
Department: 
Education: Faculty of Education
Thesis type: 
(Thesis) Ph.D.