Opening the doors to dreamland: Developing literacy and engagement through imaginative education

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(Thesis) Ph.D.
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The thesis is a theoretical as well as practical investigation and application of Kieran Egan's ideas of imaginative education to the teaching of history in two grade six classrooms. Two central questions underlie the study: do the techniques of imaginative education enhance student engagement with the curricular content; and do the techniques of imaginative education help students to develop their literacy in the context of the study of history? In order to address these questions, two research studies employing ther techniques of imaginative education were conducted at an elementary school which was part of the LUCID project (Learning for Understanding through culturally inclusive Imaginative Development). Part One of the thesis examines the theoretical framework of imaginative education in order to give support for the concepts involved. Chapter One discusses the current state of literacy research, showing how it has developed from a cognitive to a sociocultural approach, an approach consistent with Egan's work. Chapter Two investigates the philosophical and historical background to the concept of the imagination, showing how the concept itself has always been problematic, but arguing that it is essential for any fully-informed educational praxis. Chapter Three discusses the historical transition from oral to literate cultures to delineate the kinds of cognitive tools that students have available as they enter the world of the classroom on their voyage to becoming literate members of society. Chapter Four specifically discusses the work of Kieran Egan, attempting to describe the theoretical underpinnings of his imaginative approach to education, and examining the cognitive tools for the development of literacy. Part Two examines the application of these ideas in two grade six classroom. Chapter Five discusses the methodology of the study itself. Chapter Six examines how the use of imaginative education affects the literacy of students in a different manner than typical methodologies, leading to a greater engagement with the material being studied. Chapter Seven examines the results of a follow up study with a different group of students, examining a broader range of cognitive tools, while providing some triangulation with the first study.
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