Theses Doctoral

The Teacher/Student Mismatch as a Site for Diffracting Subjectivity

Newbery, Mary Joyce

Currently, in the United States, there is an urgency to address the perceived failure of contemporary public schools to educate diverse populations. This sense of failure is propped up by performance discrepancies between White, middle-class youth and low-income, including most often, youth of color. This disparity, frequently referred to as "the achievement gap," drives mandatory school improvement policies and practices designed to improve outcomes for underperforming, sub-categorically, school populations. Amid these interrelated policies and practices, all of which are dependent upon assumptions requiring predictability, generalizability, and stability as characteristics of sub-populations and their constituent subjects, the racial divide and the economic gap have been re-coded in terms of differences in exam scores (Taubman, 2009, p. 154).

One significant implication of populational reasoning as recently deployed in contemporary U.S. public schools is that teachers-frequently White, middle-class women-are increasingly attributed with a categorical bias that "has increasingly served as a possible explanation [emphasis added] for the 'achievement gap,'" rather than as a contributing factor embedded in "demographic factors … far more complex than [previously] indicated" in education research (Farkas 2004, as cited in Takei & Shouse, 2007, p. 368; Ferguson, 1998; Perry, 2003). In this way, the frequent failures and non-proficiencies of both teachers and students, key components of crisis discourses, are often attributed to simplistically applied and unexamined "racial asymmetry" (p. 368) and undesirably framed within a "cultural and demographic mismatch" (Grant & Gibson, 2011, p. 25).

In order to trouble commonsensical conceptualizations of this mismatch, this conceptual study works toward re-theorizing the mismatch as both a concept and as a subject-glomming "hub" in schools and society in ways that articulate difference differently. By diffracting feminist, new materialist and poststructural theories of subjectivity through the material discursive fields surrounding a contemporary work of art and a post-industrial city, notions of diffraction, as both a methodological tool and as a concept, are developed. Experimenting with the notion of concept as method, "mismatched" subjects are re-presented as non-individuated subjectivities that emerge within ever-changing material/discursive fields.


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More About This Work

Academic Units
Curriculum and Teaching
Thesis Advisors
Miller, Janet L.
Ed.D., Teachers College, Columbia University
Published Here
March 2, 2018