Theses Doctoral

The Materiality of Early Literacy Curriculum: A Network Case Study of one Kindergarten Classroom in New York City

Ferguson, Daniel Edward

This dissertation draws on data from a six-month study of the materiality of one Kindergarten classroom undergoing curriculum reform in an urban public elementary school. Informed by a network case study approach, whereby case study methods are uncased through an Actor Network Theory lens, I question what it means to say literacy curriculum is enacted, or reformed, by acknowledging the multiplicity of actors entangled within curriculum, both human and non-human, local and distant, invited and uninvited. Furthermore, I propose ways of uncasing studies of literacy curriculum, revealing how no site—a school, a classroom, or an instructional block—is a fixed case but rather is constructed through networks of mobility streaming from many places.
Through ecological surveys, images, fieldnotes, recordings and document archives, I trace the materialities of one Kindergarten classroom outward to reveal multiple dynamic networks—shifting school zones, neighborhoods, and curricular trends—that mobilize various bodies and materials into one seemingly stable public-school classroom. Networked within one morning meeting, for instance, were rotting pumpkins, pocket charts and cheese sandwiches doing the work of environmental nonprofits, DOE officials, and cafeteria staff, all entangled with the teacher and students in solving the problem of food waste at lunch.
However, I also confront ethical choices made in tracing literacy curriculum as material “network effects.” Set in the nation’s most segregated school system, I address how curriculum is not only affected by networks of circulating materials, but also networks circulating students’ bodies into unequal school spaces, leading to neighborhood gentrification and changing school funding and enrollment. I conclude with what responsibilities exist for researchers advocating for a material focus to address systemic issues of injustice in schools.

Geographic Areas


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More About This Work

Academic Units
Curriculum and Teaching
Thesis Advisors
Siegel, Marjorie
Ed.D., Teachers College, Columbia University
Published Here
June 24, 2018