Theses Doctoral

Disability Studies, Multiculturalism and Urban Science Education: A Mixed-Methods Phenomenography of Graduate Student Learning

Boda, Phillip Andrew

Urban and multicultural science teacher education research seeks to educate new science teachers to more fully understand ‘Science-for-all’ and prepare them to effectively navigate urban classrooms. Therefore, to successfully enhance ‘Science-for-all,’ there is a need to address what the labeling (i.e., categorical labeling and/or mislabeling) of students with disabilities means for science teacher education, its research and practice. Consequently, we need more research in this nascent field to ground this claim in evidence rather than speculation, especially as the disproportionality of students of color being placed in special education becomes more prevalent for all disciplines.
This dissertation used a phenomenographic design to study a cohort of graduate students’ conceptualizations of disability and difference as they progressed through the only required diversity course in a science education program at a large, urban university in the American northeast. Twenty-two students within this ‘Science-for-all’ course participated in the study, with a subset of ten that opted into a more in-depth data collection. Data collection included in-depth interviews, a modified Pedagogy of Science Teaching Test (POSTT-DIS), and a Classroom Learning Environment Questionnaire, as well as bi-weekly course reflections and bi-weekly lessons created by the participants. Mixed-methods data analyses addressed to what extent these graduate students embraced a Disability Studies in Education perspective relative to disability and also whether the students developed a critical lens toward difference (i.e., expressed, imagined, and/or imposed variations in human behavior and potential). Further analyses explored to what extent these theoretical elements transferred into pragmatic applications by the participants, for example in their lesson planning, that addressed disability and difference to provide evidence of their capabilities to bridge theory to practice.
Findings suggest that the course maintained the relatively static conceptualizations about disability held by the participants – the likely contributing factors are explored in more depth, including recommendations for improvement. The data also suggest that while students in this course were able to theorize critically about multicultural issues in urban science education, their capacities to reflect on their pedagogical decisions and plan comprehensive ‘Science-for-all’ classroom learning environments remained disciplinary focused. Thus, rather than emphasizing critical pedagogies that are pertinent for effective and transformative change in science education for diverse populations, the participants remained focused on narrowly defined, content-specific ways of teaching and learning science. Implications for this research include focusing on both the goals and implementations of courses such as this one, attending to the unique case of disability as outside the realm of conceptualizing difference, and attending to graduate students’ needs to help them bridge the divide between theory to practice.


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More About This Work

Academic Units
Science Education
Thesis Advisors
Anderson, O. Roger
Ph.D., Columbia University
Published Here
August 8, 2017