Theses Doctoral

Lives Across Spaces: the Place of Adolescents’ Spatial Experiences in Their Lives as Students

Michael, Heather

The purpose of this work is to explore the spatial lives of three adolescents in grade nine, between January and May, as they navigated their lives and anticipated their upcoming transition to high school (for students in Grades 10 – 12), with an interest in equitable access to International Baccalaureate programs. Researched in Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada, in a context where access to IB was a student choice, free of cost, and void of consideration regarding academic history, the students involved in this study came from neighborhoods that have been historically marginalized from participation in IB, regardless of this “open access” policy.
Methodologically, this study is grounded in spatial theory (hooks 1989; Lefebvre, 1979, 1991; Soja, 1996, 2010) and draws on narrative (Clandinin & Connelly, 2000; Naraian, 2017) and ethnographic techniques (Emerson, Fretz & Shaw, 1995; LeCompte & Schensul, 1999; Merriam, 2009), using an a/r/tographic stance, that is Artist, Researcher, Teacher positionality (Fendler, 2013; Irwin & Springgay, 2008) as a way to conceptualize the adolescents lives in and outside of school. The research questions address: how adolescents define, describe and map the spaces where they spend time; how they describe their identities, experiences and relationships across space and time; and, what connections they make between engaging in this process and their perceptions about high school.
The findings suggest that the spatial stories of adolescents matter, are complex, and provide insight into the ways in which they navigate their worlds and make decisions about their academic futures. Methodologically, using a narrative and ethnographically inspired a/r/tographic approach to exploring the spatial lives of adolescents was useful and generative in terms of eliciting insight and understanding of their complex lives in and out of school. Finally, the findings suggest that for schools seeking to become more inclusive of historically marginalized adolescents, they may need to reconsider an approach that pulls marginalized youth into the “main body” (hooks, 1989), and, instead, travel to the “margin” (hooks, 1989) to re-conceptualize and design programs from there, the “space of radical openness” (hooks, 1989).


  • thumnail for Michael_tc.columbia_0055E_10881.pdf Michael_tc.columbia_0055E_10881.pdf application/pdf 13 MB Download File

More About This Work

Academic Units
Curriculum and Teaching
Thesis Advisors
Siegel, Marjorie
Ed.D., Teachers College, Columbia University
Published Here
March 8, 2019