Category: Successful Defence

Teacher-Researcher Profile

An interview with Dr. Brandon Needham, Principal of Melville Comprehensive School (MCS) and 2020 CBC Future 40 Winner, who successfully defended his dissertation, “Critical Action Research: How One School Community Lives out the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s Calls to Action,” on February 16, 2021. Co-supervisors were Dr. Twyla Salm and Dr. Jennifer Tupper. Committee members were Dr. Michael Cappello, Dr. Anna-Leah King, and Dr. Amber Fletcher. External examiner was Dr. Nicholas Ng-A-Fook (University of Ottawa).

Why did you choose to do your graduate degree at the Faculty of Education, University of Regina?

I completed a Bachelor of Arts degree in history, Bachelor of Education – major in physical education and minor in history, and a Master’s degree in curriculum studies from the University of Saskatchewan (U of S). I chose the University of Regina (U of R) for my doctoral work based on the reputation of the school, specifically, the notable research being conducted in the area of treaty and Indigenous education. My supervisor, and former U of R Dean of Education, Dr. Jennifer Tupper’s seminal work in treaty education became the basis to explore areas of reconciliation education.

The University of Regina was also one of the only doctoral programs not requiring a one-year residency for doctoral students, which allowed me to study and continue my job as an in-school administrator. This was very important for me, as I was not able to take an education leave from my school division to pursue a doctorate. The flexibility in the graduate programs at the U of R makes academia more accessible to those educators who still want to remain connected to a K-12 context and for that I was grateful.

What were the circumstances that led you to your research topic for your dissertation?

Having enrolled in the winter term of 2015, just as the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s final report and the subsequent release of the Calls to Action occurred, this topic seemed timely. Prior to choosing this topic, I had conducted a research project with Dr. Michael Cottrell from the U of S on the implementation of treaty education through treaty catalyst teachers. My doctoral work was an evolution of this earlier work, which sought to investigate the challenges and opportunities in teaching students about the Indian Residential School (IRS) project.

What need were you identifying?

In my time as a classroom teacher and an in-school administrator, I have identified hesitancy from students and staff to engage fully in the teaching and learning of treaty education, and other Indigenous topics found in the curriculum. This was initially the case for me, too, as I began my teaching career. Having grown up in a town void of experiences with Indigenous peoples, I had to (un)learn many of the things I had come to know about Indigenous peoples. Through my various educational experiences, I gained a more nuanced understanding of myself as a White settler and the privilege that accompanies that position. Wanting to create meaningful change in my school community towards the goals of the TRC, this project offered the opportunity to invite others to consider their privileged positions. Much of the research conducted to this point had been with teacher-candidates; I felt that conducting the research project in my school may serve to help clarify the complexities of reconciliatory work in K-12 contexts.

Briefly outline your research question and findings.

The study was informed by the following research question: “What actions can a school community take to engage in the TRC Calls to Action to become a site where truth and reconciliation become possible?”

The findings of the study have been encapsulated in the following way: By living out the Calls to Action in our school community we learned to:

Begin with ourselves

  • Locate oneself in the context of settler-colonialism by confronting the various ways we have and continue to be shaped by it.
  • Understand the context of where the work is happening, seeking to understand the community we wish to transform.
  • Build capacity in ourselves so as to engage respectfully in difficult conversations we encountered on our journey of reconciliation.
  • Practice critical reflection and understand that the journey toward reconciliation is on-going and evolves with time.

Walk alongside Indigenous peoples on this journey

  • Bear witness to truth-telling (survivor stories and other Indigenous counter-stories).
  • Build and foster respectful relationships with Indigenous community members.
  • Create a support network (Indigenous organizations, community groups, academic institutions) to assist in the journey.

Engage in disruptive work

  • Work collectively and collaboratively to transform the teaching and learning of the residential school project, treaty education, Indigenous sovereignty, and ongoing colonial violence.
  • Encourage and influence those around us to include and infuse Indigenous perspectives, values, and cultural understanding into daily practice.
  • Transform the spaces and places in the school to reflect the historical significance of Indigenous peoples.
    Recognize the potential of schools and individuals in schools to be vehicles for reconciliatory actions.

What was memorable, a highlight about doing this research?

A highlight of doing this research project was having been fortunate enough to share this journey with the colleagues who participated in the study. Our group met several times over the course of the school year in the hope to live out the TRC Calls to Action in our school, which led to many meaningful conversations about the influence we have as teachers to make reconciliation more than aspirational.

What kinds of feedback have you received from others?

I have received very positive feedback from others. I have had an opportunity to share my findings through virtual conferences, with only positive comments coming from those sessions.

Were there any unexpected moments of grace coming out of your studies during a pandemic?

I would say an unexpected moment of grace that came out of this pandemic was shown by my supervisor, Dr. Tupper. She was extremely supportive and understanding of the challenges I faced as a graduate student, principal, and father of four children.

What are your hopes for how your work is taken up by others?

My hope is that this work is taken up in ways that continue to invite others to consider their positionality in our settler-colonial system and how they might use their privilege to explore the shared history between Indigenous and non-Indigenous peoples. More work is needed in how students take up and experience reconciliation education and it is my hope that this project can illuminate some of those possibilities.

While a student, Brandon Needham was named one of CBC’s 2020 Future Forty winners. Read the interview by clicking on the image

 

 

 

 

 

 

Successful defence

Dr. Emily Ashton has successfully completed her PhD from the University of Victoria. Dr. Ashton’s research explores how the cultural connections of childhood are being rewritten under conditions of ecological destruction and political uncertainty. Her research seeks to better understand how child figures of public and popular culture entangle with early childhood imaginaries to create particular worlds.

Successful Defence

On February 28, 2018, Dr. Ian Matheson successfully defended his dissertation Unpacking Reading Comprehension by Text Type: An Examination of Reading Strategy Use and Cognitive Functioning in Poor and Typically-Achieving Comprehenders at Queen’s University, Faculty of Education.

Dr. Derek Berg (Queen’s University) served as Ian’s Supervisor and the following were his committee members: Dr. Nancy Hutchinson (Queen’s University) and Dr. Don Klinger (Queen’s University). External to Faculty was Dr. Valerie Kuhlmeier (Queen’s University), Head/Delegate was Dr. Kristy Timmons (Queen’s University), External to University was Dr. Dawn Buzza (Wilfrid Laurier) and the Chair was Dr. Anthony Goerzen (Queen’s University).

In his study, Dr. Matheson  examined how students build comprehension with different types of text. Poor comprehenders and typically achieving comprehenders, as determined by a standardized measure for general reading comprehension, were compared in their reading comprehension and reading strategy use across narrative, expository, and graphic text. Ian also examined the influence of cognitive functioning on reading comprehension, and to what extent cognitive functions can explain the difference in reading comprehension between poor and typically achieving comprehenders. This research was partially exploratory, where he aimed to validate existing research on cognitive functions, reading strategies, and reading comprehension of text, as well as to contribute new research that distinguishes between text types. Past research has shown that cognitive functions predict reading comprehension and that poor comprehenders have poorer cognitive functioning and use fewer reading strategies than their peers. However, no research to date has made distinctions between different types of text, specifically graphic text, and how cognitive functioning and reading strategy use relate to comprehension.

Successful defence

On Tuesday, November 28, Dr. Alexandra Stoddart successfully defended her dissertation, “Physical Literacy: A Journey of Understanding and Development” at the University of Saskatchewan.

Dr. Louise Humbert served as Alex’s doctoral supervisor and the committee members were Dr. Adam Baxter-Jones, Dr. Kent Kowalski, and Dr. Sarah Oosman. Her external examiner was Dr. Lynn Randall from the University of New Brunswick.

Alex will be joining the faculty in the HOPE Subject area as of January 1, 2018.

Successful Defence

Congratulations to Dr. Joel Thibeault, who successfully defended his doctoral dissertation, Regard socioconstructiviste sur le développement de la compétence lexicomorphogrammique qui permet l’accord du verbe en nombre chez des élèves de la fin de l’ordre élémentaire dans le Sud-Ouest ontarienon, on June 27, 2017, at the University of Ottawa. Joel’s chair was Dr. Alain-François Bisson (Faculty of Law – Section Civil Law). Thesis supervisors were Dr. Carole Fleuret and Dr. Pascale Lefrançois (Université de Montréal). The External Examiner was Dr. Marie-Andrée Lord (Université Laval, by videoconference) and the
Examiners were Dr. Francis Bangou, Dr. Alain Desrochers, Dr. Michel Laurier.

Successful Defence

Congratulations to Dr. Sara Schroeter who successfully defended her dissertation, “Difference at Play: An Ethnography of Discourse and Drama in Multiracial Classrooms in a Francophone Minority Language Schools,” April 3rd at the University of British Columbia. Dr. Annette Henry and Dr. Lisa Loutzenheiser served as Sara’s doctoral supervisors, and her external examiner was Dr. Nombuso Dlamini.

Successful Defence

heather-phipps-proof-images-202Congratulations to Dr. Heather Phipps on successfully defending her PhD at McGill University in Montreal on Wednesday, November 23 under the supervision of Dr. Teresa Strong-Wilson and Dr. Claudia Mitchell. Committee members included Dr. Anne Burke (Memorial University), Dr. Mary Maguire (McGill), and Dr. Mela Sarkar (McGill). The external examiner was Dr. Rahat Naqvi (University of Calgary).

Phipp’s dissertation, Children Speaking with Children: Visualizing Engagement Through Contemporary Canadian Picture Books in French Classrooms, is an ethnographic study situated in a public primary school in urban Montreal. It documents young children’s responses to Canadian children’s literature in Grades 1 & 2 French classrooms. Her study highlights the ways in which children engage and respond to both the words and images in diverse Canadian literature, and how they reflect on their own lived experiences in relation to the picture books. Her future research interests include inquiry related to issues of belonging, identity, and community for children and teachers in the context of minority language education in francophone and French immersion schools in the Saskatchewan context and in diverse multilingual contexts across Canada.

Successful Defence

russell-galeCongratulations to Dr. Gale Russell, Lecturer in Mathematics Education, who successfully defended her dissertation, “Valued Kinds of Knowledge and Ways of Knowing in Mathematics and the Teaching and Learning of Mathematics: A Worldview Analysis” on June 23 at the University of Saskatchewan.

Her external examiner, Dr. Lisa Lunney Borden of St. Francis Xavier University, noted Dr. Russell’s exceptional skill as a researcher and the contributions that her dissertation will make to the national conversation relating to transforming the experiences in mathematics education for Indigenous students.

Dean Jennifer Tupper writes, “This is a tremendous accomplishment and one to be celebrated!”

Successful Defence

Congratulations to Dr. Jenn de Lugt, Lecturer in Inclusive Education and Core Studies, who successfully defended her doctoral dissertation May 13 at Queen’s University. Jenn’s dissertation explored how appropriate reading intervention strategies may be used to ameliorate emotional and behavioural disorders in children. Her doctoral studies were funded in part by SSHRC Fellowships.