Dissertation Defenses

Upcoming Dissertation Defenses

Name: Raymond M. Fierro, Jr.

Title:  Professional Development Curriculum as a Shaping Force for Police Training

Co-Chairs:  Drs. Carole Mitchener and Celina Sima

Date:  Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Time:  10:00am - 12:00pm

Location:  Room 3312, ETMSW Building, 1040 W. Harrison St.


Perhaps like never before, policing has been thrust into the national spotlight with every aspect of police practice scrutinized for its potential consequence for the public welfare. Increasingly, these lines of inquiry culminate with the demand for more police training as a method to address issues within the profession and to uphold the promise to serve and protect. Yet, given the plethora of extant literature citing the disconnect between police practitioners and the training they often receive (Cordner, McDevitt, & Rosenbaum, 2012; Vodde, 2012), the calls for more training (PTF, 2015; USDOJ, 2017) must be assuaged through the incorporation of progressive training models with a focus on curriculum and instruction. This study utilized archived data in the form of completed surveys to examine the short-term impact of a progressive professional development curriculum on attitudinal scores of front-line supervisors and field training officers in a large, urban police department. Specifically, archived responses allowed for a quasi-experimental, pretest/posttest design utilizing the completed surveys as an instrument for measurement intended to show how the perceptions of police practitioners were shaped through participation in a progressive authentic leadership training program.

The results of this research suggest that participants’ endorsement of key training concepts, such as practicing solid values and establishing enduring relationships (George & Sims, 2007), was positively impacted by participation in the progressive professional development leadership program, regardless of gender or rank. Additionally, participation positively impacted general views on leadership and the viability of future professional development leadership efforts. The implication from findings is that a professional development curriculum can serve as a positive shaping force for police training so that it better aligns law enforcement with a progressive model of policing in line with the expectations of a changing profession and the people it serves. Future research should continue to focus on both the short and long term efficacy of progressive curriculum models in police training which seek to advance a police practice commensurate with the public demand for crime reduction and enhanced public trust.


Name:  Deena Soffer Goldstein

Title:  The Co-Construction of Mathematical Identities Among d/Deaf and Hard of Hearing Middle Grade Students

Chair:  Dr. Danny Martin

Date:  Thursday, February 16, 2017

Time:  12:00pm - 2:00pm

Location:  Room 3312, ETMSW Building, 1040 W. Harrison St.


Research in mathematics education among d/Deaf and hard of hearing (DHH) learners has documented that these students lag behind their hearing peers on measures of mathematics achievement (e.g., Kritzer, 2008; Nunes & Moreno, 2002; Swanwick, Oddy, & Roper, 2005). Research in the areas of mathematics identity, agency, and socialization has great potential for advancing our understanding of mathematics teaching and learning among DHH learners. In this study, I examine the mathematical learning experiences of four d/Deaf and hard of hearing (DHH) middle grade students in a self-contained DHH classroom. Through in-depth analyses of narrative identities and identities-in-practice, I explore the co-construction of d/Deaf and hard of hearing students’ mathematical identities: what a DHH student believes about himself or herself as a learner of mathematics and how others position the individual.

Based on my analyses of classroom observations, teacher interviews, and student interviews, my findings focus on rich descriptions of the general and specifically mathematical obligations and the characterizations of competence in this classroom. The general and mathematical obligations that emerged in this classroom involved expectations of compliant behaviors and procedural fluency in the context of low-level activities. The characterizations of competence and of being a competent learner are based, in part, on these jointly constructed expectations in the classroom. I present within-case analyses of two students to illustrate how the obligations and characterizations of competence in this classroom, coupled with the students’ and others’ narratives and experiences, shape how these two students see themselves and are seen by others as DHH learners and as doers of mathematics. While complying with the obligations may position a DHH student as competent in this classroom, ultimately, it may not align with the larger mathematics community’s characterizations of proficiency in mathematics. Furthermore, students’ abilities to positively align their DHH and mathematical identities are influenced by classroom practices and structures. Several new and related questions emerged from this study that could have implications for further research and practice.


Name:  Colleen E. Whittingham

Title:  Places & Spaces of Literacy [Inter]action:  Preschool Practices Providing Equitable Opportunities to Learn

Committee Chair: Dr. William Teale

Date:  Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Time:  10:00am - 12:00pm

Location:  Room 3312, ETMSW Building, 1040 W. Harrison


The current early childhood educational climate is marked by a contrast between the breathtaking diversity of schoolchildren and the increasing uniformity of early learning standards and classroom practices.  To help children achieve maximum benefit from their preschool experience, early literacy instruction must reflect the rich cultural experiences of all children, acknowledging that children from all communities need and respond to a wide range of curricula and practices. This dissertation examined teacher-child interactions in one preschool classroom in a large Midwestern city, focusing especially on the factors mediating those interactions.  Mediating factors studied included the policies and protocols of the center in which the classroom is situated, and the classroom place and space.  During an 8-week single case study, ethnographic methods complemented by video-based field work addressed three questions: 1) What do racially and linguistically just literacy [inter]actions look like in a preschool classroom? 2) How do preschool policies and protocols both reflect and shape these [inter]actions? And 3) How do the preschool spaces and places both reflect and shape these [inter]actions?

Findings indicate the high incidence of a co-constructive participation structure in which meaning-making occurred organically from the interaction, as the topic, duration, and participants in the interaction were not predetermined or planned by the teachers.  Within this participation structure, discourse analysis indicated common features of teachers’ discursive moves, positioning students as agentive learners by validating, then elevating, students’ content learning, play narratives, and problem solving strategies. Center and classroom policies and protocols in place supporting these interactions were often necessitated by compliance with external mandates tied to center funding; and yet, routines and practices were intentional and purposeful—in the global sense of serving the center and agency mission and in the local sense of serving the personal and intellectual needs of children and their families. Classroom practices were, first and foremost, pedagogically sound while also in compliance with external policies and protocols. Investigations of place and space required ‘trying on’ combinations of theoretical approaches and methods of analysis new to the field of study.  As such, theoretical and methodological implications for research in early childhood settings are discussed, using data to contextualize the discussion. 


Name:  Megan Elizabeth Hughes

Title:  Health Literacy and Type 2 Diabetes:  A Case Study in Complexity

Committee Chair:  Dr. Taffy Raphael

Date:  Monday, March 6, 2017

Time:  12:00pm – 2:00pm

Location:  Room 3312, ETMSW Building, 1040 W. Harrison St.


Health literacy is a high stakes literacy that requires patients to navigate multiple activity systems (Engestrom, 2001) and engage in a variety of complex literacy practices.  This is a case study of the literacy practices used by patients with Type 2 Diabetes as they learn to manage their disease.  The site of the study was a Diabetes Education Center.  Data were collected via interviews with medical staff and patients, as well as observations of individual education sessions.  Data were analyzed using activity systems analysis (Yamagata-Lynch, 2010).  Literacy practices patients engaged in at the Center and at home were varied and complex.  These practices used specific tools and followed certain rules.  The activity settings of the Center and patient’s homes were interconnected.  Tensions existed within the systems.  This study provides a window into patients’ experiences with literacy while navigating a real world health care situation.  The complexity of the literacy practices patients engaged in should be taken into consideration when defining and assessing health literacy, when creating health education programs, and when considering needed patient supports.