Dewey, Disability, and Democratic Education
Mullins Jr, Ricky Dale
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This dissertation is comprised of three manuscripts that coalesce around the topics of Dewey, Disability, and Democratic Education. Each manuscript is formatted for publication and the dissertation itself is prefaced by information that explains my background and how it connects to my current research. As such, the work contained in this dissertation is a product of my experiences as a social studies teacher, special educator, and administrator. Henceforth, my work focuses on Dewey, Disability, and Democratic Education. My research interests culminate in a three-article dissertation. The first paper is entitled, "Using Dewey to Problematize the Notion of Disability in Public Education." A version of this paper is currently under review for publication. In this paper I situate Dewey's theoretical underpinnings in the conversation around special education. Previous scholars of Dewey and disability have examined the ways in which his work speaks to educational growth and educational opportunity; my work adds to this body of research. However, my work is unique in that not only do I discuss pluralistic, communicative, participatory democracy as it pertains to students with disabilities, I also examine how Deweyan democracy can take shape, specifically within the context of an Individualized Education Plan (IEP) meeting. I conclude by arguing that Deweyan democracy is not only ideal, but realistic, attainable, and necessary, especially in the lives of students with disabilities. In my second paper, I use the Schools and Staffing Survey (SASS) dataset in a paper entitled, "Can We Meet Our Mission? Examining the Professional Development of Social Studies Teachers to Support Students with Disabilities and Emergent Bilingual Learners." A version of this paper has been accepted for publication in The Journal of Social Studies Research. In this work, I first examine the social studies scholarship looking at students with disabilities and emergent bilingual learners, as well as research about the nature of professional development within the social studies. I then analyze the number of students with disabilities and emergent bilingual learners that we support in the social studies to provide a portrait of the field. Next, I examine the extent to which social studies teachers receive professional development to support those student groups, as well as the extent to which the social studies teachers found the professional development to be useful. My findings indicate that social studies teachers do not receive substantial professional development to support the learning of all students, as evidenced by the limited amount of professional development received focusing on students with disabilities and emergent bilingual learners. In my third paper, I build on previous research examining the possibilities and benefits of participating in informal learning spaces such as Twitter in a paper entitled, "'So I Feel Like We Were Theoretical, Whereas They Actually Do It': Navigating Twitter Chats For Teacher Education." A version of this paper is also under review for publication. In this paper, specifically, I examine the experiences and perceptions of pre-service social studies teachers who particip¬¬¬¬ated in a discipline specific Twitter chat known as #sschat. My findings indicate that pre-service teachers found value in the chat when they were able to share resources with practicing teachers and build professional learning networks. However, there were instances when the pre-service teachers felt like they contributed little because they did not have direct experience with teaching. Additionally, the pre-service teachers expressed dissatisfaction with using Twitter as a platform for professional chats. However, I still contend and conclude that the utility of such chats outweighs the negatives. Therefore, this study sheds light on the potentiality and necessity of utilizing Twitter chats as a space to provide ongoing and systematic support to pre-service teachers to help not only them, but the field of social studies education move forward. These papers when considered together form a foundation of scholarship and further inquiry focused on Dewey, Disability, and Democratic Education, on which I plan to build in the years to come.
General Audience Abstract
When I completed my undergraduate social studies teaching program, the job market appeared bleak in the coalfields of southwest Virginia. Coal, no longer king, had driven the economy for years. With its decline, my community barely managed to survive. My advisor at the time, honest and plain-spoken, told me that unless I obtained a license in special education, I would most likely not obtain a teaching job. Unlike many other areas of the country, in my hometown unless you could do other things like coach or drive a bus, a license to teach social studies was of little value. There was not much money and a new hire had to be willing to do many different jobs to prove his or her worth. Luckily, I had gotten my Commercial Driver License (CDLs) through a training program offered by the county school board, and I was consequently able to obtain a position, although not as a social studies teacher. I started my career in education as a special educator and substitute school bus driver. In this position I worked in an alternative education setting and taught vocational skills to secondary students with significant disabilities (in the institutional meaning of the word). From the start of my career, I aspired to become an administrator, so I enrolled in and completed a degree in Administration and Supervision. As I was working on that degree, I moved to the general education high school level, where I held a position teaching social studies and special education in an inclusive setting. Shortly thereafter, I obtained a job as an assistant principal. The part I enjoyed most about this position was working with and thinking about how to help teachers become better at their craft. At this point is when I decided to pursue a PhD in social studies education, so I could develop my interest into a body of research and eventually a career. Two years into my PhD program I was still grappling with who I was as a scholar. As I familiarized myself with social studies scholarship, I discovered that in my first position as an alternative education special educator, I was essentially preparing my students for the responsibilities of citizenship, which is the mission of the field of social studies (NCSS, 2013). Nevertheless, it was not until I started reading the work of John Dewey that I truly realized the complexity of what I experienced when I taught in the alternative education setting. That position allowed me to examine an element that I otherwise, would not have had the privilege to see; the complexity and intellect required for physical labor (Rose, 2004) and the inter-workings of true, vibrant, Deweyan democracy. Dewey’s work sparked a new interest in me and I started developing a deep-seated curiosity about how his theoretical underpinnings related to disability and democratic education. My interest in disability then caused me to ask other questions about social studies in relation to special education, which made me reflect on my prior experiences as a social studies educator. Although I had a license in special education, there were many instances in which I felt unprepared and unsupported in addressing the needs of all students in my classes which included general education students, students with disabilities (SWDs), and emergent bilingual learners (EBLs). I began to wonder if my feelings of unpreparedness and lack of support were in isolation. As I parsed the literature, I found that there was not a significant amount of research focused specifically on the extent to which social studies teachers felt they were prepared and supported to address the needs of all learners in their classroom. Additionally, my experience in both public education and teacher education gave me insight to realize that school systems do not have funding to provide specialized professional development and similarly, teacher education is under financial constraints as well. Therefore, I began examining what informal spaces such as Twitter offer educators in terms of professional support and development. My interests and curiosity fueled my scholarly work and eventually culminated into three distinct, but interconnected manuscripts. The three manuscripts that follow coalesce around my interests in Dewey, Disability, and Democratic Education.
- Doctoral Dissertations