Dewey, Disability, and Democratic Education

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Virginia Tech

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.

citizenship, democratic education, disability, digital technologies