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Kozak, Donna


Profile Donna KozakResearch Topic: Co-creating discursive spaces that integrate teacher and parent knowledge around children's literacy development

Research Location: Kelowna, BC

Research Supervisor: Dr. Leyton Schnellert

Research Description:

Co-creating discursive spaces that integrate teacher & family knowledge around children's literacy development. When educators lack knowledge and skills in organizing and implementing effective family engagement practices with their diverse students' families, fewer students succeed in school (Epstein, 2011).

In my proposed Critical Participatory Action Research Study, I will co-develop, co-design and collaboratively investigate and analyze the experiences of educators, teacher candidates and parents partnering together in processes that allow them to align their respective funds of knowledge regarding their children's emerging literacy development.

The voices and questions of parents are often missing from educational research and dialogue about how to support children's learning and literacy development (Cairney, 2002, Edwards, Pleasants & Franklin, 1999). Henderson, Mapp, Johnson, Davies (2007) contend that educators and parents have many beliefs, attitudes, and fears about each other that hinder their coming together to promote children's education. Lawerence-Lightburn (2003) describes the majority of teachers as having relationships with parents that are defensive and formulaic and who look to institutional bureaucracy to shield or buffer them from what they see as intrusions from families. Practicing teachers receive little if any professional development in how to foster partnerships with the families of their students (Epstein, 2011; Henderson, et al., 2007; Pushor, 2013). Teacher sense of efficacy for engaging parents can make or break any effort to change the traditional separation of schools from the families and communities they serve (Desforges & Abouchaar, 2003; Hoover-Dempsey, et al., 2005). Neither graduate nor undergraduate teacher training courses help teacher candidates develop attitudes, dispositions or skills either conceptually or pragmatically for their work with parents.

This proposed study will explore what it means to intentionally venture into the divide that the literature suggests is inherent in the way educators and parents coexist on the margins and boundaries that divide school and home (Henderson, et al., 2007; Kreider, et al., 2013; Lawerence-Lightburn, 2003; Miller Marsh & Turner-Vorbeck, 2010). Gee (2008) describes discourse as a way of exhibiting membership in a particular social group through words, actions, values and beliefs. I will examine how home and school discourses surface when a discursive space is intentionally co-created and shaped around a shared commitment to children's early literacy development.

Carr and Kemmis (1986) provide theoretical rationale and philosophical justifications for teachers' role in research through the lens of critical educational social science which embodies a belief in active participation of teachers, parents, students and school administrators in critically analyzing their own educational situations.  By reaching collective and personal understandings of their situations, educational action research offers the opportunity to take collaborative responsibility for the development and reform of education, by transforming and improving contextual situations for teachers, students and society (Carr & Kemmis, 1986).

Home Town: Kelowna, BC

Country:  Canada

Faculty/School: Faculty of Education

Program: Doctor of Philosophy in Interdisciplinary Studies

Why did you decide to pursue a graduate degree?

I have been involved in education for three decades and have always been a curious practitioner taking up inquiry and learning as part of my professional growth.  I completed a masters degree early on in my career which gave me agency to be both a reflective and reflective practitioner. I have pursued many opportunities in my career that have taken me down different paths of learning and inquiry. The Phd program seemed a logical fit as I move into the latter stages of my career as a way to both synthesize my experiential knowledge and contribute to the field in a meaningful lasting way.

Why did you decide to study at UBC's Okanagan campus?

I have been an adjunct instructor with the Faculty of Education for the past 7 years and have come to realize that UBC Okanagan offers a locally-based rich program of study for graduate work.  How wonderful to have such an incredible institution of learning in our own community!

What impact do you hope your research will have?

My research is based on a question that I have never fully been able to answer in my own practice.  There is an extensive body of research on how parents working with teachers in partnership significantly impacts the long term success of students in schools and beyond. Yet, we fully do not yet understand how to include, involve and engage parents in a meaningful and participatory manner.
"Teachers say they want more support from parents and are troubled by what they see as low parent involvement and poor student behavior. Yet they are unsure about how to collaborate productively with families.  Many tend to be more comfortable with helping families to be involved with their children at home than with engaging families in their classrooms and schools" (2007, Henderson, Mapp, Johnson, & Davies).  Although engagement with families is acknowledged, little reform has actually attended to develop programs, policies, and practices that foster meaningful and productive partnerships (2005, Constantino).  

Through intentionally surfacing the question alongside teachers with parents, I hope to uncover and discover a new conversation with vocabulary that both contributes to the field and leaves a legacy of thinking and acting differently about what schools are for, and how they could become more inclusive of the families of the children they serve.


SSHRC Graduate Scholarship

Faculty of Education Internal Graduate Award Recipient


Last reviewed shim10/7/2015 10:49:55 AM