My research seeks to explore how Latin American literature is studied and interpreted in Vancouver: What Latin American literary texts are taught in English Language Arts classrooms? How do teachers and students co-construct their understandings of these texts? And what representations emerge from these practices?

 
Teresa Dobson
Santiago
Chile
UBC Public Scholars Award
 

Research Description

My research seeks to explore how Latin American literature is studied and interpreted through educational practices in Vancouver. I am looking to answer what Latin American literary texts are taught in English Language Arts classrooms? How do teachers and students co-construct their understandings of these texts? And what representations emerge from these practices? In order to address these concerns, I have been working, during the past four years, with six local teachers in a monthly inquiry group, discussing theoretical approaches, sharing literary resources, and visiting four of their classrooms in order to develop pedagogical strategies that contests exoticism and stereotypes put into circulation when speaking about Latin America, its peoples, and nations.

What does being a Public Scholar mean to you?

For me being recognized as a Public Scholar means that my research has already affected other peoples’ lives for a greater good. It also allows me to broadcast what was being done in private spaces of academic research, as focus group and classrooms, to a bigger audience. Positioning Latin American representation, in this way, as an important topic of discussion.

In what ways do you think the PhD experience can be re-imagined with the Public Scholars Initiative?

The PSI allows you to connect not only with like-minded scholars, which is always appreciated as doing a PhD could be very isolating, but also with the most important audience of you research: the general public. Generating scholars that could relate and convoke diverse audiences is one of the main strengths of the Public Scholars Initiative.

How do you envision connecting your PhD work with broader career possibilities?

This project has opened unexpected professional avenues for myself, as I have cooperated with teacher participants designing pedagogical units focused on challenging national narratives and social justice (which have already been implemented). I can see my work being considered by curricular developers, editorial committees, and individual teachers looking for more representative and inclusive approaches to literature.

How does your research engage with the larger community and social partners?

One of the main goals of this project is to mobilize postcolonial theory to the everyday reality of school classrooms, in this sense, nourishing critical approaches into non-academic settings. The involvement with this research is something that has already affected the lives of teachers and students who have participated in the pedagogical discussions and focus groups organized. In my experience, many teachers do not know about Latin American literature and this weakness impacts negatively the lives of people belonging to this community. However, after establishing collaborative relationships with them, their practices have changed, while at the same time my own research identity gets transformed by the challenges that they bring to the investigation. I aspire to continue contributing to processes of knowledge mobilization that not only strengthen the pedagogical work of educational communities but also force researchers to examine and improve their specialized practices while keeping an eye on how the knowledge produced affect realities that are broader than those of academic settings.

How do you hope your work can make a contribution to the “public good”?

The educational community will benefit with my research, since it provides possibilities for children and educators to recognize others and themselves through literature, while at the same time appreciating the importance of diverse stories. My study’s findings show how Latin American literature can broaden the Eurocentric canon of Canadian school literature and address the diverse needs and interests of all students present in the classroom. In this sense, my research project will continue to build bridges between theory and practice, and translate the complexities of theory with the world of practitioners and students.

Why did you decide to pursue a graduate degree?

During my 5 years teaching literature in secondary schools, I realized that my colleagues where teaching the same books (and teaching them in the same way) that we have been taught. I thought that pursing a master, and later on a PhD, in language and literacy will allowed me to find new ways to engage young adults with new forms of literacy accordingly to the new times we are living.

Why did you choose to come to British Columbia and study at UBC?

I first decided to study in Canada to learn from its multicultural policies in order to integrate them in my practice. My first choice was UBC Faculty of Education as a world leader in educational research in Canada and worldwide.

 

The PSI allows you to connect not only with like-minded scholars, which is always appreciated as doing a PhD could be very isolating, but also with the most important audience of you research: the general public.