Penney Clark


Relevant Thesis-Based Degree Programs


Graduate Student Supervision

Doctoral Student Supervision

Dissertations completed in 2010 or later are listed below. Please note that there is a 6-12 month delay to add the latest dissertations.

"No longer missionary": the Sisters of Saint Ann and Vancouver's Catholic schools in the long 1960s (2021)

The full abstract for this thesis is available in the body of the thesis, and will be available when the embargo expires.

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The stories nations tell: historical consciousness and the construction of national identity at the Canadian Museum for Human Rights (2017)

As Canada prepares for its 150th birthday, within the context of its colonial legacy, silenced histories, and multiple, shifting identities in the present, Canadian sites of pedagogy are confronting questions around whose national narratives they are communicating. Within this milieu, Canada recently (2014) inaugurated its sixth national museum, the Canadian Museum for Human Rights (CMHR), in Winnipeg, Manitoba.Using a theoretical frame that applied approaches within critical museology and historical consciousness, this investigation interrogated the CMHR as a site of pedagogy that could be read for its representational and spatial meanings, and as a site of historical consciousness that communicates a past, present, and future vision of Canada.  This research also introduced and utilized a Framework of Canadian National Narratives capturing current constructions of Canadian national identity. This framework identified two master national narrative templates—Master National Narrative Template 1.0 (the progressive, unified, Euro-Western colony-to-nation narrative of Canada), Master National Narrative Template 2.0 (Canada as a progress-oriented, generous, tolerant, multicultural mosaic)—and a third dimension titled Counter National Narratives 3.0, that is not a narrative template. Rather, NN 3.0 captures competing, or silenced aspects of Canadian history through national narratives that contest, rebuke or, intervene in the storylines of Master National Narrative Templates 1.0 and 2.0, thereby providing a more nuanced account and multiple perspectives on Canadian identity. In other instances, NN 3.0 throws into question taken-for-granted notions around the concepts of nationhood and national identity, through narratives grounded in land, place, or global forces.This study offers a new research approach for the identification, and analysis of national narratives in sites of pedagogy—classrooms, textbooks, monuments, national historic sites, museums, news media, architectural spaces, arbitrated cityscapes, Indigenous landscape features, and public performances. It suggests a new curricular imperative coined The Narrative Dimension for history education that might also be used in museology and public history. Part of The Narrative Dimension includes critical engagement with a country’s master national narrative templates and those that problematize them. This investigation further concludes that museum attempts to use this aspect of The Narrative Dimension offer an innovative way to curate difficult knowledge.

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Decolonizing the Nunavut School System: Stories in a River of Time (2015)

This research explores the recent history of educational change in Nunavut’s public school system, primarily between the years 2000 and 2013. During this time, decision makers mandated that schools deliver programs in accordance with Inuit foundations of knowledge, values and ways of being. I show how new school system initiatives were largely informed by long-term Nunavut educators—Inuit and non-Inuit—as well as Elders and Inuit knowledge holders, whose perspectives reach into the remembered past and towards an imagined future. My inquiry centres in-depth interviews with Cathy McGregor, an educational leader who carries 40 years experience North of 60°, and was responsible for facilitating many recent curriculum, policy, and leadership changes. Cathy is also my mother. Illuminated by her memories and vision, materials developed for the Nunavut school system, and my own research journey, I examine processes of bringing knowledge from and about the past forward in educational change. I describe three sites as demonstrating decolonizing: 1) The role of Inuit Elders in the school system, including full-time Elder Advisors; 2) Processes of curriculum development based on Inuit Qaujimajatuqangit; and, 3) An annual leadership development workshop facilitating history education. Building on these stories of change, I work towards theorizing two concepts, and the relationship between them, in the context of the Nunavut school system: decolonizing and knowing with historical consciousness. I find the sustainability of change in this context is elusive and challenging. Educators are unlikely to reach a stable moment of fulfillment wherein they hold sufficient knowledge of the context, or where the institution of schooling is decolonized. Using the metaphor of a river melting in spring throughout the dissertation, I find it is unsettling to acknowledge that time constantly slips away; that what was done before may no longer be relevant or possible now. However, knowledge from and about the past may serve educators by illustrating that knowing is always conditioned by place, time, identity, and relationships; therefore, knowledge can, and must, be remade. I argue that this warrants practices of continuously and recursively revisiting what is called for in Nunavut schools, to support educational change towards decolonizing.

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Master's Student Supervision

Theses completed in 2010 or later are listed below. Please note that there is a 6-12 month delay to add the latest theses.

Integrating literature into STEM to promote inclusivity and foster holistic, transdisciplinary learning environments (2021)

The goal of this study is to examine the integration of literature, defined as any form of short or long fiction and/or non-fiction, or poetry, into secondary STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) classes in British Columbia, Canada. The data were collected through interviews with nine secondary STEM subject teachers and focus on teachers’ perceptions of the effects of including literature, what/how literature has been included, and the perceived barriers to doing so. Interviews were conducted online via Zoom and coded using NVivo software. A review of the literature demonstrates that integrating literature into STEM can be appealing to a broad range of students and teachers and can help to engage students with a variety of interests, perspectives, and backgrounds. Literature can facilitate the inclusion of a variety of perspectives (i.e., Indigenous ways of knowing). The arts, including the literary arts, are a part of STEAM education, which focuses on interdisciplinary or transdisciplinary approaches to education. Furthermore, due to its multiple disciplinary nature, literature can present opportunities for students to learn holistically and help them to better understand the context of the content they are studying. Interview data suggest that literature can also help to make lessons memorable, build community within the classroom, and create opportunities for students and teachers to authentically represent themselves and the subject matter. Through exploration via a variety of educational approaches, students may be better able to find a pathway to engage with a subject. Participants in this study described several barriers they have faced in choosing to integrate literature in STEM classes, including time constraints, locating appropriate literary material, and managing the expectations of students, colleagues, administrators, and parents. However, the participants in this study all stated that they would continue to include literature in their classes in the future, despite the perceived barriers, and offered advice for teachers who may not yet have attempted to do so. The participants also found that student reactions to literature in STEM classes is generally positive, and they described some ways in which their assessment practices may change when integrating literature (i.e., marking holistically or using rubrics).

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A new materialist turn toward the textbook: an exploration of the relationship between history textbooks and historical narratives (2020)

This study is concerned with history textbooks and historical narratives. Shifting attention away from the notion that the teacher uses the textbook as a mute classroom tool, this study follows Karen Barad’s new materialist theories to conceptualise the textbook as a lively, vibrant object with animate and agentive capacities. This study focuses on how one history textbook, G.R. Elton’s England Under the Tudors, shaped the historical narrative taught to history A-level students in the United Kingdom about the reign of Henry VIII. By offering three ekphrastic descriptions looking at first the textbook’s material qualities, second, its conditions of arrival, and its conditions of use, as framed by the leadership team of the school and the school building, and lastly, the textbook’s role as part of the (im)material assemblage of the history classroom, this study explores how these aspects of the textbook work together and contribute to the onto-epistemo-ological historical narrative. This study adopts an aesthetic orientation toward the object of study and methodological approach. The ekphrastic descriptions are accounts of the material experience of teaching history in a certain setting using the textbook as an object of focus. This study highlights the benefits of considering textbook practices as material and bodily practices. It illustrates the unique nature of the relationship of any teacher and the textbook(s) they use to teach. It stresses the impact a school’s architectural style, culture, chosen aesthetic, and ethos can have on the learning that takes place there. Finally, this study acknowledges the ontological dimension of history teaching, as well as the epistemological, and emphasises the importance of seeing the construction of historical narratives in classroom settings as something experienced and lived, rather than simply taught and then known.

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The Impact of Educational Travel on High School Social Studies Students (2017)

This study investigates the impact and value that high school social studies students and teachers see in educational travel. Many students and teachers participate in school-based trips, but little research has been done that investigates the deeper implications of educational travel, as to identify and maximize the positive benefits of such experiences. For the purposes of this project, educational travel is defined as school-based educational trips that last longer than a day, and involve elements that include guided tours, hands-on learning, interactive tasks, and community service. Further, I have divided educational travel into three categories that pertain to a trip’s design and focus: 1) tour-guided; 2) task-specific; and 3) socially immersive. Participants in this study included six of my former students and three of my former teaching colleagues. All participants had experiences with educational travel prior to this study. Data were collected through a series of conversational interviews, which I transcribed and analyzed. This allowed me to analyze participant responses and form organizing concepts, to which I plotted emergent categories. My findings showed that students and teachers see tremendous value in educational travel with respect to developing confidence, building historical and global mindedness, and fostering empathy and self-awareness. My findings also showed how educational travel experiences can influence the choices students make later in life regarding post-secondary education, careers, and philanthropy. This study contributes to social studies education scholarship in that it shines light on the impact educational travel has on high school students and offers insight into maximizing the positive benefits associated with such experiences. Nevertheless, this study is small-scale, and further research is needed to address some limitations, which include the implications of educational travel for students from different socio-economic contexts, as well as attaining a deeper understanding of the long-term benefits of educational travel.

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Students' understanding of historical significance- A singapore case study (2014)

Although the disciplinary approach to teaching history has been around since the 1980s, it is still relatively new in Singapore. Attempts to incorporate parts of it in the history syllabuses implemented in 2000 and 2007 were met with limited success. Yet, the desire to move away from didactic methods to more disciplinary and inquiry-based methods remained strong. This study argues that the disciplinary approach to teaching history is integral for helping students manage the complexities of contemporary life. It focuses on one of the concepts within in this approach – significance. I argue that by investigating the sort of ideas students harbor regarding significance, history educators in Singapore would be better positioned to design curriculum and pedagogical experiences that can overcome the obstacles encountered in teaching history. I achieve these objectives by embarking on a small-scale quantitative study with 50 students from 3 schools that reflect students from different ends of the ability spectrum. Data were gathered through student participation in a survey questionnaire and a small group interview that were designed to answer the following research questions: “What criteria do students use when they ascribe significance to phenomena in history?” “Do they see significance as fixed or variable?” Student responses were analyzed using Lis Cercadillo’s (2000) typology for significance as a coding paradigm within a grounded theory approach. The findings suggest that most participants did not have problems employing different criteria to ascribe significance to events in the past; and that the majority of the students seemed to see significance as variable. However, students tended to justify their responses in a cursory manner, displaying their shallow understanding of significance. While this may not be surprising, the value of this study lies in its attempt to make explicit the extent of complexity in students’ ideas of significance in order to help history educators improve the way students are taught. In drawing connections between the findings and the issues it raises, I argue that the socio-political context plays a primary role in influencing students’ capacity to think historically; and I proceed to discuss the implications for history educators in Singapore.

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The Impact of Progressive Education on Roman Catholic Schools in the Archdiocese of Vancouver: 1924-1960 (2014)

Between the early 1920s and 1960, Catholic schools in the Vancouver Archdiocese grew considerably from an assortment of independently operated private and parochial schools to a centralized diocesan system with over three-dozen schools. In the same time period, public education underwent significant changes with the introduction of progressive education, first with the Survey of the School System (Putman Weir Report) (1925) and later with the provincial curriculum revisions of 1936 and 1937. In 1960, the provincial Report of the Royal Commission on Education signalled a change in direction toward a new discipline-based approach to education. Very few historical studies have examined Catholic schooling in British Columbia, nor its relation to broader educational trends. This study used archival research to examine the influence of progressive education on the curriculum, pedagogy, and philosophy in Vancouver’s Catholic schools. Without government funding, Catholic educational leaders in this period were seeking to raise academic standards and demonstrate the legitimacy and necessity of Catholic schooling. The vast majority of Catholic schoolteachers were religious sisters who had devoted their lives to the spread of Catholic Christianity and the education of children. While they were willing to implement progressive methods and curriculum, Catholic schoolteachers and administrators were unwilling to compromise their philosophy of education, which was rooted in an understanding of the human person as both material and spiritual. Perhaps ironically, Catholic educators’ embrace of progressive education was most evident in the archdiocesan religion course. The Catholic school community’s relationship with progressive educational trends can be characterized as one of independence and experimentation.

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Seeing historical injustice: A qualitative study into how students use historical photgraphs to make sense of residential schooling in Canada (2013)

This qualitative study explored secondary social studies students’ ability to think historically using historical photographs of Indian residential schooling in Canada. Twenty-one Grade 10 students participated in task-based research that focused on how students utilized three historical thinking concepts: using primary source evidence, perspective taking and making ethical decisions. In small groups the students participated in various tasks and questions using contextual information, as well as six historical photographs on the issue of residential schooling in Canada. This study also employed theories of visual culture, trauma, and photography to address the ways students’ ways of seeing and looking practices influenced how they encountered and made sense of photographs of historical injustice. Findings indicate that historical photographs provide students and teachers with a useful entry point into historical thinking, and that they encourage complex thinking in dealing with historical evidence while simultaneously revealing other interpretations dealing with power, the body, and the unseen. Significant issues arose in defining what historical empathy and perspective taking looks like in the classroom, as well as the value of any form of affective engagement with historical actors. This study also sheds light on issues of student positionality when engaging in historical thinking concepts and making ethical judgments about the past.

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