Doctor of Philosophy in Human Development, Learning, and Culture (PhD)
Youth-Initiated Mentoring and Community-Based Participatory Research: A Participatory Model for Research and Practice.
Large numbers of North American youth are disengaging from and dropping out of school. These youth are increasingly either being placed in, or electing to attend a growing number of alternative education programs (AEPs). Unfortunately, attendance at AEPs often results in the further marginalization of struggling students because (a) relatively little research has identified effective practices within AEPs and (b) negative conceptions of AEPs and of the students who attend them abound. To contribute to the growing body of research identifying effective alternative education practices and to provide an authentic view of these contexts and youth, I examined former students’ perceptions of (a) their experiences in AEPs and (b) the impact their experiences in AEPs had on their lives both during and after attendance. Two semi-structured narrative interviews were conducted with six participants who attended four different AEPs. All participants were female—no males volunteered to participate. The first research interview captured participants’ perspectives on their experiences at the AEPs generally. The second focussed on their perceptions of whether and how characteristics of the AEPs addressed their needs and were linked to outcomes both during and after they attended the programs. Holistic-content analyses identified themes within interviews and a thematic analysis identified themes across narratives. Interviews with former teachers and document analyses provided additional contextual information. The former AEP student participants described characteristics of the AEPs they attended that they perceived addressed their unique and varied social, emotional, and academic needs and facilitated their success, not only while they were attending, but beyond their time at the AEPs. Analyses revealed seven predominant themes across their narratives: relationships with a key teacher and with other students; counselling services; the identification, use, and development of personal strengths; flexibility and structure in the organization of academic learning; life skills learning; exercising control over the goings-on and culture at the AEP; and a homelike physical set-up. My study contributes to the promising new field of research investigating the impact of AEP practices from the perspective of students. This approach contrasts the majority of previous research that has ignored the voices of these key stakeholders.
Self-regulation involves metacognition, motivation, and strategic action. Children who develop and engage in self-regulation experience positive developmental and educational outcomes. Also, children are more likely to develop and engage in self-regulated learning (SRL) when features of classroom contexts support it. Although research has demonstrated that self-regulation predicts academic achievement, it has not examined; (a) whether teachers distinguish between different aspects of self-regulation, such as emotion regulation (ER), SRL, and socially responsible self-regulation (SRSR); (b) whether and how features of classroom contexts, which have been linked to opportunities for SRL, can also provide opportunities for ER and SRSR; and (c) relationships between individual children’s self-regulation and features of classroom contexts. Therefore, this mixed-method, multi-level study addressed these issues. Data consisted of 19 kindergarten, grade one, and grade 2 teachers’ ratings of 208 children’s ER, SRL, and SRSR and a full day of observations in 17 of the participating classrooms. Quantitative (EFA, HLM) and qualitative (in-depth analysis of classroom observations) analyses were conducted on these data. Results indicated: (a) teachers did not distinguish between the aspects of self-regulation; data converged on a unitary construct of self-regulation; (b) self-regulation predicted academic achievement; (c) older children had higher levels of self-regulation compared to younger children; (d) boys were rated as having lower levels of self-regulation compared to girls; (d) features of classroom contexts provided meaningful opportunities for children’s development of and engagement in ER, SRL, and SRSR; and (e) complex tasks and teacher support were statistically significant predictors of children’s self-regulation—they were implicated in children’s uptake of opportunities to engage in self-regulation during classroom lessons. Implications of this study are discussed. These include: the benefits of designing a wider range of measures and including mixed-method and longitudinal studies to examine trajectories of children’s self-regulation, the low ratings of self-regulation for boys in the early school years, and the role of complex tasks and teacher support in constructing meaningful opportunities for children to develop and engage in adaptive and effective aspects of self-regulation.
During late childhood and early adolescence, the peer context becomes increasingly important as peer friendships manifest themselves as important sources of self-esteem and well-being (Parker et al., 2006). Research has shown that close peer friendships can protect students against peer victimization, poor academic achievement, low self-worth, and experiences of negative affect (Gest, Welsh, & Domitrovich, 2005; Furrer & Skinner, 2003; Fenzel, 2000; Parker et al., 2006). Cross-age peer mentoring programs, where older students mentor their younger peers, provide rich opportunities for participants to form healthy relationships with their peers (Karcher, 2005). This study applied Relationships Motivation Theory (RMT; Ryan & Deci, 2017), one of Self-Determination Theory's (SDT; Ryan & Deci, 2017) most recent "mini-theories", to the cross-age peer mentoring process. RMT was explored for its usefulness to prepare high-school mentors to support the three Basic Psychological Needs (BPN's) (autonomy, belonging, and competence) of mentees and investigate the potentially reciprocal benefits high-school students experience through mentoring. Ten students (ages 7-18) were recruited from an after-school program to participate in this study. A descriptive multiple-case study design was used to understand participants' experiences. Data include participant-created documents, audio recordings of dyadic interactions, a 9-item self-report questionnaire, and exit interviews. Descriptive statistics and a combination of Provisional and In-Vivo coding (Saldana, 2009) were used to analyze data. On average, mentors demonstrated an ability to use language and practices associated with BPN satisfaction, even though various challenges were highlighted. Mentees reported the greatest satisfaction of their belonging. Mentors reported the greatest satisfaction of their autonomy and competence. All participants reported feelings of happiness and satisfaction within their mentoring relationships and most often attributed these feelings to a sense of competence.
Continuing professional development (CPD) is important for family physicians due to the complex and continually evolving nature of family practice. Family physicians need to keep abreast of scientific advances and current best practices in order to practice competently and effectively. As with many professions, family physicians are required to demonstrate participation in continuing professional development (CPD). Research suggests that organized CPD varies in the extent to which it influences physicians’ practice. This study aimed to advance understanding of the complexities surrounding the role of CPD in family practice by examining family physicians’ perspectives on and experiences of CPD. A mixed-method approach, incorporating a self-report survey and semi-structured interviews, investigated: (a) family physicians’ participation in organized CPD; (b) family physicians’ reasons, or motivations, for participating in organized CPD; (c) the relationship between family physicians’ motivation for CPD and their organized CPD participation; and (d) factors that influence family physicians’ motivation for and organized participation in CPD. Self-determination theory (SDT) was used as a sensitizing lens, providing relevant conceptual categories for interpreting family physicians’ reasons for participating in CPD. Ninety-one family physicians completed a self-report survey and six of these participated in in-depth, semi-structured interviews. Overall, participants valued CPD and viewed it as important to practice. SDT concepts helped to create a more nuanced portrait of family physicians’ motivation for learning and CPD than reflected in previous studies. Six overarching themes captured participants’ motivations for, participation in, and experiences of organized CPD: Maintaining Competence, Connection to Colleagues, Me as a Learner, Opinions on the ‘CPD System’, Practicalities of Participation, and Links to Informal Learning and Practice. Relevance to research and practice are discussed.
During the learning process, frustration can be a significant obstacle for students, particularly in a classroom, when learners perceive that their peers can solve a problem more easily. The processes and beliefs that enable students to control their thoughts and actions to achieve personal goals are referred to as self-regulation. Dweck (1986; 2000) posited that the beliefs individuals have about their abilities, in particular about their intelligence, described as either a fixed or growth mindset, may mediate their use of self-regulatory strategies. An extension of Dweck’s research suggests that individuals also have beliefs about the amount of mental resources they have for exerting self- control (i.e., willpower) that are described as either limited or unlimited (Job, Dweck, & Walton, 2010). The purpose of the current study was to investigate how students’ beliefs about intelligence and willpower influenced their self-regulation during a potentially frustrating task with opportunities for social comparison. Participants in this study were public school students, aged 11 to 13 (N = 64; 40 female, 24 male), who were asked to solve puzzles in pairs. One student was given a solvable puzzle and the other was given an unsolvable puzzle. Students were not made aware of differences in the difficulty of the puzzle task before solving it. Questionnaires, observations, and performance on a cognitive task were used as measures of their beliefs, behaviours, emotions, and self- control. Data were analyzed using correlations, independent samples t-tests, and analysis of variance. Results indicated that the implemented experimental procedures induced frustration: students in the unsolvable condition displayed and self-reported greater frustration than students in the solvable condition. In addition, results indicated that frustration does not necessarily induce self-control depletion: no statistical difference was found in students’ self-control between conditions. However, students’ self- regulation was influenced by their beliefs about intelligence: students who viewed their intelligence as fixed demonstrated significantly greater self-control depletion than students who viewed their intelligence as capable of growing. Finally, results suggested that the concept of willpower may not be fully understood by students at this age: no significant results were found for the influence of students’ beliefs about willpower.