Teresa Dobson

Prospective Graduate Students / Postdocs

This faculty member is currently not looking for graduate students or Postdoctoral Fellows. Please do not contact the faculty member with any such requests.


Research Classification

Research Interests

Literary Education
Digital Literacy
Digital Humanities
Text Visualization

Relevant Thesis-Based Degree Programs

Research Options

I am interested in and conduct interdisciplinary research.

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.

Reading the South in the North : a study of Latin American literature in Vancouver teaching contexts (2023)

This study explores how Latin American literature is interpreted through grade-school educational practices in Metro Vancouver and problematizes potential mechanisms of representation that emerge from such practices through the lens of postcolonial theory. First, I describe key concepts of postcolonial theory and offer a brief overview how Latin American texts came to be included in North American school and university canons. I then consider the uptake of Latin American texts in Greater Vancouver through a review of BC curriculum, recommended text lists, and a survey of Vancouver-area teachers. I subsequently held focus-group sessions discussing Latin American texts and their use in classrooms with an established teacher inquiry group that was part of a SSHRC-funded, nation-wide project focused on teaching practices with postcolonial literature. Finally, I undertook a three-month observation of student interactions with Latin American texts in the classroom of one of the inquiry group members. I used thematic analysis to analyze all transcript data and applied postcolonial theory in my interpretations of this data. My findings show that Latin American texts infrequently appear among BC recommended text lists and in BC English language arts classrooms. Those that do appear tend to be from the genre of magic realism. The participants in the inquiry group were experienced teachers and critical readers (all were in graduate programs) with an interest in social justice issues; however, their interactions with Latin American texts were sometimes troubled. They reported little knowledge of Latin American texts and at times demonstrated reading practices marked by orientalism. Some participants seemed to view Latin America as a non-space (Augé, 1992) filled with an imaginary repertoire. Children engaging with Latin American texts in the grade-school classroom I observed also demonstrated reading practices marked by orientalism, particularly in the context of independent reading not guided by the teacher. This study reinforces the importance of guided readings mediated by theory and grounded in appropriate socio-political context. Constant reflexivity and examination of instructional strategies is also needed, so that teachers may avoid scenarios where stereotypes may be reinforced even in spite of intentions to expand and diversify the school canon.

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Land education and reconciliation: exploring educators' practice (2018)

This study explored ways to integrate processes of reconciliation into educators’ teaching practice. The focus of this narrative inquiry was to engage educators in a series of land-based activities that prompted them to consider how the notion of “land as first teacher” (Haig-Brown & Dannenmann, 2008) might contribute to interdisciplinary approaches to land education, ecological recovery, and reconciliation in their classroom praxis. Research took place on the University of British Columbia (UBC) Vancouver campus, situated on the traditional, ancestral, and unceded territory of the Musqueam people. The 4Rs of respect, relevance, reciprocity, and responsibility described by Kirkness and Barnhardt (1991) provided an ethical community protocol that directed the study.Over the span of four months, a participant group consisting of four graduate students, three undergraduate students, and two course instructors from the UBC Faculty of Education, engaged in a series of land-based activities on various public sites on or near the UBC campus that acknowledge and re-inscribe Indigenous presence. Following each activity, participants were asked to reflect on a series of guiding questions. Data sources included pre-study questionnaires, reflective journals, semi-structured interviews, and my own field notes and observations. Findings of the research suggested dominant discourses regarding the use of land and ethics towards the land were effectively challenged over the course of the study. Participants expressed how they might re-shape their instructional approaches to include processes of reconciliation in a multitude of ways, and expressed commitment to build their own personal and professional knowledge, and awareness of Indigenous perspectives to help further these processes. The study builds on a body of research exploring the effectiveness of decolonizing teacher education programs. It advances land education as a pedagogical model, and thus addresses the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada’s (2015b) calls to action for increased Indigenous content for learners at all levels. Further, it attends to the urgent need for reconciliation that runs deep in our country, by promoting mutually respectful relationships between Indigenous and non-Indigenous peoples (TRC, 2015c).

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Visual rhetoric in environmental documentaries (2018)

Environmental issues are a growing, global concern. UNESCO (1997) notes the significant role media has in appealing to audiences to act in sustainable ways. Cox (2013) specifically remarks upon the powerful role images play in how viewers can perceive the environment. As we contemplate how best to engage people in reflecting on what it means to live in a sustainable fashion, it is important that we consider the merits of particular rhetorical modes in environmental communication and how those approaches may engender concern or hopelessness, engagement or disengagement. One form of environmental communication that relies heavily on images, and that is growing in popularity, is documentary film. My study examines visual rhetorical modes in environmental documentaries and the types of impact they have on viewers. This study first identifies some dominant visual rhetorical modes through an extensive literature review and discussion of a variety of environmental documentary films. The resulting taxonomy of dominant visual rhetorical modes include: apocalyptic, jeremiad, hopeful, environmental nostalgia, sublime, and environmental melodrama. To explore how viewers react to visual rhetoric, eleven research participants were asked to view a sixty-minute compilation of video clips from various environmental documentaries that employed, to varying degrees, each of the dominant visual rhetorical modes. Using video annotation software, participants were asked to comment at points they felt to be particular striking or evocative. Follow-up interviews were conducted for clarification of participants’ annotations. The data collected and analyzed from participants’ annotations and transcribed interviews revealed that viewers were disengaged with messages of ecological doom. The most powerful rhetorical effect was observed when participants drew personal connections to content of particular video clips, which raised their awareness about certain environmental issues.

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Visualizing visual literacy (2018)

In recent times, the declaration of the prominence of the visual over other channels of communication has been persistent across several disciplines, including film studies, design, sociology, and literacy education (e.g. Bolter, 1991; Fransecky & Debes, 1972; Kress, 2005; Sartori, 1998; Messaris, 2012). It is within this loom of visuality that the concept visual literacy has been woven together throughout the twentieth century and beyond. This dissertation explores the mobilization of this concept through the last century and addresses the implications of its interdisciplinary and polysemic nature. By tracing the evolution of this term, as well as some of its correlates in English, I map the concept of “the visual as a literacy.” In order to do this, I first completed a comprehensive search of available databases for all uses of “visual literacy” in English, in the process compiling a working bibliography of 2400 documents. Subsequently, I created a full-text database of 330 representative documents I deemed most central to the mobilization of visual literacy. I employed text visualization approaches combined with close reading to understand trends and patterns in my datasets. Beyond using available tools for text visualization, I also worked with a team to design and program a tool specifically for analysis of my full-text corpus: The Glass Cast (Peña, Juárez, Dobson, & INKE Research Group, 2016). This tool is a plug-in for the open- source reference management software Zotero. It allows researchers to visualize relationships between documents in a bibliography over time. In itself this tool is a unique contribution to scholarship and a key outcome of this study. Findings of this research included the revelation of a rich history of visual literacy dating to 1939, the identification of three virtually independent historical avenues, or waves, of mobilization of visual literacy, and the coexistence of at least two confounding understandings of the concept. Ultimately, I address these two different understandings in an attempt to inform the work of educators invested in the topic.

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Narrative practices in immersive gameworlds: personal growth and social change (2011)

This research was conducted to gain a deeper understanding of ethical issues confronting Alternative Reality Game (ARG) players who, when faced in a gameworld with actual life problems, must collectively reach solutions which are expressed through narratives and critical literacy. The aim of this research was to draw on the experience of game players engaging in the ARG, “Urgent Evoke,” in order to respond to the following research questions: 1) What kinds of moral functioning are evident in human play in immersive gameworlds; 2) How can players and educators who use these spaces grow as individuals in their ethical sensibilities?The method of analysis for this study was virtual ethnography, including pre- and postgame surveys and interviews and the analysis of artifacts created during the game. The four-component model of moral functioning (Narvaez & Lapsley, 2005) was used as a framework for analysis with the following main categories: judgment, sensitivity, motivation, and action. However, because Narvaez and Lapsley’s division in skills and sub-skills appeared too inflexible for broad understanding of the behaviours under review, additional coding was applied.Study results suggest that ARGs motivate players to contribute to the game, and that through such contribution participants may arrive at understandings that encourage them to make changes in their behaviours outside of the gameworld. In the four component areas, the ARG offered fertile space for growth and learning through discussion, negotiation, and reflection. The study suggests that ARGs can be used successfully to encourage sensitivity to questions of ethics.

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Exploring Literacy Pedagogy with Digital Technologies in Teacher Education (2010)

Despite current emphasis in teacher preparation programs on developing pre-service teachers’ comfort and competence with digital learning technologies (DLT), research suggests that pre-service teachers struggle to transfer innovative applications of technology into their eventual teaching practice. In particular, they resist change from traditional constructs of teaching and learning. In this dissertation, I suggest that disrupting pre-conceived notions of teaching and learning is a requisite step to facilitating change in classroom practice. Neuman (1990) observed that classroom practice is “disrupted” when digital technologies are integrated “in a way that fundamentally alters the instructional environment so that teaching and learning occur differently than before the technology was appropriated” (p. 110). This thesis is composed of five chapters. The first chapter provides the theoretical framework that has informed the study and describes the case study methodology employed to explore the following two research questions: (a) How do pre-service teachers experience DLT in the context of a 12-month elementary teacher education program? (b) How do we disrupt pre-service teachers existing conceptions of literacy pedagogy? Chapters 2-4 are co-authored manuscript chapters. Chapter 2 examines the manner in which a community of learners working collaboratively within a wiki environment establish social hierarchies and negotiate power. Student engagement in this activity revealed much about social negotiation within such settings, and about the affordances of such software for formal education. This paper is included in its published form. Chapter 3 explores the participants’ experiences with “Slowmation” (a form of stop-motion animation). Findings reveal that reluctant uptake of slowmation on practicum by pre-service teachers appeared to be to the result of the weak support structure for the pedagogy and the lack of encouragement from some sponsor teachers. Chapter 4 explores pre-service teachers use of GarageBand™ and an electronic bulletin board in the context of a 3-month curriculum and instruction course in music education. Results reveal that the integration of digital learning technologies facilitates a reconceptualization of music education as well as a sociocultural interpretation of music literacy. In chapter 5, I draw comparisons across each of the manuscript chapters in light of current research in the field.

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Writing post-person : literacy, poetics, and sustainability in the age of disposable information (2009)

Turning originality in authorship upside down, writing post-person posits a vital new role of writer-teacher-researcher in promoting sustainable relationships between people and the automated information environments they inhabit. In particular, this study proposes a remedial approach to info-waste in networked systems of literate correspondence, using poetic inquiry to examine the contemporary problem of spam (unsolicited bulk and commercial email and net abuse), and to reframe this critical juridical-technical issue from a personal and literary perspective. Seen within the Western historical context of public postal systems and the rise of mass mail, the connection between modes of impersonal address in networked media and consumerist ideologies is theorized. Focusing on the troublesome immanence of disposability, informational excess is examined as a means of social inclusion and exclusion by tracing computer network spamming from the first bulk newsgroup postings to the current era of artificially intelligent robotic networks. Situated within an educational context of teaching and writing in the twenty-first century, an age post-personal discourse, this dissertation aims to enhance the critical pedagogical work of establishing diversity as fundamental to personal and social value systems with attention to how poetics can be applied to everyday digital literacies to increase language awareness, stimulate student creativity, and at the same time serve as a barometer of prevailing climate change in cyberspace.

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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.

Many Faces of Albus Dumbledore in the Setting of Fan Writing: The Transformation of Readers into "Reader-Writers" and the Implications of Their Presence in the Age of Online Fandom (2014)

This thesis examines the dynamic and changing nature of reader response in the time of online fandom by examining fan reception of, and response to, the character Dumbledore in J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter series. Using the framework of reader reception theory established by Wolfgang Iser, in particular Iser’s conception of textual indeterminacies, to construct my critical framework, this work examines Professor Albus Dumbledore as a case study in order to illuminate and explore how both the text and readers may contribute to the identity formation of a single character. The research examines twenty-one selected Internet-based works of fan writing. These writings are both analytical and imaginative, and compose a selection that illuminates what aspect of Dumbledore’s characters inspired readers’ critical reflection and inspired their creative re-construction of the original story. This thesis further examines what the flourishing presence of Harry Potter fan community tells us about the role technological progress has played and is playing in reshaping the dynamics of reader response. Additionally, this research explores the blurring boundaries between authors and readers in light of the blooming culture of fan fiction writing. The themes that Harry Potter fan writers have addressed imply that subjects of morality, sexuality, failures, amend-making, and questions of individual agency versus societal constraints are important issues with which contemporary readers of Harry Potter stories are drawn to explore. Harry Potter, by virtue of being one of the most fervently read text in the last decade provides a valuable insight what reading and literature may mean to ordinary people in their everyday lives.

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Remembering and reuniting fragments: an autobiographical and theoretical exploration of children's stories offering healing and hope to a young child (2014)

This thesis explores my relationship with my mother as a young child through the lens of children’s fiction and film. It is comprised of poems, each of which embodies my understanding of aspects of texts I engaged with throughout my early childhood. The poems are my response to themes, images, and phrases that I integrated into my own world view and belief systems in the context of a turbulent childhood.Themes that emerge include: a mother-daughter relationship, family secrets, trauma, abuse, and the transformative power of children’s book characters and stories. My exploration reveals the key role libraries and children’s fiction and film played in informing my childhood story. Children’s stories pulled me up and out of the ashes and rubble of my familial home and abusive maternal relationship. Children’s stories showered me with hope where none existed. This thesis is my attempt to distill the shadows and suffering of my childhood into something luminous and light (Martel, 2009).Visiting the library as well as reading and viewing children’s stories, helped me prosper emotionally, cognitively, and relationally; stories offered me healing. Through reading children’s books and projecting my thoughts and emotions onto the characters and their individual plights, I gathered insights, encouragement, clarity, and courage that helped me understand my mother in the broader context of my life, and to move beyond survival to thriving as a grown woman--as mother to my own children, as well as professional teacher nurturing the minds and hearts of others’ children.Following the poetic component of the thesis is a discussion of the approach I have undertaken, which might be described as a combination of poetic inquiry, narrative research, memoir, life writing, autobiography and autoethnography. I have elected to position this piecefollowing the thesis, as a reflection, so as to let the poetry stand in the first place on its own, as a valid form of academic discourse.

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The Harry Potter phenomenon and its implications for literacy education (2010)

According to Nielsen BookScan, an independent book trade monitoring service, 2,652,656 copies of the final book in the Harry Potter series, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows (Rowling, 2007), were sold across the United Kingdom within the first 24 hours of sales. The book thus became the fastest selling in history, in doing so overtaking the sales record of its predecessor, Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince (Rowling, 2005), which sold 2,009,574 copies in the UK in the first 24 hours. With yearly releases beginning in 1997, at one point Harry Potter novels occupied the top four spots on The New York Times Bestseller List, prompting the addition of a children’s bestseller list so popular literary fiction intended for adults might be represented. Considering this scenario, questions that arise for literary educators are as follows: What forces were at play behind this literary phenomenon and what are the implications for literacy and literary education? This thesis examines the success of Harry Potter as a literary and commercial phenomenon, considering in particular the literary features of the novels that might have contributed to their success, the marketing of the texts and the rise of the Harry Potter "brand," the timing of the emergence of the series alongside the rise of social media, and the implications of all of this for the future of literary reading and literary education.

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