Donal O'Donoghue


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.

The potential to be out of commission : an art practice for teacher contemplation (2023)

This study explores what can happen when a collective of art teachers come together to reside in a space that allows them to practice their impotential for nine months, deactivating the necessity to act as teachers, always in a mode of production (Agamben, 2013). Doing nothing at the site is not idle-ness but a radical gesture of conviviality (Illich, 1973). The distinction between what we cannot and can Not do is one I will emphasize in this dissertation, and is based on the philosopher, Giorgio Agamben’s (2013) distinction between (in)ability (something we can or cannot do) and (im)potentiality (something of which we can choose Not to do it). Through the creation of an experimental practice at a storefront site in Chicago called Spaces for Possibility, the artist collective enters into a heterotopic space (Foucault, 1984), a real place, where teachers can imagine what other worlds might be possible. As an artist collective made up of ten public school art teachers, and a researcher as participant, we put old uses, a building, to new use and queer use (Ahmed, 2020) as a space for possibilities to arise or not. In this experimental project, I employ research creation practices that support creative, affective and sensory processes of worlds unfolding, and being made, of stories accumulating and being re-arranged, of modes of responding and corresponding with each other (Ahmed, 2010; Haraway, 2017; Manning, 2014; Stewart, 2007). These practices afford me as a researcher the ability to create and design an experimental project that follows what is made or not made, documented and collected as events, scenes, and stories that build up as affects and other forms of accumulation at the site of this research, affording the researcher space to let emergent events unfurl without predetermined outcomes (Haraway, 2017; Stewart, 2007). The promise in this study is in how we come to the space permitting ourselves to imagine what other worlds we wish to inhabit as teachers, while we also put into question the ethical dilemmas of use and our potential to act.  

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Toward responsive participatory art museum practices (2019)

This research explores the ongoing actions and commitments that make up responsive participatory practices at two community-based arts organizations—the John Michael Kohler Arts Center in Sheboygan, Wisconsin, and the Santa Cruz Museum of Art and History in Santa Cruz, California. Two questions guide the study: “What are responsive participatory art museum practices and what could they be?” and “In what ways can education, learning, and pedagogy be understood in the context of responsive participatory art museum practices?” I engaged the guiding questions through a feminist research methodology that is informed by post-qualitative and arts-based methodologies and methods. This methodology was developed as I responded to research questions and data in production, and as I thought closely with scholars and their writings, especially Elizabeth Ellsworth’s (2005) Places of Learning: Media, Architecture, Pedagogy. Methods used to address my research questions included research conversations—some of which took place while walking—arts-based mapping, and narrative writing. Drawing on art, education, and museum scholarship, my understanding is that responsive participatory art museum practices embrace multiple commitments, including: sharing the authority of questions, interactions, and knowledge production between museum staff, collaborators, public audiences, and participants; sharing spaces and collections within museums and with the communities in which museums exist; and committing to ongoing, respectful collaborations and relationships with community members and collaborating organizations and individuals. In these responsive practices, works of art, museum objects, and carefully designed experiences and projects are dialogical points of encounter that provoke a proliferation of responses, which in turn precipitate transformational movements that are subtle, are not pre-determined, and impact individuals and communities in a relational manner. Education within responsive participatory art museum practices is an ongoing process of creating the conditions for potential learning through everyday practices. Embedded in responsive participatory practices is the expectation that change will occur as a result of taking part in museum programs, projects, and experiences. Mutual transformation in responsive participatory practices emphasizes that these potential changes are not one-sided; changes occur for participants and audiences, as well as for museum staff, systems, and practices.

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On the experience of encountering art in museum spaces: an inquiry with Gilles Deleuze's concepts of desire and assemblage (2018)

No abstract available.

Wandering within, against, and beyond the pathways of science education: towards heeding the call of Indigenous science (2016)

Often within science education, Indigenous science is either excluded or included in ways that differ from or defer its intended meanings, as well as its pedagogical potentiality for all students. The central question that guides this dissertation is How is Indigenous science to-come with/in the context of science education? This dissertation draws from decolonizing, post-colonial, post-structural, and post-humanist theory-practices to address ‘to-come’ in three ways: a) Indigenous science on its own terms as not-yet and still-to-come with/in science education; b) Indigenous science as a relationship whose indeterminate arrival invites re(con)figuring of the lived constructs, concepts, and categories of science education; and c) practices (including pedagogy) that might allow for and nurture the possibility of Indigenous science to-come in its second iteration. To explore this triple(d) understanding of ‘to-come’, each chapter within the dissertation acts as an excursion through a path of science education. Journeying involves strategically straying off the beaten path or tactically taking the pathway in unintended ways to lose sight of the prescriptive and often problematic ways in which the path is regularly travelled. Further, each journey is iterative, travelling through, against, and/or beyond a particular path, wherein the learning is enfolded and carried forward into the next trip. Equipped with a plethora of deconstructive tools, science education is (re)opened through (re)considering its: a) oppositional, dialectic nature; b) critical modes as protective, rather than productive, of the status quo (i.e., through mirrored correspondence); c) ontological taken-for-grantedness (e.g., through its a priori and singular positioning); and, d) responsibility, as well as ability to respond. In response, I offer a call and analytical frames for: a) dialogue; b) critique as prismatic and diffractive; c) ontological plurality and co-constitutiveness; as well as, d) response-ability, respectively. Insights produced and scholarly contributions from wandering include: a) an exploration of curricular alternatives to scientific literacy, notably Karen Barad’s agential literacy and Gregory Cajete’s ecologies of relationships; b) re(con)figuring visual pedagogies to engage in decolonizing science education. This theory-practice bridging pursues design of a pedagogy of relationally storying nature well positioned to account for and be accountable to Indigenous science to-come.

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An Arts-Based Methodology of Intuition: Secondary Visual Art Teacher Becomings and Encounters with Schooling (2015)

In this dissertation, I seek to understand how pedagogy and arts-based research might provoke the conditions for creative thought by drawing on experience as a sensory and affective event to disrupt perceptions and memory of teacher practice. I examine two secondary visual art teachers’ experiences of: (1) returning to their high schools and (2) filming their returns. Christen and Kelsie each returned twice, responding to prompts that I had provided: to explore the pedagogical value of school space, and to imagine the school as an installation designed to teach.The films, and the subsequent group dialogue sessions pointed the types of experiences that research and pedagogy might enact with teacher candidates to destabilize their tacit understandings of teacher practice. Through their filmmaking as art practice, Christen and Kelsie performed as nomads (Deleuze & Guattari, 1987) in the school space, which triggered unique memories in and of place. My research suggests that rather than filming events of significance— described by Dewey (1934) as an experience—which form the basis of teaching narratives (Connelly & Clandinin, 1990), both participants filmed the lesser events formed in the everyday mundane spaces of schooling, such as halls and stairways. In doing so, each participant developed an individuated aesthetic of becoming in their films, which, during the dialogue sessions, provoked a consideration of their perceptions of teacher practices in novel ways.A significant implication of this research includes the emergence of an arts-based methodology of intuition to provoke alterity as a way of being in and of the world. Artistic practice and embodied experience offer new conceptualizations of time and experience that create the conditions for memory and perception to become amenable to change, and for intuition, as a disposition, to problematize, differentiate and temporalize experience. The methodology of intuition (Deleuze, 1991) develops intuition as an individual disposition to destabilize understandings gained through experience even as understanding of that experience is sought. I argue that the arts-based methodology of intuition holds significant potential for the ways in which both research and pedagogy might create opportunities for new perceptions of and capacities for visual art teacher practice.

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School gardening, teaching, and a pedagogy of enclosures: Threads of an arts-based metissage (2015)

In conversation with a growing school gardening movement (Williams & Brown, 2012), this arts-based research draws on material feminist and posthumanist (Alaimo & Hekman, 2008; Barad, 2003; Haraway, 2004, 2008) scholarship to reconfigure what it means to become a teacher. In particular, I explore ‘becoming teachers together’ with a garden as a way to reimagine alternatives for the persistent and familiar figure of the teacher as a rational, autonomous individual working within the closed doors of the traditional classroom (Britzman, 2003; Jackson, 1990). Indigenous scholarship, particularly around gift giving (Kuokkanen, 2007) and decolonization (Gaztambide-Fernández, 2012), offers unsettling insights into human and nonhuman entanglements such as the ‘garden-as-teacher.’ In this work, I linger beside (Sedgwick, 2003) both the possibilities and impossibilities of teaching with gardens, compelled to respond (Simon, 2006) to the difficult history of school gardens, particularly during Nazi Germany and in the Canadian residential school system, and the etymological knots that link gardens with material and discursive practices of enclosure.The art theory and practices that shape this research are site-specific installation art (Augaitis & Ritter, 2008; Bishop, 2005, 2012; Bourriaud, 2002; Függe & Fleck, 2006; Kester, 2011), especially collaborations with Vancouver artist Sharon Kallis (Kallis, 2014) and an interview with Ron Benner (Benner, 2008). Responding to O’Donoghue’s (2010) provocation to consider classrooms as installations, I developed the installation series Threads sown, grown & given from April 2012 until August 2014 at The UBC Orchard Garden (a teaching and learning garden at the University of British Columbia) and in the teacher education building. The resulting métissage (Hasebe-Ludt, Chambers & Leggo, 2009) of narratives includes (a) the garden becoming a teacher, (b) student teachers becoming teachers during three research events related to the installation series, and (c) my own personal of becoming a teacher, scholar, and teacher educator. By attending to failure (Halberstam, 2011), this arts-based research creates conditions for what I term a ‘pedagogy of enclosures’ to engage with the ethical responsibilities and limitations of becoming teachers together, particularly in teacher education and garden-based education within the context of settler colonialism and the neoliberalization of the academy. Supplementary video material is available at:

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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.

A turn to domestic objects (2023)

No abstract available.

PIERCING MEMORY - MARKING HISTORY THE NATIONAL WOMEN'S MARCH AGAINST POVERTY and the quilt Women United Against Poverty 1996 and 2015 (2016)

The signature quilt Women United Against Poverty marks the National Women’s March Against Poverty that took place in 1996. The quilt top was created by Alice Olsen Williams from Curve Lake First Nation and Joanne Ursino. The content on the quilt (text, photographs, and images) is of great significance in seeking to better understand a particular moment in the social justice movement in Canada. A unique moment when women across the country - from divergent political, social and economic identities, backgrounds and relationships—worked together demanding an end to poverty under the political banner: “For Bread And Roses – For Jobs And Justice.” In the world of textiles, signature quilts, story quilts, political quilts and, more recently, the art quilt share a history that contributes to research in the field of narrative inquiry, feminist and queer discourse, and public art. This research study investigates how a practice of reflexive inquiry through the act of art making constitute a contribution to the public archive? It is both personal and political. The research is personal insofar as it is situated in a commitment to gender, sexual equality and studio art practice as a way of inquiring into and representing the world. It is political because it is anchored in the discourses of historical thinking, collective memory and contesting archives, mapping, materiality, material culture, making and coming to know through writing. It is an offering of meaning-making through arts-based research. I seek the unruly entanglements as I examine the liminal spaces in the materialities of writing and making and the intentional reading of post-modern feminist and queer theory, arts-based research and the challenge of data. The focus of this research study is on the location of the materiality of political action/praxis within the aesthetic realm. The quilt top was tucked away for almost twenty years. In returning to and un/finishing the artefact – making and quilting its layers is an integral act accompanying the writing of this thesis. Writing and stitching is an act of inquiry in and through the layers of meaning, matter and language.

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(Re)presentations of Homosexuality: The Frame and Knowledge in the Making (2015)

This thesis is an inquiry into how one understands sexual difference. It will consider how queer lives are presented to us in the media, and it attends to ways in which these presentations might influence and shape our knowledge of queer subjects. The primary research questions addressed in this thesis include : Do sites of everyday influence continue to promote stereotypes? What does this mean for homosexual individual? And if such sites do promote such stereotypes, can sex education curriculum attempt to undo media bias? To address these questions, the thesis considers popular representations circulating in the media. It considers these representations in light of the author’s own experiences as a gay man. The critical thinking that emerges from this act is made possible by engaging with multiple pieces of content, as well as the work of queer theorists such as Sedgwick and Butler and Halperin. In this sense, a new question emerges : How can one keep knowledge in the making alive and ongoing?

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What kind of beautiful strangeness will it take: Sustainable design, matter and pedagogical encounters (2013)

Sustainability is not about achieving an end point, rather it is a way of knowing, feeling and being that embraces a different perception of the material world we live in. My thesis is an inquiry into the entangled relationship between design and matter with the hope of inspiring this dynamic understanding of sustainability. I consider how coming to know the material nature of design may help designers achieve a more intimate perception of matter, and alter not only the way we design, but also what we think design should be. Matter is the force that binds the human with the nonhuman, the relationship human’s share with the material world shapes our thoughts and ideas, and the fabricated world we live in today had its birthplace in human imagination. Of interest to me is the question: If design, as a practice, were to challenge the Western antimaterial habit of mind that burdens both human and nonhuman beings, what unimaginable and strange realms may open up when our imaginations are pushed beyond the limits of disciplinary thinking? The intention of my thesis is not to arrive at a single solution that will draw us out of the unsustainable reality that lurks beneath much of design, mass production and consumption. Instead this is the thoughtful journey of one designer longing to discover what new dialogue can be found between design and matter beyond the limited scope of our instrumental reasoning so that we may begin to see, feel and know the material world differently.

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Culturally Responsive Museum Education Practices from Malawi Africa (2011)

The purpose of this research was to examine the culturally responsive education practices (CREP) of the museum educators of a Museum in Malawi, Africa through an instrumental intrinsic case study. Specifically I examined the Mobile Museum’s outreach programs - HIV/AIDS Prevention, Malaria Prevention and the Cultural Expression & Promotion in Primary Schools. A second purpose was to discover, how particular groups and/or individuals receive and respond to these programs in relation to preserving expressive arts cultural heritage. Thirdly, the data collected provided evidence and a methodology for museum educators to draw from when developing and implementing culturally responsive museum education programs (CRMEP). This study included two participants, who are the people primarily responsible for developing the education programs at the Museum. This overall study is framed through the lens of culturally responsive education. During a three-week period (November 18 to December 5, 2010), I collected qualitative data from two sources, expert interviews, and observations of the participants and the programs. Additionally, I collected quantitative data in the form of a questionnaire. I draw upon Bogdan and Biklen (2007) methodological triangulation, which includes multiple perspectives, sources of data and methodologies. My research reveals that the participants contribute to preserving expressive arts cultural heritage through ‘active participation’ of CREP through socially responsible mandates. Therefore, I propose a reframing of museum education theory and practice to encompass CREP, which will have consequent implications on future research in `relational museology`- a strategy that integrates both top-down and bottom-up approaches to community development through a conduit of communication and collaboration processes with all stake-holders.

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