Tom Sork


Relevant Degree Programs


Great Supervisor Week Mentions

Each year graduate students are encouraged to give kudos to their supervisors through social media and our website as part of #GreatSupervisorWeek. Below are students who mentioned this supervisor since the initiative was started in 2017.


Tom is an expert in his field of international studies and shares his knowledge freely. I enjoy working with him!

Linda Pickthall (2018)


Graduate Student Supervision

Doctoral Student Supervision (Jan 2008 - Nov 2019)
Impact of a regulatory quality assurance program : perceptions of dental hygienists in British Columbia (2020)

Dental hygienists in British Columbia must participate in a Quality Assurance Program (QAP) to support their professional competence. The College of Dental Hygienists of British Columbia launched a new quality assurance program in 2013 and has now enrolled all practicing registrants into the program. This study explored dental hygienists’ perceptions of the QAP from the perspective of its impact on practice. Based on a critical realism framework, this mixed methods study used a quantitative component nested within a predominantly qualitative design. The study employed an exploratory sequential design in which participants completed an online survey with some participating in telephone interviews. The online survey (n=451; 12.7% response rate) collected data regarding perceptions of practitioners and the impact of the program related to safe and competent care. It included quantitative data about potential barriers to implementing regulatory standards, conditions of work, and professional identity along with qualitative data from open-ended questions. Phase 2 involved 11 respondent interviews to gain a deeper understanding of the impact of the program on care. Analysis of the data sets revealed several themes. Respondents discussed how the regulatory practice standards, a key component of the QAP quality assurance program, related to patient safety, competence, professional agency, autonomy, and professional confidence within the current workplace culture. Respondents viewed themselves as healthcare professionals. They generally felt valued for their abilities and enjoyed maintaining currency through continuing education activities. They revealed that the QAP generally had little influence on the delivery of care. The business culture within dental offices appeared to negatively affect participants’ professional agency thus affecting their ability to implement their regulatory practice standards. Failure to implement these standards may negatively affect client safety and result in reduced health outcomes. This study will be of interest to healthcare regulatory bodies and others in the profession.

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Developing a learning model for teaching film production online (2018)

Through my roles as a film professor, filmmaker and PhD student, I have acquired a strong motivation to develop a learning model for the teaching of film production online. My initial interest for conducting research in this area began a few years ago when I taught a screenwriting workshop in Bhutan. On my return to Canada, I wished there was a way for me to continue teaching my students in Bhutan in the domain of film production. Further research has led me to discover that machinima, a virtual mode of recording animation, could be the solution to teaching almost all aspects of filmmaking, entirely online. Machinima is already very popular amongst educators, both face-to-face and as an online mode of delivery, however, its legitimacy as a cinematic art form has given rise to a controversial debate. My goal was to employ the research method of a/r/tography (standing for artist, researcher, and teacher), to create a complex artistic and academic work to demonstrate that machinima is a valid method of filmmaking and is an immersive mode of teaching film production in the online context. The Art entailed creating a short hybrid film using machinima and live action, entitled, Romeo & Juliette2016. The Research included a literature review that situated my work in the theory that underpins machinima as an art form and in the context of online learning. The Teacher component included a documentary in which I exhibited my film to select ‘critics’, in film, media and film education, and invited them to respond. The documentary was intended to produce discourse around the notion of machinima as an art form and as a teaching tool. Finally, in conclusion, I wrote a response chapter to this interaction and to the project as a whole. This study is highly relevant in the current landscape of media and 21st century education as virtual reality applications are taking hold in the professional filmmaking process and as a teaching tool, and machinima is part of this revolution. Supplementary materials available at:

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Educational leaders’ understandings of internationalization : a case study (2018)

Internationalization has become an important focus and activity in higher education and merits an answer to the questions of how it is understood by educational leaders making decisions about its implementation and for what purposes it is being undertaken. This qualitative case study used semi-structured interviews to explore educational leaders’ understandings of internationalization and the impact of those understandings on their decisions about internationalization.Big Prairie College’s longstanding and complex context of international engagement has set the stage for current ways of ‘doing’ and understanding internationalization. Leaders’ life experiences with diversity, difference, and discomfort have also helped to shape their views of internationalization as a comprehensive phenomenon that influences all areas of the College and the world. However, they are also influenced by the pragmatic realities of running and sustaining a college, the mandate to contribute to the local and national economies and workforces and a responsibility to help make the world a better place. In reality, international student recruitment seems to be not only the focus, but also the most visible manifestation of internationalization.Implementing comprehensive internationalization (CI) requires leaders to expand their understanding of internationalization from being an end in itself. It also requires clearer communication of their goals and meaningful engagement of the internal community in decision-making processes. There are also the challenges of faculty development and support, collective accountability for achieving clearly defined goals, acting ethically and allocating sufficient resources across competing initiatives. CI is possible if leaders begin to act on stated values, create a more inclusive decision-making environment, and pursue financial and non-financial goals with equal vigour, perhaps relying on Social Innovation programming to provide an appropriate environment.

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Being division chairs : a hermeneutic phenomenological investigation into the experiences of academic middle managers in a Canadian college (2015)

This hermeneutic phenomenological study investigates the experiences of a group of academic managers (the division chairs) at South City College (SCC), a primarily university-transfer post-secondary institution in Vancouver, Canada. Written from the perspective of a participant-observer, this case study research reveals the myriad ways in which the division chairs’ leadership and management aspirations were confounded by institutional systems and attitudes that had not evolved in response to changes in the post-secondary climate in British Columbia and elsewhere. The experiences of both the division chairs and contextual participants were gathered in a series of one-on-one interviews transcribed by the author. Interpretative phenomenological analysis of the data revealed that both a commitment to the collegial model and responsibility for repetitive clerical duties act as primary obstacles to leadership success for the division chairs. The author’s role as a division chair during the time of data collection and analysis provides particular and specific insight into the division chairs’ experiences during a time of institutional transition. Recommendations include that the institution should invest in administrative and systems support for the division chairs. Doing so would reinforce that the division chair role is a valued component of the institution’s collegial culture; would relieve the division chairs of any clerical tasks identified as not essential to their role; would free the time necessary for the division chairs to lead and manage collegially; and would potentially resolve the problem of the division chairs having enormous responsibility but no authority by allowing for the consultative processes that characterize a well-functioning collegial institution.

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A study of students’ perceptions of the use of web 2.0 applications in higher education (2014)

The study documented in this dissertation explores the views of adult learners in online university programs with respect to their relationships with interactive, web-based technologies in their learning, personal and work environments. These tools are more interactive than previous incarnations of web-based tools and, as a result, have become known collectively as Web 2.0. Simultaneously, students are using Web 2.0 in all aspects of their lives while pundits claim these same students are demanding the use of Web 2.0 in their learning environments. This confluence of trends is placing pressure on universities to include more Web 2.0 applications in learning environments. The challenge is that there is little evidence to support the notion that learners are demanding these tools. Moreover, it is increasingly clear that faculty and learners are not always prepared for the pedagogical and policy implications associated with the use of Web 2.0 in higher education. To address these apparent contradictions, this study was designed to better understand the use of Web 2.0 in the learning process from the learners’ perspective. A mixed methods approach was used with stage one employing an online questionnaire consisting of 30 questions and stage two consisting of a 30-minute follow-up interview. The results of the study revealed that the adult learners studied are not demanding the use of Web 2.0 in their learning environments. Moreover, they show a distinct preference for the use of Web 2.0 in only one aspect of their lives. In other words, if learners use Web 2.0 in their personal lives they will then not be as likely to embrace it in their working or learning lives. Similarly, learners who use Web 2.0 in their learning environments will not be as likely to embrace it in their personal and professional lives. However, learners also recognise the value of Web 2.0 and feel the same pressures as faculty. As a result there is a marked fear of being left behind if the learners do not embrace Web 2.0. And so adult learners come to Web 2.0 often reluctantly.

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Sustainability in higher education : a case study of policy and practice at Vancouver Island University (2014)

This work focuses on implementation of sustainability policy and practice within a post-secondary environment at Vancouver Island University in British Columbia, Canada. It adopts a case study approach that is qualitative and exploratory in nature, and relies on data collected from policy documents, declarations and reports, and interviews with different groups on campus, including administrators, faculty and students. Research findings indicate sustainability initiatives are developed within a context of environmental, educational and leadership concerns on campus. Dominant and collaborative leadership strategies are apparent in transformation of policy into practice through an exercise of power “over” and power “with and to” relationships among members of the university community. Environmental and educational concerns lie at the heart of policy initiatives like the Energy Management Policy and Recycling Policy, and practices like composting, green building design, and instruction in marine based ecosystems and global studies programs.A number of factors have influenced sustainability initiatives on campus. These include the effect of international declarations and reports, government funding and policy decisions including carbon neutral legislation, the influence of community partners and the media, volunteer activities on campus, internal budget decisions, and research pursuits of faculty. The interplay of such factors has led to positive outcomes like creation of a formal Sustainability Policy, adoption of an energy management plan, and inclusion of sustainability curricula in academic and technology programs. Research indicates, however, that challenges remain in attracting support for sustainability across campus, and adopting important initiatives like alternative transportation strategies and disposal of e-waste. To address this, the work of sociologist Pierre Bourdieu is examined, including the concepts of habitus, field and capital. Bourdieu’s work helps explain why certain policies and practices are more successful than others, and why some initiatives remain unrealized on campus. Recommendations for dealing with this are put forward including enhancing communication strategies, encouraging greater involvement with community partners, increasing interdisciplinary activity, and creating incentives for sustainability behavior. Implementing these can help achieve what Bourdieu has referred to as a “transformation” of habitus to strengthen the social, cultural and symbolic capital of sustainability at Vancouver Island University.

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The influence of ubiquitous computing on teacher-student relationships (2013)

The purpose of this study was to develop an understanding of independent school teachers’ perceptions of how a one-to-one computing program influenced various dimensions of the teacher-student relationship and the roles of teachers and students within that relationship. In particular, it examined the impact of ubiquitous computing on the pedagogical role of the teacher and the balance of power and control within the teacher-student relationship. It also investigated how the use of laptops influenced communication patterns between teachers and students and affected the closeness of their relationships. This qualitative study employed a single-site, descriptive case study design. Interviews were conducted with 15 teachers with varying ICT experience across a range of subjects in a suburban, K-12 independent school. The school provided all students in grades 5 – 12 with a personal laptop computer and networked wireless access to the Internet. A variety of theoretical perspectives drawn from the literature on relationship variables and learning theories shaped the context for analysis. Three major findings emerged from the data analysis. Teachers perceived that: 1) the integration of technology altered their pedagogical roles and relationships with respect to the focus and approach of instruction, the subsequent motivation and engagement of students, and the overall classroom dynamics, 2) open access to knowledge enabled by ubiquitous computing served as a catalyst in shifting the balance of power within the teacher-student relationship, 3) online communication helped them to build and maintain closer bonds and stronger relationships with students. Overall, teachers perceived that the use of technology in this setting enhanced teacher-student relationships. This is significant because high quality teacher-student relationships correlate positively with a variety of academic outcomes (Davis, 2006). The findings from this study have implications for teacher education, instructional design, and policy development with respect to technology integration and its potential to support 21st Century learning. Further research in a broader range of educational settings and inclusive of student perspectives would complement this research and assist in further shaping and informing teaching practice in technology-rich learning environments.

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Faculty members' professional growth in teaching through the summative peer review of teaching and other departmental practices (2012)

This study investigated the ways that summative peer review of teaching contributes to tenure-track faculty members’ professional growth in teaching. It also explored other practices that support or hinder a departmental culture that values teaching. Using the lens of academic culture, I drew on literature about the peer review of teaching, department culture, and professional growth in academic careers to inform this research. Thirty tenure-track faculty members from six departments and two faculties participated in semi-structured qualitative interviews. Participants were asked about their experiences of summative peer review, how they understood the relationship between peer review and their growth as instructors, and departmental practices that contribute to a culture that values teaching.Participants had varied and inconsistent experiences of summative peer review of teaching. They reported multiple purposes (evaluative, formative, supplement to the student evaluations of teaching) that frequently conflicted. With few known guidelines that direct peer reviews and insufficient clarity as to their purpose, faculty members conducted summative reviews based on a personal sense of “what was best.” Given the demanding nature of academic careers and an institutional reward system that favours research over teaching, peer reviews were primarily limited to classroom observations and engaged few faculty members in dialogue. Such summative peer reviews appeared to make minimal contribution to professional growth in teaching. The study did find numerous other departmental practices conducive to a culture that values teaching, e.g., informal collegial conversations about teaching and team teaching. Faculty members who partook in these grew as instructors. Results demonstrated that academic values and norms (i.e., collegiality and autonomy), disciplinary traditions pertaining to collaboration, and institutional rewards influenced how faculty members pursued professional growth as teachers.

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A case study of a networked learning community : the "third space" (2009)

The purpose of this research was to develop a deeper understanding of the formation, operation, and impacts of a networked learning community within a geographically and culturally diverse school district in British Columbia, Canada. The general approach used for this research was case study methodology. As such, the work must be appreciated as a whole and as a narrative of how something came to be the way it is; in other words, to arrive at a comprehensive understanding of the group under study: Who are its members? What are their stable and recurring modes of activity and interaction? How are they related to one another and how is the group related to the rest of the world? The primary data sources for the study were network participant interviews and documents related to the network. The main findings of the study include a deeper understanding of the impact Ministry and School District level policies and practice had on the network’s inception and evolution; the operational details and structure that supported the network in order to create the conditions for learning; and how the perceived success was based upon focused “teacher talk”. Implications for practice include an understanding of how seemingly simple system actions are influenced by a broad array of macro and micro socio-political actions, as well as the historical context of an organization. The research also suggests that networks are not an end in themselves or fit into a prescribed typology but constitute a shifting terrain with impacts beyond the life of the network.

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Off the Sides of Their Desks: Devolving Evaluation to Nonprofit and Grassroots Organizations (2008)

No abstract available.

Master's Student Supervision (2010 - 2018)
Witnessing the extraordinary : investigating the accomplishments of the ALGC program (2016)

This study investigates the reasons behind the achievements of the Adult Learning and Global Change (ALGC) program, an international online master’s program developed and managed by four universities in Canada, Sweden, South Africa and Australia: The University of BritishColumbia (Canada), Linköping University (Sweden), The University of the Western Cape (South Africa) and three different universities in Australia (where the original partner, University of Technology Sydney, was replaced by Monash University, which is now being replaced by Australian Catholic University). The twelve individuals who have had leadership roles in the program since it began in 2001 were interviewed, and their answers to the same open ended questions provided the data for analysis. Based on their responses, it was possible to identify the six stages in the development of the program, the many accomplishments of the program from avariety of viewpoints (historical, educational, collaborative, administrative and personal), the different threats and weaknesses that endangered the program (and the way they were addressed), and, finally, the explanations for the accomplishments of the program. The conclusion is that thanks to its competent and committed leaders, a creative and innovative program, and constructive and caring relationships, the ALGC program has not only survived but thrived.

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