P. Taylor Webb
Relevant Degree Programs
- Education policy, especially enactments and problematizations
- Governmentality studies in education, particularly micropolitics and subjectivities
- Methodological uses of 'fieldwork in philosophy' and post-qualitative approaches
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Graduate Student Supervision
Doctoral Student Supervision (Jan 2008 - Nov 2020)
This dissertation situates current Chinese international students in the historical flow of internationally mobile Chinese people since the late 19th century. Informed by their predecessors’ significant contributions to China’s political transformation in the 20th century, the doctoral research conceives of these students as political subjects ‘in the making’, and examines them as potential influencers on China’s democratization efforts in the upcoming decades. This doctoral study examines how Chinese international students become and/or are made into political – and possibly democratic – subjects through their engagement with democracy while pursuing degrees at universities in Canada and the United States. Adopting a qualitative case study approach, the study recruits twelve students from two sites, one on the Canadian West Coast and the other on the U.S. East Coast. It collects data on participants’ engagement with democratic discourses and practices in their two host countries with three methods (i.e., qualitative interviewing, observations, and document gathering). Findings demonstrate that international mobility in higher education has significant bearings on participants’ political subjectivity. Particularly noteworthy is that half of the twelve participants emerge with increased commitment to democracy and increased competence to effect democratization in China. Increased commitment and competence were closely related to students’ engagement with three kinds of democratic practices: 1) those associated with learning and unlearning about democracy, 2) those associated with democratic elections at the regime level, and 3) those associated with organization design and management. Further, students’ engagement with democratic practices occurred largely in two spaces related to their education: 1) the conceptual space entailed in disciplinary studies, especially those in the social sciences, 2) the structural procedural space entailed in the electoral politics of the two host countries and politics in Chinese international student organizations. Finally, the dissertation research illustrates how democratic practices were related to different spaces, including conceptual and structural procedural spaces.
This study examines everyday media practices in environmental movements, activism campaigns, claims to education, and their relation to subjectification through various contortions of the verb ‘fold.’ Thinking with different types of folds (e.g., pleats, inflections, twists), it proposes concepts for investigating subjectification as a series of shifting spatial and temporal arrangements between a) environmental non-governmental organizations’ (ENGOs) campaigns and their educational intentions, b) residents’ media practices in ecological conflicts, and c) more-than-human forces and events of the Anthropocene. The project reconsiders media practices and environmental movement learning in ecologically perturbed times through the thought of Gilles Deleuze (1988, 1993), especially his concept of ‘the fold’ and its quadripartite architecture of subjectivity, comprising folds of knowledge, matter, force, and ‘the outside’ or death/extinction. I argue that subjectivity is produced through media and knowledge practices in ecological conflicts—not as a ‘being’ or the bounded contours of a human entity, but as an event and a process of folding inflected by more-than-human pleats. Situated within darker hues of ecological thought, this study engages with and problematizes the media practices of 24 residents in anti-oil pipeline movements in British Columbia, Canada (e.g., tracking online petitions, following (or not) ENGOs’ social media feeds, engaging in online news comments, photographing themselves at protests, writing letters to editors), and their ambivalent encounters with activism campaigns, digital strategies, and especially claims to knowledge and education made by six ENGOs in attempts to contrive ‘political subjects.’ The collection of chapters invites a textured and geometric reading, privileging proliferation over coherence. Subjectivity is folded and refolded in relation to media practices and education through a fieldwork in textures: a) an approach to research for thinking and ‘experimenting’ with subjectivity as concomitantly folded in multiple ways, and b) a mode of inquiry that examines how concepts and fieldwork inflect each other. I develop ‘folded concepts’ emerging from methodological conundrums, mapping the limitations of human thought, conflicting claims to education, media practices, and the more-than-human forces that affect them. Moving away from effects or what campaigns represent, the study focuses on what campaigns and practices do and affect.
Master's Student Supervision (2010 - 2018)
The purpose of this study is to identify the assumptions of China’s civic education and compare these assumptions to the key concepts involved in Paulo Freire’s critical pedagogy, particularly his ideas of (1) critical consciousness, (2) humanization, and (3) dialogue. Based on the specific social and political contexts in which each of these pedagogies arose, the thesis will explore the limitations and potential of applying Freire’s critical pedagogy to enhance university students’ critical and civic consciousness in China.To this end, the thesis will present a comparative study of Freirean critical pedagogy and the Chinese culture of pedagogy in order to explore the following questions: What are the key concepts that support Freire’s conception of transformative education? What are the key concepts of China’s civic education? How do Freire’s and China’s concepts relate or compare to each other? How might Freirean ideas of critical consciousness and social transformation be informed or extended in relation to the challenges posed by China’s conception of civic education? What challenges or implications arise when attempting to use or implement Freire’s ideas of critical pedagogy within China’s higher education system (e.g., to teach for transformation)?These questions will be answered by exploring the points of commonality and difference between the worldviews framing the civic education in China’s higher education institutions and Freire’s critical pedagogy.
This study focuses on a single school district as a site of concept-building in relation to teachers’ subjective experiences of power vis à vis a neoliberal policy regime. The assemblage of teachers’ subjectivities takes place in the context of the Southeastern United States, in a policy environment highly influenced by neoliberal ideology. The study focuses on the South Carolina School Report Card Policy (part of No Child Left Behind) as an instantiation of neoliberal education policy and draws on a Foucauldian and Deleuzian framework for understanding how power produces teachers’ subjectivities with and through policy. The researcher orients this work as a fieldwork in philosophy in order to think about power with teachers in the situated contexts of their lives in a unique school district; this study therefore generalizes to theory rather than to people or location. The research concludes that power a/effected teachers’ subjectivities through disciplinary technologies and the creation and maintenance of affective channels, having bodily and material impacts on teachers, and causing them to find ‘the other’ of students’ bodies, which have been raced, classed, and gendered, in themselves.
This study made use of content and discourse analysis to critically examine how the ideas of ‘good teaching’ and ‘good teachers’ were developed and used within the policy-document A Vision for 21st Century Education. Released in 2010 by British Columbia’s Premier’s Technology Council, A Vision for 21st Century Education is a localized policy that attempts to re-imagine key features of teachers and their work in ways that are consistent with the goals of the larger 21st-century policy agenda currently circulating the world. Through my use of content and discourse analysis, I show how A Vision for 21st Century Education promotes a vision of schooling that is largely a neoliberal and managerialist enterprise that relegates teachers and teaching to subordinate roles within processes of policy development and policy implementation. The study identifies two prominent discourses within A Vision for 21st Century Education: ‘learnification’ translates and reduces public education to terms of ‘learners’ and ‘learning,’ and ‘accountingization’ re-imagines teachers’ work as ‘that which can be counted.’ I take care to show how these discourses (i) are developed within the text through genre and style, modalization and passivation; and (ii) subordinate teachers beneath the values of policy makers. I argue that this relative devaluation of teachers and their work provides a basis for increased school conflicts, contributes to elevated stress among teachers, and may encourage teacher ‘burnout.’ As a point of contrast, I sketch an alternative vision of the role of teachers’ work that is grounded in democratic values and practices.
This study examined how feelings about report cards, motivation (interest in doing wellin school) and depth curiosity (interest in learning beyond what is required to achieve agrade) were affected by achievement and the importance placed on report cards by students.Ninety-seven students (Grade 4 & Grade 7) in a multicultural elementary school in westernCanada were surveyed to determine their attitudes towards report cards. Data wereexamined using descriptive and inferential statistics in SPSS. Assertions were developedusing the qualitative data.High-achieving female students reported being less curious and high-achieving malestudents more curious than their lower-achieving peers of the same gender. These effectscancelled each other out in the whole population, and were possibly caused by gender-baseddifferences in anxiety about reports, but more likely due to different approaches to learning.A similar, but weaker, gender-based relationship between importance indicators andcuriosity indicators was found.Motivation (wanting to make an effort after seeing report card grades) was uncorrelatedwith importance and achievement for all groups. Possible causes included differences inexpectations, home attitudes, and the circumstances of ESL (English as second language)learners.The open-ended questions were used to develop three assertions about students’reactions to report cards. Grade 7 students were much more aware of the social context ofreports than Grade 4 students. Grade 7 boys were much more likely to report severe parentalreactions and to evaluate themselves negatively than Grade 7 girls. Finally, feelings werelargely independent of the actual grades obtained.Suggested directions for future research include a longitudinal study, taking grade-expectationsinto account. Repeating the current study at schools with differentdemographics is also suggested. An ethnographic study looking at different social cohortscould also be informative. A large-scale study to confirm the methods used to measurecuriosity is also recommended.Recommendations for teachers, parents, and policy makers were developed. These focuson mitigating the harmful effects of letter grades, and approaching change in a thoughtfulway. Suggestions for improving dialogue between parents and teachers on the topics ofcuriosity, gender, and letter grades were also developed.
- Anticipating education: governing habits, memories and policy-futures (2020)
Learning, Media and Technology, 45 (3), 284--297