Mona Gleason

Prospective Graduate Students / Postdocs

This faculty member is currently not actively recruiting graduate students or Postdoctoral Fellows, but might consider co-supervision together with another faculty member.


Research Interests

history of education
history of children and youth
critical youth studies
gender and sexuality

Relevant Degree Programs

Research Options

I am available and interested in collaborations (e.g. clusters, grants).

Research Methodology

archival research
Oral history
Discourse analysis

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.


Since coming to UBC this year to pursue my PhD in Educational Studies, Prof. Gleason has become a true mentor, teacher, and role model. She has taken a real interest in my work and expressed genuine concern for my well-being. Her advice has proven incredibly important and she pushes me daily to excel and challenge myself. At the same time, she allows me to have the necessary space to do my work, make mistakes, and learn from them in a safe, supportive atmosphere. I am truly grateful for her constant support.

Yotam Ronen (2019)


Thankful for being always challenged, supported, and inspired by my #GreatSupervisor @MonaGleason in #UBC. I've learned compelling lessons about integrity and scholarship that matters.


Graduate Student Supervision

Doctoral Student Supervision (Jan 2008 - Nov 2020)
Places that speak: diversity and social responsibility in Canadian early childhood education (2020)

A multicultural approach to diversity and social responsibility still prevails in Canadian early childhood education despite the critiques of Indigenous and early childhood education scholars. Acritical multicultural pedagogies have failed to interrupt the assimilation of children’s cultural backgrounds and continue to divert attention from the legacies of colonialism and racism in contemporary society. In 2019, the British Columbia Ministry of Education launched the revamped version of the Early Learning Framework which has committed to acknowledging the impact of colonialism while fostering children’s relationships with place. In light of this commitment, diversity and social responsibility need to be reconceptualized. This dissertation investigates how young children encounter and learn about diversity and responsibility through the places they do and do not have access to in early childhood education. Taking a critical place inquiry approach, this study examines children’s relationships with place in a childcare centre located in a highly urbanized and culturally diverse neighbourhood in East Vancouver, Canada. First, I examine the prevalent narratives and practices about diversity and social responsibility that take place in the neighbourhood as well as within the childcare centre. Then, I identify the barriers that impede educators and children from encountering diversity and engage in responsible relationships toward place.The analysis suggests that multicultural pedagogies continue to prevent educators and children from learning about the impact of colonialism in Canada. Early childhood policies, curriculum, and pedagogies implement – to different degrees – forms of protection by setting up boundaries, although sometimes necessary, in tension with pedagogies that support diversity and responsibility. More specifically, I demonstrate that: 1) adult concerns about children’s safety may preclude opportunities for them to engage with Indigeneity in the neighbourhood reinforcing settler-colonial practices in early childhood education; and that 2) pedagogies that foster responsibility as dependent on the individual child not only limit access to certain places but also impede children’s engagement with responsible practices toward place. I conclude by discussing how the understanding of children’s relationships with place allows researchers and educators to reconceptualize the notions of diversity and responsibility in early childhood education and support educators in fostering children’s encounters with diversity through place.

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The warp and weft of it all: Ucwalmicw education emerging out of the Aboriginal education tapestry (2018)

Guided by the central tenets of Lester-Irabinna Rigney’s (1999) Indigenist paradigm; resistance,political integrity and honoring Indigenous voice, I take up the Ucwalmicw loom and blanket weavingas metaphor and praxis to honor Samahquamicw engagement in this PhD project. To contribute to the significant work already being done to define and transform Aboriginal education into the ever emerging tapestries of Indigenous education, the research questions that guide the work disseminated here were:1. In what ways can Ucwalmicw knowledge system processes disrupt mainstream understandings of Aboriginal education?2. How can the facilitation of Ucwalmicw processes and protocols contribute to transforming classrooms for all students?To maintain political integrity in responding to these two research questions I engaged with mySamahquamicw community members in ways that center on and honor Ucwalmicw voice. TwoSharing Circles were facilitated in the Q’aLaTKú7eM community. We shared meals together, andcommunity members were reciprocated with hand-made gifts for sharing their knowledge and timewith me. Local protocols guided our collective knowledge seeking, making and sharing which, forimportant reasons, included the need to facilitate a survey in lieu of the third planned Sharing Circle.In trusting again in our ways, I came to walk the talk of Q’aLaTKú7eMicw protocols whichrequire beginning and proceeding in good ways towards wholistic approaches to teaching and learning.Within the pages of this dissertation, I illustrate how Q’aLaTKú7eMicw contributions can and havemobilized Indigenous education policies drawn from a selection of nation-wide and provincial reports and accords. While the degree of harm that Aboriginal education continues to inflict on its students varies across student populations, tackling, with Ucwalmicw intentions, the issue of what is and is not considered in the curricula and, equally important, the pedagogies of university programs means doing so for the benefit of Indigenous and non-Indigenous students alike. To contribute to emerging models of Indigenous education with a good heart, mind and spirit requires doing so for Tákem nsnek̓wnúk̓w7a (all my relations).

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Teaching empowerment? Gender, sexuality education and the contested pedagogical relations of knowing and being known with(in) an HIV prevention programme in South Africa (2015)

This dissertation is an exploration of the im/possibilities of knowing and being known with(in) sexuality education. The project was provoked by how sexuality education is framed as a global strategy to prevent the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) among youth. In particular, the study aimed to problematize how sexuality education is positioned as a site for youth empowerment in relation to gendered identities and relations. Through feminist and poststructural readings of ethnographic research (Britzman, 2000; Lather, 2007; St. Pierre & Pillow, 2000; Youdell, 2010), this dissertation engages the pedagogical encounters of sexuality education. The pedagogical encounter (doubled through the research encounter) is theorized as a contested site in which educators and learners engage in the messy and always ongoing work of making sense of their lives with(in) place (Ellsworth, 1997, 2005; Massey, 2005).These encounters take form in South Africa, even as the relations explored within them resist a global/local binary of international guidelines, national programmes or local implementation. Within the contours of these encounters, educators from loveLife, a South African non-governmental organization, meet-up with youth in particular moments. Drawing on three opening propositions related to sexuality education as an always political project, this dissertation foregrounds an analytic shift from who youth are and what is known to how understandings of identities and forms of knowledge become coherent within particular pedagogical moments. This shift draws attention to how pedagogical approaches such as loveLife’s are entangled in power-laden understandings of social identities and a perceived (linear) relation to knowledge. In doing so, it destabilizes the claim that youth can be empowered through sexuality education. Within the problematic imperative to “do” sexuality education differently, already present struggles over identities and forms of knowledge point to the necessity of re-articulating what is claimed in and through sexuality education. This dissertation suggests an articulation of sexuality education in which the vulnerability of knowing and being known might become a condition for responsibility to one another and a site for social transformation.

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"Is it still a boy?" : hetero/gender normativity in Kindergarten (2014)

This study examines everyday practices (talk, play, curriculum) in Kindergarten that works with and against hetero/gender normativity. To conduct this research, I spent three months in a Kindergarten classroom in a Vancouver public school. In addition to conducting everyday observations, I facilitated focus groups with students and interviews with educators based on their experiences planning and taking part in curriculum for Valentine’s Day, Anti-Bullying/Pink Shirt Day, and Mother’s Day. This combination of data illustrated ways hetero/gender norms become institutionally routinized in Kindergarten regardless of progressive district school policies and the occasional special events that discourage homophobic bullying. Of critical importance to my analysis are discrepancies between discourse about what children are (e.g., innocent, masculine, feminine) and what children do within their play and social interactions. Such discourses neutralize heterosexuality and gender conformity as asexual, and hyper-sexualize queer and transgender subjectivities, rendering them “inappropriate” in Kindergarten. My research suggests that this normalizes the gender and sexual status quo while othering children who may not fit within these limited parameters. This dissertation contributes to educational and critical childhood studies that seek to understand the routes by which queer and transgender students are isolated and ostracized within public school social life.

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Narration-as-Action: The Potential of Pedagogical Narration for Leadership Enactment in Early Childhood Contexts (2014)

In the field of Early Childhood Education (ECE), especially in the sector that focuses on provision of care and education for children under the age of five, the concept of leadership has been under explored theoretically and empirically. The paucity in ECE leadership research has become particularly troubling because early education has recently been the subject of major policy changes. The changes are characterized by formulation of centralized ECE curricula and closer structural relations between ECE and formal schooling. These changes present a growing risk of narrowing the possibilities for thinking what ECE might be about/for.The purpose of this qualitative multiple-case research project was to study the leadership potential that an innovative practice called pedagogical narration has for reinvigorating public conversations that complicate and broaden the discussion about purposes and values of early education. Pedagogical narration involves a process through which early childhood educators create and share narratives about significant pedagogical occurrences with children from their early childhood settings with the purpose of engaging others in critical dialogue where questions about meanings, identities, and values are made visible and open for disputation and renewal.The study focused on exploring what new possibilities for leadership enactment and leadership identities arise when early childhood educators engage with the practice of pedagogical narration. By drawing on Hannah Arendt’s political theory, leadership was reconstituted as ethical and political action that is enacted through inserting into the public domain narratives that interrupt habitual thought, opening the space for new understandings of our plural existence. Significant leadership events illuminated the potential of pedagogical narration for enacting leadership through: reconstituting ECE as a public space, mitigating habits of thoughtlessness, and pluralizing the identities of children. The study offers new conceptual options for theorizing and enacting leadership in ECE contexts, as well as providing a conceptual terrain from which new leadership identities for early childhood educators can emerge.

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Master's Student Supervision (2010 - 2018)
Educational Projects for Decolonization: Anti-Authoritarian Allyship and Resistance Education in the Americas (2012)

This thesis covers the topic of decolonizing anti-authoritarian educational spaces in North America. It outlines historical perspectives on anarchist and anti-authoritarian alternative educational movements that are non-coercive and opposed to hierarchy including the free skool, Modern School, unschooling, and the free university. Further, it examines indigenous educational spaces that originate in decolonizing social justice struggles such as the survival schools, intercultural bilingual education, and educación autonoma. The analysis focuses around discursive practices by free skools in producing a vision of freedom and liberation, and enacting a decolonization agenda. The thesis draws on theory by indigenous women, most centrally Sandy Grande and Linda Tuhiwai Smith, as a way of engaging anti-authoritarian education for decolonization with a critical indigenous lens. The first section of analysis consists of content analysis of web-based free skool mission statements. I code for discursive units that refer to forms of freedom and liberation, defined as overcoming oppressions presented by Iris Marion Young in Five Faces of Oppression. The results of this quantitative analysis demonstrate that free skools, in mission statements, have a tendency to prefer addressing labor/consumer exploitation and powerlessness as sites of oppression significantly more frequently than cultural imperialism, the site of oppression where colonialism is enacted. This demonstrates that free skools place a value in their mission statements of discursively engaging a limited vision of freedom and liberation that disproportionately excludes decolonization in envisioning liberation. The second section of analysis focuses on documents such as curriculum, readings, and personal narratives produced for and by decolonizing anti-authoritarian educational projects such as Unsettling Minnesota, the Purple Thistle Institute, and POOR Magazine's PeopleSkool. My engagement with these documents has determined that in many ways these projects find affinity with the work of Sandy Grande and Linda Tuhiwai Smith. In this way, the documents are useful in understanding a theoretically supported anti-authoritarian education for decolonization and in the formulation of future work that can build upon this base.

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