Mona Gleason


Relevant Thesis-Based 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.


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

Dissertations completed in 2010 or later are listed below. Please note that there is a 6-12 month delay to add the latest dissertations.

"It's a very careful line we walk": how educators resist, navigate, and make sense of the queer, trans necropolitical landscape of elementary education (2021)

This dissertation explores how elementary educators in Alberta, Canada make sense of and engage with queer, trans, and gender non-conforming diversity in elementary education, and how those understandings inform their pedagogy and practices. Contextualized within Alberta’s political conservatism, this research consists of a policy analysis of Alberta Education’s Guidelines for Best Practices and 12 school district policies, 14 interviews with elementary educators and two group discussions. This dissertation makes a critical contribution to the field by exploring how elementary education is shaped by necropolitical regimes of normativity that bestow privilege and support to some queer and trans kids, while increasing vulnerability and precarity for others. By focusing on discursive practices, this research explores why current government and school district policies, professional development, administrative interventions, and classroom strategies for queer and trans “inclusion” are insufficient. Findings underscore the limitations of an individualized, reactive, “accommodation approach” to change in schools that does little to confront larger, systemic issues in Canada’s public education system. Highlighting the workings of white settler colonialism, cisnormativity, heteronormativity, and neoliberalism, this research discusses how even supportive and knowledgeable educators often perpetuate harmful discourses despite their best intentions. Educators’ stories reveal the pressures, risks, and responsibilities they face as they navigate institutional constraints that are not conducive to implementing queer, trans, and gender diversity into the classroom and school in meaningful ways. By critically examining the limitations of existing approaches to building “safe, inclusive, and welcoming schools,” this research aims to contribute to a better schooling future for queer and trans students in Alberta, thereby improving conditions for all students.

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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

Theses completed in 2010 or later are listed below. Please note that there is a 6-12 month delay to add the latest theses.

The stories of eleven Japanese Canadian teachers: colouring racial barriers into teacher training, certification, and hiring processes in British Columbia, 1916-1942 (2020)

This master’s thesis is a historical research study that examines critical gaps in two areas of historical scholarship: the history of education and the history of Japanese Canadians. While rich histories about Japanese Canadians and of education in British Columbia exist, this thesis revisits told and retold histories to bring the stories of eleven Japanese Canadian teachers to light. In doing so, I argue that while an explicit policy preventing aspiring Japanese Canadian teachers from obtaining teaching certificates did not exist, the normalization of anti-Asian attitudes and franchise laws, ultimately led to their exclusion from the teaching profession.The widely shared historiography of Japanese Canadians suggests that an explicit ban was placed on Japanese Canadians from obtaining teaching certificates after Hide Hyodo, the only Japanese Canadian to become a teacher in British Columbia, was hired by the Richmond School Board in 1926. However, there appears to be no such explicit policy. Using historical sources such as yearbooks, newspaper articles, governmental documents, and archival materials, I located ten other Japanese Canadian women who sought the teaching profession between 1916 and 1942. Hyodo’s story and the stories of ten other Japanese Canadian women who aspired to become public school teachers in British Columbia show how they navigated and responded to an education system that presented itself as colour-blind but was coloured with racial barriers.This thesis also adds to the existing history of education by bringing forward their absences as evidence of how subtle and overt racism lived in and informed the teacher training, certification, and hiring of teachers in the first half of the twentieth century. By piecing together eleven individual experiences of young Japanese Canadian women, this thesis offers new ways of understanding how racism worked and enriches our knowledge about Japanese Canadians in the pre-war years.

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A case for complexity: contextualizing places of learning in early childhood education for sustainability (2019)

Our collective world currently resides in a time of far-reaching environmental precarity. Now more than ever, educational institutions are faced with an unprecedented responsibility to encourage students to foster relationships with the environment and inspire their responses for transformative change. The under-researched yet rapidly expanding field of Early Childhood Education for Sustainability (ECEfS) has emerged as a platform to achieve this among young learners. However, the majority of literature in the field of ECEfS is underpinned by simplistic representations of “children’s connection to nature” in their learning environments. In a field that claims to promote understanding the interconnectedness of the systems of which we are a part (i.e. the environmental, social and economic pillars of sustainability) there is a significant lack of research that critically explores the complexities of learning environments as these connections are being formed. Given an even greater lack of ECEfS research being conducted in diverse communities across cultures, this thesis details research conducted in 2017 with the Early Years Program at Green School Bali; a world-renowned sustainability-oriented international school in Indonesia. My research was conducted through a social constructionist theoretical framework and blended methodological approach (nested case study, grounded theory, and ethnography). My qualitative data, collected over six months of immersive fieldwork, combines participant observation with children ages three to six years old; formal and informal teacher and administrator interviews; document analysis; and personal reflection. The findings were clarified through thematic analysis and writing as inquiry. Presented in narrative form, the findings from this research analyze the context of the school at large (Green School in the context of Bali) and within the Early Years Program (as part of Green School). I complicate three broad themes (Setting, Culture, Curriculum) to illustrate the paramount need to incorporate critical and contextualized place-based learning in order to improve theory, research and practice in ECEfS. As schools aim to promote sustainability agendas worldwide, it is imperative to understand the complexities inherent in our leaning environments, and the implications this has regarding children’s relationships within the multifaceted environments in which they are a part.

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Marketing childhood: a Foucauldian discourse analysis of elementary dress codes (2019)

“My body is not a distraction” and “Yes, I have breasts” were the slogans used by a group of secondary students from Princeton Secondary School in Princeton, British Columbia who went braless to protest the disciplining of female students for showing their bra straps. In response, the school’s Vice Principal stated “It’s not all about bra straps. I believe in individual expression but I don’t want to see anyone’s butt cheeks” (Demeer, 2018). Body surveillance through dress codes has been a common, but not unattested, practice in public schools. The messages of the dress codes, similar to the Vice Principal’s response, reveals how bodies are constructed as offensive, uncomfortable, distracting, and unruly. Dress codes are often gendered to specifically target girls’ bodies as sexual objects that need to be covered (Arns, 2017; Drewicz Ewing, 2014; Pomerantz, 2007). They can also carry racist or classist assumptions that protect hegemonic white, middle-class values (Aghasaleh, 2018; Morris, 2005).This thesis shifts the discussion from the bodies of secondary students to the place where dress code disciplining begins, at the Elementary school level. Dress codes are not only value-laden, but actively work as a social practice to produce childhood itself (Pomerantz, 2007). The aim of this thesis was to map out how seven public Elementary school dress codes position bodies and how actors in the surveillance of bodies, such as parents, staff, and students, are entangled in the practice of body disciplining. Through the methods of a Foucauldian discourse analysis, which looks at how disciplinary power works through surveillance to produce subjects, it is argued that dress codes construct childhood as a period of co-investment during which the child’s body is the property of parents and, likewise, the student’s body is property of the school. A major theme throughout the analysis is the concept of productivity and its relation to cultural and economic capital.

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