Hartej Gill

Associate Professor

Relevant Degree Programs


Graduate Student Supervision

Doctoral Student Supervision (Jan 2008 - May 2021)
Decolonizing the social imaginaries of British Columbia's international education phenomenon (2019)

Working from an anticolonial and decolonizing framework, this thesis seeks to contribute to the current understanding of the K-12 International Education Phenomenon in British Columbia (BC), Canada. My research begins with the premise that online newspapers have become a popular channel not only for news agencies to distribute and disseminate information but also for readers to respond to news in real time and exchange opinions with each other. The advancement in electronic media leads to new forms of communication and offers “new resources and new disciplines for the construction of imagined selves and imagined worlds” (Appadurai, 1996, p. 3). Using the concept of social imaginaries, my study argues that web-based news comment sections allow their readers to form a collective sense of the imagination by providing readers with the conditions of collective reading, commenting, critiquing and pleasuring. These readers begin to form a “community of sentiment” and a “group that begins to imagine and feel things together” (Appadurai, 1996, p. 7). Within this context, my research investigates the social imaginaries of international students and the host society as constructed on the online news platforms. Using an anticolonial and decolonizing content analysis, this research disrupts colonial gazes operationalized in virtual spaces: (1) objectification of international students and the subjectivization of host society; (2) imperial legitimization through policy; (3) reproduction of cultural and linguistic hegemony and (4) essentialization and racialization of international students as “too Asian”. The findings highlight that the BC International Education Phenomenon is shifting the social imaginaries of public education as well as the imaginaries of international students in public schools and society. This exchange in turn not only objectifies international students as cash cows but also subjugates the host society to the branding and sale of BC education, which further perpetuates the historical imperial mission of colonization.

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To be broken open: A critical inquiry into international service learning and global engagement (2019)

This manuscript dissertation consists of four independent but interconnected body chapters, framed by an introduction and conclusion, which offer scholarly grounding in the service-learning literature and a discussion of complexities and tensions of this research. Each chapter illustrates a different fragment of a research story about the impacts of service-learning and global engagement. Collectively, they pull back the curtain on the research process through not only a participatory photovoice study that set out to explore the community impacts of international service-learning in Kitengesa, Uganda, but also an exploration of: a) the literature in social justice-oriented service-learning, b) analysis of photovoice data, and c) a vulnerable, artistic narrative about the researcher’s experience with a critical injury that occurred during her fieldwork in Uganda. This research is shared through different studies and laid out in the same temporal order that it occurred. Chapter 2 is comprised of a literature review and a theoretical conceptualization of the “Social Justice Turn”. Chapter 3 shares data and participant-led analysis from a collaborative photovoice study conducted in Uganda. Photos and their analyses, contained in the captions, are presented in the same manner that the Ugandan participant-researchers chose for their local photo exhibition in March 2017. Ten days after that exhibition, the researcher had a critical accident in Uganda that catalyzed the creation of Chapter 4. Chapter 4 uses bricolage to piece together diverse data from her injury, which was a culmination of an E. coli infection, malaria, a broken jaw and broken hands. This piece demonstrates the importance of the researcher’s body in the construction of knowledge, the generation of relationships, and the interrogation of embodied politics in global settings. Chapter 5 shares selected findings of the photovoice research displayed in Chapter 3, but in a format more suited for academic scholarship, illuminating relationships as a key impact of an international service-learning program hosted in Kitengesa. This dissertation extends the scholarship in service-learning, casting a focus on the host community perceptions and highlighting the methodological and epistemological importance of the researcher’s body and the many relationships that comprise the core of collaborative and embodied participatory research.

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Memories of Aboriginal/Indian Education: Decolonizing Policy and Practice (2016)

In this thesis, memories and forgetting in Aboriginal youths’ recounting of experiences in contemporary Aboriginal education programs were traced back to the Indian residential school system and colonial policy. By focusing on Aboriginal Education Enhancement Agreements—policies intended to address the poor educational outcomes of Aboriginal students, within their broader social, political and historical context, the supposed “problem” of educating Aboriginal students is viewed from a decolonizing perspective. I argue that the effects of the Indian residential school system are productive across generations and continue into the present. Practicing a “critical pedagogy of decolonization” (L. T. Smith, 1999, p. 34) means listening to Aboriginal students’ memories of Aboriginal/Indian education policies in order to decolonize education, history and research. This study is aimed at informing/influencing/shaping current policy and practices and at improving the quality and outcome of Aboriginal students’ education. The complexity of this research is reflected in the metaphorical use of the term montage, a film technique, to represent the decolonizing epistemological and methodological frames that focus on narrative analysis, textual analysis, photograph analysis, and policy analysis. Listening to Indigenous students’ memories and forgetting of public schooling practices, and analyzing visual and textual representations of Aboriginal students, Aboriginal education and history, in past and present policy were framed and captured by decolonizing methodologies. Further, fiction was used to highlight haunted memories of Indian residential schooling and to trace colonial policies and practices back to a violent and traumatic past. By listening to counter memories of educational policy across generations of Indigenous actors, the relevance of these memories for understanding the effects of Aboriginal Education Enhancement Agreement policy today as they relate to historical, present and future manifestations of self-determination, re-birth and a decolonizing renaissance among Indigenous peoples in Canada is highlighted as a decolonizing strategy. This thesis represents an attempt at practicing a critical pedagogy of decolonization by linking notions of race and iconic myths of frontier history to perceptions of Indigenous peoples, cultures and histories that are disciplined by a colonial archive of photographs, policies, curricula, and texts.

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Bending the Box: Learning from Indigenous Students Transitioning from High School to University (2014)

The purpose of this study was to understand how the unique social, historical, cultural, and Indigenous knowledge contexts of Aboriginal communities in British Columbia shaped high school to university transitions for Aboriginal youth. To this end, the Northwest Coast bentwood box acted as a metaphor that framed the theoretical inquiry and methodology for this study, which examined four Aboriginal Early University Promotion Initiatives (AEUPI) and three Aboriginal University Transition Programs (AUTP) in British Columbia. In addition, I utilized Archibald’s (2008) storywork and Kirkness and Barnhardt’s (1991) 4Rs of Indigenous methodologies, with an additional 5th R (relationships). The study also drew upon Martin Nakata’s (2007) concept of the cultural interface, to analyze 32 interviews conducted with Aboriginal youth, and faculty and staff from the AEUPIs and AUTPs.Key findings from the Aboriginal youth in this study suggest that learning about university through real-life experience offered by the initiatives/programs was meaningful. Second, both the AEUPIs and AUTPs provided youth with concrete opportunities to explore future academic and career pathways. Third, ensuring that the youth were provided with opportunities to develop relationships with positive Aboriginal role models in the university was seen as a success factor. Fourth, the AEUPI youth shared stories about the important leadership skills they developed as role models and mentors to younger youth in the initiatives, which in turn assisted them with their visioning process for university. Fifth, the students’ sense of belonging at university was fostered by relationships with AEUPI and AUTP staff, Indigenous student support staff, Elders, and faculty. Sixth, the AEUPI youth overwhelmingly agreed that the experiences they had in these initiatives led them to feel wholistically successful. However, the AUTP youth had a conflicting experience. Ultimately, insights from the youths’ stories suggest that the future of AEUPIs and AUTPs is a promising one if universities take heed. To this end, all participants in the study critically detailed how Canadian universities can apply a wholistic conception of the 5 Rs to Indigenous high school to university transition programs.

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Master's Student Supervision (2010 - 2020)
Lived Experiences of South Asian Educational Leaders within a British Columbia School District (2016)

The purpose of this study was to investigate the lived experiences of South Asian administrators within a British Columbia School District (BCSD). Through a qualitative research design involving hour long semi-structured interviews, 70% of South Asian administrators within the BCSD were interviewed regarding three major research questions: (a) the challenges South Asian administrators face or have faced in their role as administrators or in the attainment of their positions as educational leaders in the BCSD, (b) how the daily experiences of these administrators impact their leadership style, and (c) how these administrators described their impact on the educational experiences of South Asian students in their schools. A Critical Race Theory theoretical framework was used to analyze interview data. The three major findings associated with each of the research questions, respectively, were: (a) South Asian administrators face endemic racism within their roles in the BCSD that prejudice their work capacities, (b) South Asian administrators have a distinct leadership style as it relates to South Asian students which is influenced by their service-oriented upbringing rooted in their common cultural orientation, and (c) South Asian administrators believe they have a greater positive impact on the educational experiences of South Asian students than White administrators. These three major findings were a critical counter-story of the tenuous space of leadership within the BCSD for South Asian administrators, and the effect of their role modelling upon the schooling experiences of South Asian students in the larger hegemonic institutional structures of schooling in the BCSD. The opportunity to voice this counter-story opened up spaces for dialogue around issues of race and racism within the BCSD, and may serve to inform a more critical anti-racist praxis for potential future policy shifts in the BCSD.

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Educators Engaging in Philosophical Conversational Spaces: Participatory Action Research as a Model for Initiating Change (2015)

This study examined the impact that the establishment of a philosophical conversational space would have on a group of participants and their school context. Specifically, the research questions focused on what effects this participation would have in terms of motivation and morale, sense of professional community, and also its effect upon teaching practice in the classroom. In addition, the study sought to determine in what ways educational institutions can be recreated to include meaningful spaces for philosophical inquiry and critique. This study is informed by critical theory and thus views research as an opportunity to critically analyze the ways in which educational institutions function. Using participatory action research as a methodological foundation for the study allowed participants to play an integral role within the research project. Several themes emerged from the research. The first theme highlighted the importance of the diversity of the group and the sense of community that developed through the study. The second theme identified the importance of using philosophical texts to initiate critical reflection and the interrogation of each participant’s teaching experiences within the school while inspiring possibilities for change. The third important factor to emerge was the way in which participatory action research facilitated the creation of a space in which participants experienced a sense of agency while working together to develop an action plan within the context of their school community. The research suggests there is great value in the creation of conversational spaces that utilize the resources of educational philosophy. It also highlights how participatory action research can be a valuable vehicle in the development and initiation of such spaces in which participants can experience a greater sense of agency as they pursue opportunities for personal growth and institutional transformation.

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Reclaiming Jung-Suh: Investigating Korean Parents Choice of an Early Childhood Program (2014)

The purpose of my study is to investigate Korean parents’ rationale behind their choice of sending their children to a preschool program that hosts mainly Korean children and instructs the curriculum in English. This qualitative case study involved in-depth interviews with six mothers and examined their cultural, social and educational reasons for sending their children to one particular school, which for many involved long drives from their homes on a daily basis. The research questions that guide the study include: 1) What considerations influence parents’ decisions to enrol their children in a Korean-Canadian preschool? 2) How do the parents view this space/place in regard to preserving Korean culture, language and identity? 3) How do the parents’ concerns and decisions embody (if at all) Korean-Canadian immigrant experiences of living between cultures? Study findings illustrate the mothers’ desire to maintain their children’s Korean identity and language and prepare their children with English language skills needed for elementary school. The main motive behind these desires is to ensure that teachers and peers in the Kindergarten classroom do not overlook their children. The mothers also expressed their desire that the program support their children’s Korean identity and language by maintaining Jung-Suh, a particular way of living and being as Korean. These mothers expressed a belief that maintaining Jung-Suh would keep their children’s Korean identity alive and encourage their children to preserve their Korean language which would allow their children to sustain intergeneration relationships and deepen their cultural connection. The mothers’ experiences highlight courage and agency as well as a sense of vulnerability that they encounter as immigrants to Canada. I frame their experiences within colonial theory, reproduced through the practice of mainstream Eurocentric schooling. I conclude with my own decolonizing learning as part of this research.

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