Dissertations, Theses, and Capstone Projects

Date of Degree


Document Type


Degree Name



Urban Education


Konstantinos Alexakos

Committee Members

Kenneth Tobin

Gillian Bayne

Subject Categories

Science and Mathematics Education | Secondary Education and Teaching | Social and Behavioral Sciences


Authentic inquiry, Teacher researcher, Mindfulness, Race, Autoethnography


This manuscript-styled dissertation embodies the theoretical and methodological framework of authentic inquiry (Tobin, 2006). In the holistic context of this dissertation, authentic inquiry as a theoretical framework encompasses deep epistemological and ontological questions such as: What is knowledge and how is it informed by research? Who may engage in research? How does positivism compare to authentic inquiry? What are thorny issues and how do they relate to authentic inquiry? How do we research thorny issues in classrooms? What mindfulness practices may be used to research emotions when discussing thorny issues? How do we nuance “safety” in learning spaces where emotions are problematized? How do we push peer-reviewed, academic writing to be more inclusive of authors’ emotions in the science of teaching and learning? Authentic inquiry, as a methodological framework, probes the knowledge making (research) process through the lens of critical hermeneutic phenomenology. The trajectory of questioning, in the scope of teaching and learning, is contingent and emergent on what is being problematized and the dialectal relationship of researcher | researched.

The theoretical and methodological underpinnings of authentic inquiry, as it relates to my development as an emerging teacher | researcher, amalgamate in Chapter 1 as a multilevel and interpretive bricolage to contextualize sociocultural and educational phenomena in my everyday life. Authentic inquiry, adopted by Kenneth Tobin from the works on authenticity by Egon Guba and Yvonna Lincoln (1989), hinges on four methodological criterion: all participants are open to change their worldviews based on what they learn from each other, there is an obligation for participants to understand and learn from each other, there is an expectation to catalyze improvements as a result of the research, and disadvantages or power structures are addressed so that all participants | researchers are considered stakeholders.

In the series of published works, Chapter 2 was the first to be peer-reviewed in 2014. While grappling with imposter syndrome and what it means for me to become a teacher | researcher, Chapter 2 shares my teaching- and learning-informed stories (vignettes and narratives), as well as that of my students attending a New York City Specialized High School. This chapter deconstructs the complexities surrounding the notion of “giftedness”: first from the author’s own experiences as a female scientist and person of color and second from the narratives of high school students. Considering the theoretical framework of mindsets, fixed and growth, I use learning stories to shed light on the events that emerge when an individual takes ownership of their learning. This chapter is significant in that I propose the incorporation of learning stories as an inquiry tool to explore co-teacher | learner mindsets. In terms of the chronological history of my development as a teacher | researcher, this article was the first to be self -authored, peer-reviewed, and published while I was a doctoral student. The opportunity was pivotal and helped to re-frame how I viewed myself as an academician: moving further away from a self-imposed imposter identity to that of an empowered researcher with a burden to give voice to co-participants | co-researchers.

Chapters 3, 4, and 5 of the dissertation were birthed out of my participation as a co-participant | researcher in a teacher preparation program at Brooklyn College of The City University of New York. The Historical, Philosophical, and Sociocultural Foundations of Education and Science course at Brooklyn College (of the City University of New York) is unique in that the curriculum brings into question the broader implications of history, contemporary philosophies, and sociocultural-political ideologies in American schooling, in particular science education (Alexakos, 2015). The course is meant to rouse critical reflection on what knowledge is, who determines what knowledge is (in the lens of hegemony), the role culture plays in knowledge and learning, who and what determines how one is identified and what it means to be othered? The course allows for authentic inquiry into one’s way of “being” in the world and helps teachers become more aware of their own ways of knowing, learning, and teaching. Novel to this work at Brooklyn College was the discussion of difficult forms of knowledge (which we termed thorny issues in Chapter 3) and the integration of mindfulness practices to disarm negative emotions so as to enrich the learning environment with safer and educative ways to promote healing (Tobin, Alexakos, & Powietryznska, 2015). The incorporation of breathing meditations, heuristics, heart rate/pulse oximeters, writing prompts, metalogues, vignettes and narratives allowed for inquiry into one’s praxis as a co-teacher | researcher (Tobin, 2014).

This dissertation is one of the first to explicitly explore thorny issues in the context of authentic inquiry discussed in Chapter 3. Thorny issues are: sociocultural constructs (like race, gender, sexuality, (dis) abilities, classism, and privilege), layered with deep emotions (could be positive or negative) and tend to be more closely aligned with the vulnerabilities of questioning one’s assumptions and beliefs about knowledge, identity, “place” in society, and the emotional valences inextricably associated with engaging in these types of discourses (Alexakos, et al., 2015).

In Chapters 4 and 5, race is a thorny issue addressed from my perspective as a co-teacher | researcher. Chapter 4, is one of the first papers to probe observed physiological synchronies of heart rate, pulse, and dissolved blood oxygen concentration data in response to an emotional discussion between co-teachers in the Brooklyn College course and myself (Amat, et. al., 2016). Chapter 4 of this dissertation is an attempt to nuance the emotions that surfaced while teaching a unit on the history of race and colorism in America. In Chapter 5, I use the authoring of autoethnographic impressionist tales, writing prompts/reflections, and heuristics as mindfulness tools for discussing thorny topics with science teachers in the Brooklyn College course and me as a co-teacher | researcher.

Unique to this dissertation is the compilation of reflexive, authentic inquiry tools which may be used to discuss thorny issues like: race and gender discrimination, privilege and social justice, socioeconomic disparities, (special) education reform, and teacher | learner mindsets. In summary, each chapter provides a repository of inquiry practices, which co-teacher | researchers may use to challenge their worldviews and habitus, (re) build knowledge and transform existing paradigms, question hegemony and power, and catalyze discourse with the purpose of learning from differences.

Alexakos, K. (2015). Being a Teacher | Researcher: A primer on doing authentic inquiry research in teaching and learning. Rotterdam, The Netherlands: Sense Publishers.

Alexakos, K., Pride, L. D., Amat, A., Tsetsakos, P., Lee, K. J., Paylor-Smith, C., Zapata, C., Wright, S., & Smith, T. (2015). Mindfulness and discussing “thorny” issues in the classroom. Cultural Studies of Science Education. 11, pp. 371-400.

Amat, A., Zapata, C., Alexakos, K., Pride, L. D., Paylor-Smith, C., & Hernandez, M. (2016). Incorporating oximeter analyses to investigate heartrates synchrony in teaching and learning about Race. Cultural Studies of Science Education. 11, pp. 785-801

Guba, E., & Lincoln, Y. (1989). Fourth Generation Evaluation. Newbury Park, CA: Sage Publications.

Tobin, K. (2006). Qualitative research in classrooms: pushing the boundaries of theory and methodology. In K. Tobin & J. Kincheloe (Eds.), Doing educational research-A handbook (pp. 15-58). Rotterdam, The Netherlands: Sense Publishers.

Tobin K. (2014). Using Collaborative Inquiry to Better Understand Teaching and Learning. In: Bencze J., Alsop S. (eds), Activist Science and Technology Education. Cultural Studies of Science Education, vol 9. Springer, Dordrecht

Tobin, K., Alexakos, K., & Powietryznska, M. (2015). Mindfulness and wellness: Central components of a science of learning. Innovación Educativa 15 (67), pp. 61-87.