Date of Degree


Document Type


Degree Name



Liberal Studies


Kenneth Tobin

Subject Categories

Curriculum and Social Inquiry | Liberal Studies


Representation, Engagement, Democratic Education, Culture, Development, Citizenry


At a time where Americans are beginning to engage in critical dialogue about the representation of minorities in the media, conversations about representation in education have been somewhat elusive or condensed. With the popular focus for marginalized communities being on issues of stereotype threat, achievement deficits, and culturally responsive pedagogy, it seems that policy makers are often left to make decisions that lack considerable connection between the cognitive, social and emotional implications of inclusivity in educational curriculum. Furthermore, there hasn't appeared to be an extensive analysis of these issues between and among relative disciplines. For example, when we discuss representation in film, we very often cite the importance of people seeing multidimensional examples of themselves on the screen as having an impact on their identity development, and implications for their self-esteem across the lifespan. We too acknowledge (though perhaps not enough) the role of emotions in education, and the connection between sense of self and self-esteem. Yet, and still, it seems we have not yet begun to piece together the bricolage of information, in psychology, in anthropology, and education, that might suggest the varying implications of inclusivity for students’ engagement in schools.

This thesis seeks to investigate the nature of the connection between representation and student engagement in schools, through an intersectional analysis of current trends in representation theory, the role of identity in socio-emotional development, the role of emotions in student engagement and the development of a framework for investigating the connections between cultural validation, expanded diversity and civic engagement across the lifespan. It is my greatest intention that the culmination of this thesis will present sufficient justification for continued investigation and research, and will open up the possibility for interventions that will have a meaningful impact for identities across the spectrum.