Dissertations, Theses, and Capstone Projects

Date of Degree


Document Type


Degree Name



Urban Education


Kenneth Tobin

Committee Members

Konstantinos Alexakos

Gillian Bayne

Subject Categories

Accessibility | Curriculum and Social Inquiry | Disability and Equity in Education | Educational Assessment, Evaluation, and Research | Educational Methods | Higher Education and Teaching | Junior High, Intermediate, Middle School Education and Teaching | Science and Mathematics Education | Secondary Education | Secondary Education and Teaching | Special Education and Teaching


Reflexivity, Event-oriented inquiry, special education, teacher education


In this dissertation, I explore what it means to different people, in different places throughout life’s spectrum to create a space to learn. This dissertation is a collection of work that I have written throughout my time at the CUNY Graduate Center. The chapters herein represent an arch of my learning over the past five years. The title, A Space to Learn, has multiple meanings. For one, writing this dissertation has provided me a space to explore and reflect on a variety of topics, ranging from memory loss, to teacher preparation programs, to eugenics and special education, to tracking and science education, to video analysis, polysemia, polyphonia, and learning from difference. In the process of writing this dissertation, I have had the opportunity to delve into and investigate many interests. Though the topics within might seem, on the surface, varying, once read together, I believe that clear perspectives on teaching and learning emerge.

Each chapter can stand alone, yet, when put together, themes of a structure | agency dialectic, reflexivity, and learning from experience emerge. Throughout this dissertation, I explore ways to navigate within social and culturally constructed structures that, at times, seem stifling, or down- right oppressive. In some chapters, I look to break down the structure and remake it in a new image. In other chapters, I learn how to find some peace, as I learn how to enact some agency while operating from within.

Each chapter has an element of phenomenology, as the chapters have emerged from lived experiences and encounters. Each chapter also has elements of hermeneutics, as each chapter is each interpreted through my bricolage. As I attempt to uncover what is happening in the events described in this dissertation, I do my best to learn and change from what I am uncovering, in this way, the writing within is reflexive (Bourdieu, 1992).

In each chapter, I burrow further into a topic, carve out different approaches to teaching and learning, and explore intersections of experience, perspectives, and theory. I have changed as a result of writing this dissertation. In its whole, this dissertation has been a “space” for me to learn.