Dissertations, Theses, and Capstone Projects

Date of Degree


Document Type


Degree Name





Susan Saegert

Committee Members

Joan Greenbaum

Luke Waltzer

Asilia Franklin-Phipps

Subject Categories

Higher Education | Psychology | Scholarship of Teaching and Learning


learning, learning ecology, new materialism, ecological psychology


In this dissertation, drawing on Karen Barad’s theory of agential realism (2007), I explore the learning ecology as a “specific material configuration” that produces learning, an emergent, “onto-epistemological” phenomenon of entangled being-knowing. I offer a new materialist approach to the learning ecology to better define the concept, taking seriously the material nature of the ecology and acknowledging that learning and knowing is a material practice of being in the world.

To explore learning ecologies, I conducted qualitative interview and mapping sessions with 26 undergraduate students at the City University of New York. To analyze the narrative and visual data, I utilized a diffractive reading methodology to explore patterns of difference in the materialization of ecologies and examine how these differences support or hinder the emergence of learning.

The learning ecology materializes as an entangled network of places, supplies, technologies, people, and practices, whose intra-actions foster or hinder possibilities for being and knowing. The learning ecology itself is an emergent phenomenon produced by students’ everyday practices of being in the world. Diffraction patterns within and across students’ ecologies reveal how the campus acts as a catalyst in the formation of the learning ecology, that both human and nonhuman components leverage agency to create access or barriers to resources, and that different forms of pedagogical, technological, and institutional interference can support or stifle the emergence of learning. These ecologies of material-discursive components are embedded within structures of power, politics, and agency. Recognizing that learning emerges from component intra-actions creates opportunities for actors entangled within the ecologies to foster increasingly supportive ecologies that can facilitate the emergence of transformative ways of being-knowing.