Summaries of Dissertations on Teaching-Related Topics

Topic: Assignments
Words: 2319 Pages: 8

Culturally relevant Biographies by Aubrey Southall

The utilization of culturally appropriate biographies during training is the topic of this dissertation. In the United States, English learners (EL) experience difficulty because most courses lack a connection to their cultures. Southall (2016) chose to investigate how educators feel about incorporating culture into their classrooms. The dissertation’s key finding is the observation that many teachers think that culturally relevant biographies have a beneficial impact on EL outcomes.

The dissertation has a vital connection to my teaching practice and philosophy. This is because, as a social studies educator, the selection of course materials and instructions determines the teaching outcome. Students have a different levels of comprehension, which means that customizing instructions could be the most effective way of achieving a balance in students’ education achievements. Social studies should allow the students to connect with their own culture and social life. Therefore, culturally relevant biographies could be perfect tools for facilitating self-assessment and reflection among EL learners. The inspiration to use Southall’s (2016) dissertation is that it paid attention to some of the marginalized groups of students: Latinos and African Americans. As an educator, these students often require special attention, and the course materials need to be modified to fit their cultural needs.

As a result of this dissertation, I would change my pedagogy to give marginalized students the edge they deserve in education. I would incorporate more culturally relevant biographies that capture the essence of their culture. However, it is important to acknowledge that there are often no special classes for these students, which means that an educator will encounter them in a mix comprising the white majority. Considering that immigrants are part of the EL learners, it means that I would need to research my students’ backgrounds before deciding what biographies to use.

Retention of Accomplished Veteran Social Studies Teachers by Russel Hardin

The focus of this dissertation is on the retention of veteran social studies teachers, which is a major concern due to the high turnover rate. According to Hardin (2014), approximately 30% of new teachers leave the profession in the first three years while n estimated 40% leave after five years. This is the main lesson from the dissertation, alongside the fact that teachers appreciate more autonomy over the development of curricula. Additionally, the dissertation reveals the need to support teachers in their pursuit of professional development goals.

The dissertation has little to influence my teaching practice and philosophy because it does not address many issues related to pedagogy. However, it expresses the need for teachers’ participation in curricular development. As an educator, I can support the argument that teachers are best suited to understanding the educational needs of their learners. They witness first-hand social and cultural changes and the emergence of new gaps in pedagogy. Most Importantly, my philosophy supports the presence of veteran teachers because their experience can be critical in influencing the academic success of the institutions.

I am inspired by the dissertation’s attention to the needs of teachers, who often are overlooked by policymakers. In many cases, it is not uncommon to find that teachers do not complain more about their pay than they do with the working environment. Hardin finds that teachers prefer to stay where they feel that they are making significant contributions. As a teacher, the reading expresses the need to change my attitude towards my job. In terms of pedagogy, the only possible change would be consultation with more experienced practitioners and integrating their wisdom into my teaching.

Looking at the Past by Jearl Nix

The focus of this dissertation is the question of how eighth-grade teachers incorporate visual texts in their instruction. The key lesson from Nix’s (2016) study is that teachers have to deal with a generation of students who are mass consumers of visual texts. As such, it would be expected that the trend would have some implications on the teachers’ pedagogical decisions. However, the dissertation reveals that most educators lack both knowledge and prior experience in dealing with the situation. What inspired me to select this dissertation is that the researcher addresses a current issue that affects all modern teachers. Questions of whether phones should be allowed in classrooms have been debated but Nix (2016) goes a step further to explore if the teaching decisions are affected by the presence of visual text.

The dissertation will have massive implications on my teaching practice and philosophy. Teaching social studies requires awareness of current issues, which means that any educator should find a means of incorporating the new technologies when designing instructional materials and making other pedagogical decisions. Historical visual texts can be incorporated, especially since such new technologies as monitors and projectors are increasingly becoming incorporated in classrooms.

Additionally, there are several aspects of my pedagogy I would consider after reading the dissertation. First, I would consider using more visual aids, which means learning to use computers and projectors in the classroom. Therefore, my presentations in class would incorporate as many visual texts as possible because the modern students would find them more enticing than using textbooks and other printed material. Additionally, I would also consider sending materials to students’ phones for take-home learning materials and assessments as part of embracing the use of visual texts in the classroom.

Back Away from the Lecture om the Lecture Notes by Christopher Moore

This is another dissertation that considers the possibility of integrating technology in social studies classrooms. Moore (2015) believes there is a possibility of using simulation games to increase student engagement in the classroom. The key lessons from the dissertation include the observation that the slow adoption of technology is the unwillingness of teachers to adopt new technologies. Additionally, the simulation games illustrated that student engagement could be improved through the use of new technologies. The dissertation connects to my teaching practice and philosophy in that the lessons have practical implications for pedagogy. In other words, it leads to the contemplation of how educators can use technology to improve the academic outcomes of their students. The teaching practice could use more enhancing technologies because the current generation of students is more tech-savvy. Therefore, it is up to the teachers to modify their philosophy and find means of accommodating technology.

The inspiration from the dissertation is the enthusiasm of the researcher in advocating the use of new technologies in the classroom. Secondly, Moore (2015) challenges teachers to drop their reluctance to adopt new technologies. It is important to clarify that even though the dissertation focuses on simulation games, the basic idea is that new technologies can find useful applications in the social studies classroom. Therefore, one aspect I would change in my pedagogy is the nature of instructional delivery to incorporate more technologies. While simulation games are a key consideration, other alternatives would also be explored. Videos and demonstrations are becoming important instructional materials. Therefore, there is a possibility of using more advanced technologies, including augmented reality and virtual reality.

Promoting Historical Empathy by Katherine Perrotta

The focus of this dissertation is on historical empathy (HE), described as deep inquiry that shapes emotional and academic response through analysis of actions, perspectives, motives, and beliefs of people. The key lesson is that there are underappreciated historical figures who have made significant contributions to various aspects of social studies. Additionally, the dissertation expresses that most of these figures are women, especially from such marginalized groups as African Americans, whose absence from pedagogy is the result of gender exclusion. This reading connects to my teaching practice and philosophy because key lessons taught in class involve historical figures whose contributions to society are aligned with specific course topics. The selection of historical figures may depend on the theme of the class. Even though most personalities are used based on the selections of the curriculum developers, teachers can raise further examples based on their knowledge and understanding. Additionally, emerging stories can become a key part of the pedagogy, especially when the events are associated with a historical issue forming a critical component of the social studies class.

The inspiration from the dissertation is the fact that it is a common pedagogical practice that real-life examples from historical events are used to demonstrate a topic in social studies. This raised the question of who decides which historical figures to be used and what selection criteria are used. The findings by Perrotta (2016) would force me to change a few pedagogical practices to include as many historical figures as possible, especially if they remain relevant to some of the most recent and emerging social studies issues being taught in class. I would also make an effort to recommend certain figures to the curriculum developers if I feel that they make more sense for my classrooms.

Practical Paternalism by Lauren Bradshaw

The dissertation focuses on the life and contributions of G. Gunby Jordan towards education through philanthropy. Other figures from the South are also incorporated in the discussion where the key lessons revolve around what they did for education. The concepts of paternalism and fraternalism as they apply to pedagogy are also discussed and a case for practical education is made. The dissertation connects to my teaching philosophy and practice because social studies is a course that requires frequent references to people who have made significant contributions. Additionally, many of the figures mentioned in social studies classes are often recommended by the developers of the curriculum. Therefore, the dissertation mostly adds to the list of historical personnel that could be incorporated into my class teachings and other pedagogical decisions.

The inspiration from the dissertation comes from the individuals mentioned and their contributions, as well as the introduction of the concepts of paternalism and fraternalism. Most interestingly, Bradshaw (2016) illustrates the need for vocational education as advocated by Jordan and such other individuals as Columbus. Interestingly, vocational or industrial training is necessary because any industrialized country requires students to understand both the processes of development and the practical skills necessary to fit in the industries. One of the things I might change in my pedagogy is more references to these individuals and their contributions beyond what has been included in the prescribed course materials. However, considering that the industrial revolution continues today in different forms, I would consider the possibility of those figures spearheading the new industrial development to make pedagogy more aligned with recent events. Additionally, I would make deliberate efforts to make the course materials more appealing to all students and omit such ideas as the ‘worthy whites’ promoted by Jordan and other southern industrialists.

Multiple Perspectives in a Virtual Environment by Tiffany McBean

The dissertation addressed several issues that affect current trends in pedagogical practices. Firstly, the use of new technologies in the form of the virtual environment is discussed. Second, the dissertation explored the issues of inclusion where race and racism are highlighted. Lastly, McBean (2018) broaches the subject of best practices in the virtual classroom. Therefore, the key lesson is that race and racism are matters that are largely ignored in the discourses of virtual education. With the focus being the Georgia Virtual School (GAVS), the researcher reveals that traditionally marginalized groups are underrepresented. Most importantly, race and racism as an area of study have been omitted from the curriculum taught at the GAVS). The dissertation connects to my teaching practice and philosophy because the issues surrounding race and racism form a critical part of the curriculum and instructional content. Therefore, the fact that virtual classrooms are an emerging concept means that there needs to be a seamless process where traditional instructional materials are transferred to the virtual platforms without omitting key elements of pedagogy.

The inspiration from the study comes from the intersectionality of the three areas of study: virtual environment, race and racism, and best practices in education. The idea that these new concepts are becoming a reality and that every teacher will encounter them means they raise some interest when they are studied. As an educator in social studies, the changes I would make in my pedagogy would include the use of the new technologies, which means embracing virtual classrooms. Additionally, I would make deliberate efforts to ensure that all relevant content is included in the virtual classrooms to retain the authenticity of the education. Inclusive practices would form a key part of any pedagogical decision and practice on these virtual platforms.

Acknowledging the Elephant in the Room by Caroline Conner

The dissertation explores some of the major challenges affecting teacher coaches. The key lesson is that the social studies teachers who also act as coaches experience heightened levels of stress leading to burnout, role retreatism, and strain. Additionally, teaching and coaching is a complex issue that has its benefits and challenges, some of which affect the work-family relationships (Conner, 2014). The dissertation has some connections to my teaching practice and philosophy. First, dual roles are a common phenomenon in most schools, which means I can find myself handling tasks other than teaching. The effects of such duties on the efficacy of a teacher in the classroom attract my interest. Second, I believe in extracurricular activities and their usefulness for the students, which means as a teacher there is a need to lead by example. In other words, my pedagogy and classroom practices need to leave adequate room for other activities.

The inspiration from this dissertation comes from the realization that social studies teachers are handling coaching duties. This raises my curiosity regarding how such individuals cope with the pressure. I am also interested in understanding whether in the future I might find myself in such a situation, which raises the question of what should be done to achieve the perfect balance between classroom and sports, as well as family life. Currently, there is nothing that needs to change in my pedagogy. However, critical changes may be a necessity should I ever find myself coaching and teaching at the same time.


Bradshaw, L. (2016). Practical paternalism: G. Gunby Jordan’s quest for a vocational school system in Columbus, Georgia. [Dissertation, Georgia State University]. ScholarWorks @ Georgia State University.

Conner, C. (2014). Acknowledging the elephant in the room: a multiple-case study exploring the experiences of social studies teacher-coaches. [Dissertation, Georgia State University]. ScholarWorks @ Georgia State University.

Hardin, R. (2014). Retention of accomplished veteran social studies teachers. [Dissertation, Georgia State University]. ScholarWorks @ Georgia State University.

McBean, T. (2018). Perspectives in a virtual environment: Critically examining virtual history curriculum. [Dissertation, Georgia State University]. ScholarWorks @ Georgia State University.

Moore, C. (2015). Back away from the lecture notes: Using a simulation game to engage social studies haters. [Dissertation, Georgia State University]. ScholarWorks @ Georgia State University.

Nix, J. (2016). Looking at the past: Eighth grade social studies teachers and historical visual texts. [Dissertation, Georgia State University]. ScholarWorks @ Georgia State University.

Perrotta, K. (2016). More than a feeling: A study on conditions that promote historical empathy in middle and secondary social studies classes with “The Elizabeth Jennings Project”. [Dissertation, Georgia State University]. ScholarWorks @ Georgia State University.

Southall, A. (2016) “Sí, Se Puede (Yes, We Can), Culturally relevant biographies: A study on the impact of culturally relevant biographies on social studies instruction. [Dissertation, Georgia State University]. ScholarWorks @ Georgia State University.

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