Term of Award

Fall 2007

Degree Name

Doctor of Education in Curriculum Studies (Ed.D.)

Document Type and Release Option

Dissertation (open access)

Department

Department of Curriculum, Foundations, and Reading

Committee Chair

John A. Weaver

Committee Member 1

Missy Bennett

Committee Member 2

Debra Freedman

Committee Member 3

William M. Reynolds

Abstract

Teachers have lost autonomy due to the restraints placed on them by local and state standards and standardized testing. I am concerned that teachers have lost sight of their purpose as intellectuals who guide students in the development of critical thinking skills. In this dissertation, I used film to examine teachers' abilities to think critically. I used the phenomenological perspective of Maurice Merleau-Ponty and Vivian Sobchack to examine how teachers physically and mentally react to representations of teachers and teaching as selected films depict them. I considered how the teachers' embodiment of film played a part in guiding them to deeper discussions about their experiences. I proposed that by offering teachers a space in which to regain their critical thinking skills, teachers could reconnect with their intellectual persona, affording them the opportunity to reposition themselves in the community as analytical thinkers who strive to meet the needs of their students while simultaneously compelling students to go beyond the imposed standards into their own spaces to explore critical thinking themselves. The questions driving this study were: 1) Are teachers able to think critically, specifically showing an awareness of their embodiment of film as it relates to themselves and their profession? 2) How does group discussion among peers encourage teachers to participate in critical pedagogy? and 3) Is 1 there evidence that teachers, at the conclusion of the study, show more active interest in their positions related to and the current state of education? To investigate the questions, two teacher focus groups met four times to view films depicting teachers and education. Following each viewing, the participants discussed their thoughts for thirty minutes. The participants later wrote a reflective journal entry. The conclusion of this study demonstrated that the conversations took on the tone of critical discourse about education in terms of the topics discussed, such as situations related to anti-intellectualism and surveillance. In comparing the film worlds to their own worlds, the participants demonstrated that, through discussion and analysis, they were able to read the films phenomenologically as well as critically, pushing many participants toward the development of a critical pedagogy.

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