Alexandra Pulchny

Alexandra Pulchny (she/her)
PhD Student
Department of Sociology
McMaster University

Current Research Project:

The “Ever-Evolving” Values and Practices of Inclusion and Diversity in Canadian Public Schools

My area of research interest is the Sociology of Education, and culturally responsive pedagogy and inclusion practices within educational institutions. My proposed dissertation research is centered on three key concepts: (1) the current landscape of pre-service training in Ontario, including the framework of content, practices, and skills that guide the instruction of future teachers; (2) the ways in which these programs prepare teachers to implement culturally responsive practices in the classroom; and, (3) the long-term effectiveness of the practices learned in pre-teaching training.

This study addresses its findings by presenting two phases of the experience of teachers with inclusion and diversity practices and culturally responsive pedagogy; it aims to produce a realistic portrayal of the multiple barriers and disconnects in the educational systems that slow or hinder the diffusion and success of innovative practices. I will present the experiences and voices of in-service and pre-service educators by employing a mixed-methods approach of survey data and interviews.

My goal is to inform policy and curriculum that changes the ways in which pre-service teachers are prepared to teach using inclusive and diverse practices, and addresses the structural inequalities present in educational institutions that inhibit the success of complex inclusion and diversity strategies. Additionally, I aim to build and disseminate knowledge on the structure and components of teacher training, on the importance and complexities of inclusion and diversity strategies in educational institutions, and on the required practices for implementing successful initiatives.

What motivated you to pursue this project?

I have always been interested in Sociology of Education and research centred on social inequalities. During the summer of 2020, I worked as a Teaching Assistant for the Acadia University School of Education. The students in their final semester of the program often reflected on the importance of implementing diversity and inclusion strategies in their future classrooms. This inspired me to find out if these motivated student teachers end up implementing diversity and inclusion strategies into their teaching practices and classroom environments. Additionally to implementation, I questioned the role of educational institutions and how they might support or inhibit these educators in implementing these practices.

Where do you see your project having the most impact?

I hope to become an agent through which educators and student voices can be heard to affect change within educational institutions and educate future teachers, professionals, and leaders on the importance of inclusion, diversity, and culturally responsive pedagogy to the future of Canadian education systems. The goals of my research are: (1) to inform policy and curriculum that changes the ways in which pre-service teachers are prepared to teach using inclusive and diverse practices, and addresses the structural inequalities present in educational institutions that inhibit the success of complex inclusion and diversity strategies; (2) to build and disseminate knowledge on the structure and components of teacher training, on the importance and complexities of inclusion and diversity strategies in educational institutions, and on the required practices for implementing successful initiatives.

Are there any other aspects of your work or interests that you would like to share?

In addition to my PhD courses and research assistant work, I am currently working with a non-profit organization called Mathstronauts on a project report for their “NEXUS” program, which provides educational opportunities in STEM and soft skills to high-school students from at-risk communities in Hamilton, Ontario. This project is supported through funding from MITACS. I am conducting this work under the supervision of Dr. Karen Robson, PhD, and Sehrish Zehra, Executive Director of Mathstronauts.

What advice do you have for other graduate students?

Make sure you are passionate about what you do!

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