Date of Award

Spring 1-1-2013

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)



First Advisor

Elizabeth Dutro

Second Advisor

Martin Bickman

Third Advisor

Anne DiPardo

Fourth Advisor

William McGinley

Fifth Advisor

Michele Moses


The following project uses both narrative and feminist poststructural lenses to consider how narratives operated in one undergraduate social foundations of education class purposefully designed around issues of social justice. These theoretical frameworks were useful in exploring the ways students and myself, the course instructor, were variously positioned amongst both dominant and counter storylines that took up issues such as educational opportunity, diversity in schools, racial oppression, gender performance, and sexuality. In exploring the way stories worked to provide students with new ways of being, thinking, seeing and doing around such issues, this project goes beyond work that understands narratives as pointing to some “out there” reality. Rather, students’ personal stories and ones they told about their families, community members, and peers were understood as always in process, being discursively negotiated amongst other circulating narratives, told and untold. Rather than focus on big, canonical narratives that tend to privilege the traditional “story arc” and are explicitly elicited, this project primarily takes “small stories”, those that occur in interaction and often in fragmented ways, as entry points to discursive analysis of student conversation and case study interviews. The conversational data, drawn from three “narrative events” over the course of the semester with students, enabled a broader view into the use of “small stories” to construct versions of selves and their connection to larger claims about the world. The case studies follow four students as they negotiate who they are in the course in light of their own stories, those of others, and larger storylines invoked throughout the semester.

The results of this project suggest that stories of a variety of forms and genres are both regulated and serve regulatory functions given larger storylines around inequity, diversity and difference throughout our society. Nevertheless, the rules surrounding the telling and listening of stories were constantly being negotiated, challenged, and reworked by students, enabling a look into the movement and interplay of stories and the storylines they helped to construct. Ultimately, this work indicates the need to continue to see stories as part and parcel of classroom experience and consider the promises and perils of placing stories from variously positioned individuals into contact with one another.