Student Experiences of a Diversity-Positive Chapter Book: An Interpretive Phenomenological Analysis Using an Arts-Informed Analysis

  • Author / Creator
    Gilmour, Laura Lynn
  • This study aimed to understand the lived experience of school-aged children engaging with a diversity-positive chapter book in a classroom setting. Participants were 9 third-grade students and 26 sixth-grade students and their respective teachers in a Canadian urban school. An interpretive phenomenological analysis with an arts-informed approach was utilized to collect and interpret data.
    Before the study, I created a children’s chapter book, The Book of Can’t and Don’t, exploring the friendship between a fictional child living on the autism spectrum and her new cousin internationally adopted from Haiti. Book creation involved implementing feedback from people with disabilities, racial minorities, immigrants, and community professionals. Teachers read the story to students over four weeks, with two chapters read aloud per week. In addition, once a week, the students participated in a Draw and Write activity where they drew scenes inspired by each week’s readings.
    The following major themes emerged in the coding process: a) expression of negative emotions, b) expression of positive emotions, c) experiencing or noticing individual differences, and d) experiences of emotional or internal conflict resolution. Most student responses described experiences from their lives that they perceived as emotionally equivalent to experiences of the characters in the book. Notable developmental differences were observed between students in third grade and students in the fifth-sixth grade classroom. Third-grade children often described caregiver separation and nighttime fears (e.g., ghosts). The older students tended to describe the fear of embarrassment in peer social situations, fear of peer rejection, and individual differences as a component of their identity (e.g., race). I expected more responses where students discussed disabilities, race, or other individual differences. However, only a few student responses mentioned these themes. Extant literature supports the idea that school-aged children are at a developmental age where they are peer-oriented and desire to assimilate with peers. Both abilities to understand the emotional state of others and self-concept continue to develop during this period. As children approach adolescence, self-concept separate from others grows in importance, and children become increasingly independent from adult caregivers.
    The results from this study support the use of The Book of Can’t and Don’t as a tool for a) facilitating discussion in classrooms on social and emotional learning and intersectionality, b) creating opportunities for validation and acceptance of students with individual differences, and c) creating a sense of community in classroom settings by putting students and teachers into the mindset for shared understanding.

  • Subjects / Keywords
  • Graduation date
    Spring 2022
  • Type of Item
  • Degree
    Doctor of Philosophy
  • DOI
  • License
    This thesis is made available by the University of Alberta Libraries with permission of the copyright owner solely for non-commercial purposes. This thesis, or any portion thereof, may not otherwise be copied or reproduced without the written consent of the copyright owner, except to the extent permitted by Canadian copyright law.