Department of Teaching, Learning and Teacher Education


Date of this Version



A DISSERTATION Presented to the Faculty of The Graduate College of the University of Nebraska In Partial Fulfillment of Requirements For the Degree of Doctor of Philosophy, Major: Educational Studies (Teaching, Curriculum, & Learning), Under the Supervision of Professor Edmund T. Hamann. Lincoln, Nebraska: April 6, 2015

Copyright (c) 2015 Dorothy M. Bossman


This dissertation is a narrative exploration of multiple themes relevant to education research: the relationship between the university and school, epistemology, teacher identity, disability studies, researcher subjectivity, and the retention of quality educators. This work of “autoethnography” (Ellis, Bochner, & Adams, 2011) approaches these topics through the tellings of a teaching career, the awakening of an education scholar, and the development of a chronic illness. While the focus of this inquiry often returns to the researcher’s pedagogical identity, the three storylines interact in myriad ways that relate to the larger field. Removal of one of these narrative threads would, metaphorically, unravel this effort and render the work into something less powerful. As a teacher, I struggled to maintain my pedagogical values during my time in secondary schools. As someone who remained a teacher while pursuing a Ph.D., I became a double outsider whose presence in two spheres of education exposed the divide between them. At the same time as these developments, I developed multiple sclerosis, which progressed over my ten years in the classroom. The profound experiences of adjusting to life with a disease and learning to cope with physical disability impacted my practice, research interests, and identity. For some readers, this work stands as an example of a memoir within the genre of “literature of the personal catastrophe” (Mairs, 1994), but for others the writing will be interpreted as “a love letter to teachers” (Ayers, 1993). Ultimately, the project is a criticism of the mechanism of public education, “to challenge traditional educational ideology” (Giroux, 1988, p. xxx), with particular focus on the systematic edging out of committed teachers and the disrespect for the wisdom most relevant for constructing curriculum and preparing young people for their lives.

Advisor: Edmund T. Hamann