Four WSE students receive PURE awards

Congratulations to Christopher Klune, Erica Kunimoto, Weston Sandberg and Zac Wierzbicki!

The Werklund School of Education is proud to celebrate the success of four of our exceptional undergraduate students, who have been selected to receive Program for Undergraduate Research Experience awards from the Office of the Provost.

Congratulations to Christopher Klune, Erica Kunimoto, Weston Sandberg and Zac Wierzbicki! Click on the links below to learn more about their research

Chris Klune

Tell us about your project.

“My project will be focusing on history of education in Alberta, particularly in how Communism affected the development of secondary social studies. Previous research has demonstrated that progressive methods of education such as vocational education and learner-centered pedagogies embodied a curriculum that sought to educate students as defenders of democracy ready to contribute to a strong Canadian economy as a means to resist communist influence. Where there seems to be a gap, and what I would like to explore further, is how notions of communism in the development of Secondary Social Studies curricula played out on the many levels inside and outside of the classroom. Was there a strong continuity in policy and practice or were there significant variations in how ideas regarding Communism in social studies education transferred between the government that advocated for them and the schools and teachers that were meant to enliven them? I think something unique this project might delve into is transformative spaces in education and curriculum; as in investigating how educational policies and practices vis-à-vis fears of communism were developed on a provincial level and how they disseminated into actual schools. My hope is that this project can shed some light on the importance of transformative spaces and processes where philosophy of curriculum is developed and how this impacts teaching practice. I believe it has both historical and contemporary implications for teachers.”

What does it mean to you to be selected for the PURE award?

As a concurrent student in education I’ve come to develop a strong passion for teaching. I also have recently become more interested in research in education, and I am very grateful that the PURE award allows me to pursue interests that I would otherwise not have an opportunity to do in my courses or my practicum. PURE means a lot to me as an education student because our undergraduates are not traditionally known for doing research when compared to other faculties in the University. Though I think over the past few years we’ve had some really passionate undergraduates come forward using the PURE award to dispel this notion and I feel very privileged to be a part of that. It will be very personally fulfilling for me to experience what it is like to do research in the field of history of education in Alberta. I think this experience will help ground me as an aspiring social studies teacher and give me necessary research experience when I get to looking at graduate school. Though I might not pursue studies in the field of history of education I think this experience will be important in broadening my perspective on research methodologies and learning how to connect with other researchers. I’ve already got a great supervisor in Dr. (Lisa) Panayotidis so I’m excited for the mentorship aspect of the experience as well. Overall I hope my cohort of Werklund PURE winners will be able to share our experiences in a meaningful way that could encourage more education students interested in research to take the leap and pursue their passions.”

Supervisor Lisa Panayotidis on student Chris Klune’s successful proposal:

“Chris Klune’s inquiry into the little known topic of how discourses on communism were incorporated and contested in the Alberta Secondary Social Studies curriculum will make an important contribution to the interdisciplinary scholarly field of the Canadian history of education. A history student and future social studies teacher, Chris’ research will also assist emerging educators in the Werklund School, and in the teaching community more broadly to consider the always shifting historical narratives that have shaped curriculum in the province.  Passionately committed to the study of the past in education, Chris is well placed to undertake this significant study.”

Erica Kunimoto

Tell us about your project.

“This spring, I will be researching Alberta Education’s revision of the Health and CALM (Career and Life Management) Program of Studies, as they move towards a Wellness Education Framework. While intensive research and input from stakeholders has been put into this revision process, there has been surprisingly little discussion on the integration of human sexuality. As a result, I have found this research topic to be of great interest to me, as I believe it is essential to afford the topic of human sexuality as much attention and exploration as other aspects of health education. For my project, I will be working with Dr. (Dianne) Gereluk to examine the philosophical underpinnings of both the current and newly proposed health curriculum in Alberta. Through my research, I hope to determine how closely the two frameworks align, and to discern whether certain conceptual goals of wellness education may or may not be realized in Alberta’s current Health and CALM curriculum. With these findings, it is my goal to increase critical discussion on how human sexuality ought to be taken up in education.

What does it mean to you to be selected for the PURE award?

“I am very grateful to have received a PURE award, as this means that I can spend my spring doing the things that I love the most – reading, writing and learning! As a student who is hopeful of entering graduate school one day, the opportunity to gain insight into the research process is invaluable.  Furthermore, having the guidance of an expert in the field to support me throughout this experience is something that I am incredibly appreciative of. Overall, I know that this award will develop my professional and personal growth as a pre-service teacher, and I look forward to bringing all that I learn into the classroom with me next year.”

Supervisor Dianne Gereluk on student Erica Kunimoto’s successful proposal:

“Erica Kunimoto has identified a timely debate about the proposed changes to the Career and Life Management course that is mandatory for all secondary students in Alberta.  While the intent is to move the CALM course to more of a wellness framework, Erica plans to examine whether the proposed changes are sufficient to encompass broader aspects about sexuality.  This topic is incredibly timely in Alberta, but is occurring on national and international levels about the nature of wellness.

Erica is incredibly well placed to examine the theoretical debates that underpin this controversial topic.  As a fourth year political science student who will be returning to the Werklund School of Education in the fall, she has been considering how political theory, and specifically feminist perspectives, may shed light on this topic. An articulate and driven person, Erica displays the dispositions of solid applied theoretical work to real world problems found in the field of education.”

Weston Sandberg

Tell us about your project.

I have two goals; creating a computational, multi-agent based, interactive simulation for music composition, as well as, developing a public outreach exhibit for k12 students and teachers to introduce them to a few key ideas of computational thinking using this technology. I will integrate open source multi-agent programming languages (such as NetLogo) and microcontrollers (such as ArduinoTM) and infrared sensors in order to create Agent Sonos, a new kind of learning environment for K12 students and teachers. In multi-agent based computation, each agent can take on a “role” by performing a set of rules assigned by the user; and the overall simulation is capable of “running” interactions between hundreds of agents or groups of agents, simultaneously.  A song or a musical tune, in this perspective, can be understood to “emerge” from the interactions between smaller chunks of musical compositional elements such as notes, chords and progressions.  Students will experience computational thinking by developing computational models to design, digitize and edit the desired musical output. This project will create new and rich experiential learning opportunities for introducing K12 learners and teachers to CS / programming concepts such as variables, probability, and loops to explore randomness, creativity, and computational thinking.”

What does it mean to you to be selected for the PURE award?

I’m excited to win this award for a few reasons. First I’m excited to have the opportunity to inspire music education in the K-12 context. Coming from an anthropology background, I think music and music education is primary to human learning. Music has been a part of humanity longer than agriculture, mathematics, and writing. I know this is true and yet music and music education are incredibly undervalued and under taught in our society. I’m excited at the chance to shine a light on something I consider so important to being human.

Second I’m excited to have the opportunity to explore a research driven educational project. I am considering pursuing a master’s degree and this PURE award will give me the opportunity to see what graduate studies might actually entail. Many students don’t have this chance to explore graduate studies before they apply or enroll. For that I am grateful.
Third is the practical side. This award affords me the chance to do a job I really enjoy. This means that I won’t have to go back to a welding shop for the summer, or pick up night shift hours at the airport. My happiness is not trivial.”

Supervisor Pratim Sengupta on student Weston Sandberg’s successful proposal:

“Weston is working with me on inventing and designing Agent Sonos, a multi-agent-based simulation software for musical composition for collaborative live performances. The intended users of this software are K-12 students, as well as musicians. The literature in educational technology shows that despite the best efforts, educational computing can flatten learning experiences for K-12 students, instead of enhancing them. Weston’s project, and the general research direction of Werklund’s  Mind, Matter & Media Lab where this project is being carried out, challenges this paradigm. From the perspective of learning, Agent Sonos capitalizes on spatial reasoning and embodied modeling as “entry points” and “pathways” for learning complex musical composition as well as programming. At the same time, it is a great tool that professional and beginner musicians can use for collaborative live musical performances. I believe that this project has the potential to serve as a great model of what imaginative K-12 education can look like in the era of ubiquitous computing.” 

Zac Wierzbicki

Tell us about your project.

“I will be investigating media accounts detailing the highly publicized discourses of initiatives, such as the Alberta Government’s Guidelines for Best Practices, implemented to improve LGBTQA* students’ quality of education in Catholic schools across Commonwealth countries. From these accounts, I plan to construct a theory of the media discourse surrounding such initiatives that will empower educators to constructively engage with public interests and implement policies that nurture pedagogically inclusive classrooms.

Social Justice was a key interest for me long before I began University and played a considerable part in my decision to become a teacher. However, even an institution designed to liberate and empower people can contribute, despite the best of intentions, to the propagation of oppression.
As modern education moves into the domain of inquiry, a style of learning that is built around empowering and centering students in their own education, it is imperative to consider how structural and pedagogical methods may systematically prevent students from engaging lines of inquiry that reflect their unique narratives. As such, guidelines fostering inclusive practices in schools serve as more than vanity pieces or token gestures towards achieving social justices, but actually advance the authenticity and integrity of the entire movement.”

What does it mean to you to be selected for the PURE award?

“My decision to become a teacher was born of my interest in reaching out to vulnerable groups when it counts. Even a cursory survey of the literature has shown this to be sometimes perilous, but I am honoured by the opportunity to participate in the process. The PURE award provides an incredible platform upon which to constructively engage with this issue and goes a long way to alleviate the financial and personal obstacles. A hero of mine, Karl Heinrich Ulrichs, has come to represent my aspirations for what it means to be a citizen in a democracy – and I would like to close here with his words, framing his work not as a ladder to notoriety or sophist literature, but as the necessary pursuit of justice:

“Until my dying day I will look back with pride that I found the courage to come face to face in battle against the spectre which for time immemorial has been injecting poison into me and into men of my nature. Many have been driven to suicide because all their happiness in life was tainted. Indeed, I am proud that I found the courage to deal the initial blow to the hydra of public contempt”

Supervisor Tonya Callaghan on student Zac Wierzbicki’s successful proposal:

“I came to know Zachary Wierzbicki in the Fall 2014 semester when he enrolled in my section of EDUC 430, Pragmatics of Teaching & Learning.  Zachary’s research objective to study the backlash surrounding the Alberta Government’s recent “Guidelines for Best Practices: Creating Learning Environments that Respect Diverse Sexual Orientations, Gender Identities and Gender Expressions” is a worthwhile endeavor. It is important to discover why some educators may be reluctant to adopt progressive policies. Zachary’s goal of producing a reference booklet on how to implement the Alberta Government’s Guidelines will be a very practical tool for educators of all levels of experience who may not be familiar with LGBTQA* issues in school settings. Zachary is currently employed as a Research Assistant on one of my research projects, and I am impressed with his research abilities. Hopefully, by undertaking this study, Zachary will become interested in returning to the university to pursue graduate studies at some point in the future.”