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Experience Bridging

Rutledge, Lee J. (2022) Experience Bridging. Doctoral Dissertation, University of Pittsburgh. (Unpublished)

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U.S. schools have become much more intensely segregated over the last four decades. A large portion of schools designated as in need of improvement are highly segregated, highly minoritized schools, which have mostly or entirely white faculty—called mismatch schools here.
Teachers use imperfect mechanisms to form impressions of their students, which can lead to systematically biased expectations and resultant less effective instructional choices. If teachers do not plan to look, students may have untapped “funds of knowledge” that aren’t used to build new understandings (Gonzalez, et al., 2005). Every student brings experiences to school that have the potential to shape new learning. Over more than a decade working in mismatch schools, I noticed a large number of teachers at some schools may underuse these experiences, which leads those students to learn less than they otherwise might.

In this dissertation, a set of teachers in the midst of a curricular reform teach newly created integrated STEM units in a California district. Using improvement science, partners worked to increase experience bridging—the use of students’ life experiences for learning. Teachers used a newly introduced tool, student experience inventories, to gain knowledge of students’ experiences pertinent to STEM content. I find that teachers varied in using the tool and combined it with other approaches to learn about students’ experiences with content. I also find that teachers describe a number of promising learning mechanisms at play using these experiences. These include drawing on familiarity, building knowledge, establishing rapport, and changing their examples. Two outlying mechanisms that are related to learning include creating class dynamics where students can use these experiences and a teacher’s belief in students’ capabilities. Teachers also describe using the prompts to gain benefits in engagement and to reduce student anxiety about being wrong, which may have a more complicated connection to learning more. One implication of the study is that student experience inventories, revised in part based on the insights of the teachers who used them, will be part of integrated STEM units disseminated nationally.


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Item Type: University of Pittsburgh ETD
Status: Unpublished
CreatorsEmailPitt UsernameORCID
Rutledge, Lee J.leerutledge@pitt.eduljr47
ETD Committee:
TitleMemberEmail AddressPitt UsernameORCID
Committee ChairGunzenhauser, Michaelmgunzen@pitt.edumgunzen
Committee MemberHill,
Committee MemberQuigley, Cassiecquigley@pitt.educquigley
Date: 5 July 2022
Date Type: Publication
Defense Date: 10 May 2022
Approval Date: 5 July 2022
Submission Date: 13 June 2022
Access Restriction: No restriction; Release the ETD for access worldwide immediately.
Number of Pages: 111
Institution: University of Pittsburgh
Schools and Programs: School of Education > Administrative and Policy Studies
Degree: EdD - Doctor of Education
Thesis Type: Doctoral Dissertation
Refereed: Yes
Uncontrolled Keywords: student experiences life experiences STEM cultural responsiveness cultural practices funds of knowledge relevant learning
Date Deposited: 05 Jul 2022 14:10
Last Modified: 05 Jul 2022 14:10


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