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UBC Theses and Dissertations

At the intersection : migrant students' Canadian identities and the social studies curriculum Horton, Todd Arthur


This study examines the diverse ways students perceive Canada, Canadians, and themselves as Canadians, in an effort to contribute to ongoing theory-building about Canadian identity. This study also evaluates social studies curriculum documents and textbooks in order to gain insights that could contribute to ongoing efforts for improvement of such resources. This is done by using students' Canadian identity as an entry point to analysis of a social studies curriculum document and three textbooks. Fifteen students from a Vancouver secondary school are selected as instrumental case studies. Using multiple forms of data collection including questionnaires, individual and group interviews, their perceptions are thematically categorized into three dimensions that form Canadian identity (sentiment, citizenship, and values). Each dimension is further sub-divided into a number of features. The dimensions and features are also used as organizers for text analysis of British Columbia's grade eleven social studies Integrated Resource Package (IRP) and three textbooks suggested as resources for grade eleven social studies. Using "reflect", "expand", and "enhance" as sensitizing concepts, the text analysis focuses on whether or not the IRP and textbooks offer the potential for students to engage their perceptions. Findings suggest that students have an overall positive perception of Canada, Canadians, and themselves as Canadians in all three dimensions, particularly with regard to sentiment. However, students' perceptions are also laced with significant tensions, particularly with regard to citizenship and values. Findings also suggest that the IRP and textbooks do reflect and expand students' perceptions and consequently offer the potential for engagement, but that textbooks largely do not enhance students' ability to confront tensions. The results of this study underscore the complex nature of Canadian identity and the need to be sensitive to diverse conceptions of Canada and what it means to be Canadian. Further, it contributes to ongoing efforts to improve the potential of curricula and textbooks to engage students more fully in constructing their Canadian identities. Recommendations are offered for further research.

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