Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Learning Sciences

Committee Chair/Advisor

Dr. Danielle Herro

Committee Member

Dr. Golnaz Arastoopour Irgens

Committee Member

Dr. Natasha Croom

Committee Member

Dr. Megan Eatman


Undergraduate student participation in general education classes constitutes a point of struggle for many educators, especially when it comes to lessons centered around systems of oppression like racism, sexism, or heterosexism. Using both constructivism and counter storytelling as theoretical frameworks, this multi-method phenomenological case study explored the experiences of undergraduate honors students in a semester long general education literature class. The purpose of this study was to 1) explore how comics can be used as a pedagogical tool in higher education classrooms to facilitate discussion of systems of oppression, 2) assess the ways in which students interacted with comics, and 3) investigate what role comics played in engagement and development of critical thinking and analysis skills. Primary data collection involved document review of student coursework, deployment of three surveys, and semi-structured interviews. Data analysis employed horizontalization, coding, frequency distribution, and content analysis of coursework.

The findings of this study provide a unique glimpse into how comics impact undergraduate engagement and participation, as well as their identification of and discussion about systemic oppression. This research showcases the potential of comics as a versatile and inclusive medium with which to discuss social and cultural difference in college classrooms. With an ever more politicized climate in higher education, institutions may want to create opportunities for students to have hard conversations in general education courses. Using comics as primary texts can foster engagement and build community, promote knowledge construction and meaning making, develop and refine intellectual skills, and encourage student interaction with class texts.

Author ORCID Identifier




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