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McClure Scholarship

Student Spotlight: Amanda Dascomb

Learning Environments &
Educational Studies

Amanda is currently seeking her PhD in education with a concentration in the Learning Environments and Educational Studies program. Originally from Everett, WA, she received her MA in French and francophone studies from the University of Florida and joined EPC in 2013. We asked her to reflect on some past and current experiences. Read her responses below.

  • McClure Scholarship for Independent International Research Project: Multilingual Montessori Primary Instruction in Guadeloupe, France, Summer 2015
  • MSERA Graduate Student Research Award, 2014
  • ESPN Graduate Student Fellowship Award, 2013

“Public Montessori Effectiveness at Instructing ESL Students.” Paper presented at the Mid-South Educational Research Association regional conference, November 4-6, 2014, Knoxville, TN.

“The Imperialist Vision of Human Rights in West Africa: The Battle for Literacy.” Paper presented at the American Educational Research Association annual conference, October 29-November 2, 2014, Toronto, Ontario.

“Nothing to Sing About: Societal Discourse in Regards to the Further Degradation of Substitute Teachers in the United States.” Paper presented at the American Educational Research Association annual conference, October 29-November 2, 2014, Toronto, Ontario (with Melissa Harness).

Refer to CV for more details.

Current Occupation

Graduate Research Assistant
Department of Educational Psychology and Counseling
University of Tennessee, Knoxville

French Teacher
Hardin Valley Academy
Knox County Schools

Personal Interests

Outside of research, teaching and grading papers, I enjoy spending time camping, hiking and traveling with my husband and our two-year old golden retriever, Walden. We all spend a lot of time indoors during the work week, so the weekend is reserved for as much time outdoors as daylight allows.

Future/Vocational Goals

Teaching is what I enjoy most. While I love my high school (administration and colleagues), I am working towards a switch to the tertiary level. My goal is to finish my dissertation by the end of this upcoming fiscal year.

What sold you on this program?

A PhD is a very long and arduous process. I knew that in order to complete such a degree (which I wished to do), I would need an advisor that I worked well with. Upon reading about the cultural studies program, I knew that my educational philosophy was well aligned with my current advisor’s, Barbara Thayer-Bacon. This support system, combined with the opportunity to teach CSE 200 (which I did for two years), sold me on entering this program.

What is the best tidbit you have about Knoxville?

Knoxville is very accessible to travel. The hiking/camping in the Big South Fork, GSMNP and just over the mountains Pisgah NF, is spectacular and amazing. I can also travel to see family (and for conferences/research projects) with relatively cheap flights via TYS.

Amanda Dascomb and husband

Amanda Dascomb, PhD student in the Learning Environments and Educational Studies (LEEDS) program, won a McClure Scholarship and traveled to Le Gosier, Guadeloupe over the summer. We asked her some questions about her five-week research project. Read her responses below.


What was the purpose of your research project?
To observe a school that teaches in French, Creole, and English, specifically using the Montessori method. The purpose of my research is to better understand how Montessori pedagogy provides an effective environment for language learning. By studying Montessori lessons in a multilingual environment, I hoped to gain an understanding of how to improve and develop language pedagogy in US schools.

What is the Montessori method?
Children innately wish to learn and investigate in different ways. Maria Montessori wished to give students an environment that nurtured this learning style by allowing for freedom of movement and unattended time that they are allowed to invest in learning materials.

Where did you live in Le Gosier?
I was living with the principle of the school. This means that I was able to see what went into running a private preschool that had two classes of thirty children and also an elementary classroom of seven students. I spent most of my time in the maternelle classroom (ages four to six).


What would a normal day of class consist of?
A normal day, for the students, consisted of:

  • three hours of individual work
  • one hour of recess
  • two hours for lunch and naptime
  • one more hour of individual and group work
  • one final hour of recess

The role of the teachers were to gently encourage the children to pick a work to do individually and take it to a table or the floor to work on quietly. Students are distracted easily, so they are constantly encouraged to do their work, which was the role of one “assistant” teacher. The “main” teacher took small groups of 2-3 students aside and taught them a new concept based off of the classroom materials.

What did your research find?
My research is on understanding language learning in a multilingual setting. Guadeloupe has French as its official language, while Creole is spoken by a large percentage of the population and English is taught in the schools. As I wish to understand how schools can create an effective environment for language learning, watching students who were able to complete tasks on their own time and with their own free will showed me what engages each individual student. Students know how they learn best and I believe that the Montessori Method reveals this theory.


What was the best/most memorable part of this experience?
The children and the teachers were very accepting of my presence at the school. In just five short weeks, I built a lot of relationships. I think the most memorable times I had were going on field trips with the children. We would visit botanical gardens, or go for a walk along the beach and sing songs about pollution and saving the planet.


The genuine love of learning and the beauty that these children had were enough to warm any educator’s heart.



What did the McClure Scholarship do for you?
Through the McClure Scholarship I was able to pay for my airfare and all expenses once on the ground in Guadeloupe. This project would not have been possible without the McClure Scholarship.