PhD Oral Exam - Nadia Naffi, Education
When studying for a doctoral degree (PhD), candidates submit a thesis that provides a critical review of the current state of knowledge of the thesis subject as well as the student’s own contributions to the subject. The distinguishing criterion of doctoral graduate research is a significant and original contribution to knowledge.
Once accepted, the candidate presents the thesis orally. This oral exam is open to the public.
Over 5.5 million Syrian refugees were forcibly displaced worldwide according to the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR, 2017), fleeing an inhumane war in their country. Many of them are now facing a different kind of war: they are being accused of being terrorists, parasites and rapists, through a powerful and almost unstoppable hate speech propaganda on social media.
Throughout this study I posit that host society youth are key players in the integration and the inclusion of these refugees. However, programs in educational settings are ill-designed to equip youth and empower them to face racism and to withstand the online flux of disinformation, let alone to play a leadership role in counterbalancing social media propaganda and manipulation.
The objective of my study was twofold: First I wanted to understand how this youth viewed their role in the integration and the inclusion of refugees in their societies, in a context where the image of refugees was deeply influenced by social media, especially after terror attacks. Second, I wanted to discover the knowledge and the skills they developed through the process of learning about themselves, more specifically through identifying the construct systems they used when facing digital propaganda targeting sensitive and controversial issues such as the Syrian refugee crisis. To meet this objective, I conducted 66 in-depth interviews with 22 youth between 18 and 24 years old from Canada. The instruments I used stemmed from Personal Construct Psychology because this theory considers experiences to be at the core of how construals about concepts are formed. The results of this study provide concrete tools and strategies to be adopted by educators, civic educators, social workers, curriculum developers, policy makers and parents to help youth learn about themselves, as a first step to cease being manipulated by the media, and to become ready to confront hate speech, to act as influential agents of change, and to voice their concerns and ideas in the matters that affect their lives.