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Thesis defences

PhD Oral Exam - Leanne Letourneau, Humanities

exual Diversity and Institutional Change: Exploring the Process of Changing Education Systems in Alberta and Newfoundland/Labrador

Date & time
Wednesday, September 27, 2023
1 p.m. – 3 p.m.

This event is free


School of Graduate Studies


Thesis Office



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.


This dissertation explores how Alberta and Newfoundland/Labrador gradually changed their education systems from laggards to leaders in the context of sexual diversity. I demonstrate how these changes occurred by integrating historical institutionalism and human geography. From historical institutionalism, I draw from theories of gradual institutional change to show how policy change in each province was a continuous process that occurred over a period of time. I draw from policy feedback theory to explain how these changes happened. More specifically, I use explaining-outcome process tracing to identify policy feedback mechanisms, which provide a detailed account of policy change within the political and historical context of each province, including the networks of social relations involved and the scales from which they emerged. From human geography, I draw from theories of place as relational to theorize provincial educational policy-making as a locality in which various networks of social relations from different scales converge and negotiate how to create safe school spaces for sexually diverse students. In this way, I illustrate how the feedback mechanisms and relevant networks of social relation interact and become institutionalized through provincial educational policy-making. Applying this framework to provincial education policy, I demonstrate how Alberta and Newfoundland/Labrador’s education system gradually changed through a policy feedback process. This framework makes two theoretical contributions. The first contribution is by identifying policy feedback mechanisms to make visible the process of gradual institutional change. The second contribution is by integrating policy feedback mechanisms with place/locality as relational to demonstrate how a multiscalar right is localized as different networks of social relations converge to negotiate how to enact this right.

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