Helping diverse parents understand special education focus of prof's research

For any parent who was born in Canada and brought up through the educational system here, discovering your child learns differently that the other students and then figuring out what to do about it can be extremely challenging.

For parents who have recently moved to Canada, the whole process can be especially complicated given all the cultural and language barriers that might exist. According to Cam Cobb, the right kind of relationship between educators and the parents will influence the sort of support they need to be academically and emotionally successful.

“The way those relationships are nurtured can enhance inclusion,” said Dr. Cobb, an assistant professor who joined the Faculty of Education last year. “Different people have different opinions about assessments. There can be a lot of discomfort with the process. It can be very difficult, so people need to have a readiness to be open to multiple perspectives. We have to actively try to find the kind of barriers that might exist for parents and work towards countering them.”

Cobb, who earned a PhD last year from the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education at the University of Toronto, focuses his research on culturally and linguistically diverse parents and their relationships with educational systems and special education processes.

For his thesis, he conducted a critical qualitative inquiry on marginalized parental inclusion in special education in Ontario. He interviewed parents from other countries, many who didn’t know about their rights when it came to obtaining assessments to determine if they were gifted or what sorts of learning needs their children had.

The son of a retired principal, Cobb grew up in Toronto and earned an undergraduate degree in English literature from Queen’s University in 1995. He taught in Korea for almost two years and then came back to Canada to teach in a language school in Toronto. He earned a BEd from OISE in 1999 and also taught elementary school for the Toronto District School Board until last year.

Making the jump from teaching grade school to university students has been interesting, but he’s currently taking courses through the Centre for Teaching and Learning and is working towards the university teaching certificate, a process he says has been extremely rewarding.

“It’s been an excellent experience,” he said. “It’s really enhanced the things I’ve been doing.”

A married father of two, Cobb enjoys running and playing the guitar. He has written, directed and acted in a number of children’s plays and comedies that have been staged at Fringe Festivals around Ontario.


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