Monthly Archives: February 2018

How to Choose Your Dissertation Topic


The doctoral (Ed.D.) program I was a part of at the University of Hawaii Mānoa is currently on their third cohort so one of my colleagues asked me to talk to them about how I chose my dissertation and how I created my own frame for writing.

The presentation is here.  Cohort III 180224

The first three slides are a series of questions to ask in order to choose a dissertation.

  1. What is your puna?Find your spring, your puna, the source of your passion. . .talk from that place, positionality. How do you position yourself so that this is what nurtures you? Find the source of the waiwai. For me, it was professional development, birthing programs that throughout my career gave me the most strength so that is what I did in my dissertation. I created the alana project which was a culture based PD course built around writing project structures.
  2. What is your kuleana?Why are you doing this? Who are you doing this for? Who is your community? How do know what your community needs? What is your kuleana within this community? Kuleana is complex. Embrace that complexity. Every indigenous person lives in complexity. We survive history, geography, politics, social inequalities. . .complexity. In order for me to continue to fulfill my kuleana to my moʻopuna, to the seven generations of moʻos, the complexity has to happen on the ground and I need to know before I even start that I will be stepping forward and responding in a space that I do not control, so how do I embrace that complexity in order to auamo kuleana? My kuleana is to my moʻos and how do I nurture teachers that are worthy of my moʻos and what I dream for them.
  3. Is this moʻo worthy?Is your project a part of your moʻokūʻauhau? Is this a moʻolelo you want to tell? Is this worthy of your moʻopuna? If yes, move forward. If no, don’t force it. E kaʻahele i ka māʻawe i ka pono. Travel on the good trail, the trail of goodness, righteousness (pono)
  4. The last slide is about why I had to make a different frame to tell my story. Intentional transformation.”There is a need to be intentional in order to be both transformative and rigorous” Graham Smith

    Careful, purposeful preparation ʻAʻohe ulu e loaʻa i ka pōkole o ka lou No breadfruit can be reached when the picking stick is too short. So at the point when the tool is not right, use/create a better tool – the birth of the moʻo frame came from both intentionality and frustration in using too short of a stick.


Keiki are ʻOno


Relationship building with students is a huge “this we believe” in middle school philosophy, but what we are saying is that Hawaiian ways of creating relationships is different in that it privileges Hawaiian thinking and aligns with Na Hopena Aʻo

What makes these activities more focused on the outcomes of a strengthened sense of belonging, responsibility, excellence, aloha, total well being and Hawaiʻi is that we focus on strengths-based – especially the strengths they bring from home and share with us. We also choose activities that see ʻāina (land and sea) as community, as identity, as sense of belonging, as kuleana, and as part of our well-being for living in Hawaiʻi. Finally, we see ʻohana (in the large definition) as part of students’ superpowers and their sense of hā. Attaching our slides and the directions for the activities we did with participants. The Na Hopena Aʻo link above holds the video that is on the slides.

Keiki are ʻOno H2

Keiki are Ono

Update: the thing with using student teachers is that some veteran teachers, even our own mentors, feel like these are just students, and therefore, what do they have to offer? But I have larger plans for these student teachers and I loop up with them to set these plans in motion. My intention is to create new teachers that are already on their way to being teacher leaders, so the more I can push them forward (see my blog post on throwing the babies out), the stronger our teacher work force will be. They hold mana, just that not everyone recognizes it. Not a problem. But don’t act shocked when they are ready to take over your department.

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