2023 NAEd/SPENCER RESEARCH DEVELOPMENT AWARDEES
Arturo Cortez , University of Colorado Boulder
Arturo Cortez is an Assistant Professor of Learning Sciences and Human Development and a Fellow of the Institute of Cognitive Science at the University of Colorado Boulder. Drawing on critical approaches to the learning sciences, Cortez explores the possibilities of co-designing for consequential learning in intergenerational and transdisciplinary learning environments that include young people, educators, researchers, and multiple community members, such as game designers, social media influencers, and content creators. In particular, he is interested in how young people and educators speculate new possible futures, opening up opportunities for building imaginary and real worlds, while using everyday technologies. More recently, Cortez founded The Learning To Transform (LiTT) Video Gaming Lab to help build models for equity-centered educator and student learning through the design of deeper relationships across the various learning ecologies people traverse in their everyday lives.
His work has been published in Cognition and Instruction, Journal of Futures Studies, Review of Research in Education, and Mind, Culture, and Activity. Furthermore, his research has been funded by the George Lucas Educational Foundation, the National Science Foundation, and the Spencer Foundation. Cortez’s early commitments to amplifying the everyday practices of youth were jointly-honed and developed while he was a middle school teacher in East Palo Alto and a high school teacher in San Francisco. Cortez holds a Ph.D. from the University of California, Berkeley, an Ed.M. from Harvard University, an M.A.T. from the University of San Francisco, and a B.A. from the University of Pennsylvania.
Modding New Social Futures in Virtual and Everyday Worlds: Co-designing Speculative Pedagogies in Videogame Play
A teacher learning framework that strategically engages with the sociopolitical dimensions of learning and the design towards new social futures—specifically with the use of everyday technologies—is more relevant and necessary than ever. Speculative approaches to education provide a robust framework to understand and design justice and future-oriented pedagogies for civic teaching and learning. This project draws on speculative approaches to inquiry to examine the affordances of gaming, an everyday digital technology, as a site for consequential and future-oriented teacher learning where educators, alongside youth, creatively prototype agentic identities, equitable forms of participation, and new spatial architectures towards a just world. Specifically, the study explores how young people and educators learn to decode and recode videogames and develop new storylines that center justice and liberation. Toward this end, this design-based research project engages: 1) the design of intergenerational learning ecologies that explicitly center play as a leading activity for learning ; 2) centering the everyday digital cultural practices of youth as springboards for learning design for teachers; and 3) expanding understandings of where and how consequential learning occurs for teachers, underscoring transformational practices that emerges in co-learning with youth in informal learning environments. A central conjecture of this study is that play-rich spaces can foster speculative pedagogies, which cultivate imaginings of new social futures that are equitable and can inform the development of justice-centered pedagogies for educators.
Laura Hernández, Learning Policy Institute
Laura E. Hernández is a Senior Researcher at the Learning Policy Institute (LPI) where she specializes in designing and conducting qualitative research on whole child educational approaches and the systems and structures that enable them. By training, she is an interdisciplinary scholar who synthesizes political and sociological theories to investigate educational policies and the factors that affect the equitable and democratic character of their implementation. To date, her work has examined the systems, factors, and processes surrounding a range of reforms, including school choice, community schools, deeper learning school design, and relationship-centered schooling initiatives.
For her research, Hernández has received many honors, including being named a 2016-2017 National Academy of Education/Spencer Dissertation Fellow and awarded AERA’s Division A Outstanding Dissertation Award in 2018. Her work has appeared in scholarly journals such as the American Educational Research Journal, Educational Policy, Urban Education, and Teachers College Record, and she has authored numerous research and policy reports based on her research at LPI.
Hernández holds a PhD in Education Policy from the University of California, Berkeley, an MST from Pace University in New York City, and a BA in Political Science from the University of California, Los Angeles. Her research work is also informed and inspired by her nine years as a classroom teacher in New York City and Los Angeles where she worked in traditional public school and charter settings.
The Intersecting Influences of Policy, Sociopolitical Dynamics, and Preparation Programs in Enabling or Stifling Culturally Sustaining and Relevant Education
Interdisciplinary researchers have consistently shed light on the importance of culturally sustaining and relevant education (CSRE) in supporting youth learning and well-being. They demonstrate how CSRE approaches, which include integrating culturally-connected instructional tasks, cultivating an “ethic of caring” in learning settings, and/or instituting structures that promote student voice, embody what is collectively known about how individuals optimally develop. These approaches enhance learning as educators integrate pedagogies that acknowledge students’ experiences, nurture their assets, and build on their “funds of knowledge.” They also cultivate supportive learning environments that foster engagement, emotional security, and sense of agency while embracing cultural pluralism and communitarian aims.
Developing educators that can substantively and non-performatively enact CSRE requires attention to the structure and scope of pre-service preparation programs and how they support or inhibit educator candidates in developing related skills, knowledge, and mindsets. At the same time, scholars have surfaced how strong preparation alone may be insufficient in growing and sustaining CSRE in schools, particularly in the face of sociopolitical dynamics that thwart CSRE and/or discriminatory structures and ideologies that perpetuate inequitable schooling approaches. This multi-site qualitative study represents a unique empirical exploration into the intersection of policy, politics, and preparation. It investigates how pre-service development and overlaying policy and sociopolitical factors can be understood, navigated, and/or improved to grow educator capacity and support the implementation of CSRE and the achievement, equity, and well-being it can propel.
Darnell Leatherwood, University of Chicago
Darnell Leatherwood is currently a National Science Foundation Fellow in Advance Quantitative Research Methods for STEM Education Research at the University of Chicago (in partnership with Michigan State University). He is also Faculty Affiliate at the University of Michigan School of Social Work’s Center for Equitable Family and Community Well-Being and serves as a Young Scholar on The Journal of Negro Education Editorial/Advisory Board out of Howard University in Washington DC. His research and teaching interests include education, social policy/inequality/inequity, adolescent development & identity formation, race & racism, and quantitative research methods. The goal of Darnell’s research is to eliminate inequities and inequalities in the educational experience of youth. In addition to his academic pursuits, he holds publicly elected office as a Board Member on the Matteson School District 162 Board of Education, is the founder of the Black Male Educators Alliance of Illinois (BMEAIllinois), and started the Black Boys Shine campaign [501(c)(3)] which is purposed to illuminate the character and contributions of Black boys and men nationally/internationally. Darnell holds a Ph.D. in Social Policy and Social Welfare from the University of Chicago Crown Family School, Certificate in Education Sciences from the University of Chicago Committee on Education, M.A. in the Social Sciences from the University of Chicago Division of the Social Sciences, and B.S. from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign Gies College of Business.
The Utility of Both Knowing and Learning: District Level Black Student Achievement on Two Academic Outcomes
Using longitudinal data on multiple cohorts of students flowing through nearly all public school districts in the United States, I will assess district variation in Black student academic achievement (grade level achievement) and learning rate (the rate at which scores change across grades, within a student cohort). Specifically, I will use hierarchical linear modeling and population data from the Stanford Education Data Archive (SEDA) to answer the following research question: Nationally, how much do districts vary at the intersection of grade level achievement and learning rate for the Black students they serve? This includes delineating nationally, via a dual-axis model, where and under what conditions are districts doing well, or not so well, given these Black student academic outcomes. Given a search for higher-performing districts for Black students, this study will assess average district-level Black student academic outcomes that may speak to the effectiveness of entire districts for Black students and potentially aid in providing evidence for district-level interventions that intend to buttress the educational experiences and academic outcomes of millions of students nationally.
Josephine Pham, University of California, Santa Cruz
Josephine H. Pham, Ph.D. (she/her) is an Assistant Professor of Critical Studies in Education in the Education Department at the University of California Santa Cruz, with an affiliation in the Critical Race & Ethnic Studies Department. Her lived experiences as a daughter of Vietnamese refugees, former K-12 classroom teacher in her own communities, and teacher educator influence her critical race feminist approach to research with and among teachers of Color. Drawing upon critical social theories of race and methodological tools from the learning sciences and educational anthropology, Pham’s interdisciplinary research blends counternarratives, video ethnography, and the arts to examine the liberatory educational possibilities already inherent in the everyday practices and embodied presence of justice-centered teachers of Color. Her scholarly work is guided by three strands of inquiry, which include: (1) the pedagogical and leadership practices of teachers of Color who navigate issues of politics and power to advance and reimagine racially just educational spaces; (2) co-design research that is more attuned with the daily livelihood, wellness, and aspirations of communities of Color; and (3) multimodal and situated approaches to antiracist teacher education and professional development.
Her research has been recognized and supported by the National Council of Teachers of English Research Foundation’s Cultivating New Voices among Scholars of Color (2020-2022), American Educational Research Association’s Division K (2020), and American Anthropological Association’s Council of Anthropology and Education (2020). Her recent publications have appeared in journals such as Curriculum Inquiry, Journal of Teacher Education, Cognition & Instruction, and Journal of Learning Sciences.
Lived Tensions of Institutionalizing K-12 Ethnic Studies: Towards a Place-Based Lens of Teacher of Color Leadership
As a result of community organizing efforts and the recent passing of Assembly Bill 101, California became the first state in the U.S. to include Ethnic Studies as a public high school graduation requirement by 2025. Teacher education programs and school districts are in the early planning and implementation stages of preparing K-12 teachers to teach Ethnic Studies; at the same time, teachers of Color have a long-standing history of enacting and embodying Ethnic Studies teaching in and outside of K-12 public schools, with and without official titles or courses. Focusing on the lived possibilities and tensions between day-to-day practices, policy-based education reform, and Ethnic Studies social movements, in this project, Pham will conduct a multi-sited study of teachers of Color working in diverse micro-geographical contexts to investigate their locally-specific experiences of and situated pedagogical approaches to K-12 Ethnic Studies during this sociohistorical moment. Building upon empirical data derived from video ethnographies of their everyday practices, the emerging framework and findings from this study aim to illuminate teachers of color as scholar-practitioners, knowledge holders, and local leaders whose historicized and daily efforts for realizing Ethnic Studies education may otherwise be erased in the simultaneously promising and contradicting nature of contemporary education reform. This study also aims to offer pedagogical implications for K-12 Ethnic Studies teacher education and teacher professional development that are more grounded and responsive to the political dreams and place-based struggles of racially marginalized students, teachers, and communities.
Rachel Talbert, Teachers College, Columbia University
Rachel Talbert is a 2021 graduate of the George Washington University Graduate School of Education and Human Development with a degree in Curriculum and Instruction. She is a postdoctoral fellow at Teachers College, Columbia University with the Gordon Institute for Urban and Minority Education. Her community engaged scholarship at Teachers College focuses on curriculum development with the Lenape Center in NYC and supporting teachers to teach to unsettle. Her research with urban Indigenous youth in public schools focuses on civic identity negotiation and its relationship to tribal sovereignty and self-determination. She is interested in how school climate, social studies classes and curriculum as well as out of school spaces like Native youth councils create zones of sovereignty (Lomawaima & McCarty, 2014) for and support survivance (Vizenor, 2008) of urban Indigenous youth in public schools and their Nation/s. She serves as the Vice Chair of the Indigenous Education Community for the National Council on the Social Studies and in that role works to bring experiences to inservice and preservice social studies teachers that highlight current issues of Indigenous peoples as well as powerful social studies curricula that supports Indigenous education for all students. Prior to her doctoral studies she served as the Vice President of Curriculum and Programs at the Close Up Foundation where she focused on teaching, designing and supporting civic education for every kind of student.
Civics as Survivance: Unsettling Curriculum to Transform Democracy
Through work with The Lenape Center this humanizing research project investigates what curricular knowledge is most important to Indigenous Nations and diaspora communities in NYC, and what knowledge Native communities feel is most important for non-Native teachers and students to know. This study will then investigate the implementation (including its feasibility and acceptability) of curriculum with a sample of teachers in NYC. Through the continued development of trusting research relationships, curriculum will be developed that values the political, social, cultural, and educational futures of Indigenous Peoples and presented to educators with support for their own process of unlearning settler curriculum using Pewewardy et al. Transformational Indigenous Praxis Model (2018) and a community assessment to encourage further action research in NYC classrooms.
Kathryn Wiley, Howard University
Dr. Kathryn E. Wiley is Assistant Professor of Educational Leadership and Policy Studies in the School of Education at Howard University. She is an expert in school discipline, climate, and safety, with a focus on race and educational opportunity. She uses multiple research methods and a historical lens to understand contemporary education policies in the context of longstanding, racialized inequalities. An avid public scholar, she is passionate about supporting education leaders, advocates, organizers, and lawmakers in creating affirming, and sustaining schools for Black students and educators. Her work has appeared in Educational Administration Quarterly, Race Ethnicity and Education, The Urban Review, Chalkbeat and EdWeek, among others. She has a Ph.D. in Educational Foundations, Policy, and Practice from the University of Colorado Boulder. She is originally from Dayton, Ohio and attended Sinclair Community College and Wright State University.
History Echoes: Investigating Black-White Racial School Discipline Disparities and School Desegregation
Exclusionary school discipline is one of the most pressing civil rights issues today in U.S. public education. Despite numerous studies addressing Black-White racial disparities in exclusionary school discipline, the history of this issue has been largely overlooked. And though some scholars have recognized school desegregation as an important origination point, few studies have examined this theory in-depth. In response, this project investigates exclusionary school discipline in select desegregating school districts following the Brown v. Board of Education (1954) decision. Using archival data, this study seeks to identify how school discipline policies and practices developed in desegregating districts, with particular attention to decisions made by education officials and racialized discipline dynamics. Informed by theories of second-generation segregation, this study seeks to document and describe where and how racialized exclusion took hold in districts over time. In examining this history, this study seeks to expand our understanding of today’s Black-White racial disparities in exclusionary school discipline while providing sociological insights that speak today’s continued pursuit of civil rights and equal educational opportunity.