Cultivating Safe and Supportive Schools: The Implementation of Restorative Justice Practices
Eleanor Anderson

About the research


NAEd/Spencer Dissertation Fellowship

Award Year



Northwestern University

Primary Discipline

Mounting public concern about a school-to-prison pipeline has put schools and districts around the nation under increasing pressure to reduce their use of suspensions, expulsions, and arrests. Many are turning to restorative justice practices (RJP) as a promising alternative tool for addressing school discipline and improving school climate. However, implementing RJP in a high-quality, sustainable way has proven to be a persistent challenge. In this dissertation I address the problem: What would it take for restorative justice practices to meaningfully transform school discipline? I tackle three aspects of this puzzle in three interrelated studies, using data collected in a single urban district. All three are rooted in a conceptual framework of continuity and change drawing on literature from policy analysis, organizational sciences and learning sciences. In Study 1, I map the landscape of school discipline structures in three high schools, using interviews and observations of teachers and administrators to identify sources of support for the use of suspensions and RJP respectively. In Study 2, I focus in on individual educators’ conceptualizations of RJP and other forms of school discipline in relation to student behavior. In Study 3, I take a bird’s eye view of RJP in the district over time, using a multiple interrupted time series design to estimate the effect of external RJP support on school climate. Together, the qualitative and quantitative evidence produced by these studies will offer a nuanced and instructive account of the role of social, cognitive, and material supports in sustaining or undermining transformative school change.
About Eleanor Anderson
Eleanor Anderson is a doctoral candidate in the Learning Sciences department and was a pre-doctoral fellow of the Multi-disciplinary Program in Education Sciences at Northwestern University. After receiving her B.A. from Yale University, her work with youth-serving non-profits in New York City inspired an interest in how researchers might work with educators, social service providers, and policymakers to better bridge the “research-practice gap.” Her research interests center on the translation, implementation and scale-up of research-based educational programs and policies, including sources of social and structural support for traditional and reform practices. Her dissertation draws on tools from organization science and program evaluation as well as learning sciences to investigate multi-level processes of continuity and change in school discipline practices.

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