Lived Tensions of Institutionalizing K-12 Ethnic Studies: Towards a Place-Based Lens of Teacher of Color Leadership
Josephine Pham

About the research


NAEd/Spencer Postdoctoral Research Development Award

Award Year



University of California, Santa Cruz

Primary Discipline

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.
About Josephine Pham
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.

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