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Educational Studies

Educational studies class Educational studies class

Department Overview

Educational Studies is an interdisciplinary field that employs qualitative, quantitative, and mixed methodologies to examine and address educational research, policy, theory, pedagogy, and related practices. Students who pursue course work in Educational Studies develop richly informed perspectives on the role of education in society. They go on to become leaders in a wide-range of fields: discipline-based research in higher education (e.g., anthropology, English, linguistics, psychology, sociology, math education, science education, computer science); museums and out-of-school learning, general education including teaching, school leadership and policy; community organization and development; clinical psychology, counseling, English as a second language, evaluation research, special education, social work; medicine; and law.

Students hone their research skills in upper-level courses, and, during the summer, they can apply for support to pursue further training through work on a professor’s project, or their own research interests. Experiences of this type provide students with a rich base from which to investigate their thesis questions as seniors at the College.

Our approach
The Department of Educational Studies at Swarthmore College is committed to anti-racism, social justice, and sustainability in the pursuit of liberation for all people. We believe children and youth deserve educational environments where they can experience joy as learners and thrive. Our mission exists in partnership with broader global struggles against anti-Blackness, anti-immigrant policy and practice, as well as structural racism and other intersecting systems of oppression. As a community of students, faculty, and staff, we aim to be reflective, innovative and collaborative in how we contribute to a more just and equitable world. Our goals reflect this mission.

In an era of anti-racist and anti-oppressive movements, students and faculty in Educational Studies at Swarthmore use research, theoretical frameworks and pedagogical practices from a range of disciplines to explore and question. We are committed to helping our students become critical practitioners, researchers, and/or policy makers who are positioned to create, and advocate for, caring and inclusive communities of learning both at Swarthmore and in the larger communities in which we work. 

Our scholarship and practice
Faculty members in the department conduct engaged scholarship: research and practice that is grounded in partnerships with schools, practitioners, and communities, in suburban and urban settings that range from classrooms to community programs. Students often contribute as research assistants and collaborators. Some recent examples of faculty projects on which students have assisted include:

• identifying effective curricular support for bilingual and multilingual classrooms [Elaine Allard]

• exploring the reciprocal teaching and learning of literacies and identities in local communities [Diane Anderson]

• supporting agency in students and teachers working for racial justice [Jennifer Bradley]

• urban school and neighborhood partnerships, youth-led research and sanctuary-focused action for social change, a K-16 critical racial/ethnic studies curricular database, and sustaining an online journal of Critical Education Policy Studies (#CritEdPol) [Edwin Mayorga]

• tracking positive educational pathways for black boys [Joseph Nelson]

• examining the intersection of racism and ableism in educational policies and teacher education [Jennifer Phuong]

• promoting and assessing middle school students’ development of conceptual understanding, equity, and executive functions through collaborative work in mathematics [Ann Renninger]

• promoting teacher leadership [Lisa Smulyan]

Ava Shafiei presents poster

Ava Shafiei presents at the Poster Gala.

Photo by Lisa Smulyan
Byron Biney presents at poster gala.

Byron Biney talks about his research at the poster gala.

Photo by Lisa Smulyan
Cedric Lary presents at poster gala.

Cedric Lary speaks with student about his research.

Photo by Lisa Smulyan
Elizabeth Flores presents at poster gala.

Elizabeth Flores talks to students about her research.

Photo by Lisa Smulyan
Garrett Ruley presents at poster gala.

Garrett Ruley presents his research during the poster gala.

Photo by Lisa Smulyan
Roseann Liu at poster gala.

Roseann Liu introduces the 2019 seniors, opening the poster gala.

Photo by Lisa Smulyan
Seniors at the poster gala.

The 2019 seniors are introduced before the poster gala gets underway.

Photo by Lisa Smulyan

Ava Shafiei presents at the Poster Gala.

Photo / Lisa Smulyan
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Joseph Nelson Receives Tenure

A sociologist of education, Joseph Derrick Nelson uses interdisciplinary frameworks to examine two interrelated fields of inquiry: race, boyhood, and education, as well as identity, culture, and school reform. In recent years, his research has been situated within learning environments that largely serve Black students from neighborhoods with concentrated poverty. He is a senior research fellow with the School Participatory Action Research Collaborative and his multi-year projects to date have led to publications with Teachers College Record, Harvard Educational Review, the Psychology of Men and Masculinity, and co-editing a special issue on boys’ education with the Journal of Boyhood Studies.

Joseph Nelson photo

Talking to Children About Difference

Students in EDUC 42 Teaching Diverse Young Learners class met with area teachers and parents for a workshop on talking to children about difference.  The Ed Studies students presented children's books on various topics, and each group discussed the content.

books presented at teacher and student workshop

Nelson Flores '03 on Second Language Acquisition

Dr. Flores has a Ph.D. in Urban Education from the CUNY Graduate Center. His research attempts to bridge theory and practice in ways that transform educational programming for language-minoritized students. His research agenda works to (1) problematize current trends in language education that reproduce oppressive language ideologies (2) develop new research methodologies for analyzing language practices of these oppressive frameworks, and (3) re-imagine language education in ways that resist these ideologies.

Read the article.

Professor Nelson Flores

Student and Alumni Profiles

Ashley Hong '17: The American Education Research Association (AERA) undergraduate student education research workshop during the annual 2017 AERA conference in San Antonio, Texas was an amazing opportunity. It consisted of learning about graduate school from current doctoral candidates, networking with undergraduate peers entering the field, exposing myself to the work of junior and senior scholars, and exploring how to conduct precise, methodologically sound research. Because I majored in sociology, I was particularly excited to meet others in fields outside of educational studies – such as cognitive science and nonprofit development – whose work and research questions also revolve around education. For me, the workshop reaffirmed the necessity of education research, and how it can and should be used to impact perspectives and policy. The workshop also affirmed my interest in and commitment to education policy research. I am currently in a research assistant position focused on educational opportunities and support for vulnerable youth.

Alumni Pathways

What do alums do with a Swarthmore Educational Studies background or degree? Read about seventeen Swarthmore alums and their careers after college.