Skip to main content

Lisa Smulyan

Henry C. and Charlotte Turner Professor

Educational Studies

Educational Studies


  2. Phone: (610) 328-8343
  3. Pearson Hall 110
  4. Pearson Hall 221

Research and teaching interests

During my first years in education, teaching 7-12 grade students, I developed a sense of teaching as collaborative, intellectual, and responsible for providing all students with the opportunity to grow and flourish. I also developed a belief in teaching as a civic enterprise. I see teachers’ daily decisions as political and teachers as professionals, capable of shaping institutions into forces for social justice. As an educator, researcher, and activist, I strive to maintain this view of education as a powerful force of social change.

Because schools can both contribute to and challenge entrenched systems of inequity, we must critically examine both the systems within which schools flourish and fail and the people whose lives intersect with those schools. In my research and teaching at Swarthmore College, I focus on the interactions among individuals, educational communities, institutions, and social contexts. I have explored the ways in which educators and students experience and respond to the social construction of gender in my courses, in my research, and in consulting with schools and communities. My interest in the gendered history and construction of the teaching profession, and my own experience teaching at Swarthmore, has led me to examine the role of teacher education and teachers in the liberal arts setting and how women students’ career choices develop over time. In classes and in supervising special majors’ independent theses, I also engage students in examining and using qualitative methodologies such as ethnography, life history, and classroom-based action research as ways to bring previously unheard voices into our field.

In recent years, I have developed an interest in the intersections among local, national, and global contexts within which educational systems develop. My interest in comparative and international education began with a Fulbright grant in 1989 that allowed me to study educational institutions in England. In 2005 and 2006, I provided post-tsunami teacher training institutes in Indonesia, and in subsequent years I traveled to China, South Africa, and India to work with educators in these countries. I have helped the Swarthmore Off-Campus Study Office create programs for students to teach at the Cloud Forest School in Monteverde, Costa Rica, and the Tatske International School in Gantok, India. I also work with students to find and participate in other education-related off campus study programs including a math education program in Budapest and the SIT program in Chile. 

As I examine education in multiple contexts, I have become even more convinced that teachers can be agents of educational and social change. In my most recent project, I engage with teachers defining and practicing teacher leadership.  With grants from the Ford Foundation and Swarthmore College I have organized teacher leadership institutes and currently facilitate the work of Teachers Write Now, a group of Philadelphia educators that meets monthly to discuss and write about teaching and teacher leadership. In our conversations and writing, we challenge current political characterizations of teaching and work to represent the teachers’ voices that are often missing from the field. TWN has recently contributed to a three issue Symposium on Teacher Leadership in Schools: Studies in Education.  Students in my courses often collaborate with members of this practitioner group as co-researchers, conducting action-research projects that have included investigations into writing and math centers, parent involvement, and school culture.


Ed.D., Harvard Graduate School of Education
M.A.T., Brown University
B.A., Swarthmore College

Selected publications

  • Smulyan, Lisa (2017) Teacher leader administrators: A work in progress.  Schools: Studies in Education. 14 (1).
  • Smulyan, Lisa (ed) (2016) Symposium on Teacher leadership. Schools: Studies in Education. 13 (1 and 2).
  • Smulyan, Lisa (2016) Teachers Write Now: Collaborating, writing and acting on teacher leadership.  Schools: Studies in Education. 13 (2).
  • Smulyan, Lisa.  (2016) Stepping into their power: The development of a teacher leadership stance.  Schools: Studies in Education. 13 (1).
  • Smulyan, L. (2015) Teaching and learning in a global world.  In Scott, D. and Hargreaves, E.  The Sage Handbook on Learning.  UK: Sage.
  • Smulyan, Lisa.  Teacher education and the liberal arts. (2007). In Bjork, C., Johnston, K. and Ross, H. (eds.)  Taking teaching seriously: What we can learn from educators at liberal arts institutions.  Boulder, Co: Paradigm Publishers.
  • Skelton, Christine, Francis, Becky, and Smulyan, Lisa (eds.)  (2006). Handbook of Gender and Education.  London: Sage Publications, Ltd.
  • Smulyan, Lisa. (2004).  Redefining self and success: Becoming teachers and doctors.  Gender and Education. 16 (2).
  • Smulyan, Lisa. (2004).  Choosing to teach: Resisting a gendered identity.  Teachers College Record. 106 (3). 
  • Smulyan, Lisa. (2000).  Balancing Acts: Women Principals at Work.  State University of New York Press


  • EDUC 023 Adolescence
  • EDUC 061 Gender and Education
  • EDUC 064 Comparative Education
  • EDUC 065 Educational Research
  • EDUC 131 Social and Cultural Perspectives on Education