If you know any very good potential grad student who is interested in
Sociocultural Approach to education, please, direct them to our newly
developed Ph.D. concentration area: Sociocultural and Communal Approaches to
Research and Education (formerly SCARE but now SCA because some colleagues
at our School of Education were really afraid of the new concentration area
Below is the description of the program. We have cool SCA colleagues (see
below). We will invite perspective grad students for interview (yes, we have
$$$ for that!). International applicants are also welcome (but we cannot
invite them for interview unless they are in US). We usually provide full
financial support for our grads.
Please let me know if you have questions.
What do you think these days? ;-)
Eugene Matusov, Ph.D.
Associate Professor of Education
School of Education
University of Delaware
Newark, DE 19716, USA
Guidelines for application:
Sociocultural and Communal Approaches to Research and Education (SCA)
Overview of this specialization:
Sociocultural and Community-based Approaches to Research and Education (SCA)
Learning is part of every human experience. The question is not whether
people are learning, but what they learn from that experience and how much
of what they learn is desired (and by whom). For example, in school,
students can learn to think critically, to act socially responsibly and
empathetically, to care about their communities through the use of academic
subjects OR they may learn to hate math, to deal with their boredom in
“creative” ways and that they are not good at science. The latter is not
less genuine learning than the former, but not necessarily desirable
learning. Our perspective includes research done in the area of situated
cognition, critical pedagogy, and feminist theory. It also encompasses
humanities-based approaches, such as philosophy and history; sociocultural
approaches, including a broad range of neo-Vygotskian studies for the last
30 years; and social science approaches grounded in sociology and
anthropology. We recognize that learning is contextual, and is shaped by
institutions, communities (including on-line communities), practices,
technology, and histories. Learning is relational and active and involves
transformation of learners’ participation in activities, practices, and
identities. We are interested in the ways that practices and processes may
be effective, ineffective, or counterproductive in realizing the purpose of
education and in investigation of the complexity of the cultural and
institutional values behind and even beyond different ways of defining
effectiveness. As we seek to investigate the purposes of education and to
create models of equitable education, we are interested in how teachers,
students, families, community members, and the society at large "make sense"
of the principles and practices of education in complex and sometimes
contradictory ways. We agree with Paulo Freire’s social activist definition
of the purpose of education in which he states that a student should learn
“reading and writing the word to read and write the world.”
The SCA specialization recognizes education as contextual, dialogic, and
relational, with participants accessing and participating in each others’
subjectivities – interests, needs, concerns, strengths, and worldviews. We
observe such education happening in the communities where people live and
communities of practice wherein people come together with respect to each
other in different cultural formations to cultivate and practice skills and
art forms, organize to engage in politics, economic development, various
forms of activism, and create informal networks of teaching and learning.
The SCA specialization emphasizes the development of expertise in conducting
high-quality research on significant issues in sociocultural and
community-centered approaches to education. Although not limited only to
that goal, we strive to prepare teacher educators working in a
community-oriented way with preservice and inservice teachers and also with
educational leaders and policy makers.
Courses required of all students in this specialization in addition to the
Doctoral Core Courses:
EDUC 853 - Topics in Culturally Relevant Pedagogies (3 credits)
EDUC 854 - Topics in Equity in Education (3 credits)
EDUC 855 - Topics in Sociocultural Theories of Education (3 credits)
One additional course in methodology that is consistent with the research
approaches of this specialization, approved by the student’s advisor. (3
EDUC 968 – Supervised Research (6 credits)
EDUC 732 – Community Based Practicum (6 credits)
Policy on Specialization Area Exam:
The Specialization Area Exam in SCA is designed to prepare doctoral students
for their dissertation research by developing the specialized area of
expertise around the students’ research interests. The exam will also help
to assess if students are ready for the dissertation research. . Although
the exam has both formative and summative functions, we view this assessment
more as formative, preparing for dissertation research, rather than
summative, considering whether the student should stay in the program or not
after spending three years in it.
The student’s advisor and the student will determine the members of the
specialization area exam committee, based on the student’s area of interest.
The committee will consist of three SCA education faculty members: the
student’s advisor, one faculty member from the SCA specialization area, and
the other committee member can be a faculty member from another
specialization (although it is not necessary).
The exam is composed of two parts, a written exam and an oral
question-response discussion of the written exam. The format of the written
part of the exam includes three components:
1) Writing a personal research statement articulating what the student’s
research interests are, why they are important for the student and how they
are grounded in the student’s personal background, history, and deeply felt
concerns. Sometimes students have difficulty connecting their primary issues
and concerns to the language of research and the prevailing literature in
their field of interest. The statement will enable the committee to more
effectively assist students in making the connections between their primary
issues and concerns to the language of research and the prevailing
literature in their field of interest. Additionally, the research statement
will help the committee develop the assessing criteria based on the
student’s research focus developed in this personal research statement. The
purpose of this statement is to assist the faculty committee in guiding the
student into something that the student really wants to do in his/her
dissertation rather than a topic that might be interesting only to the
committee and/or only to the field. This statement should guide the student
to stay with his/her own “roots”, so to speak, during the whole dissertation
endeavor. We want the student to discover his/her OWN voice as a researcher.
2) Developing a critical literature review focused on the student’s
emerging main research interests as outlined in the personal research
statement. The main goal of the review is to develop familiarity and
expertise both broadly and critically defined around the student’s
dissertation (including the dissertation pre-proposal, see below) as the
student’s career focus for his/her proximal professional future. This
literature review should be a collaborative endeavor involving a negotiation
between the student and the SAE committee. Following are several steps to
guide the development of the review.
Step one: Developing a Topic Paper. In this paper, the student will outline
three topics in which the student wants to claim professional expertise
broadly and deeply in the field of educational research and one topic on
issues of methodology related to doing research about the three topics. The
SAE committee can help the student develop these topics. These topics should
emerge from the student’s personal research statement, be connected to the
student’s dissertation, and should define how the student wants to position
him/herself in the area. The student will discuss the issues, nuances, and
controversies relevant to their research topics in theory, research
findings, and practice within all three topics. We expect that the student
will write one-two paragraphs for each of the three topics the student will
define. The student will use key references without trying to be exhaustive
in the paper. This topic paper will help the SAE committee to develop
questions for the student’s literature review (the second step).
Step two: Developing a reading list in each of the four topics (with faculty
help and guidance).
Step three: Writing up the critical literature review in which the student
will discuss the state of the field with regard to the important and salient
issues defining the topics and methodological issues of doing research
(about 40-page double-spaced paper, excluding the references, using APA or
other professional styles used in education research). It is expected that
this critical literature review will be authored solely by the student with
no assistance by the faculty advisor or committee.
3) Dissertation research pre-proposal based on the student’s personal
research statement and literature review. The pre-proposal should involve
the emerging main research question, its importance for the academic and
educational fields, and ideas of how the student is going to approach it in
a research design. The purpose of the dissertation research pre-proposal is
three-fold: 1) to help the student think of the next steps in working on
the dissertation; 2) to make the literature review authentic and thus more
scholarly; and 3) to help the committee to assess if the student is ready
for the next step – writing a dissertation proposal. The length of the
pre-proposal can vary but should not exceed five double-spaced pages.
The oral part of the exam will involve committee members reading the written
part and developing 2-3 questions based on it. During the oral part of the
exam, the student responds to the committee’s questions and can ask the
committee his or her own questions on the subject of interest or for
clarification. The oral part is concluded when the committee exhausts their
questions. However, the oral part of the exam should not be longer than 2.5
The evaluation of the exam is based on the students’ successful completion
of the written and oral parts. The successful exam satisfies the following
criteria that reflect the student’s readiness to start working on his/her
a) The student has a clear research focus that is grounded in the students’
background, importance for the academic field, and importance for
b) The student has developed broad and critical expertise in research and
practice issues relevant to his/her research focus;
c) The student is knowledgeable about diverse methodologies that are
necessary for his/her dissertation research;
d) The student has a clear idea of how to start working on the dissertation
e) The student demonstrates scholarly writing and oral skills.
Timeline and Administrative Procedures
The timeline and assessment of the SAE are as follows:
Summer between second and third year in the program:
§ Students develop their SAE committee at the beginning of the summer.
§ Students begin working on their personal statement at the beginning of the
summer, and submit their personal statement to their committee by the end of
Fall of third year in the program:
§ By October 1 of the third year in the program, students begin working on
the Critical Literature Review and the Dissertation Research Pre-Proposal.
It is expected that students will use the knowledge gained from reviewing
other researcher’s work and writing the literature review to shape their
ideas and form the basis for the Pre-Proposal.
§ By December 15 of the third year in the program, students must submit the
Literature Review and Pre-proposal to their SAE committee.
Winter Session of third year in the program:
§ The SAE committee will review students’ Literature Reviews and
Pre-Proposals during January, and Oral Defenses will be scheduled for the
end of January. No written feedback will be provided to the student at this
point in the process.
Based on students’ written and oral work, the SAE Exam will result in one of
For students to pass the SAE, 2 of the 3 faculty members must agree that
students have met all five of the criteria listed above. This is deemed
“Passing the Specialization Area Examination,” and students will not receive
any written feedback, but a congratulatory letter is sent to students with a
copy sent to the Director’s Office. Students may proceed with working on
the dissertation research proposal.
2. Revise and resubmit
If two of three faculty members do not agree that the student has met all
five criteria, the SAE Exam is graded as “Revise and Resubmit”. In this
case, students are verbally informed of the decision within two days of the
oral defense, and the SAE committee members will provide written feedback to
students within 10 days of the oral defense. Students then have four weeks
to address the concerns that were raised by the faculty. The feedback
provided by the faculty will specify which section(s) of the written exam
must resubmitted, and whether the oral defense must be repeated. A letter
confirming the status of the student’s exam outcome is sent to the student
with a copy sent to the Director’s Office.
When students resubmit their written exam and/or repeat the oral defense,
the SAE committee will have 10 days to make a determination of the outcome.
Two ratings are possible:
If two out of three faculty members agree that the student has successfully
satisfied 4 out of 5 of the criteria listed above, this is deemed “Passing
the Specialization Area Examination”, and students and the Director’s Office
will be notified by letter from the student’s faculty advisor.
If the above criteria are not met, the student is judged to have “Failed the
Specialization Area Examination.” A failure means that the student has
failed the specialization area examination and will be withdrawn from the
Faculty affiliated with this specialization area:
Dr. Eugene Matusov <http://www.udel.edu/educ/employees/matusov.html> ,
Coordinator: dialogic pedagogy, Bakhtin’s approach, cultural diversity,
innovative schools, schools without failure.
Dr. Barbara Curry <http://www.udel.edu/educ/employees/curry.html> :
Educational leadership, adult identity development, the construction of the
Dr. Sarah Jewett <http://www.udel.edu/educ/employees/jewett.html> :
Anthropology and education, educational equity, & social studies education.
Dr. Shuaib Meacham <http://www.udel.edu/educ/employees/meacham.html> :
Hip-hop literacy and education, Vygotsky blues, multicultural education.
Dr. Rosalie Rolon-Dow <http://www.udel.edu/educ/employees/rolon-dow.html> :
Latino/a students in U.S. schools, anthropology of education, immigrant oral
histories, social studies education.
Dr. Gail Rys <http://www.udel.edu/educ/employees/Rys.html> : Moral
development and peer-directed social behavior.
Dr. Tonya Bartell <http://www.udel.edu/educ/employees/bartell.html> :
Mathematics education, equity, and social justice in mathematics education.
Dr. Tony Whitson <http://www.udel.edu/educ/employees/whitson.html> :
Semiotics, situated cognition, social studies education, curriculum
theories, controversy of teaching evolution.
Dr. <http://www.udel.edu/soe/blacker/> David Blacker: Philosophy of
education, especially political theory and the history of philosophy.
Dr. Deborah Bieler <http://www.english.udel.edu/Profiles/bieler.htm> :
Socially and culturally responsive teacher education, teaching English for
social justice, the role of dialogue in student-teacher mentoring.
Dr. Chrystalla Mouza <http://www.udel.edu/educ/employees/mouza.html> :
Technology and teacher learning, design of learning environments, computer
supported collaborative learning.
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