My academic research focuses on engaged learning – oftentimes referred to as high impact pedagogical practices. This scholarship spans across multiple fields and areas: service-learning and community engagement; teacher preparation; higher education; the rise of digital learning technologies. My scholarship includes eight books and dozens of academic articles, book chapters, policy reports, and book reviews. I have published in some of the top journals in the field – such as Teachers College Record, Educational Researcher, Equity & Excellence in Education, Educational Studies, the Michigan Journal of Community Service Learning, and the Journal of Philosophy of Education; and with some of the top academic publishers, including Palgrave, Routledge, and Corwin. My books have won prestigious awards, been translated into several languages, and have been reviewed in numerous academic journals, such as Anthropology & Education Quarterly, Teachers College Record, Educational Studies, and the Michigan Journal of Community Service Learning. My research has been cited in thousands of academic publications and used in dozens of undergraduate, graduate and doctoral programs around the country and internationally. I summarize below a few of these research areas:
ENGAGED LEARNING: Education, ideally, is the transformation of knowledge rather than the transfer of information; what I have termed an "apprenticeship into democracy" rather than an "apprenticeship into Wikipedia." Yet accomplishing this -- helping our students develop the habits of mind and repertoires of action to become engaged and thoughtful citizens in a complex and contested pluralistic democracy -- is extremely difficult. In fact, there are numerous pedagogical, structural, and cultural roadblocks to allow faculty to transform their teaching and their students' learning. My work focuses on these issues to support faculty buy-in to high impact pedagogical practices and enhance student engagement. This is especially critical today, as we are in the midst of the irreversible splintering of higher education and the unbundling of faculty work. The rise of powerful digital learning technologies will, whether we like it or not, intrude upon and displace many of the traditional roles of the faculty in the college classroom. If we are to be able to truly articulate the value proposition of higher education – of incorporating digital learning technologies rather than being ravaged by them – we will need to re-envision and recreate the role of the professor as one who helps students to transform knowledge rather than transfer information. To do so, I argue, we will need to temper our expectations in order actually strengthen them; we will need to figure out what we are good at, and what we are not, the limits and possibilities of the power of faculty work and the value-added of higher education, in order to revise the form and function of higher education.
COMMUNITY ENGAGEMENT: this is the umbrella term I use for a host of distinct yet interrelated practices such as service-learning, participatory action research, civic engagement, public scholarship, and community-based research; it has become one of the most common and most powerful models for engaged teaching and learning in higher education. Yet I have long argued that we have reached an “engagement ceiling” in that our practices are all too often “a mile wide and an inch thick.” My work thus focuses on fostering powerful models of community-based teaching, learning, and research. I do so through a variety of conceptual and pragmatic strategies that have been used and replicated nationally and internationally: (1) I highlight “the four Rs” of community engagement: respect; reflection; reciprocity; relevance. (2) I explicate the distinctive ways that faculty can make use of service-learning: technical; cultural; political; antifoundational. (3) I suggest that community engagement should be seen as a distinctive academic endeavor (much like Boyer's Scholarship of Engagement) that requires substantial individual, disciplinary, and institutional investment and support. My work has been praised by some of the top scholars in the field: Joel Westheimer, at the University of Ottawa, called Service-Learning in Theory and Practice “intellectually honest, theoretically sophisticated, and deeply impassioned…This book will shake your assumptions about service learning in all the right ways.” Benjamin R. Barber, Distinguished Senior Fellow at DEMOS and the Walt Whitman Professor Emeritus at Rutgers University, praised The Engaged Campus as a “must-read for everyone who cares about democratic citizenship, from college students and university faculty to community organizers and civic NGO leaders.”
TEACHER PREPARATION: Whether through traditional programs within higher education or through "alternative" pathways, teacher preparation is usually composed of two key components: (1) academic coursework and (2) field-based experiences such as student-teaching. I refer to the former -- which is usually a combination of subject matter content knowledge, pedagogical preparation, and pedagogical content knowledge -- as the opportunity to learn; the latter I refer to as the opportunity to practice. My academic work focuses on an all-too-often missing component: the opportunity to change. Namely, teacher preparation offers one of the few opportunities for future teachers to think through the assumptions and implications of their educational experiences and goals and begin to develop, articulate, and implement a more robust model of what engaged teaching and learning would look like. We have all been shaped by an implicit “apprenticeship of observation” that normalizes and routinizes a passivity that privileges shallow learning and undermines our attempts to create exactly the kind of engaging experiences we all claim to want to create in our classrooms. This “opportunity to change” is especially critical given the demographic changes in our society, deep civic divides, and changing societal notions of what it means to be educated.
A note about the theoretical foundations of my scholarship: Kurt Lewin is credited with saying that there is nothing so practical as a good theory. To that end, I use pragmatist, feminist, and poststructuralist theorists -- such as John Dewey, Robyn Wiegman, Stanley Fish, and Michel Foucault -- to help "clear away the underbrush" of complex issues. I think of these theorists and their numerous overlapping (and, yes, oftentimes contradictory) perspectives as heuristics to guiding my own analyses of the "wicked problems" of education.