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California State University Los Angeles Researcher Wins AACTE Outstanding Dissertation Award

Christina Restrepo Nazar, Ph.D. AACTE is delighted to announce Christina Restrepo Nazar, Ph.D. as the recipient of the 2020 AACTE Outstanding Dissertation Award for Youth as Teacher Educators: Supporting Preservice Teachers in the Developing Youth Centered, Equity-Oriented Science Teaching Practices. The author completed her dissertation for the Ph.D. at Michigan State University College of Education. She currently serves as assistant professor of K-12 science education in the Charter College of Education at California State University Los Angeles. She will be recognized formally with the award at the AACTE 72nd Annual Meeting, February 28 – March 1, in Atlanta, GA.

In her dissertation, Restrepo Nazar conducted three separate, but interrelated studies that examine the ways preservice teachers (PSTs) generatively developed youth-centered, equity-oriented pedagogical imaginaries in their methods courses and how they enacted these practice(s) in their field experiences. The purpose of this dissertation is to understand how and in what ways a science methods course can support PSTs in the critical uptake of youth (and community) knowledge(s) and practice(s) and how classroom communities in the field can shift/shape these enactments. In this work, Restrepo Nazar foregrounds youth counternarratives of the culture of power in science as a critical part of learning to teach science for PSTs—a study that has never been done before.

“This work is simply ground-breaking in all ways. While there is renewed attention to supporting

PSTs in learning to teach in equitable and justice-oriented ways, few studies center and amplify the voices of youth and community members as partners in the process,” said Angela Calabrese-Barton, professor in the educational studies department at the University of Michigan School of Education, who advised and chaired Restrepo Nazar’s dissertation. “This study has implications for centering youth voice in the preparation of teachers towards equitable practices that aim to disrupt power dynamics of whose/what knowledge counts in science teaching and learning.”

The published research on beginning teacher learning towards equity-oriented teaching remains thin, especially with respect to youths’ counternarratives and practices and how they inform the standard work of teaching. Restrepo Nazar’s focus on beginning teachers who themselves are mainly white and middle class should shed further light on how teachers can learn from these youth-centered narratives, especially when they differ from their own, and how they may or may not take them up and re-purpose them towards increasing agency in the classroom.

“As the leading voice in educator preparation, AACTE represents teacher educators who sustain and advance their profession through innovation, high standards, and leadership. For 24 years, AACTE has honored its member institutions, leaders, and individuals who make exceptional contributions to our field,” said Lynn M. Gangone, AACTE president and CEO. “As the recipient of a 2020 AACTE Award, Dr. Restrepo Nazar exemplifies excellence in educator preparation and I look forward to honoring her at the 72nd Annual Meeting later this month.” 

AACTE issued a press release today announcing all of its 2020 award winners. For more information on AACTE’s awards program, visit aacte.org. Applications for next year’s Outstanding Dissertation Award will open in April.


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Jerrica Thurman

Director of Marketing & Communications, AACTE

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