Inquiry Magazine Northwestern School of Education and Social Policy


In this issue: Creating Social Change

Professor Dan McAdams

Professor Dan McAdams, shown here addressing a group of education leaders, studies what makes people contribute to future generations, such as through civic engagement.

Penelope Peterson

Message from the Dean

Dear Friends,

Welcome to the spring issue of Inquiry! Spring brings many changes to the Northwestern campus. Purple crocuses poke up their heads, chartreuse buds appear on trees, and undergraduates show their knees as they peel off the winter layers. Seasonal change comes regularly to campus and to all of us each spring. Social change is less regular, more unpredictable, and often requires work on our part.

Yet many of our students and faculty at the School of Education and Social Policy (SESP) come to our School for the very purpose of creating social change. They want to make a difference in the lives and learning of others whether they are children, youth, adults or families.

In this issue we discuss three of our major efforts to create social change — by developing civically involved adults, by using research to drive education change and by designing games for social change. Each of these efforts is grounded in the research of our faculty and students.

Dan McAdams and students and staff in the Foley Center for the Study of Lives describe the work they have done to examine what makes people become civically engaged in their lives. What factors affect their engagement and how do these adults attempt to bring about social change? Then professor Cynthia Coburn discusses how history reveals the rocky road of success as educational researchers have tried to use research to drive social change and how such efforts have not always been successful. But now a route is clear: long-term partnerships between research institutions and schools districts are forging a path to profound and long-lasting educational reform. Finally, we report on our most innovative approach to creating social change — through designing games. Professor of the learning sciences and computer science Mike Horn describes how both board games and video games can be used to shape changes in values and behaviors on the part of children, adults and even families.

In this issue, we express sincere thanks all of our donors who have contributed resources this past year to support the work of our faculty, staff and students. As you know, we have embarked upon We will. The Campaign for Northwestern. We will is an invitation to the Northwestern community to join together to support Northwestern as an engine for positive change in the world. Accordingly, we welcome all gifts — large or small — and we hope you will use the enclosed envelope to contribute to our School as part of the We will campaign.

As the weather continues to warm, Lake Michigan turns from white ice to liquid blue, and we don our purple shirts and shorts, we invite you to visit us and experience the energy and enthusiasm that we feel for the months ahead and for the future of SESP and Northwestern. Together we will achieve great things!

Penelope Signature
Penelope L. Peterson, Dean