PhD Students Christina Krist, Eleanor Anderson Win Spencer/NAE Fellowships

PhD Students Christina Krist, Eleanor Anderson Win Spencer/NAE Fellowships

Learning Sciences doctoral students Eleanor Anderson and Christina Krist were recently awarded Spencer/NAE Dissertation Fellowships. Anderson’s research centers on restorative justice in high schools, and Krist’s research on making scientific processes meaningful to students. Spencer/NAE Fellows, who receive $25,000 awards, are selected because of their potential to contribute to understanding of education. 

Eleanor Anderson

Eleanor Anderson
Anderson is researching the implementation of restorative justice practices in public high schools. “Restorative justice practices are an alternative to suspension that turn the traditional logic of school discipline on its head. Rather than punish disruptive students by removing them from school, restorative justice practices focus on strengthening relationships to get students more engaged in school, and hold them more personally accountable to their teachers and peers,” says Anderson.

While schools and districts are already adopting restorative justice practices, many are struggling with implementing the practices in a thorough and sustainable way, according to Anderson. “Asking schools to change their daily routines around discipline and shift some of their basic assumptions about why young people act out is a tall order! In my dissertation I will try to understand what school structures support suspension vs. restorative justice practices; how educators understand the meaning and purpose of restorative justice practices; and how support for restorative justice practices can affect school climate.”

“These questions are especially important in Chicago. The Chicago public schools have the highest rate of suspension of any major urban district in the nation, and addressing that problem using restorative justice practices (among other reforms) has become a priority. I believe that they will also prove relevant much more broadly as discipline reform is increasingly coming into the spotlight in school districts across the nation, and around the world,” Anderson maintains.

Christina Krist

Christina Krist
Krist’s dissertation focuses on middle school science classrooms that are attempting to align instruction with current reforms in science education such as the Next Generation Science Standards. These reforms emphasize scientific practices, such as modeling, experimentation, and argumentation, as the means by which students develop and use scientific ideas. “Engaging students in scientific practices requires that classrooms adopt the knowledge-building goals of science and use the epistemic criteria of discipline, such as ideas for what counts as credible evidence, to guide their knowledge building and evaluation work. Much research has focused on bringing the epistemic elements of disciplinary science into classrooms through designing curricular materials. However, implementing new curricula without making changes to classroom social dynamics can lead to rote enactments of the rich practices these materials are designed to support,” says Krist.

“In order for classroom communities to engage in scientific practices in disciplinarily authentic (i.e., non-rote) ways, they must establish a culture that redistributes epistemic agency from the teacher to the students. That is, students need to be given the ability and taught how to accept, reject, or modify ideas or explanations generated in their science classrooms, says Krist. “My dissertation aims to understand the processes by which classroom communities make scientific practices meaningful by carefully studying classrooms attempting to redistribute epistemic agency. I am conducting a three-year longitudinal case study follows students in two middle schools as they progress from 6th-8th grade.”

“My research tackles a question that is core to educational theory and practice, not only in science, but also in any content area that is aiming to teach by engaging students in disciplinarily authentic practices,” says Krist. “What is it about these practices that students come to find useful and productive, and how do they develop that understanding of those practices? And in terms of practice, how can teachers and researchers design and implement instruction that makes practices relevant without losing the disciplinary richness? With my research, I aim to contribute to our understanding of how students' understanding of and caring about their engagement in disciplinary practices co-develops, and to use that understanding to provide heuristics informing the design of instruction, professional development, and materials that support meaningful adoptions and adaptations of disciplinary practices in classroom settings.”

Spencer/NAE Fellowships are highly competitive, with only 30 fellows chosen from more than 600 applications from students at about 100 graduate institutions. Fellows become part of a research community interested in educational issues, as they are invited to participate in meetings in Washington, DC, with senior scholars and NAEd/Spencer Postdoctoral Fellows.

By Marilyn Sherman
Last Modified: 6/30/15