Master's Project Spotlight: Karolyn Walch Cutler

Master's Project Spotlight: Karolyn Walch Cutler

By Karolyn Walch Cutler

Title of Master's Project:

“I think everyone should stand up for people”: Examining the Impact of Centering Marginalized Voices in a Middle School Social Studies Classroom

Tell us more about your Master's Project:

For my master's project I included primary sources that highlighted the voices of people of color from American history. After students had opportunities to analyze sources and participate in student led discussions about the sources I had them respond to questions about the topics and examined whether students identified racism, white supremacy, and/or privilege. I was also interested in seeing if students expressed empathy for marginalized groups who experienced discrimination and if they had a greater desire to use their own voices to promote justice.

What inspired you to research this topic?

 I was assigned to student teach 8th grade U.S. history at a majority white school. A lot of our readings in the MSED program focus on the benefits of being a culturally responsive educator. I wanted to see if centering marginalized voices in majority white classrooms benefited students and helped them develop empathy and a desire to participate in their communities. I also care deeply about creating an equitable classroom where my students know that all of their voices matter.

Did you find any interesting research by other scholars that connects to your topic?

 I read so many interesting articles. I particularly enjoyed the research of Au, Banks, Gay, Nieta, and Willis. Most of what I read focused on the importance of centering marginalized voices in order to benefit BIPOC students but it still opened my eyes to the incredible work that researchers and educators are doing in this field.

Will you incorporate your findings into your future practice? If so, how?

 History teachers have the power to choose whose stories they wish to emphasize and which sources they want to invite into the classroom. I want to make sure that students learn from different perspectives and engage in respectful discussions even when they might disagree with one another. I also saw the benefits to asking students to write down what they learned about racism and discrimination and to consider ways of using their own voices in their communities.

What was it like researching with students?

 My students were amazing. I was so impressed with their ability to grapple with difficult texts with their desires to improve the world, promote democracy, and make a difference for good.This experience as a teacher-scholar has left me with a desire to continue researching throughout my entire life. I love learning, reading, and writing and my research project was incredibly meaningful to me.

Do you have any advice for future MSEd students working on their Master's projects?

 The Master's Project really terrified me. I felt inadequate in many ways when I embarked on my project. Consider what questions really interest you and read a few articles on the topic and make sure the research interests you as well.

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