Shirin Vossoughi to Study Makerspaces as NAEd/Spencer Fellow

Shirin Vossoughi to Study Makerspaces as NAEd/Spencer Fellow

Shirin VossoughiSESP assistant professor Shirin Vossoughi was selected to be a 2016 NAEd/Spencer Postdoctoral Fellow. This fellowship program created by the National Academy of Education with support from the Spencer Foundation encourages outstanding researchers at the postdoctoral level to pursue critical education research.

Vossoughi’s two-year fellowship award of $70,000 will support her research project “Hands-Eyes-Voices: Towards an Interactional View of Embodied Learning and Equity.” In this project, Vossoughi leads a team of educators and researchers examining after-school tinkering programs that design for equity, building on her research as a postdoctoral fellow at Stanford University and at the Exploratorium in San Francisco.

According to Vossoughi, the “Hands-Eyes-Voices” project gives needed attention to research on “embodied dimensions of learning” that emphasizes issues of power and equity. For Vossoughi, the term “embodied” highlights the physical, gestural and object-related aspects of educational activity, and the ethical and pedagogical values embedded in moment-to-moment interaction.

Her study takes place in an environment of rich after-school STEM and arts education for non-dominant students, and it tracks participants over three years.

“Identifying the specific configurations of hands, eyes and voices that restrict or support learning in this setting will contribute to building adequately dynamic and perceptive tools for the design of equitable educational environments,” she says.

Vossoughi is paying special attention to the role of talk, gesture, gaze and timing in expanding or restricting the social relations and forms of learning that emerge over time. In particular, her study carefully observes and analyzes these aspects of embodied learning:

  • the coordination of teachers’ and students’ hands, eyes and voices within project-based, scientific and artistic activities
  • the types of assistance that deepen students’ learning, social relationships, and sense of capability and dignity

As an assistant professor at Northwestern University’s School of Education and Social Policy, Vossoughi studies the social, cultural, historical and political dimensions of learning and educational equity. Combining interpretation of interactions with cultural-historical approaches to learning, Vossoughi seeks to integrate macro-political concerns with detailed studies of educational settings. 

As the daughter of Iranian immigrants and political exiles, Vossoughi is personally invested in the creative development of educational settings for youth from migrant, immigrant and diasporic backgrounds. She takes a collaborative approach to research and design, partnering with teachers and students to study the conditions that foster educational dignity and possibility.

See a recent KQED news story about Shirin Vossoughi’s research.

By Marilyn Sherman
Last Modified: 6/19/16