School of Education News

AERJ publishes paper from Bal examining intervention to address racial disparities in school discipline

May 29, 2018

UW-Madison’s Aydin Bal is the lead author on a new research paper that presents the first formative intervention study in the United States that addresses racial disparities in discipline at a public high school.

The article, which appears in the American Educational Research Journal (AERJ), is titled, “Culturally Responsive School Discipline: Implementing Learning Lab at a High School for Systemic Transformation.” AERJ is the flagship journal of the American Educational Research Association.

Bal is an associate professor with the School of Education’s Department of Rehabilitation Psychology and Special Education. The report is co-authored with Kemal Afacan and Halil Ibrahim Cakir, both of whom are pursuing doctorates at UW-Madison in special education.

The report’s abstract notes how youth from minority communities disproportionately receive exclusionary school discipline, both in the severity and frequency of this punishment. This racialization of school discipline has been linked to long-term negative consequences on students’ academic and life outcomes.

“In this article, we present a formative intervention, Learning Lab, that addressed racial disparities in school discipline at a public high school,” the authors write. “Learning Lab successfully united local stakeholders, specifically those who had been historically excluded from the school’s decision-making activities. Learning Lab members engaged in historical and empirical root cause analyses, mapped out their existing discipline system and designed a culturally responsive schoolwide behavioral support model in response to diverse experiences, resources, practices, needs, and goals of local stakeholders.”

The study is a part of a state-wide research project, Culturally Responsive Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports (CRPBIS). The scholars’ analysis drew on the theory of expansive learning to examine how the Learning Lab process worked through expansive learning actions.

The researchers conclude their article by noting: “Forming democratic and inclusive schools demands bold and persistent experiments in practice. Learning Lab may be instrumental in creating and sustaining inclusive knowledge-production activities, collective agency, and transformation that are culturally responsive to diverse needs, goals, and experiences of the whole school community. Learning Lab utilizes and fosters diverse perspectives, experiences, and interests — rather than forcing homogenization of multivocality for the sake of harmony that may mean silencing minoritized communities. Through Learning Lab, school communities can engage in organizational redesign and future making that embraces and in fact incorporates systemic contradictions and diversity to facilitate expansive learning and participatory social justice for all.”

CRPBIS Research Team
The study published in the American Educational Research Journal is part of a state-wide
research project, Culturally Responsive Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports
. The CRPBIS team is pictured here.

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