School of Education News

Alum Kirchgasler receives honorable mention dissertation honor from AERA's Division B

March 13, 2019
UW-Madison alumna Kathryn Kirchgasler is receiving honorable mention recognition from the American Educational Research Association’s Division B (curricular studies), in that group’s Outstanding Dissertation Award competition.
 
Kirchgasler earned her Ph.D. from the School of Education’s Department of Curriculum and Instruction in 2018.  The dissertation being recognized is titled, “Tracking Disparities: How Schools Make Up Scientific Americans and Pathologized Others.”

Kirchgasler is currently a lecturer of curriculum and teaching at the University of Kansas. She is returning to UW-Madison in the fall to begin a position as an assistant professor of science education with the Department of Curriculum and Instruction.
 
Kirchgasler
Kirchgasler
KIrchgasler explains that her dissertation research juxtaposed past and present to examine how tools of teacher education carry historical assumptions of human difference that undermine commitments to equality and justice. Her research project combined a two-year ethnographic study of a high school with historical analysis of tracking in U.S. science education.
 
Despite key shifts over the past century, Kirchgasler found that tools to classify learners today retain cultural norms that gender and racialize some people as less “scientific” than others. These tools make tracking appear like a natural response to pre-existing conditions, such as achievement gaps, differing interests and health disparities. This obscures how these distinctions were produced.
 
Kirchgasler’s study underscores a danger in seeking to include underrepresented groups today without considering the ways in which these methods resemble strategies to improve the minds, attitudes, and hygiene of immigrant and colonized groups a century ago.
 
She explains that the hope is that when current pedagogical practices are recognized as cultural artifacts rather than natural ways of ordering knowledge and people, they can be either discarded or reinvented for more just ends.

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