Social and Cultural Studies of Education Emphasis, Ph.D.

The School of Education and Division of Teaching, Learning, Leadership and Policy (TLLP) offers a Ph.D. in Education with an emphasis in Social and Cultural Studies of Education (SCS). As faculty in Social and Cultural Studies of Education, our commitments are guided by the following questions:

  • What ethical and philosophical commitments should inform schooling?
  • How have our histories and contexts shaped learning in and out of schools?
  • What types of inequities persist in schools, and why? What should we do about them? In particular, how do we close the opportunity gaps in the lives of minoritized student populations?
  • How are people (e.g., teachers, activists, students, parents) resisting and fighting for equitable educational outcomes? 

Distinguishing features of SCS are its attention to the past as a powerful influence on the present, and its deconstruction of knowledge, identity, and power dynamics as central to the work of reimagining schools and society for a socially just future. As a land grant university, Iowa State University is uniquely positioned to use its resources to be in service to and in partnership with communities. We therefore are invested in research that not only advances scholarly understanding of the pressing educational issues of our moment, but how we also work toward enacting transformative change. For examples of our scholarship in action, check out the following community-engaged projects from SCS faculty: 

Diverse Children’s Literature
Assistant Professor Noreen Naseem Rodríguez won the Early Career Award from the Children’s Literature Assembly for her groundbreaking scholarship about diverse children’s literature including this co-authored article: “In Search of Mirrors: An Asian Critical Race Theory Content Analysis of Asian American Picture Books from 2007 to 2017” in the Journal of Children’s Literature.

Ethics Bowl
Assistant Professor Nick Tanchuk brought the Ethics Bowl to high schools across central Iowa in 2019 that sent Ames High School to nationals in its first year of competition. 

Mosquitoes & Me Summer Camp Urban Ecosystems Project
Professor Katherine Richardson-Bruna runs an NSF-funded summer camp for students in Des Moines studying the importance of mosquitoes in urban ecosystems. 

National Academy of Education & Spencer Fellowship Ethnography
Assistant Professor Gabriel Rodriguez continues his NAE/Spencer Fellowship work studying Latinx students’ experiences in Midwestern suburban schools with a new line of inquiry investigating the activism of these youth in schools as they fight for an anti-racist, equitable education. 

Our collective commitments are driven by intellectual curiosities informed by our identities and experiences. SCS prides itself for its interdisciplinary nature, allowing students to apply a variety of theoretical and methodological approaches in their scholarly inquiry.​ Faculty expertise includes critical approaches in the following areas:  

  • Anti-Oppressive Histories
  • Autoethnography & Critical Ethnography
  • Asian American Students & Teachers 
  • Civic & Citizenship Education 
  • Content Analysis
  • Critical Race Theory & Asian Critical Race Theory
  • Critical Whiteness
  • Culturally Relevant & Sustaining Pedagogy / Critical Pedagogies
  • Curriculum Development & Theory
  • Discourse Analysis
  • Diverse Children’s & YA Literature 
  • Elite Schooling 
  • Latinx Students & Teachers 
  • Multiculturalism & Multilingualism 
  • Normative Ethics & Political Theory
  • Philosophy of Education
  • Science Education
  • Social Studies Education
  • Student Identity & Belonging
  • Teacher Education and Professional Development
  • University-School-Community Partnerships
  • Urban-Suburban Education / Demographically Transitioning Communities
  • Youth Activism


Need More Information?

Graduate Support Specialist