Two Penn GSE Doctoral Students: NAEd/Spencer Dissertation Fellows

Ethnographic studies of Black Muslim youth in Philadelphia and multilingual teachers in Morocco have earned two Penn GSE doctoral students National Academy of Education/Spencer Dissertation Fellowships.

Irteza Binte-Farid and Gareth Smail received the prestigious fellowships, which support individuals whose dissertations show potential for bringing fresh and constructive perspectives to the history, theory, analysis, or practice of formal or informal education anywhere in the world.

Irteza Binte-Farid, a joint PhD candidate in Penn GSE’s literacy, culture, and international education division and Penn’s department of sociology, was recognized for her dissertation “My Ancestors Could Do This, So I Have to Keep Going With It”: Historical Narratives, Faith Practices, and Civic Engagement amongst Black Muslim Youth in Philadelphia.

Following 30 black Muslim youth in and out of history classrooms for two years in two Philadelphia charter schools, Ms. Binte-Farid found that ethnic identities contributed to divergent interpretations of black history and the Black Lives Matter movement among African American and West African youth, while engaging in Islamic practices together created friendships that formed the basis for civic engagement.

Examples from her study can show teachers how acknowledging the diversity of Black youth’s identities can counter essentialization of Black experiences while also creating productive learning spaces. Teachers can empower students to challenge anti-Blackness and Islamophobia through historical examples. Additionally, Black Muslim students can be taught to acknowledge historical difference, find common ground with peers through racial and religious bonds, and aspire for hopeful futures where Black lives truly matter.

Gareth Smail, a PhD candidate in educational linguistics, was recognized for his dissertation, Reconciling Multilingualisms: Teacher Identity and Language Diversity in Moroccan Public Schools.

Mr. Smail examined emerging linguistic diversity in Moroccan schools, where the long-marginalized Tamazight language and so-called international languages like French and English are being taught more widely in addition to the country’s post-independence emphasis on Standard Arabic.

Mr. Smail explores the dilemmas Moroccan teachers face as they enact this new state multilingualism. His project focuses on a group of teachers tasked with introducing a new “creative” language arts program in a community with its own longstanding vernacular bilingualism. It analyzes how the teachers—as simultaneously community members, agents of the state, and aspirants to a global class of professional educators—document and describe their own multilingual pedagogical practices as they attempt to establish legitimacy for their novel project.

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