Practices of Freedom Project

Two women hugging as they celebrate freedom and liberation in education

Project Overview

The Practices of Freedom: A Model for Transformative Teaching and Teacher Education aims to contribute to the building of more just education in our region. Through an ambitious, multi-pronged approach that prioritizes Black educational knowledge traditions, we work not only to increase the number of Black and other Teachers of Color but also to transform the pedagogies and curricula in Western Pennsylvania schools.

Funding Support

Supported by the McElhattan Foundation through a generous, four-year grant, this project will involve multiple sites and practices of Black educational traditions. Our partnership begins with the Woodland Hills School District, in year one, and Pittsburgh Public Schools will join in year two.

Multi-generational Impact

Our project is shaped by a micro-collective model for preparing teachers and a freedom-based curriculum. Undergraduate and graduate students from the University of Pittsburgh, high school students from our partner districts, in-service teachers from our school partners, and community educators will comprise our micro-collectives. These micro-collectives will participate in Freedom Seminars and other rich sources of pedagogy, such as book studies and talks, study groups, Center for Urban Education Lunch and Learns, and more presentations. This work will be supported and strengthened through the integration of arts, music, literary societies, faith-based organizations, mutual aid societies, and sports organizations.

Join the Micro-Collectives

Each year, we invite interested participants to apply to educational micro-collectives comprised of multiple educational generations (see below). These micro-collectives function as our primary unit of preparation and transformation. Over the course of each year, micro-collective members will attend Freedom Seminars at the University of Pittsburgh, semi-annual symposia, and various lectures and presentations on Black educational knowledge traditions and history. Members will also participate in a a full micro-collective dialogic study model and will develop small group research presentations based upon shared work.

Program Requirements

Please complete the appropriate generation application and send to by November 19, 2021. The first cohort will be matriculated in January 2022.

Meet the Team

Valerie Kinloch
Dr. Valerie Kinloch began her tenure as the Renée and Richard Goldman Dean of the University of Pittsburgh School of Education in July 2017.  Under her leadership, the School adopted a forward-thinking mission-vision that places equity, justice, and innovation at its core. This mission-vision encourages faculty, staff, and students to work together to always ignite learning, strive for well-being for all, and disrupt and transform inequitable educational structures.  Dean Kinloch is a nationally known educator and author whose scholarship focuses on the literacy, language, culture, and community engagements of youth and adults, both inside and outside of schools. Prior to joining the Pitt School of Education, Dean Kinloch was a faculty member and Associate Dean at The Ohio State University’s College of Education and Human Ecology. Before Ohio State, Dean Kinloch taught at Columbia University’s Teachers College and the University of Houston-Downtown.

Sabina Vaught
Dr. Vaught’s research considers carcerality and liberatory knowledge movements broadly and the race-gender labor and conquest relationships among schools, prisons, and insurgent communities specifically. In her scholarly work, Dr. Vaught draws on a constellation of knowledge traditions that help make sense of insurgent and counterinsurgent movements: feminisms, the Black radical tradition, Indigenous studies, and legal studies/Critical Race Theory. Her most recent book, "Compulsory: Education and the Dispossession of Youth in a Prison School" (University of Minnesota Press, 2017), is an ethnographic study inside a state juvenile prison schooling system.

T. Elon Dancy II
Dr. Dancy is Helen S. Faison Endowed Chair, Executive Director of the Center for Urban Education, and former Associate Dean for Equity and Justice in the School of Education at the University of Pittsburgh where he also holds appointments in Africana Studies and Women's, Gender, and Sexuality Studies. His six books and nearly 100 journal articles, book chapters, and essays broadly explore education settings as sites of African diasporic struggle and worldmaking, with a focus on Black American populations. More specifically, Dancy studies masculinity formations, power and identity negotiation, and Black methodologies and anti-Blackness in education and society. His research and scholarship have been funded by several foundations and agencies, including the Spencer Foundation, the National Science Foundation, and the Heinz Foundation. Dancy currently serves as associate editor of Educational Researcher. Prior to joining Pitt, Dancy served as Associate Dean for Community Engagement and Inclusion and Professor of Educational Leadership and Policy Studies at the University of Oklahoma.


A recording from the event "Practices of Freedom Symposium: A Model for Transformative Teaching and Teacher Education" held on September 11, 2021 to discuss the significance of the Practices of Freedom project.

Opportunities for PhD Students

These positions are open to current Pitt PhD students. Those who are interested in applying should contact

  • Graduate Research Student (GSR 1) - Education doctoral student who will be dedicated to Western Pennsylvania/Pittsburgh area educational history research on Black and Indigenous educational histories, and radical white histories that might help lay the groundwork for transformative work. This student will conduct archival research, qualitative data collection, analysis (e.g., participant interviews), and other project research. 
  • Graduate Research Student (GSR 2) - Education doctoral student will work with us to transform Dr. Dancy's current semester-long course into a year-long seminar in Black Educational Thought as well as co-design other project courses. This student will coordinate with the research team to study the project, gather evidence, and help build structures for sustainability/scalability.
  • Evaluation Consultant - Open to anyone with experience. Design a research and evaluation model through a grounded, collective, iterative process, including the survey instruments. Will collect data throughout the year for analysis (including a synthesis of the work to-date in Years 2 and 3), and then suggest ways to improve the program for the subsequent year and beyond based on that information. The end-of-year reports representing the culmination of our efforts including quantitative, qualitative, and mixed method data. 

Contact Us

For any questions about the Practices of Freedom initiative, please contact