Each year, the University of Pittsburgh Provost’s Award for Diversity in the Curriculum recognizes five faculty members across the university for their active work to integrate equity and social justice work into their classroom instruction.
Lori Delale-O’Connor, an assistant professor in the Center for Urban Education (CUE) in the School of Education, was recognized for her design of a qualitative research course taken by doctoral students.
Delale-O’Connor’s teaching and research focuses on urban education, the sociology of education, positive child and youth development, and parent education. At Pitt Education, Delale-O’Connor teaches in the EdD and PhD in Urban Education programs.
“Qualitative research in education requires the researcher to ask critical questions about their own biases when observing and interacting with subject and when interpreting data. Talking about equity in education and systematic power dynamics cannot be omitted from this curriculum,” said Delale-O’Connor.
Delale-O’Connor’s qualitative research course is designed to transform students’ understanding of both themselves and their impact in research. She believes that critical, qualitative education-focused research is needed now more than ever to inform new directions in educational policies that affect marginalized populations.
“The dominant group voice has been the focus of research and data collection, fueling almost every important educational decision with disregard to groups marginalized by race, religion, socioeconomic class, and gender. I’m training my students to see the full picture,” said Delale-O’Connor.
As a former research scientist at Child Trends, a non-profit research center focused on improving the well-being of children, Delale-O’Connor has designed research, conducted evaluations and forged new program initiatives.
Through her award-winning course, Delale-O’Connor engages her students in class discussions. Students who take the course through the Doctor of Education (EdD) program are based in different geographic locations, due to the national draw of the program and its hybrid online format come from all over for the Urban Education program and this class, especially her EdD students.
“We have students who fly in once a month for Saturday classes from New York, North Carolina, and that’s just to name a few. The problems they see vary greatly from region to region, so I diversify the literature to make the content relevant for all of my students while keeping the focus on equity and justice,” said Delale-O’Connor.
Delale-O’Connor received the Provost’s Diversity in the Curriculum Award this past November at a special ceremony hosted by Ann E. Cudd, the provost and senior vice chancellor.
“I do this work because it matters, and I’m so fortunate to do this work here. Dean Kinloch and Associate Dean Patel support my research, and, more importantly, they provide me the space and support to facilitate critical social justice discussions in my courses. Our programs in CUE and the School of Education develop educators, practitioners, and leaders who actively work towards equity in education, and I know we wouldn’t be capable of doing so without re-imagining social justice in educational settings,” said Delale-O’Connor.