The IES Pathways to the Education Sciences Program was designed to inspire students from groups that have been historically underrepresented in doctoral study to pursue careers in education research. In recognition of Hispanic Heritage Month, we asked Dr. Guadalupe Carmona, Principal Investigator of the P20 Pathways to Education Research training program at University of Texas at San Antonio to share her career journey and advice on supporting the next generation of education researchers.
How have your background and experiences shaped your scholarship and career?
It takes a village….
My goal has been to prepare the next generation of students in STEM by providing all students access to fundamental STEM ideas from an early age. My own early life experiences guided my scholarship and career in mathematics education. I was born and raised in Mexico City by my mother, an English teacher, and my father, a chemical engineer. They always inspired me to wonder, to ask questions, to seek for answers and to ask more questions, to never settle.
I was inspired to become an educator at the age of 15 when I volunteered for an adult literacy program. There, I had the opportunity to meet an amazing group of (mainly) women who taught me the best lessons of my life. One of my students, Doña Lola, was 70 years old. For 40 years, she sold newspapers at the stand only 2 blocks away from where I lived. Every day she would earn a living by selling news that she was unable to read. Doña Lola was an example to her two daughters, who were 35 and 40, who also enrolled to obtain their middle school certificate. For three consecutive years, I met with Doña Lola and her friends every week. Their perseverance and knowledge earned them an elementary school certificate. When graduation day came Doña Lola’s daughters received her diploma because she had passed away.
Doña Lola and all the wonderful people I met in this program have inspired my scholarship and career. They taught me that education was a privilege that I had taken for granted. They taught me about the joy in learning new things that can transform lives in better ways and about the joy of teaching in their learning. Even in these early years in my life, they taught me that students’ agency and participation in learning communities are fundamental to provide all students access to fundamental ideas from an early age.
At the age of 16, I became inspired to become a mathematician. By a teacher’s recommendation, I registered for the Mathematics Olympics. I didn’t know what this was about, but I knew I had to show up on Saturday and Sunday. I was handed three problems and was given four hours to solve them. I found great joy in finding different ways to solve these problems and in finding ways to explain my thinking process clearly so that the judges would understand my reasoning. Several months later, I received a phone call asking me to come with my family to receive an award. In that ceremony, I met Dr. María Trigueros, faculty at Instituto Tecnológico Autónomo de México, who offered me a scholarship for the mathematics program. She inspired me to write my honor’s thesis about the Conceptualizations of the tangent line and its relation to the derivative, my introduction to mathematics education.
How does your research contribute to a better understanding of the importance of diversity, equity, and inclusion in education?
My research, teaching, and service have been guided by an integrated vision to build a scalable and sustainable research program to prepare the next generation of students in STEM by broadening access to fundamental STEM ideas from an early age, through innovative approaches to teaching, learning, and assessment. In our research group, we use low-cost technologies that are easily available to develop learning environments in STEM. My work centers on impacting the field to become more diverse and more inclusive of populations who have historically been underrepresented. As a scholar and an educator, I work on broadening participation in STEM and STEM education and building bridges to create pathways from K-16 that leads to improved access and quality to education innovation, research, and workforce in the STEM fields.
In a time when Hispanic students are the fastest growing population in this country, providing support for STEM education resources that are also bilingual/biculturally sensitive in Spanish and English, and especially, strengthening ties with STEM and STEM education researchers in HSIs, Mexico and Latin America, are fundamental pieces to achieve these needed changes. This vision cannot be achieved by a single individual. I am fortunate to work within learning communities formed by national and international network of scholars, research and resources who share this vision.
How can the broader education research community better support the careers and scholarship of researchers from underrepresented groups?
It is important that the education research community respond to the imminent need to broaden participation in education research—especially by engaging groups that historically have been underrepresented—and work together towards systemic change. There are at least four key action items:
- Increase research focus in educational systemic changes by simultaneously addressing equity and knowledge, in the design of PreK-16 learning environments for all students, teacher professional development to support these learning environments, and innovative assessments to capture the complexity of student thinking in these learning environments.
- Support training programs, such as the IES Pathways Research in Education Training Programs, for underrepresented individuals to develop careers and create new pathways in education research. These programs support fellows to develop knowledge, tools, and experiences in doing research and participating in learning communities and networks to support their lifelong careers in education research.
- Foster collaborations for interdisciplinary research that requires broad and diverse perspectives to solve grand challenges in education. It is important to have a shared vision and work together in coordinated ways for changes to occur systemically.
- Make use of science communication training for scholars to disseminate results of educational research, especially when addressing interdisciplinary challenges in education so that relevant knowledge quickly becomes part of public domain and citizen literacy.
What advice would you give to emerging scholars from underrepresented, minoritized groups that are pursuing a career in education research?
Ask questions. Seek answers. Find mentors. Learn and participate. Be grateful for the doors they will open for you. Build community. Become mentors. Inspire others and open doors for them.
Be passionate about changing the world. Be strategic about the ONE thing you want to change; prioritize and focus. Always remember that YOU are part of the change!
Dr. Carmona is a Professor in STEM Education at The University of Texas at San Antonio and also serves as Executive Director of ConTex, an initiative between the University of Texas System and Mexico’s National Council of Science and Technology (Conacyt) to foster binational academic collaborations between Mexico and Texas that are mutually beneficial for both countries. Dr. Carmona’s research agenda for the past 20 years has focused on broadening participation in STEM and addressing the need to prepare the next generation of students who can have democratic access to the fundamental and complex ideas in STEM from an early age.
This year, Inside IES Research is publishing a series of interviews (see here) showcasing a diverse group of IES-funded education researchers and fellows that are making significant contributions to education research, policy, and practice.
This guest blog was produced by Katina Stapleton (Katina.Stapleton@ed.gov), co-Chair of the IES Diversity and Inclusion Council. She is also the program officer for the Pathways to the Education Sciences Research Training Program.