Q&A: Coeditors Conra Gist and Travis Bristol Discuss AERA’s Forthcoming Handbook of Research on Teachers of Color and Indigenous Teachers
Q&A: Coeditors Conra Gist and Travis Bristol Discuss AERA’s Forthcoming Handbook of Research on Teachers of Color and Indigenous Teachers

February 2022

Travis J. Bristol
Conra D. Gist

In April, AERA will publish  Handbook of Research on Teachers of Color and Indigenous Teachers, edited by Conra D. Gist and Travis J. Bristol. The Handbook addresses issues and obstacles to ethnoracial diversity across the life course of teachers’ careers in key areas such as recruitment and retention, professional development, and the role of minority-serving institutions.

Gist is an associate professor of teaching and teacher education at the University of Houston. Bristol is an associate professor of teacher education and education policy at the University of California, Berkeley, Graduate School of Education. Gist and Bristol discuss important takeaways from the Handbook in the following Q&A.

Q. Why this edited volume at this moment in education research and why is it important for the field?

A. As the students in U.S. public schools become more ethnoracially diverse, calls for recruiting, supporting, and retaining Teachers of Color and Indigenous Teachers (TOCIT), as one lever for improving student learning, have become commonplace in policy and practice communities. The more recent quantitative studies support what many qualitative researchers in the field of education research have long documented—there are measurable and observable positive impacts for all children taught by TOCIT. Given the extensive body of scholarship produced on the impact of TOCIT over the past forty years, there is a need now, more than ever, to frame, examine, and chart the landscape of this research in an edited volume. In so doing, we trust that the volume will be both timely and timeless. 

Q. How can policy makers and practitioners help support the retention and development of TOCIT?

A. This Handbook highlights the enabling and constraining conditions that shape retention and ongoing professional development for TOCIT. The contributors to the volume offer an evidence base to which policy makers and practitioners should turn when designing and enacting policies and practices that can support and retain TOCIT. In addition, the volume underscores the importance of not viewing TOCIT as a monolithic group. For example, Tenorio and colleagues examine Native teacher preparation; Rong and colleagues explore the reasons for the Asian American teacher shortage. So, for policy makers and practitioners, it is important to have an understanding of the similarities and differences within and across TOCIT when designing recruitment, support, and retention efforts. 

Q. How do you hope the Handbook will contribute to the discussions currently surrounding Critical Race Theory?

A. Many chapters in this Handbook examine how the structures that center Whiteness, and explicitly decenter the experiences of Black, Indigenous, and People of Color in and across U.S. society, are reproduced in schools and enacted through policies and practices that create challenging school-based experiences for TOCIT. In fact, some of the chapter contributors use Critical Race Theory as a framework for their empirical pieces. And it is important to underscore how many chapters in the Handbook move beyond the White gaze. Handbook chapters document how TOCIT enact practices that are relevant and rigorous for their students, as well as how TOCIT gather in communities that are joyful and deepen their professional learning.

Q. How did you decide which topics to include in the volume and how did you select section editors?

A. One aim of the volume is to examine the career life course of TOCIT. The opening section begins with Conra’s chapter outlining a robust research agenda for strengthening the ethnoracial diversity of the U.S. educator workforce. Next, recognizing that we could not explore the contemporary career life course of TOCIT without an examination of the past, we thought it important to have a chapter highlighting the historical experiences of TOCIT. Todd-Breland’s chapter meticulously documents the histories of American Indian, African American, Latinx, and Asian American and Pacific Islander educators teaching within the United States. Given that the United States is a European settler colony, it was critical to include a chapter illuminating the experiences of Native Teachers. Archibald and colleagues examine the struggles and triumphs of Indigenous teacher education in the United States and Canada. The volume is then divided into 11 sections aligned to 11 research domains, each exploring one dimension of the career life course of TOCIT.  

Some of these domains include recruitment, program design, human resource development and induction, professional development, and retention. Each section has, on average, five chapters, which have gone through several rounds of feedback and revision. To select section editors, we identified the scholars with a track record of doing cutting-edge work and pushing back on dominant narratives across each of the particular domains.  

Q. What are some of the emerging areas and new directions discussed within this volume?

A. One important new direction in this volume is that we put studies of Indigenous, Asian American, Black, and Latinx pre- and in-service teachers in conversation with each other. While the individual chapters examine the experiences of one subgroup, for example Abdi and colleagues’ piece on Somali teacher epistemologies and Carter Andrews’s section introduction on pedagogical and leadership practices weave together points of convergence and divergence across chapters that focus on Latinx and Asian American Teachers.  Another emerging research area examined in this volume is TOCIT’s intersectional identities. Again, TOCITs are not a monolithic group. In their section introduction on intersectional cartographies, Wozolek and colleagues interrogate how markers of difference such as class, nationality, immigrant status, raciolinguistic status, and (dis)ability inform whether and how Teachers of Color can fully participate in K–12 schooling. Finally, Travis’s chapter on ethnoracially diverse teachers in Europe draws parallels between U.S. and European minoritized teachers’ workplace experiences.

Q. From the time you started this project to the book’s release, what has surprised you the most?

A. We started this project in spring 2018; it has and continues to be a labor of love and service to the field of education research. One of the biggest surprises has been that at every turn when we extended an invitation to colleagues across research, policy, and practice communities to join this project, we received an enthusiastic “yes!” Before the 2018 AERA Annual Meeting, with financial support from the AERA Education Research Conferences Program, we invited the section editors to a two-day pre-conference to deepen our collective understanding of the 11 domains of inquiry as well as to co-design the call for chapters. Later, in the summer of 2018, the American Federation of Teachers hosted our advisory board in Washington, D.C., composed of senior researchers, leading policymakers, and practitioners (see list here). The advisory board helped us build out our project to ensure it was relevant not only to researchers but also to policymakers and practitioners. The following summer, in 2019, the American Association of Colleges for Teacher Education and New America hosted a policy and practice convening, which included national policy organizations (e.g. the National Indian Education Association and the Learning Policy Institute) and TOCIT. One outcome from that session was a recently published Kappan special issue which captures 11 teacher testimonies aligned to each of the Handbook’s research domains.