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Indiana University Northwest

Professor Rochelle Brock


Current Research Interests:

  • Academic: Urban education, teacher education, curriculum theory and development, race and gender studies, social foundations of education, cultural studies, emotionally "at-risk" students, minority education.

Research Narrative

SOE Guidelines

Excellence in research and creative activity may be shown when submitted documentation shows that the faculty member is beginning to establish a national reputation as a regular and original contributor to research and creative activities and that there is a well-defined domain of inquiry being established, with continuity and connectedness between individual projects.  Quality of publications is more important than quantity.  

Quality of publications may be measured by their dissemination, peer review status, the “impact factor” or rankings of journals, the prestige of the publisher as measured by acceptance/rejection rates, and/or the value of the publication as reflected in the number of times it’s been cited in other publications.


In the following narrative, I explain how I meet the SOE requirements for excellence in research, how I have established a “national reputation as a regular and original contributor to research and creative activities “ and how my research exhibits a “continuity and connectedness between individual projects” and publications. In addition, the quality and dissemination of my publications and the journals and book publishers are of high quality. For example, Critical methodologies<->Critical pedagogies has a 5% expectance rate. My book and book chapters have been published in Teachers College Press and Peter Lang, both which are highly rated. My book, Sista talk: The personal and the pedagogical has sold 850 copies and has had two printings. (See Supporting Data on publications in PURPLE Section-Volume I)

Origins of My Research

My line of research, which establishes a well-defined domain of inquiry, focuses on the political and social influences on academic achievement of minority students. In my work to define and delineate these various influences and then use them to think more deeply about the academic achievement of minority students, I also concentrate on identity development as it relates to urban teachers and urban students. The research I undertake is intertwined with my personal philosophy; flip sides of the same coin, each complementing and moving the other to a deeper level. My research has developed the parameters for achieving a pedagogy of wholeness (Brock 2005), which grows out of Black feminist theory as a critical discourse in education. In so doing, my teaching, research and service are constructed to ferret out characteristics of such a pedagogy. I believe that a pedagogy of wholeness has its place in creating a public space populated by politically empowered people who are knowledgeable about how to shape the political and social agenda to critical democracy, individual freedom, social justice, and social change.

My work is grounded in three years as a high school social studies teacher, and subsequent years of teaching multicultural education and minority issues in education at the collegiate level. During my early career, teaching high school at an alternative school, I became interested in the relationships between teaching, learning and positive identity development of minority students. I noticed that the majority of my students held negative connotations of themselves; they believed (often times on a subconscious level) that they were inferior and acted out accordingly. When I entered graduate school it was with the expressed purpose of understanding the forces that led my students to those negative feelings.

Initial lines of inquiry in my research focused on minority students’ understanding of self. A major part of this early work dealt with how students understood the construction of their identity and relationships of identity to a sense of self and academic achievement. It was during my dissertation research that I began to question the relationship between my identity as a Black woman and as a teacher, a subject matter that launched an academic pursuit, rendering clarity and direction in teaching and scholarship. My dissertation, Theorizing away the pain: Hyphenating the space between the personal and the pedagogical, attempted to define the connection between the personal and the pedagogical and how this symbiotic relationship worked in the creation of a transformative pedagogy (Brock1999). A transformative pedagogy provides deep historical and aesthetic explorations of the social, cultural, and ecological components of community as they each relate to power/knowledge relationships. In the course of my research I developed a pedagogy of wholeness (Brock 1999) which has as its central aim the development of a positive sense of self so as to foster a growth in the consciousness of both student and teacher.


Pedagogy of Wholeness

As a teacher educator my concern and area of interest is the curriculum/pedagogy needed for urban/minority children. My ultimate aim is to lie out the parameters and characteristics of my definition of effective teaching of urban students. I ask—What type of education is needed? What type of education will be empowering? How do I as a teacher educator foster in my students a commitment to radical agency for themselves and their students?  How can teachers positively affect the realities of urban students? In attempting to answer these questions I take a sociological approach that forces me to think beyond the school classroom to life’s classroom. I therefore place all of my pedagogy-specific questions under the umbrella question—What are the social, political, economic and historical influences on identity development of minority students and their relationship to student achievement in school and in life?

The major influences on my research are those scholars that fall within the paradigms of critical pedagogy (Paulo Friere, Joe Kincheloe, Peter McLaren, Henry Giroux), Black feminist theory (Patricia Hill-Collins, Gloria Wade-Gayles, Jackie Jordan-Irving), culturally relevant pedagogy (Gloria Ladson-Billings, Beverly Tatum) and Cultural Marxist theory (William Watkins). Utilizing the bricolage method (Kincheloe, 2001), I cull various significant pieces from each theory that allow me to begin to answer the above questions and ask additional ones. In 1999 during my dissertation research I developed the methodology of a pedagogy of wholeness, a matrix of necessary components in the teaching of urban/minority students, in which my subsequent writings and researched are placed.

A pedagogy of wholeness is about the transformative possibilities produced when urban students are in an educational system that provides the tools needed to negotiate their world, whereby they know the workings of the political system, become socially aware and conscious humans. A students’ consciousness is created or allowed to flourish when the person standing in front of the class is able to centralize students’ lived experiences in pedagogy. A pedagogy of wholeness is grounded in Black feminist theory which creates the space, as well as the language of critique, that allows me to negotiate between and within theory and knowledge as I search for understanding. Central to a pedagogy of wholeness are the concepts of spirituality in teaching (the connection of the internal essence of an individual to their conceptions of self), sociopolitical transformation (the physical and psychological movement to understanding the sociological forces that influences your reality) and commitment to social justice (accepting the responsibility each person has to make a difference in their life and that of others) which run throughout my scholarship, either individually or in concert. The publications in my dossier speak to how I theorize and conceptualize this pedagogy in my research.

In Sista talk: The personal and the pedagogical, I bridge the relationship between my personal and teacher identity as I discuss how the interaction between the two led to my development of a pedagogy of wholeness (Brock, 2005). In this pursuit of a mind/body connection I fervently believe that the first and most important step in becoming a transformative teacher is in understanding those forces that influence our identity construction. This is more than simply an exercise in self indulgence but instead a truly reflective and reflexive endeavor, which requires the courage to think deeply about ontological questions of existence. Sista talk: The personal and the pedagogical traverses freely through the philosophies of ontology (nature of being), phenomenology (consciousness) and epistemology (knowledge) as I attempt to construct a pedagogical stance that is both transformative and radical. The importance of this book is evident in its various uses in college classes at universities throughout the country. For example, Dr. Silvia Bettez at the University of North Carolina-Greensboro utilizes Sista talk: The personal and the pedagogical in her graduate class “Passionate Pedagogies.” I was invited to speak to Dr. Bettez’s class through a cyber lecture. The book was also used in a graduate course at Purdue University, West Lafayette, which speaks to its importance in teaching feminist narrative methodology. (For both syllabi see PURPLE Section-Volume I). Finally, Sista talk: The personal and the pedagogical was reviewed in Education Review: A Journal of Book Reviews where it was stated:

Not since the likes of Freire, Giroux, and McLaren, has any author been able to seize, capture and grab my attention so fully and completely. While the works of these dynamic critical pedagogues absolutely and profoundly changed both the way I read the world and the way I am with the world, Brock's work gave me yet another gift, the gift of breath.

–Hassanali, February 15 2006 (See PURPLE Section-Volume I).

Research that promotes spirituality in teaching

A major component of a pedagogy of wholeness is spirituality in teaching which works with the spirit of a child. The traditional method of schooling ignores the socio-emotional importance of learning especially for low-income and minority students. In contrast, when we conceptualize teaching as more than “best practices” which typically means traditional modes of teaching, we are able to think about the emotional development of students as well as the cognitive. A pedagogy of wholeness recognizes the necessity of connecting the mind of students (what they know) to their body (what they feel). In this way students can know, question and resist the dominant structures that damage their spirit and self-identity. Dear Joe: A poem, a picture, a song (2010), perhaps the piece I am the most proud of, is a letter I wrote to Joe Kincheloe (my graduate school advisor and friend) who passed away in December of 2008. Joe embodied spirituality in teaching and in his research. He possessed the mind/body connection I spoke of earlier which allowed him to move all of his students to a place that Paulo Friere defines as “Radical Love” (2006).  

Much of my research has been centered on the spiritual connection teachers must make with not only their students but also their personal philosophy of life and education. In Using critical thinking to understand a Black woman’s identity: Expanding consciousness in an urban education classroom (Brock, 2007a), I discuss the necessity for students of color to be critically aware of the various constructs in place that mystify their oppression. I specifically address the “human vitalness” that is essential to the education of students of color. Human vitalness is concerned with students participating in and understanding their humanity and self worth (King, 1994).

This is a important part of my research because for many urban students human vitalness is missing or damaged due to various sociological and educational constructs. Society has often viewed Black and Latino culture through a deficit lens—their culture is the problem—not society. My research and scholarship focuses on how education can be the means toward which students of color reestablish their connection with self and the world. Moreover, a critical education can unveil the mysteries of a student’s existence and provides the road map to creating his/her own knowledge. Education should not only afford students an understanding of the sociopolitical forces that oppress, but also ensure that new knowledge is internalized with enough strength to uproot the old. When pedagogy is critically transformative, immense possibilities are unlocked for students based on their clarity of soul allowing them to accept a new way of seeing. In contrast, when a student’s clarity of soul is missing, a space exists where pain can fester because a belief in self has never been fully developed. Because of an arrested development a person can feel and experience the negative and the positive, but always allowing the negative to win. In Becoming whole through critical thought: A recipe (Brock, 2007b) I place the discussion of what is necessary to move the individual towards a clarity of soul in the form of a play This chapter is the manifestation of an assignment that can be used in the classroom to concretely guide students to think in creative ways and analyze a theory through expression.

Clearly, working on the spirit of the individual must come before they will accept the important the sociopolitical information I want to impart. When in your heart you believe you are nothing, and although you can memorize facts in order to pass a test, the information really does not and cannot transform. The goal in my scholarship is to research the ways that preservice teachers understand this, not only for the benefit of their future students, but also for their own learning. In Becoming whole through critical thought: A recipe (Brock, 2006), I discuss the journey a person can take on the road to wholeness of being; something typically not discussed in teacher education classes. In contrast, I assert that the discussion is important to have as I work to understand the necessary ingredients in a pedagogy that allows urban students to change their world.

Research that promotes Sociopolitical transformation

Education should work towards the whole person. When education targets wholeness of being, students realize their connection to the world and they begin to understand the political and economic structures of domination and oppression and develop tools for change. Recovering from ‘Yo mama is so stupid...’: (En)gendering a critical paradigm on black feminist theory and pedagogy (in press) examines how a specific issue (the dozens) can be deconstructed so that it can be analyzed through a feminist critical lens. A feminist lens allows me to view Black culture through the lens of race, class and gender and analyze the topic for how it relates to and hurts Black women. I base much of this research on the scholarship of Patricia Hill Collins, bell hooks and Ann DuCille and other Black female scholars.

In the publication What is “good” teaching for urban students (Brock, 2010), I posit that to effectively educate urban children, pedagogy must frame schooling and teaching within a critical dynamic that gives students an ability to understand their world, to reflect critically on self and society, and have the agency to act for change. This ability changes the student from an object to be constructed to a unique subject in the construction of his or her own knowledge. Importantly, I argue that urban students must understand how power is distributed to some and kept from others, and what influence it has in schooling. In addition, it facilitates the student and teacher to view the world critically, taking nothing for granted but instead interrogating the reasons behind various systems of domination such as the media and schools and how these systems work.

At the beginning of the twentieth century, two to four times more African Americans were imprisoned than Whites and by the early 1990s the average African-American-to-White prison admission ratio had grown to beyond ten (Keen & Jacobs, 2009). In The theory and the practice of my pedagogy I deconstruct the life of Jake, a Black man serving life in a maximum-security prison in Texas (Brock, 2003). My goal was to extract various phenomena that in many ways pre-determined Jake’s life. Viewing his existence through the lens of critical pedagogy and Black feminist theory, two theories central to the development of a pedagogy of wholeness, allowed me to analyze Jake’s world vis-à-vis the socio-political realities of living as a Black man. Moreover, I discussed how this analysis worked to insure that Jake was not looked at as a victim or the cause of his problems but as an individual who was both controlled by and controlled the ideologies that consistently usurped his power. Ultimately the goal of the article was to teach the reader the importance of contextualizing a situation in order to decipher its true meaning. The conceptualization of this article drew on the theories of Foster (1994), Freire (1970), Giroux (1997), Jordan-Irving (1990), King, J. E. (1994), Ladson-Billings (1992), and Lee, Lomety, & Shujjaa (1990). 

As an urban teacher I must be committed to teaching students to think critically, to deconstruct their world, and to provide them with the tools to analyze their everyday life through the intersectional lenses of race, class and gender oppression. In the chapter Educational psychology in a new paradigm: Learning a democratic way of teaching (Brock, 2007c) I discuss the importance of teaching students to think politically, and to see the connections between thought and action through an education for struggle, survival, and the realization of their humanity. The demonization of urban students is demystified and instead they possess the knowledge to examine those societal structures working against them, how they can combat the structures, and the form that fight will take. The conceptualization of this article drew on the theories of Arnowitz (1993), Freire (1970) and Martin-Baro (1996).

A critical issue facing education (and our society) is the academic underachievement of urban students, which is important to not only, be aware of but to also address in a proactive way. Urban schools are facing higher dropout rates, under qualified teachers, poor funding, crime, drugs, and low morale of administrators, teachers and students. Importantly, society has placed the blame for every imaginable societal ill on urban schools and their inhabitants. In other words urban schools have been demonized and demoralized while positioned as the easy target for social and political problems. One of the main scapegoats in the public discussion on the problems of urban education is the urban family. In Debunking the myths about the urban family: A constructed conversation (Brock, 2010), I discuss the various myths that encircle how we think about and discuss the urban family. Importantly, the chapter takes an honest and realistic look at the variety of obstacles urban families are faced with and the ways they positively deal with those obstacles. Social and political transformation begins to occur when what has been hidden is made obvious. The conceptualization of this article drew on the theories of McLaren, P. (2000), Lauria & Miron (2005) and Kincheloe (2004).

Research that promotes commitment to social justice

As the Executive Director of UTEP, I am in the unique and enviable position to put into action my philosophy of urban education. Although my publications thus far have been exclusive to urban education and pedagogy, my future research seeks to both determine the ways UTEP addresses the needs of urban education and the three partner districts (Gary, Hammond and East Chicago) and what needs to be accomplished in the future. UTEP has been in existence since 1989 with the last evaluation of the program completed in 1996 and unfortunately, research or publications have not been done on the program, which has greatly stunted its growth. As such, my research protocol involves a methodical historical analysis of the growth and stagnation of the program. I consider this research and future scholarship significant because despite the many success of UTEP throughout the years, it is not as well known as other programs that perhaps have not had the longevity or achievements of UTEP. Research will afford our successes to be duplicated and our failures to be avoided elsewhere.

My research is grounded in critical pedagogy, which specifically speaks to social justice and the transformation of power relations. My position with UTEP affords me the platform to take a critical proactive stance in social justice teaching and research as I work to instill in my students the knowledge of their responsibility towards social justice for all students. The various publications in my dossier speak to issues of social justice in urban classrooms and how we create teachers and students who possess that commitment. The criteria for a transformative pedagogy remains in the ivory tower of academia if it only resides in classroom exercises or is merely fodder for publications. Instead it must be the central force in professional development workshops with teachers who are in the trenches of urban education. In this way it truly becomes transformative.

With the input of all concerned stakeholders, another area of my research focuses on future strategic planning of the program. This area of research is extremely important because it shapes, based on wants and needs, the what, how and when of everything UTEP does and will guide UTEP in the areas of curriculum development, program goals and the PDS focus. These are the foci that I have decided are the most important to move UTEP out of its stagnation and into a more dynamic program. The program goals are still those from the program’s inception (1989) and have not advanced with changing societal conditions or new stakeholders. I and an outside evaluator (through both qualitative and quantitative methods) will research all aspects of the program to obtain a complete picture of where we are, where we need to go and how to get there.

One area of needed research that has already started is the strategic curriculum change for both the undergraduate and graduate curriculum for UTEP. I am presently analyzing the curriculum to align it with the pedagogy of wholeness that I discussed here and in my Teaching Narrative. My first step in this alignment is to change the sequence of the five courses that UTEP Option II students take. The change in the UTEP class sequence, as well as the specific structure of each class, is based on urban education research and what has been effective. In addition, these changes are based on needs specific to our student body and our three partner districts—Gary Community School Corporation, School City of Hammond and School City of East Chicago.

Significance of Research

My research provides significant visibility to Indiana University Northwest and to the Urban Teacher Education Program. My contributions to the field of urban education are recognized at a national and international level. Through a peer-review process, I was invited to be the keynote speaker at the Initiative for Critical Discussion conference in Baeza, Spain in September of 2009. The sponsoring organizations and universities of this conference were: 1) The Paulo and Nita Freire International Project for Critical Pedagogy, at McGill University; 2) The Friends of Paulo and Nita Freire for the Development of Critical Pedagogy at the University of Barcelona; 3) The Centre of Research in Theories and Practices that overcome Inequalities at the University of Barcelona; and 4) The University of Granada. The sponsoring organizations promote the study of the history and development of critical pedagogy, as well as conduct research and encourage theorizing about the interrelationships of power, justice, oppression, and empowerment as they shape educational policy and practice. The conference was attended by 100 invited scholars from Canada, United States, Brazil, Greece, Italy, Spain, Netherlands, Korea and Australia. Of the 100 invited scholars only 25 presented their research, which speaks to both the importance of what I do for UTEP as well as the international significance it has.


My research goes beyond publishing, which speaks to my national and international reputation as a scholar and researcher. I have been selected for various leadership roles, including a member of the editorial board of Scholar-Practitioner Quarterly, Associate Editor of Taboo: The Journal of Culture and Education, member of the Editorial Board of the International Journal of Critical Pedagogy, and Editorial Advisory Board Member for the Springer Press Series Explorations of Educational Purpose (The Netherlands). In addition, in February of 2010 I became the Co-Editor of the International Journal of Critical Pedagogy (IJCP) (McGill University, Montreal, Canada) with Dr. Leila Villaverde, a colleague from the University of North Carolina, Greensboro. The IJCP is an online open access journal that was launched in 2005 by Dr. Joe L. Kincheloe to promote the scholarship of critical pedagogy. Although new, IJCP has proven to be a strong voice in the area of critical pedagogies studies with authors from various countries submitting articles.

In November of 2009 I was asked by the president of Peter Lang Publishing in New York to develop a series on Black studies. I worked on the creation of the series from November 2009 till March of 2010 at which time we rolled out Black Studies and Critical Thinking (BSCT). BSCT is poised to be a program within the Peter Lang publishing house. Currently there are 10 disciplines (each with a sub discipline editor) underneath the BSCT umbrella. Our goal is to obtain 4-6 book contracts in each discipline by the end of 2010.   As of July 2010 we have 15 books under contract.  I am the Co-Executive Editor of the book series with Dr. Richard Greggory Johnson III from the University of Vermont. As co-executive editor I am uniquely poised to shape the direction and vision of this very important series.

Integration of Teaching, Research and Service

Finally I have been invited to speak about my findings on urban education at several universities including McGill University, the University of British Columbia, University of Illinois-Chicago and CUNY Graduate School. I was recently invited (August 5th, 2010) to the University of California, Berkeley to give the keynote talk to the McNair Symposium dinner—an event attended by over 300 McNair Scholars and program directors from universities throughout the country. 

My five-year goal is to become a premier scholar/teacher educator in urban education. I plan to establish UTEP as an urban teacher education program that rivals those of NYU and Yale. In addition, I want UTEP to become the program that faculty across all campuses of Indiana University use when they want to do research in the urban area or when they need to increase their knowledge base on urban education.

My teaching, scholarship and service are a synergistic triad, reflecting the interrelationship between all three from the standpoint of how each component affects the other for optimal learning. As such, I am well positioned to continue to impact the redevelopment of urban education, especially as described in this narrative.