Naila Smith, Derrick Alridge, and Wintre Johnson

News in Brief: UVA EHD Faculty Awarded Large Spencer Foundation Grant

Three School of Education and Human Development faculty members received a $321,000 large research grant from the Spencer Foundation to conduct a mixed-methods study engaging African American children in participatory research.

Laura Hoxworth

UVA School of Education and Human Development faculty Naila A. Smith, Derrick P. Alridge, and Wintre Johnson have been awarded a $321,000 grant from the Spencer Foundation, a leading funder of education research.  

Their project, titled “Young African American Children Animating Societal Change: A Mixed-Methods Inquiry,” was one of seven projects awarded funding out of more than 400 applications.

The Large Research Grants on Education Program “supports education research projects that contribute to the improvement of education, broadly conceived.” According to their website, the foundation values “work that fosters creative and open-minded scholarship, engages in deep inquiry, and examines robust questions related to education.”

The study, which will begin in summer 2024, will engage thirty African American 1st and 2nd graders in mixed-methods participatory research such as photovoice and daily diary surveys. Over the course of two summers, these children will examine social and racial inequities in their communities through their participation in a Freedom School—a literacy program rooted in the 1964 Mississippi Freedom summer project that helped Black children develop positive Black racial identity amid racial apartheid and oppression.  

"I am thrilled to have our work funded by The Spencer Foundation,” said Johnson. “This project will build directly on my own dissertation research. I am looking forward to being in partnership with young Black children in Virginia to offer empirical evidence about their early sociopolitical development, racial identity development, and early literacy practices to the field."  

The project will illuminate the ways that participatory research can influence children’s racial identity formation and sociopolitical development and address the dearth of research that examines African American children’s potential to use multimodal literacy practices in imagining equitable futures.

"This project represents a true cross-disciplinary collaboration, bridging the fields of literacy studies and developmental psychology,” said Smith. “As a developmental psychologist interested in sociocultural development among Black children, I am excited to integrate a focus on early literacy practices in a culturally responsive summer program with questions about how engaging with young children this way impacts their development."