Marilyn Cochran-Smith with Lynch School of Education Associate Dean John Cawthorne, namesake of the John E. Cawthorne Chair in Teacher Education for Urban Schools. (Photo by Lee Pellegrini)
Cochran-Smith to Hold New LSOE Title
Chair honoring associate dean Cawthorne focuses on urban teaching
By Reid Oslin
Prof. Marilyn Cochran-Smith (LSOE) has been named inaugural holder of the John E. Cawthorne Chair in Teacher Education for Urban Schools, and the long-time Lynch School of Education associate dean whose name graces the new academic post couldn't be happier with the appointment.
"I have always been an admirer of Marilyn's scholarship, her intellect and her commitment to training really good teachers to work in city schools," said Cawthorne, who admits that he is still "overwhelmed" by having an academic chair named in his honor.
"Marilyn has a way of making students think about teaching as an intellectual commitment, not just a job," Cawthorne said. "She pushes us to think deeply and think hard about what it means to be a good teacher."
Cochran-Smith, a professor of curriculum and instruction and editor of the LSOE-based Journal of Teacher Education, shares Cawthorne's enthusiasm for the endowed chair made possible by a gift from the Mahoney family, including Jay Mahoney A&S '69, wife Barbara, and daughter Erin, LSOE '02.
"It's a wonderful honor for John, who has been at the Lynch School for a long time and has made wonderful contributions to our school and to our students in particular," she said. "He is really a 'student's dean' in my view."
Cochran-Smith, who joined the LSOE faculty in 1996 from the University of Pennsylvania Graduate School of Education, is president of the American Educational Research Association. Her honors include this year's Pomeroy Award from the American Association of Colleges for Teacher Education and the 2004 Carl A. Grant Multicultural Research Award from the National Association for Multicultural Education.
She has written award-winning articles and books on issues of diversity in teaching and teacher education, as well as on teacher research, teacher learning and the growth and development of knowledge for teaching.
Cawthorne, as associate dean for students and outreach at LSOE, coordinates the activities of the Office of Professional Practicum Experiences and provides advising services to all undergraduate and master's degree students. Among his other achievements and activities, Cawthorne helped organize a drive to aid the financially troubled Holy Family School of Natchez, Miss., one of the oldest African-American Catholic schools in the country.
Cawthorne's association with LSOE began in 1989, when he joined the school's Center for the Study of Testing, Evaluation and Educational Policy as a research associate. In 1995, Cawthorne was named vice president for education for the National Urban League, and in concert with his one-year appointment the civil rights organization's educational office was relocated to Campion Hall. He was appointed the school's assistant dean for students and outreach in 1997 and associate dean in 2001.
Cochran-Smith says Cawthorne's career-long involvement with LSOE outreach programs makes the chair appointment an especially relevant honor for her.
"The commitment that both of us have to urban schools and particularly to the preparation and support of teachers for urban schools is certainly very appropriate in terms of what this chair is all about, and the kinds of initiatives and interests that I think it will make possible," she says. "It acknowledges that commitment that John and I have had for many, many years to these areas."
Cochran-Smith currently chairs the evidence team of Boston College's "Teachers for a New Era" project, which is funded by a Carnegie Corporation grant. The evidence team is composed of scholars from a variety of academic disciplines who are trying to develop better ways to measure the impact of teacher preparation methods.
"The project is really all about revising and reinventing teacher preparation in terms of making decisions driven by evidence," she said. "To a great extent, the whole TNE project is related to evidence and documentation and making decisions that are informed by our values, experience and our politics, but are also really informed by empirical evidence and by gathering information about whether or not kids are learning and trying to feed that back into the decisions that we make as teachers and teacher educators.
"That's the kind of work I will continue to do for at least the next three or four years. I think that it fits very, very well with the idea of the Cawthorne Chair.
"The bottom line of all of this, and I think the bottom line of this chair - which is particularly teacher education for urban schools - is that we want to prepare teachers whose own bottom line will be improving the life chances of the students with whom they work."
Cochran-Smith is the second Lynch School faculty member appointed this fall to an endowed chair. Prof. Janet E. Helms (LSOE), founding director of Boston College's Institute for the Study and Promotion of Race and Culture, was named holder of the University's Augustus Long Chair.