The Discussion Project operates within the University of Wisconsin-Madison’s School of Education
in the Wisconsin Center for Education Research.

Principal Investigator

Diana Hess became dean of UW-Madison’s School of Education on Aug. 1, 2015. Hess, only the ninth dean of the School of Education since its founding in 1930, comes to this post after serving as senior vice president of the Spencer Foundation in Chicago since September 2011. The Spencer Foundation funds research to improve education policy and practice. Hess, however, is no stranger to UW-Madison. She first arrived on campus in 1999 to join the School’s No. 1-ranked Department of Curriculum and Instruction as an assistant professor. She climbed the ranks, becoming an associate professor in 2005 and a full professor in 2009 before taking a leave from the university to work at Spencer. Since 1997, she has been researching how teachers engage their students in discussions of highly controversial political and constitutional issues, and what impact this approach to civic education has on what young people learn. Her first book on this topic, Controversy in the Classroom: The Democratic Power of Discussion won the National Council for the Social Studies Exemplary Research Award in 2009. Her most recent book, The Political Classroom: Evidence and Ethics in Democratic Education, co-authored with Paula McAvoy, won the American Educational Research Association’s Outstanding Book Award in 2016 and the prestigious Grawemeyer Award in 2017. Also in 2017, Diana Hess was recognized by the National Council on Social Studies with Grambs Distinguished Career Award for Research. Professor Hess is deeply committed to working with teachers to improve the quality of democratic education in schools. To that end, she frequently keynotes conferences and leads professional development courses and workshops. Professor Hess serves on the board of the Constitutional Rights Foundation Chicago and the iCivics Scholars Advisory Board.

Program Director

Lynn Glueck is the Program Director for The Discussion Project, serving as project manager, curriculum designer, and instructor. She is also a senior leader for the UW-Madison Deliberation Dinners, which piloted in 2023-24 and will double in scale in 2024-25. Lynn brings a diverse array of skills to The Discussion Project after a twenty-five-year career in K12 education. She started work as a bilingual elementary teacher in a high poverty school and then took on an array of roles in teaching and administration in the Madison Metropolitan School District: high school English teacher, Library Media Instructor, Professional Development Coordinator, School Improvement Administrator, and Instructional Coach for secondary teachers. She has an MA (UW-Madison) in English Literature and an MLS (UW-Madison) in Library Media Science. Additionally, she is certified as Principal, Director of Instruction, and Instructional Coach.

Curriculum Designer & Instructor

Mariana Castro is a Curriculum Designer & Instructor for the Discussion Project. She serves as Deputy Director at the Wisconsin Center for Education Research (WCER), a center committed to the improvement of educational outcomes for diverse student populations and to foster collaborations across academic disciplines and practitioners. She brings more than 28 years of experience in education as a former science teacher, a language specialist and a bilingual educator. Throughout her career, she has engaged in curriculum and instruction, teacher preparation and professional learning in the areas of science, language development and bilingual education. In her research, Mariana integrates her background as an educator, her passion for working with multilingual children, youth and their teachers, and her commitment for social justice.  Over the last 14 years, her work has also involved policy work related to the education of multilingual learners, including the development of language proficiency standards in Spanish and English. Mariana has a Ph.D. in Curriculum and Instruction at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and a M.S. from the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater.  She currently serves as the PI for research related to language practices of multilingual students, curriculum and instruction in dual language immersion programs, teacher professional learning and family engagement.

Independent Contractors and Contributors

Curriculum Designer & Instructor

John Zola is a Curriculum Designer & Instructor for the Discussion Project. He spent 32 years as a high school social studies teacher; most recently at New Vista High School, a “break the mold” public high school in Boulder, Colorado. There, he developed a wide variety of courses and implemented Socratic seminars on a regular basis. John also served as the Director of School and University Partnerships at the University of Colorado School of Education, where he taught social studies methodology courses over the past two decades. Throughout his career, John has developed interactive teaching materials and trained colleagues in active learning strategies and Socratic seminars. He has presented workshops that help teachers make the voice and work of students central in the classroom. Many of these workshops were presented in countries of the former Soviet Bloc where they helped to promote the skills and dispositions needed in the new democracies. John currently conducts in-service trainings on Socratic seminars, civic education, and teaching strategies in a variety of locations around the United States, Central Europe, and Asia.

Curriculum Designer & Instructor

Anissa Butler (Ed. D) is a Curriculum Designer & Instructor for the Discussion Project. Anissa values the opportunity to help educators learn how they can support inclusive practices that value all student voices. As a retired, 30 year veteran teacher who has worked in schools throughout Colorado, she continues her commitment to those goals by working with programs and organizations that help educators incorporate engaged discussion, structured inquiry, and student and teacher self-reflection, as a way to support social justice through education.

“[We had] fantastic workshop facilitators. Not only did they share with us a wealth of knowledge and wisdom, they worked hard to create a kind, caring, and dynamic learning environment. Finally, being together with more than a dozen amazing and dedicated teachers was tremendous. Don’t miss out on this fantastic workshop.” – Andy D., Department of Geography