The Discussion Project is funded by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation and operates within the University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Education in the Wisconsin Center for Education Research.
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.
Lynn Glueck is the Program Director for The Discussion Project. Lynn had a twenty-five year career in K12 education as English teacher, Library Media instructor, Professional Development Coordinator, School Improvement Administrator, and Instructional Coach. She has an MA in English Literature and an MA in Library Media Science. Additionally, she is certified as a Director of Instruction and Instructional Coach.
Michael J. Culbertson is the Lead Researcher for The Discussion Project. Michael is a mixed-methods research methodologist with a focus in education. He has experience conducting evaluations in a variety of educational settings, including the educational programs of a national cyberinfrastructure organization, a university health education needs assessment, adult agricultural education, and leading national evaluations of two financial literacy programs for K-12 students. When he has the opportunity to provide formal or nonformal instruction, he enjoys crafting thought-provoking questions that lead students and colleagues to develop their own new insights on the current topic of discussion. Before joining The Discussion Project, Michael was a Research Scientist at Education Analytics. Previously, he supported strategic reflection and planning for organizational leaders at Denver Public Schools.
Lead Curriculum Developer/Instructor
Dr. Paula McAvoy is an assistant professor of social studies education at North Carolina State University. She is developing and implementing The Discussion Project for the School of Education at UW-Madison. Paula has an extensive background in teaching and professional development. Before earning her PhD from UW-Madison’s Department of Educational Policy Studies, she taught high school social studies and English for ten years. She has taught undergraduate and graduate courses at UW-Madison, Illinois State University, and Loyola University-Chicago. For the past several years, she has been invited by school districts and civic education organizations to lead multi-day professional development workshops for high school teachers that focus on facilitating discussions of controversial political issues. She is also the co-author, with Dean Diana Hess, of The Political Classroom: Evidence and Ethics in Democratic Education (Routledge, 2015), winner of the 2016 AERA Outstanding Book Award and the 2017 Grawemeyer Award for Education. This book is based on research that investigated what students experience and learn from high school courses that engage students in political discussions.
Carrie Welsh is a program writer for The Discussion Project. Carrie has a background in writing and English language education, and has an MA in the history of education from the department of Educational Policy Studies at UW-Madison.
“Paula and Rob were 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