Using Critical Race Theory Research to Inform and Improve Instruction

Does research suffer when we stop talking about the processes and procedures behind it? That’s the question Jessica DeCuir-Gunby, a professor of educational psychology at the NC State College of Education, and her colleagues, Thandeka Chapman and Paul Schutz, posed before developing Understanding Critical Race Research Methods and Methodologies: Lessons from the Field.

In the edited collection, DeCuir-Gunby and her team bring together researchers from across the disciplines to synthesize different methods of Critical Race Theory research to demonstrate how to make scholarship efforts more significant in improving issues of educational equity and access in schools.

“We wanted to produce something that talked about how to create good critical race methods studies, research studies that are theoretically grounded and methodologically sound,” she said.

Written for novice researchers, but also applicable for seasoned scholars new to Critical Race Theory, the book explores the relationship between the theory and research methods — whether qualitative, quantitative or mixed methods. In each chapter, the authors share their experiences with conducting critical race research by explicating how they use a particular methodological approach to investigate race and education.

“Theory informs the research methods that you use, and the research methods that you use in turn informs your theory,” DeCuir-Gunby said. “In order to advance theory, we have to simultaneously advance research methods. Utilizing good research methods is essential to the research process.”

The book acts as a field guide that helps scholars take action when it comes to Critical Race Theory and provides resources to refine the means in which research studies are designed and data are collected.

She says documenting the ways racism infiltrates schools and affects children is essential, but researchers must also focus on ways to enhance, critique and develop critical race methods to advance the field of education.

“We cannot just focus on the myriad of problems in education that need to be solved. We have to also consider the multitude of ways to address those problems.”

3 Takeaways from Understanding Critical Race Methods and Methodologies

  • True Critical Race Theory research is grounded in the original legal writings and texts. “In order to engage in Critical Race Theory scholarship, researchers have to understand the foundational readings that formed it. Without this foundation, your research will not be truly centered within an authentic Critical Race Theory framework.”
  • Current research methods and methodologies are not always culturally relevant. “Critical race scholarship often requires the critique of existing methodologies as well as the enhancement, extension or creation of new methods and methodologies to address the complex racial issues that exist in society.
  • Being a critical race scholar involves more than just conducting research. “Critical race scholarship, specifically, involves having a personal connection to the research that is conducted to address the social issues in our daily lives.”