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Meghan Manfra


Director of Graduate Program/TELS

Poe 402 P

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Meghan McGlinn Manfra (Ph.D.) is a Professor in the College of Education at North Carolina State University. Her research focuses on the integration of technology in secondary social studies classrooms and action research as a professional development tool for teachers. She is the author of Action Research for Classroom, Schools, and Communities (Sage) and editor of the Handbook of Social Studies Research (Wiley Press). Her research has been broadly publised in numerous journal articles and book chapters. As the technology section co-editor she regularly publishes a research column for Social Education, the top journal of National Council for the Social Studies. She has extensive background in educational research and evaluation, including serving as evaluator for the U.S. Department of Education Teaching American History Grant program, “History LINK” (Durham and Franklin counties), and as the assessment coordinator for education programs for the NSF Nanotechnology Engineering Research Center, ASSIST, at NC State University. She was recently awarded a grant from the Spencer Foundation for her project, “Changing Teaching Practice: Integrating the C3 Framework through Action Research.”

Dr. Manfra is a former high school history teacher. She attended Elon College as a North Carolina Teaching Fellow and began her career at Northwest Guilford HS. She completed a master’s degree (MA) in history at the University of North Carolina -Greensboro and received her doctorate (PhD) in education at the University of North Carolina – Chapel Hill.

Research Description

My two main areas of research are: 1) the integration of technology in secondary social studies classrooms and 2) action research as a professional development tool for teachers.

Ever since I was a classroom teacher, I have been interested in understanding how web-based technology can be used to create authentic learning opportunities for students. In the early days I studied webquests, whereas today, I am interested in digital history and web 2.0 tools, including student created digital documentaries, social media, and digital blogging tools. My research related to technological pedagogical content knowledge (TPACK) emphasizes that pedagogical decision making fundamentally impacts the direction and scope of technology integration. Without a shift in pedagogy, technology alone cannot improve student learning.

At the same time, I have worked with many schools and teachers on curriculum development and school reform initiatives, including the integration of technology. This work has made it apparent that traditional approaches to professional development (short, one-size-fits-all workshops) are ineffective. Action research orients professional learning towards issues that arise from practice. More than just informal reflection, action research is systematic and intentional inquiry into practice. It follows a cycle of inquiry and generates “insider knowledge.” When used as a tool for professional learning, action research is more likely to bring about changes in practice. My current research is exploring ways that action research can be used to bring about change at the classroom and school levels through partnerships with university-based researchers.

An example of a project that builds on my two research interests is the Connecting Carolina program. Through a grant from the Library of Congress Teaching with Primary Sources program, I have been able to collaborate with the NC Museum of History and social studies specialists from across the state. We are focusing on improving social studies education by providing teachers with access to digital history materials and inquiry strategies to teach historical concepts. Embedded within this program is an emphasis on teachers as action researchers, studying student outcomes, and as teacher leaders, sharing their expertise with colleagues. See for an example of the curriculum materials we have developed over the course of the program.

Selected Scholarly Publications

Courses Taught

  • ECI 501 Foundations of Curriculum
  • ECI 523 Teacher as Researcher
  • ECI 525 Contemporary Issues in Social Studies Instruction
  • ECI 526 Theory and Research in Social Education
  • ECI 700 Curriculum Theory
  • ECI 709 Doctoral Seminar on Teacher Education
  • ECI 727 Digital History
  • ED 730 Introduction to Qualitative Research
  • ED 731 Advanced Qualitative Research Methods
  • ED 795 Special Topics in Research: Action Research
  • ED 795 Special Topics in Research: Case Study

Honors and Awards

  • North Carolina State University Faculty Scholars, Nominee
  • BRIDGES Academic Leadership for Women Program
  • National Technology Leadership Initiative Fellowship Award
  • Outstanding Service Award, Social Studies Research Special Interest Group, American Educational Research Association (AERA)
  • The University of North Carolina’s Graduate Education Advancement Board (GEAB) Impact Award

Editorial Boards

  • Editor, Contemporary Issues in Technology and Social Studies Teacher Education, 2013-2017
  • Co-editor, Social Education Journal, Instructional Technology Section, 2008-present
  • Consulting Editor, The Social Studies Journal, 2009-present
  • Reviewer, Journal of Social Studies Research, 2011-present

Services and Engagements

  • Education Advisory Board of the NC Museum of History

Media Appearances


Doctorate (PhD) Education University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

Master's of Arts (MA) History University of North Carolina at Greensboro

Baccalaureate (BA) History, secondary social studies Elon College

Area(s) of Expertise

digital technology, qualitative research, action research, teacher education, media literacy, information literacy, computational thinking, social studies education


Date: 10/01/21 - 9/30/24
Amount: $201,098.00
Funding Agencies: Library of Congress

This research partnership will provide a clear understanding about student learning trajectories in history education, specifically related to building a skills ladder. When educators understand the proper developmental progression of ideas and skills and sequence instructional activities based on these trajectories, they can provide supportive learning environments for all students. To date, there has been considerable research focused on the value of inquiry-based learning for students. In order to successfully conduct historical inquiry, students must be able to analyze and synthesize primary and secondary source information and develop a logical historical argument/interpretation. However, there is little research to suggest the most appropriate strategies for supporting students as they develop these requisite skills and move through the stages of thinking required for engaging in historical inquiry. In this project we will develop a skills ladder for students in grades 5, 8, and 11 focused on American history and resources found in the Library of Congress collection.

Date: 09/01/12 - 8/31/22
Amount: $138,808.00
Funding Agencies: NCSU Advanced Self Powered Systems of Sensors and Technologies (ASSIST) Center

External evaluation will be conducted by Dr. Meghan Manfra, NCSU Assistant Professor of Curriculum and Instruction, to assess the degree to which educational programs impacts student achievement and attitudes toward STEM careers. Manfra will meet with the Center management team quarterly to monitor and evaluate Center diversity and educational activities. In addition, Manfra will work with the administrative team to produce interim and final reports.

Date: 05/01/19 - 1/31/21
Amount: $49,883.00
Funding Agencies: Spencer Foundation

In order to integrate the C3 Framework (NCSS, 2013), teachers must shift their teaching practice from content coverage to guided inquiry. Perhaps because this shift is so difficult to navigate, in the field of the social studies there has been a persistent gap between theories about inquiry-based instruction and the integration of inquiry into practice. Action research provides teachers with a process for engaging in systematic and intentional inquiry to bring about change in practice. By collecting and analyzing data, teacher action researchers merge theory with practice. Action research often leads to changes in teacher learning, especially improvements in pedagogical content knowledge (PCK), and changes in teaching. In this research project we will facilitate eight social studies teachers as they conduct collaborative action research about the Inquiry Design Model (IDM) of the C3 Framework. The project team will conduct a wrap-around qualitative research study to understand teacher outcomes, including experiences integrating inquiry into instruction and the extent to which engaging in action research provides the necessary support to shift instruction and change teaching practice. Based on the findings from this project, we will develop a scalable model of professional development.

Date: 07/01/17 - 6/30/18
Amount: $48,327.00
Funding Agencies: NC Department of Public Instruction

This curriculum design project will provide teachers in North Carolina with high quality teaching and learning resources aligned with the NC Essential Standards for the 8th grade social studies course, North Carolina and the United States: Creation and Development of the State and Nation Over the course of the project we will: ??????????????? Design a series of teaching and learning modules that can be used in succession or interchangeably to teach 8th grade NC history ??????????????? Utilize web-based platforms for maximum flexibility ??????????????? Leverage pre-existing, web-based historical content ??????????????? Frame instruction using an inquiry-based approach that aligns with best practices in social studies instruction and current pedagogical initiatives

Date: 05/01/16 - 12/31/17
Amount: $19,989.00
Funding Agencies: Library of Congress

This project will represent a collaborative partnership between North Carolina State??????????????????s College of Education and the North Carolina Museum of History in Raleigh, NC. It will build on previous work by faculty from the College of Education and the history department at NC State, in collaboration with museum staff, to provide teachers with disciplinary-based approaches to teaching history. Dr. Susanna Lee, Associate Professor of History at North Carolina State University, and BJ Davis, Education Section Chief for the North Carolina Museum of History, will also participate in the implementation of this grant program. (Please see appendices for letters of commitment). We will also work with the North Carolina Department of Public Instruction (NC DPI) to recruit teacher participants and to disseminate professional development resources. Our goal is to support the integration of the primary sources made available by the Library of Congress (LOC) across the grade levels in history classrooms in North Carolina. The Connecting Carolina program will leverage current curriculum standards as well as student prior knowledge; we will provide professional development for teachers focused on the integration of LOC digital history resources in the classroom by making connections to state history. Specifically we will use the ????????????????Story of North Carolina??????????????? exhibit presented by the North Carolina Museum of History to connect American history resources in the LOC collection to our state??????????????????s history. This will enable teachers to build on student prior knowledge while also motivating students to understand American history in a way that is relevant to their home communities and experiences. The Connecting Carolina Program will provide professional development to preservice and in-service social studies teachers in North Carolina. This program represents a necessary first step toward creating a state-wide network of social studies teachers engaged in integrating primary source materials from the Library of Congress (LOC) in their classrooms. There is a major need in the state for social studies specific professional development as initiatives related to math and literacy have overshadowed the social studies. The program will be designed to help participants make connections between American history and the history of North Carolina by using resources from the Library of Congress?????????????????? teacher page: It will support the mission of the Teaching with Primary Sources (TPS) program to: ???????????????? build awareness of the Library's educational initiatives; ???????????????? provide content that promotes the effective educational use of the Library's resources; and ???????????????? offer access to and promote sustained use of the Library's educational resources.

Date: 07/01/10 - 6/30/11
Amount: $4,000.00
Funding Agencies: NCSU Faculty Research & Professional Development Fund

I am applying for FRPD funds to support a working group including NC State faculty and Wake County personnel, to design and implement a needs assessment (McKillip, 1987; Weaver & Shonkoff, 1978; Witkin & Altschuld, 1995) and to develop a TAH grant proposal in partnership with Wake County. The ultimate goal is to successfully apply for a $1 million TAH grant in the spring of 2011. I have chosen the activities approach logic model (W.K. Kellogg Foundation, 2001) to guide the implementation and evaluation of this project.

View all grants 
  • National Technology Leadership Initiative Fellowship Award (2019)