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Paula McAvoy

Assoc Professor


PhD Coordinator for the Social Studies Program Area of Study

Teacher Education and Learning Sciences

Center for Technology and Inno 324

View CV 


Paula McAvoy earned her PhD in philosophy of education in 2010 at UW-Madison’s Department of Educational Policy Studies. Since then, she has worked as an assistant professor at Illinois State, an associate program officer at the Spencer Foundation and as the Director of the Center for Ethics and Education at UW-Madison. Prior to this, she taught high school social studies for 10 years at the Foothill Middle College Program in Los Altos, California.

Dr. McAvoy is the PhD coordinator for the Social Studies Program Area of Study.

Research Interests

My research focuses on philosophical and empirical questions concerning the relationship between schools and democratic society. I address two broad questions:
1. What educational aims and practices are most appropriate for preparing young people for living within a non-ideal democratic society (e.g. structural inequalities, political polarization)?
2. How should teachers and administrators make professional judgments about the dilemmas they face given non-ideal conditions? For example, what ethical challenges do teachers encounter when they engage students in discussions of controversial political issues?

Selected Articles and Chapters


Courses Taught

  • ECI 535/563 Social Studies Methods
  • ECI 525: Contemporary Approaches in the Teaching of Social Studies
  • ECI 524 Theory and Research in Global Learning
  • ED 795  Scholar Leader Systematic Change

Honors and Awards

  • 2017 Grawemeyer Award in Education for The Political Classroom
  • 2016 AERA Outstanding Book Award for The Political Classroom
  • 2011 Outstanding Dissertation Award in the Politics of Education, Politics of Education Association
  • 2008 Spencer Foundation Dissertation Fellowship

Services and Engagements


Ph.D. Educational Policy Studies with a minor in Curriculum and Instruction University of Wisconsin-Madison 2010

M.A. Educational Policy Studies University of Wisconsin-Madison 2006

B.A. International Relations University of California Davis 1991