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Paula McAvoy

Associate Professor

602N Poe Hall


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.

Research Description

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?


Ph.D. in Educational Policy Studies with a minor in Curriculum and Instruction from University of Wisconsin-Madison in 2010
M.A. in Educational Policy Studies from University of Wisconsin-Madison in 2006
B.A. in International Relations from University of California Davis in 1991

Curriculum Vitae


Selected Scholarly Publications

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

Research Areas