Kathleen King Thorius
Great Lakes Equity Center; Executive Director
Developing anti-racist leaders through equity-expansive technical assistance, Facilitating en/counters with legacies of white supremacy and ableism through teacher learning to eliminate special education disproportionality. Stimulating artifact-mediated tensions in special education teachers’ figured world: An approach toward inclusive education.
As a scholar, I have focused much of my work on designing and co-leading national and regional technical assistance (TA) centers with the express goal of equitable, inclusive, just, and responsive education for all students and with particular emphasis for students of color with disabilities. TA is a term used in government, education, and industry to refer to consultation and specific supports provided to an organization to build its capacity. Although TA traditionally has not been recognized nor ratified as scholarly activity within the higher education academy, I have come to recognize TA as praxis: scholarly activity “explicitly committed to critiquing the status quo and building a more just society,” (Lather, 2017, p. 72). I have contributed to theory and practice of TA with state and local educational agency partners (school districts) which I call equity-expansive TA (Thorius, 2019; Thorius & Kyser, 2021). Equity-expansive TA--a theory and practice I have developed collaboratively over the past sixteen years--aims to mediate education partners’ learning toward innovative action and equity-driven systemic goals. A theory of expansive learning, which emerged from CHAT (Engeström, 1987), informs this term because within the expansive learning cycles (Engeström & Sannino, 2010) characteristic of equity-expansive TA (Tan & Thorius, 2018), TA providers develop and/or introduce artifacts (Cole, 1996) to: (a) mediate educators’ examination of local conditions for in/equities; (b) stimulate contradictions between this status quo and partners’ desired goal of the partnership, and; (c) support partners’ development and refining of innovations toward equity-focused systemic changes in policy, practice, and belief systems (Thorius, 2019). Issues addressed with partners include injustices faced by students at the intersection of race and disability and have ranged from students' exclusion from school all together (Ferguson, 2008), institutionalization and disproportionate incarceration (Stanford et al., 2017), physical segregation (U.S. Department of Education, 2019), and lower expectations and opportunities connected with lower academic achievement and tracking (U.S. Department of Education, 2018). To date, our Great Lakes Equity Center has worked with over 100 educational agencies in deep, long-term partnerships guided by my research.