Over the past two decades, Eric Toshalis has served public education in a variety of roles including middle and high school teacher, coach, mentor teacher, teacher educator, union president, community activist, curriculum writer, researcher, author, and consultant. Recognized as Teacher of the Year by his school district in Santa Barbara County in 1997 and awarded the Certificate of Distinction in Teaching by Harvard College in 2002, Eric has long focused on what it takes to educate adolescents and adults who bring a diversity of cultural, ethnic, gender, linguistic, racial, sexual, and socioeconomic insights. Eric received his B.A., teaching credential, and M.Ed. from the University of California, Santa Barbara, and a master’s degree from Harvard Divinity School. He completed his doctorate at the Harvard Graduate School of Education in 2007, and served as Assistant Professor of Secondary Education at CSU Channel Islands from 2007 to 2011. With Michael J. Nakkula, Eric coauthored Understanding Youth: Adolescent Development for Educators, which was published by Harvard Education Press in 2006. Thrilled to call Portland home, he enjoys spending time with his partner and their two cats, and hiking, trail-running, backpacking, snowboarding, and climbing in the mountains and canyons of the western states.
In this brief video, Toshalis discusses the paper “Motivation, Engagement, and Student Voice.” It is part of the larger “Students at the Center” project that advocates at the national level for placing students at the center of our educational decision making. The full paper and executive summary are available here.
My work in schools, with educators, and with youth begins with the recognition that public education tends to reproduce rather than surmount social inequity. Consequently, I favor pedagogies that enhance students’ and teachers’ capacities to understand and resist dominant assumptions about what constitutes valid knowledge, appropriate behavior, respected authority, and valuable contribution. This strategic turn toward resistance allows me to persist in believing that public school classrooms can be vital, hopeful spaces in which critical democratic orientations toward difference may be developed, and it fuels my commitment to building and sustaining culturally responsive classrooms that enhance both student and teacher agency.
Areas of Expertise
Adolescent Development, Classroom Management & School Discipline, Teacher Education & Induction, Anti-Oppressive Pedagogies, Critical Ethnography
Eric’s research is situated at the intersection of adolescent development and teacher education. He investigates factors that promote the academic success and psychosocial flourishing of both students and teachers, paying particular attention to teacher-student relational understanding, disciplinary interactions, developmental trajectories, processes of identity formation, and pedagogical strategies. His current projects include the development of a taxonomy of adolescent classroom resistance to help educators respond productively to student (mis)behavior, and an invited co-written white paper on the relationship between student voice, motivation, and engagement in student-centered learning environments. Eric is also collaborating with a colleague at the University of Pennsylvania to secure funds for a mixed-methods longitudinal study of the ways teacher-student interpersonal (mis)understanding shapes academic and pro-social outcomes.
- Nakkula, M. J., & Toshalis, E. (2006). Understanding youth: Adolescent development for educators. Cambridge, MA: Harvard Education Press.
- Toshalis, E. (forthcoming, 2014). Make Me: Understanding and Engaging Student Resistance in the Classroom. Cambridge, MA: Harvard Education Press.
- Toshalis, E. and Nakkula, M. J. (2012). The integration of motivation, engagement, and voice in student-centered learning. Invited paper for the Students at the Center: Teaching and Learning in the Era of the Common Core project, sponsored by Jobs for the Future and funded by the Nellie Mae Foundation. Available at: www.studentsatthecenter.org. (The full paper and executive summary are available here.)
- Toshalis, E. (2012). The rhetoric of care: Preservice teacher discourses that depoliticize, deflect, and deceive. The Urban Review, 44(1), 1-35. (See an L&C feature on this research here.)
- Toshalis, E. (2010). From disciplined to disciplinarian: The reproduction of symbolic violence in preservice teacher education . Journal of Curriculum Studies, 42(2), 183-213.
- Toshalis, E. (2010). The identity-perception gap: Teachers confronting the difference between who they (think they) are and how they are perceived by students. In Milner, H.R. (Ed.) Culture, curriculum, and identity in education . (pp. 15-35). New York: Palgrave Macmillan.
- Nakkula, M. J. & Toshalis, E. (2009). Educators as “applied developmentalists”. In C. T. Chauncey & N. Walser (Eds.), Spotlight on student engagement, motivation, and achievement . (pp. 47-54). Cambridge, MA: Harvard Education Press
- Toshalis, E. (2008). A question of “faith”: Adolescent spirituality in the public schools. In M. Sadowski (Ed.), Adolescents at school: Perspectives on youth, identity, and education . (2nd ed., pp. 189-206). Cambridge, MA: Harvard Education Press.
- Toshalis, E. (2012) Celebrating “Back-to-School”… (or Not). Jobs for the Future Blog. http://www.jff.org/blog/2012/09/04/celebrating-back-to-school-or-not
- Nakkula, M. J. & Toshalis, E. (2007) “Educators as ‘applied developmentalists’: An interview with Michael J. Nakkula and Eric Toshalis.” Caroline T. Chauncey, Ed.Harvard Education Letter, 23(1). http://www.hepg.org/hel/article/318.
- Toshalis, E. (2009) “Talking with parents about adolescent transitions.” Blog of Harvard Education Publishing. http://www.hepg.org/blog/15.
- Toshalis, E. (2010, February). Be careful: Symbolic violence in preservice teachers’ care rhetoric. Paper presented at the 31st Annual Ethnography in Education Research Forum, University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, PA.
- Toshalis, E. (2009, April). Growing their own: How states/districts/schools prepare youth to teach in their home communities. Paper presented at the annual meeting of the American Educational Research Association, San Diego, CA.
- Toshalis, E. (2007, April). Disciplining preservice teachers to do discipline: Agency and relationship in training teachers as classroom managers. Poster session given at the annual meeting of the American Educational Research Association, Chicago, IL.
- Toshalis, E. (2007, February). Induction as discipline: How are we mentoring preservice teachers to manage their classrooms? Presentation at the New Teacher Center’s Symposium on Teacher Induction, San Jose, CA.
- Pollock, M., Carter, D. J., Graves, D., Martin, T., & Toshalis, E. (2006, April). Race wrestling: Struggling strategically with race in educational research. Panel Presentation at the annual meeting of the American Educational Research Association, San Francisco, CA.
Consultations in Schools and Non-profit Organizations
- Toshalis, E. (2012, August). Making things happen: Risk-taking and resistance in adolescence. Half-day training session for after-school program professionals, Planned Parenthood officials, mentors from Big Brothers/Big Sisters, staff from Health & Human Services, officials from the Housing Authority, juvenile probation officers, therapists, substance abuse prevention counselors, coaches, social workers, funders, and youth advocates in Austin, TX, sponsored by United Way and Communities in Schools of Central Texas.
- Toshalis, E. (2012, August). Transforming adolescents: The role of possibility, identity, and imagination in our work with youth. Half-day training session for after-school program professionals, Planned Parenthood officials, mentors from Big Brothers & Big Sisters, staff from Health & Human Services, officials from the Housing Authority, juvenile probation officers, therapists, substance abuse prevention counselors, coaches, social workers, funders, and youth advocates in Austin, TX, sponsored by United Way and Communities in Schools of Central Texas.
- Toshalis, E. (2012, August). Helping teachers understand youth: Engaging interpretive gaps, self-regulation, and resistance in middle school classrooms. Presentation to all middle school counselors and parent support specialists in Austin Independent School District in Austin, TX.
- Nakkula, M. J. & Toshalis, E. (2009, September). Knowing and being known: Understanding sociocultural influences in adolescent development & achievement. Presentation with Dr. Michael J. Nakkula of the University of Pennsylvania, to Pima County teachers, counselors, and administrators in Tucson, AZ.
- Nakkula, M. J. & Toshalis, E. (2009, July). Developmental alliances in middle school leadership teams. Co-consultation for all middle school leadership teams in the Austin Independent School District, at Garcia Middle School in Austin, TX.
- Toshalis, E. (2009, April). Findings from the study of TECA students’ evaluations, motivations, & aspirations. Report presented to faculty at the Teaching and Educational Careers Academy at Pacifica High School in Oxnard, CA.
P-12 Community Presentations
- Toshalis, E. (2012, December). Collaborative inquiry: Using a Video Protocol to Analyze Classroom Practice. Multimedia professional development activity for all faculty at Grant High School, in Portland, OR.
- Toshalis, E. (2012, August). Connecting & correcting: The indispensible teacher-student relationship. A half-day series of presentations and professional development activities for all faculty and administrators from one of Lewis & Clark’s partnership schools, Grant High School, in Portland, OR.
- Toshalis, E., Tollefson, K., Itkonen, T., & Quintero, E. (2007-2009). “Testy Times”: Community dialogues on No Child Left Behind. Co-planner and presenter, with CSUCI colleagues, of a series of four events held at the university and in the community.
- Toshalis, E. (2008, May). History-social science partners event. Planner and presenter of collaborative event involving Ventura County social science educators and members of the history, political science, economics, and library faculties at CSUCI.
- Toshalis, E. (2007, December). Standardized intentions, sub-standard impacts: What we’re losing when we reduce assessment to the norm-referenced test. Presentation given to the CSUCI/P-12 community as part of the “Testy Times” series of community dialogues.
Ed.D. 2007 Harvard University, M.T.S. 2001 Harvard University, M.Ed. 1997, B.A. 1992 University of California, Santa Barbara
From the Newsroom
Dr. Eric Toshalis, assistant professor of education, discusses his new research on the importance of student-centered learning. He explains why there is bright hope in placing students at the center of their own learning.
In an Oregonian op-ed, professor Eric Toshalis argues that teenagers aren’t the “cruel, self-obsessed, brainless, or hormonally challenged” people the media often make them out to be.