From 2004 to 2009, she was the principal investigator of a study of 31 highly effective teachers in low performing urban schools in Los Angeles. The study was funded by the John Randolph and Dora Haynes Foundation and is the product of a nine-member research team, which included John Rivera as policy director, and six CGU graduate students/alums. Prior to that, in 1992, she led a large yearlong study of four schools in southern California and produced a report, Voices from Inside: A Report on Schooling from Inside the Classroom that sold over 60,000 copies.
Professor Poplin teaches courses in pedagogy, learning theory, qualitative research, philosophy, and worldviews. She developed the current CGU Teacher Education Internship program from 1985-1995 increasing the candidates from 25 to 100 and the percentage of students of color from 6% to 50% and was first to require all candidates to have special expertise in ELL. She also led the revitalization of the program from 2000-2004 and was Dean of the School of Educational Studies from 2002-2004. She and John Rivera published an article on the re-visioning of the program in Theory into Practice in 2006. She developed and directs the Institute for Education in Transformation whose goal is to advance justice and accountability in the schools through relevant research and practice.
In 1996, Mary worked for two months with Mother Teresa in Calcutta to understand why she said their work was “religious work and not social work.” Her book on this experience, Finding Calcutta, was published by InterVarsity Press in 2008 and is also available in Korean and Chinese. She is a frequent speaker in Veritas Forums, which began at Harvard, but has spread to over 60 universities around the world (www.veritas.org).
Mary Poplin, a native of Texas, began her career teaching elementary school and special education. Her early work in special education explored competing theoretical orientations in the field of special education. She was also the editor of Learning Disability Quarterly from 1979-1984.
Professor Mary Poplin’s research and teaching focus on several areas in education:
- The transformation of schools and classrooms toward more just and accountable institutions
- The practices and beliefs of highly effective teachers in low performing urban schools
- Teacher and administrative education and professional development toward more effective and just classrooms and schools
- The articulation of four major worldviews (scientific naturalism, secular humanism, pantheism and Judeo Christian thought) and their expression in the epistemologies of higher education.