IOE - Faculty of Education and Society


IOE alumna wins award for outstanding doctoral dissertation

12 April 2022

IOE alumna Dr Lorena Sanchez Tyson has won the Comparative and International Education Society (CIES) 2022 Gail P. Kelly Award for her outstanding dissertation.

Dr Lorena Sanchez Tyson

Each year, the Society honours a doctoral dissertation that addresses social justice and equity issues in an international context. Dr Sanchez Tyson received this award in a virtual ceremony.

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Dr Sanchez Tyson completed her PhD in Education and International Development at IOE, UCL’s Faculty of Education and Society in 2021. Her thesis is planned for publication as a monograph for the Routledge Research in Literacy book series which focuses on innovative research and scholarship in the field of literacy as a social practice. The thesis explored the role and meaning of literacy in the Bilingual Indigenous Education Model for Life and Work (MIB) programme for adults in Mexico.

The MIB is an integrated and bilingual non-formal educational programme for Indigenous youth and adults in Mexico. Its focus is to provide native-language literacy and life skills training in many of the distinct and diverse Indigenous languages still spoken today. The study investigated the ways and purposes that learners and facilitators engage with the MIB programme. It found that understandings of literacies and the ways in which these are produced and enacted are strongly linked to and framed by broader historical and socio-political contexts and discourses.

The study used a qualitative and multi-sited ethnographic approach, combining participant observations and field notes with 25 individual interviews and nine group interviews.

In her dissertation Lorena reflects on how literacy practices both elicit experiences of shame and give rise to examples of pride, resistance, resilience and rights. Her brilliant scholarship with indigenous communities in the global south shows us a way to move from extractive research on indigenous peoples to revitalising research with indigenous peoples.” – the judging panel

The research highlighted different ways of how literacy influences and affects the lives and livelihoods of the participants. In particular, many participants viewed literacy as a ‘defence’ i.e. as a necessary tool that can be used to have access to full knowledge. The study also highlighted the power of literacies to shape attitudes and build stronger communities, with Dr Sanchez Tyson exploring issues of language and identity, power relations, implications of gender in literacy learning.

The thesis has implications for the MIB programme and adult education in Mexico, as well as for policymakers and practitioners concerned with educational equality across the Global South. It also contributes new knowledge to inform policy, practice and wider scholarship on adult education, international development, and literacy studies more broadly.

Dr Sam Duncan, Lorena’s PhD supervisor, said: "We are delighted that Lorena has been awarded the Gail P. Kelly Outstanding Doctoral Dissertation Award. Lorena's study makes an important contribution to our understandings of bilingual literacy projects and the relationships between 'literacy as taught' and 'literacy as lived'. This award is much deserved. Congratulations Lorena!"

Speaking at the virtual award ceremony on 4 April 2022, Dr Sanchez Tyson said: “Thank you so much to all of those who spent their time helping me as part of the work. I really appreciate the committee’s time and acknowledgement, [the award] is a huge honour.

“There are countless people who have helped me in my work. None of this would have been possible without the participants of my study.

“I am tremendously grateful to my supervisors Sam [Duncan] and Amy [North] for their insight and support. They gave me intellectual freedom to make mistakes, to explore, to be involved in other projects, to write other things, and to question. They always gave me such wonderful feedback. And I must also thank my research community at IOE, who have challenged my thinking and helped shape me in uncountable ways.”

Dr Sanchez Tyson looks forward to continuing her work as a Research Assistant at IOE for the GCRF-funded Transforming Universities for a Changing Climate research project. The project seeks to strengthen the contribution of universities to address the causes and impacts of climate change in lower-income contexts.