Penn State Harrisburg

Martha J. Strickland, Ed.D.

· Associate Professor of Education; Behavioral Sciences and Education
· Assistant Director, Honors Program


Teaching Background

I began my teaching career in Miami, Florida where I was introduced to multilingual and classrooms. From there I spent a year in France in order to teach at an international school in West Africa.

Teaching in Cote d’Ivoire, West Africa early in my teaching career began my journey into the exploration of learning and culture. Subsequent to my overseas assignment I was an international educational consultant for almost 20 years doing home visits and educational problem-solving with American families living overseas in over 30 countries. These experiences provided me with a comprehensive global base upon which to work as a lifelong learner and researcher. My time in national classrooms in many parts of the world from remote Pakistan to Hong Kong prompted me to deeply explore the issues related to learning in context.

Educational Psychology

As an educational psychologist with a background in international work, my scholarly focus is the study of the building of understanding between teachers and students from diverse cultural and racial backgrounds. I also investigate the construction of diversity within teachers' and students' dialogues.

Aligned with this pursuit, my scholarship is framed by the social constructivist theoretical approach that draws on Vygotsky. Gee's Discourse concept of storylines and Bakhtin's concept of dialogism also inform my work. This theoretical backdrop results in three key assumptions of constructing understanding within interactions which inform my scholarly pursuits 1) all meaning-making is embedded within the learner's cultural, historical, and social contexts , 2) understanding is a multivocal social process that is continually constructed within collaborative efforts, and 3) understanding is a co-constructed process provoking creativity and surprise.

Research Interests

  • Immigrant student learning
  • Teacher-student relationships across cultures and ethnicities
  • Culturally responsive pedagogy

Publications and Research

  • Strickland, M. J. (2012). Storylines: Listening to immigrant students, teachers, and cultural-bridge persons making sense of classroom interactions. Middle Schools Research Journal. 7(2), 77-93. Refereed.
  • Melnick, S., Witmer, J., & Strickland, M. (2011).  Cognition and student learning through the arts.  Arts Education Policy Review. 112, 1-9.  Refereed.
  • Wilburne, J., Marinak, B., & Strickland, M. (2011).  Addressing cultural bias in mathematics problems.  Mathematics Teaching in the Middle School.  16(8), 460-465. Refereed.
  • Hairston, K., & Strickland, M. (2011).  Growing…but constrained: An exploration of teachers’ and researchers’ interactions with culture and diversity through personal narratives.  The Qualitative Report.  16(2), 341-357. Refereed.
  • Strickland, M. (2010).  Are they getting it?  Exploring intersubjectivity between teachers and immigrant students in three culturally diverse classrooms. International Learning Journal. 17(6), 197-213.  Refereed.
  • Marinak, B., Strickland, M., & Keat, J. (2010).  A mosaic of words: Using photo narration to support all learners.  Young Children.  65(5), 32-38. Refereed.
  • Strickland, M. & Adera, B. (2010).  Reflecting on an urban field experience: Listening to pre-service teachers’ constructed storylines and silence.  Critical Issues in Teacher Education17, 51-61. Refereed.
  • Strickland, M., Keat, J., & Marinak, B. (2010, June/July).  Connecting worlds: Using photo narrations to connect immigrant children, preschool teachers, and immigrant families.  The School Community Journal, 20(1), 81-102.  Refereed.
  • Marinak, B., Strickland, M., & Keat, J. (2009).  Using cameras to stimulate conversation of native-born and immigrant preschoolers.  Ubiquitous Learning: An International Journal 1(3), 7-11.  Refereed.
  • Keat, J., Strickland, M., & Marinak, B. (2009).  Child Voice: How Immigrant Children Enlightened Their Teachers with a Camera.  Early Childhood Education Journal 37(1), 13-21.  Refereed.
  • Marinak, B., Strickland, M., & Keat, J. (2009). Using cameras to stimulate conversation of native-born and immigrant preschoolers. Ubiquitous Learning: An International Journal 1(3), 7-11.
  • Keat, J., Strickland, M., & Marinak, B. (2009, August). Child Voice: How Immigrant Children Enlightened Their Teachers with a Camera. Early Childhood Education Journal, 37(1), 13-25.
  • Melnick, S.A., Witmer, J.T., & Strickland, M.J. (2008, October). Cognition and student learning through the arts. Paper presented at the annual meeting of the Northeastern Educational Research Association, Rocky Hill, CT.
  • Strickland, M. & Shumow, L. (2008). Family Matters: Exploring the Complexities of Families of Immigrant Adolescents and Achievement in Four G8 Countries. The Open Family Studies Journal. 1, 39-48.
  • Strickland, M. (2007).Asking key questions of the Learning-Focused Schools model: An educational psychologist explores the research context. Pennsylvania Educational Leadership. 27(1). 24-31.
  • Strickland, M. (2007). Listening to Teach: The Effective Tool for Teaching in Diverse Classrooms. The School Community Journal.17 (2), 123-128.
  • Strickland, M. (2007). Harnessing the storm: Contextualizing ELL research in the teacher education arenas. In Center for Schools and Communities, Penn State Harrisburg, and Pennsylvania Department of Education (Eds.) Making the right investments: Strengthening the education of English Language and Bilingual Learners, 64-71. Harrisburg, PA: Center for Schools and Communities.

Current Research

  • Feasibility Study of using Auto-Photography to Enhance Teacher-Child Relationships in Diverse Classrooms (2010-present). This is a funded mixed method study exploring how auto-photography impacts kindergarten teachers’ relationships with children from cultural/ethnic backgrounds different from their own. Primary Investigator.
  • K-12 Mathematics & Pre-Service & In-Service Teachers’ Approach to Preparing to Teach Mathematics Word Problems to Multicultural Classes (2009-present). This is a qualitative study using a think aloud protocol that explores how pre-service and in-service teachers narrate how they construct teaching mathematics word problems when considering students from cultural backgrounds different from their own. Co-Primary Investigator.
  • Teaching and Learning Spanish in Second Life. (2009-present). This qualitative research study explores the value of using Second Life, a Virtual Online Community as a supplemental activity in Spanish 1 classes at Penn State Harrisburg. Co-Primary Investigator.