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Joseph Levitan

Academic title(s): 

Assistant Professor

Graduate Program Director

Joseph Levitan
Contact Information

Room 305 Education Building 

514-398-4527 ext. 094570


Email address: 
joseph.levitan [at] mcgill.ca
Department of Integrated Studies in Education

Dr. Joseph Levitan is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Integrated Studies in Education at McGill University. His research interests include leadership, teaching, and policy for social justice in education, collaborative education development with marginalized and Indigenous communities, curriculum and pedagogy, responsive educational policy development and leadership, culturally grounded education, and intersectional analysis of culture, identity, and learning. 

Dr. Levitan is an educational philosopher/anthropologist who uses collaborative inquiry, phenomenology, ethnography, and other qualitative, mixed, and comparative methods to understand educational phenomena--specifically how schools, teachers, and educational organizations can better meet the learning goals and needs of students and families. He completed graduate studies at Columbia University Teachers College (MA) and the Pennsylvania State University (PhD), where he was awarded a U.S. Department of Education Funded Foreign Language and Area Studies Fellowship. He has performed research in Latin America, the United States, and Southeast Asia. 

Prior to joining the McGill Faculty, Dr. Levitan worked as a teacher, educational leader, and researcher in the U.S. and Latin America for seven years. He has co-founded and has served as the Director of Education and Operations at Centro Educativo Pallata Ayllu, a community-driven education center, and the Sacred Valley Project, a non-governmental organization dedicated to ensuring that Indigenous youth in the Peruvian Andes have access to high-quality and culturally grounded educational opportunities.

His current projects include:

  • Developing and researching a collaborative and culturally grounded learning institution with Indigenous (Quechua) communities in the Peruvian Andes, which utilizes participatory action research methods to evaluate, improve, and report on the institute co-created with Quechua colleagues. The action research project is also a teaching and learning opportunity for McGill students interested in international development, education, and culture.
  • NEXTschools: Innovating schooling in the Quebec English Language system for 21st century learning through design thinking.

Ph.D. Educational Leadership & Comparative and International Education (dual title)
        The Pennsylvania State University, University Park, PA

M.A. International Educational Development & Social Justice, Peace Education
       Columbia University Teachers College, New York, NY

B.A.  Philosophy cum laude (with high honors thesis)
        Brandeis University, Waltham, MA    

Areas of expertise: 

Organizational Leadership, Education Policy, Responsive and Relational Pedagogy and Leadership, School design, Collaborative Inquiry, International Development, NGOs, Curriculum, Anthropology of Education, Action Research, Ethnography, Social Justice in Education, Culturally Grounded Education, Educational Philosophy/Theory, Indigenous Education, Identity, Embodied Leadership and Reflective/Reflexive Practices, Social-Emotional Learning, Mindfulness, and Intersectional Analysis of Culture, Identity, and Learning 


EDEM 610: Leadership in Action
EDEM 675: Special Topics: International Education Leadership and Policy
EDEM 695: Policy Studies in Education
EDEM 606: Issues in Educational Leadership
EDEM 609: Critical Perspectives on Educational Theory and Research
EDTL 506: Philosophy of Education

Office hours: 

By appointment

Current research: 

Culturally grounded and socially just approaches to education and educational leadership

  • E.g. Identity development of first generation students in secondary and post-secondary schools, supported by:

    • Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada, Insight Development Grant 2018 (Principal Investigator) $74,644
      Arts-based research relating to school’s impact on identity development of first-generation, rural, Indigenous students in the Peruvian Andes

      Project Title: The Impact of Postsecondary Education on First-Generation Indigenous Student Identity in the Peruvian Andes
      With: Kayla Johnson, Natalia Incio Serra

    • McGill University Internal Grant 2018 (Principal Investigator) $7,000
      esearch on rural Indigenous students’ identity development at a K-12 culturally grounded education center
      Project Title: The Influence of Culturally Grounded Education on Indigenous Students' Self-Conceptions: A Study in Peru
      With Kayla Johnson, Natalia Incio Serra

  • E.g. Collaborative approaches for culturally grounded curriculum, supported by:

    • Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada, Special Call: Indigenous Research Capacity and Reconciliation 2018 (Co-Investigator) $45,605
      Knowledge-sharing and capacity-building symposium focused on culturally-grounded curriculum development with Indigenous communities in Quebec

      Project Title: Gathering Community Knowledge, Practices, and Traditions to Inform Curriculum Development: A Symposium on Research for Indigenous Curriculum Design
      With: Crystal Bay, Isabella Boutros, Tsohahì:io Lauren Deom, Bethany Douglas, Melissa Drapeau, Jim Howden, Kahsennenhawe Jacobs, Limin Jao, Kayla Johnson, Annie Kasudluak Alaku, Karen Martin, Stephen Peters, Ulaayu Pilurtuut, Pasha Puttayuk, Nunia Qanatsiaq Anoee, Kelsey Catherine Schmitz, Rebecca Sockbeson, Kahtehrón:ni Iris Stacey, Marsha Vicaire

School innovation in Quebec: NEXT Schools

  • E.g. Inquiry into the school change process, supported by:
    • Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada, Connections Grant 2018 (Co-Investigator) $24,423
      Research and development of conference to support innovative learning spaces and leadership practices in Quebec high schools using design thinking
      Project Title: NEXTSchools: Innovative Learning for Québec High Schools
      With: Lisa Starr (PI), Vanessa Gold, Ellen MacCannell, Aron Rosenberg, Lynn Butler-Kisber
    • Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada, Partnership Engage Grant 2018 (Co-Investigator) $24,831
      Research and development of innovative learning spaces and leadership practices in Quebec high schools using design thinking

      Project Title: NEXTSchools: Innovative Systems Change for Québec High Schools
      With: Lisa Starr (PI), Vanessa Gold, Ellen MacCannell, Aron Rosenberg, Lynn Butler-Kisber

Collaborative, community-driven ways to develop high-quality, culturally grounded education and its effect on learning, identity, and social-emotional outcomes in the Peruvian Andes

  • E.g. Yachay (Learning) Ayni (through Reciprocity) Digital, supported by:
    • Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada, Partnership Engage Grant 2019 (Principal Investigator) $25,000
      Research and development of innovative culturally grounded curriculum, pedagogy and learning spaces in Andean schools using a novel intranet learning platform

      Project Title: Building culturally grounded e-learning opportunities with Indigenous students in Andean Peru
      With: Kayla Johnson (Co-I), Daniel Zuñiga, Jessica Freundt, & Santiago Cueto
    • Rotary Foundation Global Grant 2017 (Co-Investigator) $69,300
      Research and train teachers working in rural secondary schools in order to enhance their technical skills and support them in conducting curriculum on critical socio-emotional skills and civic engagement now required by the Ministry of Education in Peru
      Project Title: Visionaria: Teacher Training for Socio-Emotional Skills and Civic Engagement
      With: Paul Spurzem, Paola Saldivias, Genevieve Smith

Leaders' and Teachers' reflexive practices and their influence on relational dynamics in multicultural spaces

Ecological systems understandings of educational spaces, specifically in regards to culture, identity, personal growth, and learning

  • E.G. Service learning and social change, supported by:

    • Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada, Partnership Engage Grant (Co-Investigator) $24,831
      Action research relating to international community engagement programs
      Project Title: The Critical Issues Summit: Engaging and Empowering Students to be Global Change Agents
      With: Kayla Johnson


Yachay Ayni Digital: Creating culturally grounded curricula and re-valorizing community knowledge through project-oriented, competency based learning in a digital platform

Developing a community-grounded and community-driven education center in the Peruvian Andes

NEXT Schools: School innovation for 21st century learning in Quebec

Identity development and education: Experiences of first generation students in secondary schools and universities

Selected publications: 

Peer-Reviewed Journals

Levitan, J., & Johnson, K. M. (2020). Salir Adelante: Collaboratively developing culturally-grounded curriculum with marginalized communities. American Journal of Education. https://doi.org/10.1086/706921

Levitan, J. (2019). Ethical relationship building in action research: Getting out of Western norms to foster equitable collaboration. Canadian Journal of Action Research

Levitan, J. (2019). Incorporating participant voice in culturally responsive leadership: A case study. Leadership and Policy in Schools doi.org/10.1080/15700763.2019.1585546

Rosenberg, A., Starr, L. J., Levitan, J., MacCannell, E., & Gold, V. (2019). NEXTschool Reform: Situating local perspectives within global trends for 21st century learning. Systemic Change Journal, 2 (1), 1-22.

Broderick, P., Frank, J., Berrena, E., Schusler, D., Kohler, K., Mitra, J., Khan, L., Levitan, J., Mahfouz, J., Chields, L., & Greenberg, M. (2019). Evaluating the quality of mindfulness instruction delivered in school settings: Development and validation of a teacher quality observational rating scale. Mindfulness.

Levitan, J. (2018). The danger of a single theory: Understanding students’ voices and social justice in the Peruvian Andes. Teachers College Record, 120(2).

Levitan, J., Mahfouz, M., & Schussler, D. (2018). Pragmatic Identity Analysis as a qualitative interview technique. Forum Qualitative Sozialforschung / Forum Qualitative Social Research, 19(3), Art. 18. http://dx.doi.org/10.17169/fqs-19.3.3032.

Levitan, J., & Carr-Chellman, D. (2018). Learning, Selfhood, and Pragmatic Identity Theory. Journal of Educational Thought, 51(2) 140-162.

Levitan, J. (2018) The legacy of postmodernism in popular thought and the emergence of “Inter/trans relational” -isms in educational theory. Educational Philosophy and Theory, 50th Anniversary Special Issue. https://doi.org/10.1080/00131857.2018.1461412

Mahfouz, J., Levitan, J., Schussler, D., Broderick, T., Dvorakova, K., Argusti, M., Greenberg, M. (2018). Ensuring College Student Success through Mindfulness-Based Classes: Just BREATHE. College Student Affairs Journal.

Levitan, J., Carr-Chellman, D., Carr-Chellman, A. (2017). Accidental Ethnography (AccE): A method for practitioner-based education research. Action Research. doi/abs/10.1177/1476750317709078

Smith, W., Fraiser, P., Chykina, O., Ikoma, S., Levitan, J., Mahfouz, J., & Jing, L., (Aug, 2016). What makes a global citizen? The importance of education in a globally integrated world. Globalization, Societies, and Education.  doi/10.1080/14767724.2016.1222896

Mansur, N. N., Kryst, E. J., Levitan, J., Zhang, M., Jing, S., & Lee, S. (Feb. 2016). Child labor and education: New perspectives and approaches. Comparative Education Review. 60(1) 204-211. doi/full/10.1086/684937

Peer-Reviewed Book Chapters

Levitan, J. (2019). The role of reflexivity in performing collaborative student voice research. In I. Berson In M. Berson, & C. Gray (Eds.) Participatory methodologies to elevate children's voice and agency. Information Age Publishing.

Levitan, J., Schussler, D., Mahfouz, J., Frank, J., Kohler, K., Broderick, P., Mitra, J., Oh, Y., Berrena, E., Greenberg, M. (2018). Evaluating student cognitive and social-emotional growth during a high school mindfulness course using mixed-method design. SAGE Research Methods.

Levitan, J., & Post, D. (2017). Indigenous student outcomes and education policies in Peru and Ecuador. In Cortina, R. (Ed.), Indigenous Education Policy, Equity, and Intercultural Understanding in Latin America. Palgrave Macmillan.

Levitan, J. (2015). More than access: Overcoming barriers to girls’ secondary education in the Peruvian Andes. In Baily & Stacki (Eds.), Educating Adolescent Girls Around the Globe: Challenges and Opportunities. London: Routledge Research.

Public Access Articles

Harvey, B., Starr, L., Levitan, J. (January 21, 2020) Education and sustainability: Quebec students want (and deserve) more. Montreal Gazette Op-Ed

Levitan, J., Johnson, K. (2020). Collaboratively developing culturally-grounded curriculum to foster social justice. The American Journal of Education Forum

Levitan, J. (2016). “The difference between educational equality, equity, and justice… and why it matters.” The American Journal of Education Forum.

Levitan, J. (2016). “What the U.S. election results can tell us about research methods.” The American Journal of Education Forum.

Levitan, J. (2015). “Language learning orphans: School language policy in the US.” Education Week Commentary.  

Selected talks and presentations: 
Awards, honours, and fellowships: 

The Consortium for the Study of Leadership and Ethics in Education: Don Willower Award of Excellence in Educational Administration, 2019

AERA Leadership for Social Justice Special Interest Group: Bridge Person Award (Honorable Mention), 2019

United States Department of Education Funded Foreign Language and Area Studies Fellowship (Pennsylvania State University), 2015-16

Professional activities: 

Co-founder of the Sacred Valley Project, and Centro Educativo Pallata Ayllu Peruvian-US based non-profits dedicated to ensuring Quechua (Indigenous) students have access to high quality, culturally grounded education. 

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