Listening to and Crafting Stories: Cultivating Activism in Online Doctoral Students


  • Carey Borkoski Johns Hopkins University
  • Brianne Roos Loyola University - Maryland



communication through storytelling, deficit-free language, systems-approach, activist inquiry


The Johns Hopkins online EdD program prepares students as scholar-practitioners who become leaders and agents of change across educational contexts.  Advocating for equity and social justice requires our students to not only immerse themselves in the relevant literature and learn the traditional skills of applied research but to master the art of communication through a sort of storytelling. Storytelling, in this sense, represents a means to gather and analyze data and understand and integrate diverse perspectives to engage and persuade relevant stakeholders (Moezzi, Janda, & Rotmann, 2017). The Hopkins first-year EdD programming and coursework emphasize the use of deficit-free language to understand people and problems, consideration of diverse perspectives and structuring inquiry with a systems-approaches to explore contextual problems using a mixed methods research paradigms.  Together, the program's approach to student learning and practice-oriented courses and dissertation research contribute to training scholar-practitioners as activists who ask relevant questions, draw on multiple perspectives to craft potential solutions, adapt to a variety of contexts and circumstances, engage with diverse stakeholders, reflect on their own assumptions, and admit to and learn from mistakes throughout the process. Through a detailed accounting and examination of the JHU onboarding features and processes, particular course content and assignments, as well as the interplay of these elements, this paper will demonstrate how attending to language, perspective taking, context, and research inquiry support the development of scholar-activists.


Arroyo, K. K. (2017). Creative policymaking: Taking the lessons of creative placemaking to scale. Artivate: A Journal of Entrepreneurship in the Arts, 6, 58–72.

Bauer, T. N., Bodner, T., Erdogan, B., Truxillo, D. M., & Tucker, J. S. (2007). Newcomer adjustment during organizational socialization: A meta-analytic review of antecedents, outcomes, and methods. Journal of Applied Psychology, 92(3), 707-721.

Bronfenbrenner, U. (1994). Ecology models of human development. In T. N. Postlewaite & Husen, T. (Eds.), International encyclopedia of education (2nd ed., Vol. 3, pp. 1643-1647). Elsevier.

Bryk, A. S., Gomez, L. M., Grunow, A., & LeMahieu, P. G. (2015). Learning to improve: How America’s schools can get better at getting better. Harvard Educational Press.

Cabrera, D., & Cabrera, L. (2015). Systems thinking made simple: New hope for solving wicked problems. Odyssean Press.

Clark, M. C., & Rossiter, M. (2008). Narrative learning in adulthood. New Directions for Adult and Continuing Education, 119, 61-70.

Cooperrider, D. L., & Whitney, D. (2000). A Positive Revolution in Change: Appreciative Inquiry. In D. L. Cooperrider, P. F. Sorensen, Jr., D. Whitney, and T. F. Yaeger (Eds.), Appreciative inquiry: Rethinking human organization toward a positive theory of change (pp. 3–27). Stipes Publishing.

Guba, E. G. (1981). Criteria for assessing the trustworthiness of naturalistic inquiries. Educational Technology Research and Development, 29, 75–91.

Hartman, A. (1990). Many ways of knowing. Social Work, 35, 3-4.

Hendriks, C. M., Ercan, S. A., & Duus, S. (2019). Listening in polarised controversies: A study of listening practices in the public sphere. Policy Sciences, 52, 137-151.

Holmes, B., Willis, K., & Woods, E. (2016). Strategic onboarding of online doctoral students: Creating a pathway to academic persistence. Asian Journal of Social Sciences and Management Studies, 3(2), 136-139.

Jacoby, B. (2017). The new student activism: Support students as agents of social change. Journal of College and Character, 18, 1-8.

Johnson, R. B., & Onwuegbuzie, A. J. (2004). Mixed methods research: A research paradigm whose time has come. Educational Researcher, 33, 14–26.

Mertens, D. (2007). Transformative Paradigm: Mixed Methods and Social Justice. Journal of Mixed Methods Research. 1. 212-225.

Mertens, D. M. (2018). Mixed methods design in evaluation. Thousand Oaks: Sage.

Moezzi, M., Janda, K. B., & Rotmann, S. (2017). Using stories, narratives, and storytelling in energy and climate change research. Energy Research & Social Science, 31, 1-10.

Stufflebeam, D. L. (2003). The CIPP model for evaluation. In D. L. Stufflebeam & T. Kellaghan (Eds.), The international handbook of evaluation (pp. 31–61). Kluwer Academic Publishers.

Vygotsky, L. S. (1978). Mind in society: The development of higher psychological processes. Harvard University Press.

Warren, M. R., Park, S. O., & Tieken, M. C. (2016). The formation of community-engaged scholars: A collaborative approach to doctoral training in education research. Harvard Educational Review, 86, 233-260.




How to Cite

Borkoski, C., & Roos, B. (2021). Listening to and Crafting Stories: Cultivating Activism in Online Doctoral Students. Impacting Education: Journal on Transforming Professional Practice, 6(1), 33–36.