Ph.D. in Education, 2016
School of Education
February 1, 2012
Goal is to Produce Intelligible Research for Policy Makers, Educational Leaders, and Mathematics Teachers
Rahila Munshi Simzar is a Ph.D. student in the Department of Education specializing in Educational Policy and Social Context and Learning, Cognition, and Development. She graduated from University of California, Los Angeles with a B.S. in Applied Mathematics and a minor in English. She continued at UCLA to receive her Master’s degree in Education in 2008. Her thesis research, grounded socio-cultural learning theory, investigated student helping behavior in secondary mathematics classrooms. Her findings led her to practice a pedagogy that facilitated cooperative groups in which students explore mathematical concepts through a series of investigative group tasks.
While completing her master’s degree, Rahila joined in the opening of West Adams Preparatory High School in the fall of 2007. This Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) high school operates in conjunction with MLA Partner Schools and is located in South Los Angeles, in the historically underserved and underprivileged urban community of West Adams. Rahila spent the following three years teaching secondary mathematics while serving as mathematics department chair and her small school’s lead teacher. In her third year teaching she was able to successfully pilot the school’s first Advanced Placement Statistics course.
Rahila’s research interests are motivated by the leadership roles she held while teaching in inner city Los Angeles. During her first year of doctoral study at UCI, she collaborated with Dr. Elizabeth van Es to lead focused research on pre-service secondary mathematics teacher development and pre-service teacher thinking and learning. She presented their findings with fellow doctoral student Huy Chung at the Fifth Annual UCLA Mathematics Department’s Philip C. Curtis Jr. Center for Mathematics and Teaching 2011 Conference. Her prior teaching experience along with working with pre-service mathematics teachers at UCI aided her in the development of An Educator’s Perspective on Evidence of Quality Teacher Practice, an excerpt written for the UCLA Center XChange, which is an online repository of publications and resources on the work of transforming public schools.
Currently, Rahila is in her second year of the doctoral program and is working with Drs. Thurston Domina and AnneMarie Conley to analyze the motivational effects of math course placement for middle school students. This research is inspired by her experiences with student motivation in Algebra classes and aims to reveals potential consequences of the current movements towards adopting a universal Algebra policy for all eighth grade students. Findings are proving generalizable to minority, English language learning students, which provides for a realistic external validity that policy-makers and educational leaders can rely on when determining whether or not to adopt such a policy. Rahila also serves as Lab Manager for Dr. Conley’s California Motivation Project (CAMP) research lab.
Rahila ultimately seeks to combine her love and passion for teaching mathematics and desires to support mathematics educators (both pre- and in-service), address educational policy issues, and hone student motivational issues to produce intelligible research for policy-makers, educational leaders, and mathematics teachers. She endorses the belief that optimal educational experiences occur as a byproduct of research-based practices and policy.