James Joshua (Josh) Coleman, assistant professor of English education in the University of Iowa’s College of Education's Department of Teaching and Learning, is the recipient of a National Academy of Education (NAEd)/Spencer postdoctoral fellowship. He also serves on the faculty for the College of Education's Literacy, Culture, and Language Education doctoral program.
The award will support Coleman's research on book-banning practices and LGBTQ+ educational activism in the Midwest.
NAEd officials recently announced the recipients of the 2023 NAEd/Spencer Dissertation and Postdoctoral Fellowships and Research Development Awards.
These programs provide funding and professional development to early-career researchers whose projects address critical issues in the history, theory, or practice of formal or informal education, at the national and international levels.
“Book bans are on the rise across the United States, and LGBTQ+ children’s books are now the most banned of the 21st century,” Coleman writes. “Targeted by social media campaigns and conservative educational policy, such as Florida’s ‘Don’t Say Gay Bill,’ these texts spotlight an ideological battleground around banned childhoods, or the ideological belief that LGBTQ+ children are inappropriate for inclusion in U.S. schools and libraries.”
He adds, “While educational scholarship has focused on nation-level change, research has yet to account for region-specific book banning practices and educational activism, despite book bans clustering in politically conservative regions such as the Midwest and Deep South.”
Addressing this gap, this study extends an ongoing research partnership with a Midwestern LGBTQ+ community organization and uses regional storytelling by local educational stakeholders – teachers, librarians, and community members – to chronicle educational activism in Iowa.
This study’s findings seek to advance educational knowledge on regional distinctions in book banning practices and educational activism, particularly in the Midwest. Studying one politically conservative region, project implications will increase access to LGBTQ+ children’s literature by informing policy that targets region-specific book banning practices and detailing practitioner approaches to challenging regional book bans in libraries and schools.
Coleman is only the second UI faculty member to receive this prestigious national fellowship while working at Iowa. The first faculty member was English education professor Cynthis Lewis, now a professor at the University of California Santa Cruz. Current faculty member, Chris Ogren, was also a recipient while at the University of Southern California.
Coleman’s research draws upon social science and humanities-based research traditions to integrate queer and trans studies scholarship with educational research. His work explores how queer and trans educators use storytelling to support their own wellbeing as well as the study of LGBTQ+ youth literature to build understanding and awareness for all students.
Coleman’s publications can be found in Teachers College Record, Teaching and Teacher Education, Reading Research Quarterly, Written Communication, English Education, and the Journal of Children’s Literature. His research has received awards from the AERA Queer SIG and the Conference on College Composition & Communication.
His co-authored book, "Restorying Young Adult Literature: Expanding Students’ Perspectives with Digital Texts," also recently received a 2024 Divergent Award for Excellence in Literacy in a Digital Age Research Publication Award, given by the Initiative for Literacy in a Digital Age Research.
Coleman received his doctorate from the University of Pennsylvania’s Graduate School of Education. He additionally holds a Master of Arts in English literature from the University of Pennsylvania, a Master of Arts in Teaching from the University of North Carolina at Charlotte, and a Bachelor of Arts in English and French literature from Mercer University.
He was formerly a high school English teacher in Charlotte, North Carolina and a Fulbright English Teaching Assistant in Paris, France.
The NAEd/Spencer Postdoctoral Fellowship provides $70,000 to early-career scholars to focus on their research and attend professional development retreats. This year, the 25 postdoctoral fellows were selected from a pool of 195 applicants.
According to NAEd President Carol Lee, “The NAEd/Spencer Fellowships represent an important investment in the future leaders in education research. In these times of uncertainty, the continued support of future leaders in education research is of paramount importance, and our fellows will play an important role in shaping that future. We face challenging questions around how research can inform new understandings of learning and development and the systems that support them. I look forward to working with and supporting our fellows and awardees in the coming year.”