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Five OISE assistant professors named winners of Connaught New Researcher Award

September 25, 2020

Perry King

Professor Arlo Kempf (left) and Claudia Díaz Ríos (right) are two of five OISE scholars named recipients of the 2019-2020 Connaught New Researcher Award. 

Five OISE-based faculty have been named as recipients of the 2019-2020 Connaught New Researcher Award.

Assistant Professors Arlo Kempf, Mark Wade, Claudia Díaz Ríos, Fikile Nxumalo and Jennifer Wemigwans join 56 total University of Toronto researchers. The award, as part of the Connaught Fund program, is in place to help new tenure stream faculty members establish competitive research programs – which will increase his competitiveness for external funding.

New Researcher Award recipients annually receive about $20,000 – which amounts to about $1 million in the 2019-2020 competition. Annually, the award supports about 50 awards of up to $20,000.

“On behalf of the OISE community, I congratulate all of our assistant professor for receiving the prestigious Connaught New Researcher Award,” said Michele Peterson-Badali, OISE’s Associate Dean, Research, International & Innovation. “They are all thoughtful and principled researchers, and their ideas have the potential to have an impact on curriculum, teacher development and the classroom in Ontario and beyond.

“I’m excited that they are all now able to establish research programs structured around their bodies of work. I look forward to seeing where their research leads them.”

Many OISE faculty have received this Connaught honour. In recent years, Assistant Professors Rosalind Hampton and Jennifer Brant received the honour in 2019, and Assistant Professor Chloe Hamza received the award in the 2016-2017 school year.

Professor Kempf, based in the department of Curriculum, Teaching and Learning, will now establish a research program around teachers’ work and anti-racism in education – his area of expertise.

“It’s fantastic. I feel honored and grateful,” said Kempf, whose research looks at the role of race in education, with a focus on teachers work. “I know that it's going to be really important for my research agenda going forward. To feel supported by the university and the institute and moving forward is a great thing,” he said.

Kempf’s examines how teachers conceptualize – or fail to conceptualize – race and racism in the classroom and he asks broader questions of neoliberalism and education. He uses critical approaches – including critical race theory, anti-colonialist thought and critical pedagogy – in an effort to bring research with teachers into conversation with critical approaches.

“So, this work will dive in specifically to questions about connection and class size and race, and will be something that I think extends previous studies I've done,” he says.

For Professor Diaz Rios, based in the department of Leadership, Higher and Adult Education, the award comes at the right time.

“The Connaught New Researcher Award is a superb stimulus to kick-start my research agenda on migration and education in the Global South, especially as a new faculty at U of T,” says Diaz Rios, whose research will examine educational responses to Venezuelan migrant children in Colombia.

“The Connaught New Researcher Award opens multiple opportunities to successfully apply for additional grants, expand my research internationally, and establish partnerships for future projects in my research agenda.”

Here is the full list of OISE this year’s recipients and a short description of their projects:


Photo of Arlo KempfArlo Kempf
Department of Curriculum, Teaching and Learning

Research project: Teacher Practice, Racial Equity & Class Size

This research seeks to deepen scholarly understandings of the relationships between class size and teacher practice in terms of equity with a focus on racial inclusion.

The proposed research will use a mixed method approach, combining a large-scale electronic survey of 500+, and qualitative interviews with 30+, Ontario secondary school teachers. Despite the prevalence of popular discussion about class size, there is a significant paucity of empirical research from the past 20 years on class size in general; even less in Canada specifically; and none focusing on class size, racial equity, and teacher-student relationships.

The research proposed here, will address a significant gap in the literature, and offer a constructive complication of the way we understand class size, looking beyond the numbers to consider questions of race and other demographics (from an intersectional perspective), as well as context, to more deeply understand the effects of class size on racial equity.

Photo of Fikile Mxumalo

Fikile Nxumalo
Department of Curriculum, Teaching and Learning

Research project: Learning with Place: Exploring Environmental Justice with Marginalized Young Children

Environmental education for young people remains at the margins of research and teaching in Canada. In particular, despite the interconnectedness between climate change vulnerability and issues of equity and justice, there is a lack of scholarship on environmental justice education for young people.

This project proposes to advance understandings of environmental education that is focused on marginalized children’s relations with their specific local environments. A critical participatory ethnography will be undertaken in a Kindergarten classroom in Toronto serving children from marginalized communities.

Visual and textual data will be collected over one academic year as children and educators conduct an inquiry on a local environmental issue that impacts them. This research will contribute important knowledge on advancing professional supports for educators to teach children about environmental issues in strength-based and justice-oriented ways.

Photo of Claudia Milena Díaz Ríos

Claudia Díaz Ríos
Department of Leadership, Higher and Adult Education

Research project: Educational responses to Venezuelan migrant children in Colombia

The Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) No. 4 has put global pressures on all countries to provide high-quality primary and secondary education for all children making education of migrants a pressing concern worldwide. However, for Global South countries, that by 2019 had already 19 million immigrant children, fulfilling SDG 4 involves particular challenges – fragmented immigration policies and fundamental problems with education systems in the Global South.

In order to meet commitments to SDG 4 globally, we need to understand how educational systems in Global South countries are responding to immigrant children while coping with their existing local problems. This project will address this gap by examining Colombian educational responses to the recent Venezuelan migration, a case of extreme, not war-induced, migration that does not fit the traditional classification of forced migration and that demands urgent knowledge informing effective responses.

Photo of Mark Wade

Mark Wade
Department of Applied Psychology and Human Development

Research project: Threat, Deprivation, and Executive Functioning in Childhood and Adolescence

Childhood adversity is a significant public health concern that impacts up to 1 billion children globally. In Canada alone, the economic cost of child maltreatment is more than $15 billion annually.

One proposed mechanism by which early adversity is believed to increase the risk of psychopathology is by compromising the cognitive skills that help individuals cope, manage, and regulate their emotions and behavior.

Executive functioning (EF) describes an array of cognitive skills involved in this process of emotion regulation. Indeed, deficits in EF have been linked to the emergence of multiple psychiatric disorders over the lifespan. It is currently unknown whether, and to what extent, different forms of childhood adversity negatively impact children’s EF.

The purpose of this project is to conduct a systematic review and quantitative meta-analysis of the existing literature examining the relation between early adversity and EF in childhood and adolescence. In particular, this project will examine the differential associations between early threat and deprivation on multiple domains of EF.

Photo of Jennifer WemigwansJennifer Wemigwans
Department of Leadership, Higher and Adult Education

Research project: 4D Indigenous Languages Prototype

4D Indigenous Languages Prototype directly responds to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s Calls to Action to preserve and revitalize Indigenous languages using the proven success of

This interactive, Indigenous designed, multi-media website created a new, culturally appropriate way for Blackfoot, Cree, Ojibwe, Mohawk, and Mi’kmaq Elders to share Indigenous Knowledge in English and French and resulted in new research on the impact of Indigenous Knowledge online.

The 4D Indigenous Languages Prototype will translate each of these teachings into their own original languages so that Indigenous language learners and Instructors will have access to a culturally relevant digital site to learn and hear the languages of the Siksika (Blackfoot), Nêhiyawêwin (Cree), Anishinaabemowin (Ojibwe), Kanienʼkéha (Mohawk), and Míkmawísimk (Mi’kmaq). The proposed research project will focus on examining the pedagogical impact of using an online prototype in a variety of Indigenous language learning settings (elementary, secondary and post-secondary).