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Speaker Series: Yolanda Majors

Reimagining the Global Village: Facilitating & Sustaining Youth Learning & Engagement in the Age of COVID-19

Speaker: Yolanda Majors, Ph.D., Co-Founder of Hurston Institute for Learning and Development Minneapolis, Minnesota


This presentation will explore the affordances and constraints of out-of-school time settings that position youth as voluntary learners, "doers," "problem-solvers," and "change-makers" and what such settings can teach us about educational practice, engagement, and research. Dr. Majors’ work draws on a rich collective of interdisciplinary and methodological perspectives to address critical gaps and disjunctures in the correspondences between out-of-school time and school-based learning settings by identifying aspects of a youth's voluntary learning ecology effective for developing academic skills. For this presentation, Dr. Majors focuses on the complex learning and adaptive features of youth and youth-educator learning ecologies that promote changes within each. Such research aims to increase awareness and understanding within the Learning Sciences of academic literacies instantiated in youth role trajectories at the intersection of the arts, literacy, and new media occurring outside of the classroom. At a time when crises level political, racial and COVID-19 related injustices overwhelm our every waking moment, this work draws positive attention to the academic talents and skilled capabilities of low-income, non-dominant (LI-ND) youth, who are unwillingly caught in a vicious cycle when faced with the economic, health, social, and academic challenges that plague us. This cycle represents enormous tragedy for our institutions, highlights our nation’s racial disparities, and undermines our efforts for equity and inclusion. Yet, we find it fascinating and potentially transformative how today’s global crises has encouraged resourceful people to innovate and make teaching and learning work in service of forging a collective push-back in these hostile and uncertain times. Therefore, this work endeavors to extend LI-ND youth opportunities for learning, improve instructional practices across learning settings, and identify each setting's affordances and constraints on youth and youth-educator learning outcomes. Dr. Majors’ research findings demonstrate that one effective way to disrupt this cycle is through instructional practices that inform youth advancement within and beyond formal learning environments. The questions driving these aims are: What kinds of learning designs effectively support pathways for youth participation and learning across settings? How might practices identified as productive to youth engagement in voluntary settings advance student engagement and learning outcomes in academic settings?


Yolanda J. Majors, Ph.D., is the Executive Director of the Hurston Institute for Learning and Development. Dr. Majors' scholarship has focused on child, youth, and community learning. She is author of the book, Shoptalk: Lessons in Teaching from an African American Hair Salon, as well as over two dozen articles and book chapters on social contexts for learning.

After Dr. Majors became a tenured professor (at the University of Illinois at Chicago), her focus shifted to designing and supporting out of school time spaces of learning for youth and adults. Her award-winning work has led to numerous corporate and organizational partnerships, and in 2019 the establishment of the Hurston Institute for Learning and Development. Through HILD, Dr. Majors provides instructional design support, academic research and program evaluation, trainings, and workshops for classroom and community educators across the world.

Dr. Majors writes a weekly blog and facilitates online workshops and discussion forums for educators, administrators, and graduate students at