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Leading math education scholar Dionne Cross Francis to join the faculty

Dionne Cross Francis featured image

Dionne Cross Francis, a leading scholar and teacher educator in mathematics education, will join the UNC School of Education faculty as the Joseph R. Neikirk Term Professor effective July 1.

Cross Francis, a recent Fulbright award recipient, comes to Chapel Hill from the School of Education at Indiana University Bloomington, where she held a position as associate professor of mathematics education in the department of curriculum and instruction. At IU, she also directed the Center for P-16 Research and Collaboration.

“I am thrilled that we were able to successfully recruit Dr. Cross Francis to join our faculty,” said Fouad Abd-El-Khalick, dean of the School of Education. “In mathematics education, it can be very challenging to recruit and hire stellar leaders in the field, and we are very fortunate that Dr. Cross Francis has agreed to bring her expertise to the School.”

An advocate for improving quality of and access to mathematics education for both teachers and students, Cross Francis brings a wealth of knowledge and expertise to the School of Education.

“Joining the faculty at UNC-Chapel Hill is a defining moment in my career,” she said. “The University has been a thought leader within the academy, taking bold steps in driving innovation and entrepreneurship. I am enthusiastic to be amongst the outstanding researchers and educators in the School of Education.”

Leading researcher and practitioner in mathematics education

Cross Francis’s work is focused on investigating the relationships among psychological constructs and how the interplay between these constructs influence teachers’ instructional decision-making prior to and during the act of teaching, in particular mathematics. Through her research, she aims to understand both the contextual and teacher-specific factors that motivate teacher actions as they plan and instruct, which is essential for determining the optimal design features of professional development that allow teachers to thrive.

Her research — which has been supported by state and federal funding totaling several million dollars — has informed the design and implementation of professional development initiatives nationally and internationally.

Cross Francis holds a bachelor’s degree in mathematics from the University of the West Indies, Jamaica, and a doctorate degree in educational psychology from the University of Georgia.

In January 2020, Cross Francis visited the School to deliver a talk, “Teachers as Learners: Designing for Holistic Teacher Development,” as part of the Dean’s Distinguished Lecture Series.

“After hearing Dr. Cross Francis discuss her research on teacher effectiveness and curricular improvements at the Dean’s Distinguished Lecture Series, I knew that she was someone who would undoubtedly contribute to advancing our mission and work to propel the world,” said Abd-El-Khalick.

Cross Francis is also the recipient of a Fulbright award to Ghana for the 2020-21 academic year. Fulbright is the most widely recognized and prestigious international exchange program in the world, working across a range of institutions to actively seek out and select individuals of achievement who represent the full diversity of their respective societies. Being awarded the grant is a reflection of her leadership in education and contributions to society.

Cross Francis’s impact in the field of mathematics education is reflected in numerous awards and honors she has received over the past decade. She was awarded the national K-12 Promotion of Education Award from the 2014 Women of Color STEM Conference for promoting STEM education for women and minorities; the Oak Ridge Associated Universities’ Junior Faculty Enhancement Award; the American Psychological Association Division 15 Early Career Award; and the University of Georgia’s Young Alumni Award. While at Indiana University’s School of Education, she was also honored with the Students’ Choice for Excellence in Teaching Award, the Graduate Student Mentoring Award, and the Trustee’s Teaching Award for her work with pre-service teachers and graduate students.

She is co-editor and co-author of two books, “Research on Teacher Identity: Mapping Challenges and Innovations” (2018) and “Teachers’ Goals, Beliefs, Emotions, and Identity Development: Investigating Complexities in the Profession” (2020). Her research has been published in top journals in the field, including Journal of Mathematical Behavior, Journal of Mathematics Teacher Education, Teacher College Record, Educational Studies in Mathematics, and Teaching and Teacher Education.

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