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Melissa Rae Goodnight

Assistant Professor


Melissa Rae Goodnight is an assistant professor in the Department of Educational Psychology as well as Educational Policy, Organization, and Leadership (0% Appointment) and LAS Global Studies (0% appointment) at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. She is also a faculty affiliate of the Center for Culturally Responsive Evaluation and Assessment (CREA). Prior to joining the College of Education, she was a lecturer in Global Studies, teaching courses in interdisciplinary research and human rights. She received a PhD in education from the University of California Los Angeles with emphases in comparative education and evaluation. Dr. Goodnight began doing health and educational work abroad as a U.S. Peace Corps volunteer in Kingston, Jamaica. She has also taught and done extensive fieldwork in India. Her transnational scholarship and teaching focus on research design, monitoring and evaluation, social justice theories, and education for underserved and historically marginalized communities. Currently, she is engaged in several local and national evaluation and research projects related to diversity and equity in the areas of higher education, K-12 schooling, and public health.

Research Interests

My transnational research focuses on issues of validity, representation, equity, and social justice in the use of different theories (e.g., feminist, critical race, and culturally responsive) and methodologies for conducting evaluation and educational research. I research evaluation developed in and for Global South contexts to construct theory “from the ground” and expand current views of evaluation’s meaning, practice, and consequences. Much of my recent work has been based on extensive fieldwork in India. My published studies tackle key concerns with the equitable access to and operation of education systems in India and the United States, while illustrating my interest in working across the methodological spectrum. In a 2017 article in Compare, I explore the translation of critical race theory for analyzing the persisting social justice issues within India’s school system. In an upcoming book, Ethnography of Monitoring and Evaluation Efforts (Emerald Insight Studies in Educational Ethnography series), I discuss the considerations and benefits of ethnography for conducting research on large-scale, participatory monitoring and evaluation efforts.

Courses Taught

I teach courses on evaluation theory, evaluation practice, and evaluation’s relationship to society. Essentially, these courses explore what evaluation is, how to do it, and why it matters. I enjoy working with students from different disciplines and fields of practice who are interested in the design, implementation, and evaluation of education and social programming (and policies). I also value advising students on cross-cultural fieldwork, social theory, and research design.

My experiences with social justice pedagogy and writing instruction have shaped how I approach teaching in the following ways:

  • Creating an affirmative learning space for students of all identities is an explicit, ongoing value that frames course discussions, tasks, and learning materials.
  • Texts are chosen and assignments are designed to promote students’ development as social scientists, writers, and critical and ethical thinkers.
  • Everyone has valuable knowledge and experiences: I strive for humility in sharing what I know with others and in learning from what others know.
  • Collective and individual reflection are essential to my teaching practice and to students’ participation in my classes.
  • Conversations with students about their learning priorities impact my instructional decisions.
  • My courses' main forms of assessment are discussion and writing.

Additional Campus Affiliations

Assistant Professor, Educational Psychology
Assistant Professor, Education Policy, Organization and Leadership
Assistant Professor, Women & Gender in Global Perspectives
Assistant Professor, Center for Global Studies
Assistant Professor, Global Studies Programs and Courses

Recent Publications

Tiwari, A., & Goodnight, M. R. (2024). Missing Girls on the Margins? Equity, Assessment, and Evaluation in India's New Education Policy. In T. Saeed, R. Iyengar, M. A. Witenstein, & E. J. Byker (Eds.), Exploring Education and Democratization in South Asia: Research, Policy, and Practice (pp. 79-99). (South Asian Education Policy, Research, and Practice). Palgrave Macmillan.

Goodnight, M. R., Avent, C. M., & Kumaran, R. (2023). Employing Mixed-Methods Citation Analysis to Investigate Transnational Influence in Evaluation Theory. Canadian Journal of Program Evaluation, 38(2), 243-264.

Goodnight, M. R., & Avent, C. M. (2023). In Pursuit of Democratic Values: Transnational Influences on Jennifer C. Greene. In J. N. Hall, A. Boyce, & R. Hopson (Eds.), Disrupting Program Evaluation and Mixed Methods Research for a More Just Society: The Contributions of Jennifer C. Greene (pp. 165-180). (Evaluation and Society). Information Age Publishing Inc..

Goodnight, M. R. (2023). Research on Evaluation Influence in India: Theorizing Beyond Process and Results to Design. American Journal of Evaluation, 44(4), 629-648.

Goodnight, M. R., Avent, C. M., & Kumaran, R. (2023). Tracing the Transnational Influence of Jennifer Greene’s Ideas: Research on Evaluation Theory Across Countries. Journal of MultiDisciplinary Evaluation, 19(45), 81–98.

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