Miguel Zavala

Miguel Zavala Photo
Charter College of Education
Division of Curriculum & Instruction
Office KHC2062
Miguel Zavala grew up in Southeast Los Angeles. The son of Mexican immigrant industrial workers, he has dedicated a significant part of his life to education and community organizing. After obtaining his bachelor's degree in Philosophy from UCLA, he returned to his community as a teacher at Nimitz Middle School, the second largest middle school in the U.S. Building from his experience as a social studies and language arts teacher, he pursued graduate studies in the East Coast, where he obtained a Masters degree from Cornell University; thereupon he returned to California and completed his Ph.D. in Education at UCLA.
Miguel has been engaged in community organizing, helping build teacher-led organizations in South Los Angeles. Over the last 12 years he has held leadership positions in the California Chapter for the National Association for Multicultural Education (CA-NAME).
Over the past 15 years Miguel has been supporting teachers as a teacher educator, having taught at California State University, Fullerton, Chapman University, and now California State University, Los Angeles. He is Coordinator of the Urban Learning Program, which serves over 400 undergraduate and teacher credential candidates.
His research centers on the intersection of literacy, learning, and community organizing. His recent publications include Raza Struggle and the Movement for Ethnic Studies (with Peter Lang publishers), Rethinking Ethnic Studies (with Rethinking Schools), and Transformative Ethnic Studies in Schools: Curriculum, Pedagogy & Research (co-authored with Christine Sleeter, published with Teachers College Press).
As former Director of Urban Learning Program (2019 - 2022), Miguel led a redesign that included a vision for preparing culturally relevant and critically conscious community educators. He brings expertise, research, and his lived-experience as resources in hos role as Associate Professor of Urban Learning. His hope is to seed projects that will nurture pedagogical and transformative spaces in the Charter College of Education.
Raza Struggle and the Movement for Ethnic Studies      Rethinking Ethnic Studies      Transformative Ethnic Studies in Schools Book Cover


JOURNAL ARTICLES                                                                                                

Zavala, M., & Henning, N. (2017). The role of political education in the formation of teachers as community organizers: Lessons from a grassroots activist organization. Urban Education.

Philip, T. M., Jurow, A. S., Vossoughi, S., Bang, M., & Zavala, M. (2017). The learning sciences in a new era of US nationalism. Cognition & Instruction, 35(2), 91-102.

Zavala, M., & Golden, A. N. (2016). Prefiguring alternative worlds: Organic critical literacies and socio-cultural revolutions. Knowledge Cultures 4(6), 205 – 225.

Zavala, M. (2016). Design, participation, and social change: What design in grassroots spaces can teach learning scientists. Cognition & Instruction 34(3), 236 - 249.

Fuentes, R., Villon, A., & Zavala, M. (2016). Community leadership together with teacher-led efforts: Making ethnic studies possible at El Rancho Unified School District. UCLA XChange, Series Number: IP-WP-X052.

Zavala, M., Peréz, P., González, A., & Diaz-Villela, A. (2015). Con respeto: a conceptual model for building healthy community-university partnerships alongside Mexicana/o migrant families. Journal of Critical Thought and Praxis

Philip, T. M. & Zavala, M. (2015). The possibilities of being “critical”: Discourses that limit options for educators of color.  Urban Education 51(6), 659 – 682.

Zavala, M. (2013). What do we mean by decolonizing research strategies? Lessons from decolonizing, indigenous research projects in New Zealand and Latin America. Decolonization: Indigeneity, Education & Society 2(1), 55 – 71.

Zavala, M. (2013). Organizing against the neo-liberal privatization of education in South Los Angeles: Reflections on the transformative potential of grassroots research.  Journal of Curriculum Theorizing 29(2), 57 – 71.


Sleeter, C. & Zavala, M. (in press). Transforming Teaching and Research for Ethnic Studies. Multicultural Education Series. New York: Teachers College Press.

Zavala, M. (2019). Raza Struggle and the Movement for Ethnic Studies: Decolonial Pedagogies, Literacies, and Methodologies. New York: Peter Lang.


Cuahtin, T., Zavala, M., Sleeter, C & Au, W. (Eds.) (2019). Rethinking Ethnic Studies. Seattle, WA: Rethinking Schools.


Zavala, M. (in press). Racism in the United States. In M. Cole (Ed.), Education, equality, and human rights in the United States. Routledge.                                                 

Zavala, M. & Joubert, E. (in press). We return: Teaching war through ethnic studies. In B. Gibbs (Ed.), Teaching war. Lexington Books.

Sleeter C. & Zavala, M. (2021). What the research says about ethnic studies. In J. Banks (Ed.), Transforming multicultural education policy & practice (pp. 209 – 238). Teachers College Press.

Zavala, M. & Magcalas, P. (2021). Teaching social issues through ethnic studies: Centering race and social activism. In R. Evans (Ed.), Handbook on the teaching of social issues (pp. 81 – 90). Information Age Publishing.

Zavala, M. (2021). Colonial dispossession and subjugation as contexts for understanding Chicanx-Mexican labor. In E. Orozco & S. Toscano (Eds.), In Search of brown selves (pp. 105 – 110). Kendall Press.

Vossoughi, S., & Zavala, M. (in press). The “interview” as pedagogical encounter: Nurturing knowledge and relationships with youth. In Arshad Ali & Terri McCartey (Eds.), Research Methods in Critical Youth Studies: A Practical Guide.

Riechel, A. & Zavala, M. (2019). Genocide of Native Californians role-play: an interview with Aimee Reichel. In Rethinking Ethnic Studies. Seattle, WA: Rethinking Schools.

Zavala, M., Henning, N. & Gallagher-Geurtsen (2019). Ethnic Studies: 10 Common Misconceptions. In Rethinking Ethnic Studies. Seattle, WA: Rethinking Schools.

Zavala, M. (2018). Raza communities organizing against a culture of war: Lessons from the Education Not Arms Coalition (ENAC) campaign. In Arshad Ali & Traci Buenavista (Eds.). At War! Challenging Racism, Materialism, and Militarism in Education. New York: Fordham University Press.

Zavala, M. (2018). Toward a Raza research methodology: Social science in the service of Raza communities. In Peter McLaren & Suzanne SooHoo (Eds.), The Radical Imagine-Nation. New York: Peter Lang.

Zavala, M. & Tran, N.A. (2016). Negotiating identities, locations, and creating spaces of hope for advancing students of color in university settings. In Santamaría, L. & Santamaría, A. (Eds.), Culturally Responsive Leadership in Higher Education: Promoting Equity, Access, and Improvement. New York: Routledge.

Zavala, M. (2015). From voicing to naming to re-humanization.  In Samuel Totten (Ed.), The Importance of Teaching Social Issues: Our Pedagogic Creed. New York: Routledge.

Zavala, M. (2015). Michael Apple: Neo-Marxist analyst of schooling, the curriculum, and education policy.  In Samuel Totten & Jon Pederson (Eds.), Educating About Social Issues in the 20th and 21st Centuries:  Critical Pedagogues and their Pedagogical Theories, Volume 4. Charlotte, NC: Information Age Publishing.

Tran, N. A. & Zavala, M. (2012).  Counterpoint. Is full-service community school useful in furthering equitable educational opportunity among majority-minority school populations? In C. J. Russo and A. G. Osborne (Eds.), Debating Issues in American Education. Thousand Oaks: SAGE.

Zavala, M. (2011).  The Association of Raza Educators: community-based teacher organizing and the development of alternative forms of teacher collaboration.  In A. Cohan and A. Honigsfeld (Eds.), Breaking the Mold of Preservice and Inservice Teacher Education: Innovative and Successful Practices for the 21st Century (pp. 199 – 208).  Lanham, Maryland: Rowman & Littlefield.


C. Sleeter & Zavala, M. (2020). What the research says about ethnic studies. National Education Association.

Kumashiro, K., Sleeter, C., Zavala, M. (2018). Ethnic Studies and critical multicultural education: Educating for democracy in California and beyond.  California Alliance of Researchers for Equity in Education. Retrieved from http://www.careed.org

Zavala, M., Colon-Muñiz, & Herzog, A. (2017). Centro Comunitario de Educación: Research brief. Attallah College of Educational Studies.

Zavala, M. (2017). Decolonial methodologies in education. In Michael A. Peters (Ed.), Encyclopedia of Educational Philosophy and Theory. Singapore: Springer.

Zavala, M. & Hipolito, E. (Eds.) (2016). Ethnic Studies K-12, UCLA XChange.

Zavala, M. (2011).  Rethinking the role of the state alongside a reassessment of strategies to school reform. Teachers College Record, online repository. August 29, 2011.

Zavala, M. (2011).  Grassroots student organizing against colonial education: interview with Ya Basta Youth Coalition.  Regeneración, the Association of Raza Educators Journal, 2(1), 22 – 24.  Los Angeles, CA: Association of Raza Educators Press.