Maisha Winn

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Maisha T. Winn

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Maisha T. Winn

Susan J. Cellmer Distinguished Chair of English Education
Curriculum and Instruction (CI)

574B Teacher Education Building  binoculars icon
225 N. Mills Street
Madison, Wisconsin

Personal Biography

Maisha T. Winn is the Susan J. Cellmer Endowed Chair in English Education and Professor in Language and Literacy in the Department of Curriculum and Instruction. Prior to joining the C&I faculty, Professor Winn was an associate professor in the Division of Educational Studies at Emory University for 8 years. Professor Winn was the 2012 recipient of the AERA Early Career Award and a 2014 recipient of the William T. Grant Distinguished Fellowship. She is the author numerous articles in journals such as Harvard Educational Review; Race, Ethnicity, and Education; Review of Research in Education; International Journal of Qualitative Studies in Education; and Research in the Teaching of English. Some of her books include Girl Time: Literacy, Justice, and the School-to-Prison Pipeline (Teachers College Press) and Humanizing Research: Decolonizing qualitative inquiry with youth and communities (co-edited with Django Paris with Sage) as well as other books published under her maiden name (Maisha T. Fisher).


Ph D, Language, Literacy, and Culture
University of California, Berkeley
Berkeley, California

MA, Language, Literacy, and Culture
Stanford University
Stanford, California

Cross-Cultural Language Academic Development, Single Subject-English
California State University, Sacramento
Sacramento, California

BA, English, African American Studies
University of California, Davis
Davis, California



Research Interests

Winn's research spans a wide variety of understudied settings including her earlier work on the literate practices extant in bookstores and community organizations in the African American community to her most recent work in settings where adolescent girls are incarcerated. Her work is multidisciplinary in that she examines the cognitive dimensions of the literate practices, the micro-level \interactional processes through which knowledge is constructed in these settings, and the socialization functions that take place through both peer relation and adult-youth relations as they emerge in these various institutions. And the substance of Winn's investigations further illuminate the roles that these institutions play within the larger cultural-historical development of racially diverse and low income communities -- including populations of Dominican, Puerto Rican, Columbian and African American descent.

Grants and Sponsorships

  • 2015-2016 - Amount: $153,933.00, "William T. Grant Foundation Distinguished Fellows," Awarded By: William T. Grant Foundation, .
  • 2014-2015 - Amount: $48,194.00, "Restorative Justice And The Reclamation Of Community," Awarded By: The Spencer Foundation, Sponsor Type: Private, Maisha Winn.
    Abstract: This study will examine the ways in which youth participation in restorative justice practices supports responsible citizenship and civic learning in schools and communities. In response to a trend in public schools toward zero-­‐tolerance policies, restorative justice practitioners are employing “circle processes” to bring school youth who have been harmed into a restorative dialogue with those who have caused harm. Through dialogue, open-­‐ended questions, and consensus in peacemaking circles, youth are invited to exercise their rights as engaged citizens and help create a community response to injustice. Findings will provide concrete and specific pedagogical and policy strategies for eradicating the discipline gap in high schools that has contributed to Black and Latino youth being pushed out of schools and communities. Black and Latino youth experience disproportionate amounts of discipline and punishment in schools, and the circle process is one of the few opportunities where these youth can exchange their stories. Ultimately, this study seeks to understand the potential for high schools using restorative justice practices to inspire youth to participate with civic purpose in their schools and communities.


  • Winn, M. (2013). Toward a Restorative English Education. Research in the Teaching of English. 48(1), 126-135.
    Online Publication/Abstract
    Abstract: In this essay I argue for a Restorative English Education—that is, a pedagogy of possibilities that employs literature and writing to seek justice and restore (and, in some cases, create) peace that reaches beyond the classroom walls. A Restorative English Education requires English language arts teachers to resist zero-tolerance policies that sort, label, and eventually isolate particular youth, embracing a discourse of restoration in which all young people have an opportunity to experience “radical healing” through engaging in deliberate literate acts that illuminate pathways of resilience.
    Download Publication
  • Paris, D., & Winn, M. (2013). Humanizing Research: Decolonizing qualitative inquiry with youth and communities. Humanizing Research: Decolonizing qualitative inquiry with youth and communities. Thousand Oaks, California: Sage.
    Online Publication/Abstract
    Abstract: What does it mean to conduct research for justice with youth and communities who are marginalized by systems of inequality based on race, ethnicity, sexuality, citizenship status, gender and other categories of difference? In this collection, editors Django Paris and Maisha Winn have selected essays written by top scholars in education on humanizing approaches to qualitative and ethnographic inquiry with youth and their communities. Vignettes, portraits, narratives, personal and collaborative explorations, photographs, and additional data excerpts bring the findings to life for a better understanding of how to use research for positive social change.
  • Winn, M. (2012). The politics of desire and possibility in urban playwriting: (re)reading and (re)writing the script. Pedagogies: An International Journal. 7(4), 317-332.
    Online Publication/Abstract
    Download Publication
  • Winn, M., & Johnson, L.P. (2011). Writing instruction in the culturally relevant classroom. Urbana, Illinois: National Council of Teachers of English.
    Online Publication/Abstract
    Abstract: Maisha T. Winn and Latrise P. Johnson suggest that culturally relevant pedagogy can make a difference. Although it certainly includes inviting in the voices of those who are generally overlooked in the texts and curricula of US schools, culturally relevant teaching also means recognizing and celebrating those students who show up to our classrooms daily, welcoming their voices, demanding their reflection, and encouraging them toward self-discovery. _Writing Instruction in the Culturally Relevant Classroom_ offers specific ideas for how to teach writing well and in a culturally relevant way. Drawing on research-based understandings from _NCTE Beliefs about the Teaching of Writing_, Winn and Johnson demonstrate how these principles support an approach to writing instruction that can help all students succeed. Through portraits of four thoughtful high school teachers, the authors show how to create an environment for effective learning and teaching in diverse classrooms, helping to answer questions such as How can I honor students' backgrounds and experiences to help them become better writers? How can I teach in a culturally responsive way if I don t share cultural identities with my students? How can I move beyond a "heroes and holidays" approach to culturally relevant pedagogy? How can I draw on what I already know about good writing instruction to make my classes more culturally relevant? How can I create culturally responsive assessment of writing?
  • Winn, M. (2011). Girl Time: Literacy, Justice, and the School-to-Prison Pipeline. Girl Time: Literacy, Justice, and the School-to-Prison Pipeline. New York: Teachers College Press.
    Online Publication/Abstract
    Abstract: This original account is based on the author’s experiences with incarcerated girls participating in Girl Time, a program created by a theatre company that conducts playwriting and performance workshops in youth detention centers. In addition to examining the lives of these and other formerly incarcerated girls, Girl Time shares the stories of educators who dare to teach children who have been “thrown away” by their schools and society. The girls, primarily African American teens, write their own plays, learn ensemble-building techniques, explore societal themes, and engage in self analysis as they prepare for a final performance. The book describes some of the girls and their experiences in the program, examines the implications of the school-to-prison pipeline, and offers ways for young girls to avoid incarceration. Readers will learn how the lived experiences of incarcerated girls can inform their teaching in public school classrooms and the teaching of literacy as a civil and human right.
  • Winn, M., & Behizadeh, N. (2011). The right to be literate: Literacy, Education, and the school-to-prison pipeline. Review of Research in Education. 35, 147-173.
    Online Publication/Abstract
  • Winn, M. (2010). "Betwixt and between": Literacy, liminality, and the "celling" of Black girls. Race, Ethnicity, and Education. 13(4), 425-447.
    Download Publication
  • Winn, M. (2008). Black Literate Lives: Historical and contemporary perspectives. New York and London: Routledge.
    Online Publication/Abstract
    Abstract: Black Literate Lives offers an innovative approach to understanding the complex and multi-dimensional perspectives of Black literate lives in the United States. Author Maisha T. Fisher (now Maisha T. Winn) reinterprets historiographies of Black self-determination and self-reliance to powerfully interrupt stereotypes of African-American literacy practices. The book expands the standard definitions of literacy practices to demonstrate the ways in which 'minority' groups keep their cultures and practices alive in the face of oppression, both inside and outside of schools. This important addition to critical literacy studies: -Demonstrates the relationship of an expanded definition of literacy to self-determination and empowerment -Exposes unexpected sources of Black literate traditions of popular culture and memory -Reveals how spoken word poetry, open mic events, and everyday cultural performances are vital to an understanding of Black literacy in the 21st century By centering the voices of students, activists, and community members whose creative labors past and present continue the long tradition of creating cultural forms that restore collective, Black Literate Lives ultimately uncovers memory while illuminating the literate and literary contributions of Black people in America.
  • Winn, M. (2007). Writing in rhythm: Spoken word poetry in urban classrooms. New York: Teachers College Press.
    Online Publication/Abstract
    Abstract: This book examines how literacy learning can be expanded and redefined using the medium of spoken word poetry. Maisha T. Fisher (now Maisha T. Winn) tells the story of a passionate Language Arts teacher and his work with The Power Writers, an after-school writing community of Latino and African American students. Featuring rich portraits of literacy in action, this book introduces teaching practices for fostering peer support, generating new vocabulary, discussing issues of Standard American English, and using personal experiences as literary inspiration.


  • Winn, M. Toward a Restorative English Education Pedagogy in the Third Space, The 4th Congress of the International Society for Cultural and Activity Research, ISCAR, Sydney, Australia.
  • Winn, M.T., Presenter & Author Building "lifetime circles" and the remaking of the "peaceable classroom", Beyond Crime: Pathways to Desistance, social justice, and peace building, European Forum for Restorative Justice, Belfast, Northern ireland.

Awards and Honors

  • Distinguished Fellow
    Organization: William T. Grant Foundation
    Purpose: Scholarship/Research
    Scope: National
    Description: Maisha Winn occupies the Cellmer Endowed Chair in English Education and is a professor of Language and Literacy at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. From her recent research on literacy and the experiences of youth in schools and detention centers, Winn came to appreciate the importance of restorative justice. Restorative justice focuses on raising workers’ awareness of how punitive or exclusionary practices may be harmful to youth outcomes, whereas alternative approaches may promote healthier relationships and foster learning. The challenge is how to shift an organization’s culture to value and practice such an approach. Winn will spend the first six months of her award at the National Council on Crime and Delinquency (NCCD) in Oakland California, which recently launched a large-scale restorative justice project. There, she will work full-time with the project director as they roll-out and provide technical assistance for an initiative to train school, prison, police, and court personnel in restorative justice. Upon returning to the University of Wisconsin, Winn will spend time at a restorative justice program at the local YMCA. Winn anticipates that her Fellowship will allow her to model the benefit of rich engagement with youth settings and inform new research on restorative justice. The Fellowship will also inform her efforts to create restorative justice pre-service training modules for middle and high school teachers.
    Date(s): March 2015 - February 2016
  • Faculty Fellow
    Organization: Institute of Urban Minority Education (IUME), Teachers College, Columbia University
    Purpose: Scholarship/Research
    Date(s): September 2011 - May 2012
  • Early Career Award
    Organization: American Educational Research Association
    Purpose: Scholarship/Research
    Date(s): April 2012
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