Gladden Lecture: "Placing Trust in Education"
Lesley Coia, Professor and Chair of the Education Department

Wednesday, March 1, 2017
5 p.m.
Frannie Graves Auditorium, Campbell Hall
Reception in the Baker Atrium, Bullock Science Center


Education is Professor Lesley Coia’s passion, and her dedication to this field has earned her a special distinction. She is this year’s recipient of the Joseph R. Gladden Jr. Public Lecture Award, given each year to a member of the Agnes Scott faculty whose scholarly activities are especially noteworthy. The award was established by the Board of Trustees to honor Joseph R. Gladden Jr., who served as chair of the Agnes Scott board for 10 years before stepping down in 2002. As part of the recognition, she will receive an honorarium and will give a public lecture to the Agnes Scott community on March 1, 2017.

Coia began her Agnes Scott career as the director of teacher education programs in the summer of 2002. She is now chair of the Department of Education and teaches a number of courses, including Comparative Education; Understanding Learners; and Diversity, Democracy and Education. She continually works to improve her teaching through innovative means, such as using a research method known as autoethnography.

“Autoethnography uses autobiographical methods to understand experience,” Coia says. “I don’t just look at my experience in abstract, I look at it in the context of my identity. It’s always looking backward to understand my present so that I can improve my future practice, using not just myself but all the events and influences that make me who I am.”

Coia engages in autoethnography through journaling, a practice she has kept since she began teaching in 1982.

“I think about my teaching all the time, and I write about it all the time even though I’ve only been using

autoethnography for the past 15 years,” says Coia. “Understanding your own actions is absolutely crucial to being a teacher. Teaching is not just applying a recipe—it’s not like baking a cake. You have to understand yourself in relationship to your students and your situation.”

Coia’s Gladden Lecture will focus on the role of trust in education, her other area of expertise, and she will address the topic specifically in relation to Agnes Scott and her experience.

“Trust is so crucial to education. Relationships of trust are fundamental to teaching and learning. Students take on trust much of what we teach, and teaching requires we trust our students,” she says. “The lecture will be an exploration of what the reciprocal nature of trust means in our context.”

Coia has enjoyed building a culture of trust in the classrooms at Agnes Scott.

“Agnes Scott students are responsive to new challenges, are willing to take intellectual risks and are genuinely interested in building respectful and caring communities of learning,” she says. “These communities live on. Many students keep in contact long after they graduate, which is extremely helpful to me as I plan my classes, work on my research and think about my work at Agnes Scott.”