Professional Biography

Dr. Nicole Mittenfelner Carl is a postdoctoral fellow in the Teaching, Learning, and Leadership division at the University of Pennsylvania Graduate School of Education. She received her doctorate in Educational Leadership from the University of Pennsylvania in 2017. Dr. Carl teaches courses related to qualitative research methods, practitioner research for educational leaders, and mentoring strategies for veteran teachers coaching first-year teachers.

Prior to studying at Penn GSE, Dr. Carl taught middle school English in the School District of Philadelphia for five years and was the lead teacher for the middle school. In 2008, Drexel University recognized her as one of three recipients of the Drexel University Make a Difference Award for Outstanding Mentoring and Teaching. During the first two years of her doctoral program at Penn GSE, Dr. Carl coached first-year teachers throughout Philadelphia and supported them as they sought Pennsylvania teacher certification. While at Penn GSE, Dr. Carl received multiple fellowships, including the Korn Fellowship for impact assessment to guide the research initiatives of the Center for the Study of Boys’ and Girls’ Lives. 

Research Interests and Current Projects

Dr. Carl’s research focuses on three primary strands, including (1) the study of qualitative and applied research methods, (2) ways that practitioners and students can conduct research to improve their schools, and (3) the social and cultural contexts of schooling and its implications on students, teachers, parents, and school leaders.

Dr. Carl has been conducting qualitative research for more than a decade beginning in 2005 when she was awarded a Mellon Fellowship. Since then, Dr. Carl has led and participated in multiple qualitative and mixed methods research projects and written a seminal text with Sage about qualitative research methods, Qualitative Research: Bridging the Conceptual, Theoretical, and Methodological.

Dr. Carl has worked with school leaders, teachers, and students in a variety of contexts (public and independent) to consider ways to use research to drive school improvement as well as lead a multi-year, multi-site impact evaluation of the way that engaging in these projects influenced the schools and the individuals involved. She continues to research ways that practitioners can conduct and use research in their school contexts as well as support schools in the implementation of these projects.

Stemming from her experiences as a teacher, teacher leader, and teacher coach, Dr. Carl’s dissertation, a multi-year ethnographic study of a K–8 school in a low-income neighborhood in a large, urban city, investigates the ways that hidden curricula of social reproduction and inequity shape schooling experiences. This research offers implications related to the socialization structures in schools and the role of cultural and social capital as well as about the importance of qualitative research, ways to incorporate student voice, and considerations for how policy is experienced by students and teachers. 



Ed.D. (Educational Leadership) University of Pennsylvania, Oral and written dissertation awarded distinction, 2017

B.A. (Sociology and Spanish, English minor) Austin College, Phi Beta Kappa; summa cum laude, 2006


Areas of Expertise

Qualitative research methods

Educational Leadership

Urban, public education

Social and cultural contexts of schools and schooling

Teacher education (mentoring and coaching, teacher research, inquiry)

Program evaluation

Selected Publications

Ravitch, S. M., & Carl, N. M. (2019). Applied research for sustainable change: A guide for education leaders. Cambridge: Harvard Education Press.

Carl, N. M., & Ravitch, S. M. (2018). Addressing inequity through youth participatory action research: Toward a critically hopeful approach to more equitable schools.  Action Research. DOI: 10.1177/1476750318804623  

Carl, N. M., Kuriloff, P., Ravitch, S. M., & Reichert, M. (2018). Democratizing schools for improvement through youth participatory action research. Journal of Ethical Educational Leadership, 28–43. 

Carl, N, M.,& Ravitch, S. M. (2018). Interviews. In B. Frey (Ed.), The SAGE encyclopedia of educational research, measurement, and evaluation (pp. 873–877). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.

Carl, N, M., & Ravitch, S. M. (2018). Member check. In B. Frey (Ed.), The SAGE encyclopedia of educational research, measurement, and evaluation (p. 1050). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.

Carl, N. M., & Ravitch, S. M. (2018). Naturalistic inquiry. In B. Frey (Ed.), The SAGE encyclopedia of educational research, measurement, and evaluation (pp. 1135–1137). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.

Ravitch, S. M., & Carl, N. M. (2016). Qualitative research: Bridging the conceptual, theoretical, and methodological. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.

Quinn, R., & Carl, N. M. (2015). Teacher activist organizations and professional agency. Teachers and Teaching: Theory and Practice, 21(6), 745–758.

Carl, N. M., Ravitch, S. M., & Reichert, M. (2015). Understanding impact in youth participatory action research: Individual, group, and school experiences [evaluation white paper]. Center for the Study of Boys’ and Girls’ Lives, University of Pennsylvania.

Carl, N. M., Kuriloff, P., & Reichert, M. (2014). State of the CSBGL model for collaborative research [evaluation white paper]. Center for the Study of Boys’ and Girls’ Lives, University of Pennsylvania.

Carl, N. M. (2014). Reacting to the script: Teach for America teachers’ experiences with scripted curricula. Teacher Education Quarterly, 41(2), 29–50.

Quinn, R., & Carl, N. M. (2013). Occupy our schools: The power and promise of parent organizing in the School District of Philadelphia. Perspectives on Urban Education, 10(1).

Carl, N. M. (2012). Charter schools and the corporate takeover of public education: What’s at stake? [book review]. Teachers College Record