Current Projects

Inequality, Teacher-Student Relationships and School Context

Current research on inequalities in teacher-student relationships is dominated by a dyadic focus on how teacher and student identities influence interactions in the classroom. Consequently, we do not yet understand how school environments shape relationships differently for White students and students of color. In 2019, I secured a Doctoral Dissertation Improvement Grant from the NSF funding a two-year comparative ethnography at a predominantly white high school I call Rural County and a majority Black and Latinx high school I call Central City. I observed in-person and online spaces where teachers and students interact (n≈1500 hours) and interviewed teachers (n=43) and students (n=68; stratified by race and gender). Additionally, a randomly selected sample of 134 students completed my six-week online survey about interactions with teachers. 
Based on my comparative ethnography, I argue that schools have a relational culture which shapes the raced, classed, and gendered trajectories that students navigate. Relational cultures are collectively produced and consist of shared priorities for student outcomes and emotional ideals for teacher-student interactions as well as day-to-day practices for managing student behavior. These cultures emerge through negotiations between administrators and teachers and are influenced by the history of racial demographics and politics in the community as well as the economic structure of the locality. ​

The concept of relational cultures builds theoretically on my work in this earlier paper, which merges cultural sociology with intersectional theory. ​

2018 Dinsmore, Brooke. Theorizing Race and Cultural Autonomy in Education: An Extension of Differentiation and Integration in Paul Willis’ Learning to Labor. Ethnography 19(4): 495-511.

Digital Technologies and School Inequality

 My second stream of research addresses how culture shapes the impact of digital technologies on youth’s everyday lives, with particular attention to power dynamics in relationships and inequality. I'm currently working on a co-authored paper that shows how schools can reproduce social inequalities through how they use digital tools to make students more or less visible during instruction.

A paper in Information, Communication and Society published prior to the pandemic argues that teachers’ and students’ use of digital technology in the classroom is shaped by a deeply embedded cultural logic that separates the personal from the educational in school. This paper builds on a previous co-authored paper published in Sociological Studies of Children and Youth  which looks at how youth understand and resist adult authority online.

2019. Dinsmore, Brooke. Contested Affordances: Students and Teachers Negotiating the Classroom Integration of Mobile Technologies. Information, Communication & Society 22(5): 664-677. 

Digital Research Methods in Sociology

How can sociologists adapt their methods to address the growing offline-online nature of social life? The Covid19 pandemic brought new urgency to this question as we transitioned all research projects online. My work on youth relationships and digital technologies has been at the leading edge of methodological innovation in Sociology and provides important answers to this question. My co-authored paper in Communications and Information Technologies addresses how sociologists can adapt their methods to capture the increasingly fluid online-offline nature of social life. This paper introduces a hybrid digital tour methodology I personally developed and implemented in which participants guide researchers through their social media worlds. Based on my methodological expertise, I’ve participated in a national webinar and two invited campus talks on how qualitative researchers could address the challenges of moving interviews and fieldwork online due to the Covid-19 pandemic.