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Rebecca Tarlau

Photo of Rebecca Tarlau

Rebecca Tarlau

Associate Professor

Assistant: Emily Farrell


Rebecca Tarlau is Associate Professor of Education at Stanford Graduate School of Education. Dr. Tarlau was formerly Associate Professor of Education and of Labor and Employment Relations at the Pennsylvania State University, where she was the co-founder of the Penn State Consortium for Social Movements and Education Research and Practice. Her ethnographic research agenda has four broad areas of focus: (1) theories of the state and state-society relations; (2) social movements and popular education, labor education, and critical pedagogy; (3) Latin American education and development; and (4) teachers’ unions, teacher activism, and teachers’ work.

Dr. Tarlau is the author of the award-winning Occupying School, Occupying Land: How the Landless Workers Movement Transformed Brazilian Education (2019, Oxford University Press, published in Portuguese in 2023 by Expressão Popular), which analyzes how a large grassroots social movement has linked education reform to its vision for agrarian reform by developing pedagogical practices for schools that foster activism, direct democracy, and collective forms of work. Contrary to the belief that social movements cannot engage the state without demobilizing, Tarlau shows how educational institutions can help movements recruit new activists, diversify their membership, increase technical knowledge, and garner political power. Dr. Tarlau’s forthcoming book Teacher Organizing Across the Americas: Diverse Strategies for Transforming Unions, Schools and Societies (Oxford University Press) explores why teachers’ unions in Brazil, Mexico, and the United States have embraced radically different strategies, and the important role of internal oppositional movements in transforming the goals and strategies of labor unions. Currently Dr. Tarlau is involved in a multi-country comparative study analyzing the impact of sustainable agriculture education on agroecological knowledge and landscape change in Latin America.

Other Titles

Associate Professor, Graduate School of Education

Program Affiliations

Race, Inequality, and Language in Education (RILE)
SHIPS (PhD): Educational Policy
SHIPS (PhD): Social Sciences in Education
SHIPS (PhD): Sociology of Education
SHIPS (PhD): International Comparative Education

Research Interests

Alternative Schooling | Educational Policy | International and Comparative Education | Lifelong Learning | Poverty and Inequality | Race and Ethnicity | Sociology | Teachers and Teaching

See a full list of GSE Faculty research interests >

Recent Publications

Tarlau, R. (2023). Networked Movements and Bureaucratic Unions: The Structure of the 2018 #RedForEd Teachers' Strikes. ILR REVIEW, 76(5), 833–863.

Tarlau, R. (2023). Education, pedagogy, and social movements in Latin America. The Oxford Handbook of Latin American Social Movements. Oxford University Press.

Tarlau, R. (2022). Take or reject state power? The dual dilemma for teachers’ unions in Brazil and Mexico. Studies in Comparative International Development, 57(3).

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