Press Release: NYU Steinhardt Receives Spencer Foundation Grant to Address Societal Divisions in NYC Middle School

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The Listening Project is designed to address increasing societal divisions through semi-structured interview training with teachers and students in six middle schools across New York City. NYU Steinhardt’s Niobe Way, Hirokazu Yoshikawa, David Kirkland, Alisha Ali, and Swarthmore’s Joseph Nelson will lead the project.

“Our modern culture perpetuates dehumanizing stereotypes and maintains an individualistic mentality that privileges the self over relationships and individual success over the common good. These cultural patterns have led to a national ‘crisis of connection’ in which people are increasingly disconnected from themselves and from each other,” said Way, professor of applied psychology at NYU Steinhardt, principal investigator of The Listening Project, and founder of the Project for the Advancement of Our Common Humanity (PACH).

The three-year project, which began in September, will evaluate the effectiveness of training New York City middle school teachers and 7th grade students in the practice of “transformative interviewing” that aims to enhance listening skills, challenge stereotypes, build relationships, and foster a greater sense of a shared humanity. In Way and Nelson’s pilot work at George Jackson Academy in the Lower East Side, the training and application have demonstrated improvements in the desired outcomes as well as in levels of academic engagement among the students.

The NYU Steinhardt team will implement and evaluate The Listening Project with two successive cohorts of 7th graders that will be integrated in the schools’ English or Humanities curricula to ensure full participation. The first two years will be focused on implementation and assessment, while the third year will be focused on analyzing data, publishing findings, and using the findings to create a broader curriculum of transformative interviewing in middle schools throughout New York City. (Spencer Foundation Grant #201800039)

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