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Melissa Goodnight


Melissa Rae Goodnight is an assistant professor in the Department of Educational Psychology as well as Educational Policy, Organization, and Leadership (0% Appointment) and LAS Global Studies (0% appointment) at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. She is also a faculty affiliate of the Center for Culturally Responsive Evaluation and Assessment (CREA). Prior to joining the College of Education, she was a lecturer in Global Studies, teaching courses in interdisciplinary research and human rights. She received a PhD in education from the University of California Los Angeles with emphases in comparative education and evaluation. Dr. Goodnight began doing health and educational work abroad as a U.S. Peace Corps volunteer in Kingston, Jamaica. She has also taught and done extensive fieldwork in India. Her transnational scholarship and teaching focus on research design, monitoring and evaluation, social justice theories, and education for underserved and historically marginalized communities. Currently, she is engaged in several local and national evaluation and research projects related to diversity and equity in the areas of higher education, K-12 schooling, and public health.

Key Professional Appointments

  • Assistant Professor, Educational Psychology, University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign
  • Assistant Professor, Education Policy, Organization and Leadership, University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign
  • Assistant Professor, Women & Gender in Global Perspectives, University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign
  • Assistant Professor, Center for Global Studies, University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign
  • Assistant Professor, Global Studies Programs and Courses, University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign

Research & Service

My transnational research focuses on issues of validity, representation, equity, and social justice in the use of different theories (e.g., feminist, critical race, and culturally responsive) and methodologies for conducting evaluation and educational research. I research evaluation developed in and for Global South contexts to construct theory “from the ground” and expand current views of evaluation’s meaning, practice, and consequences. Much of my recent work has been based on extensive fieldwork in India. My published studies tackle key concerns with the equitable access to and operation of education systems in India and the United States, while illustrating my interest in working across the methodological spectrum. In a 2017 article in Compare, I explore the translation of critical race theory for analyzing the persisting social justice issues within India’s school system. In an upcoming book, Ethnography of Monitoring and Evaluation Efforts (Emerald Insight Studies in Educational Ethnography series), I discuss the considerations and benefits of ethnography for conducting research on large-scale, participatory monitoring and evaluation efforts.


Goodnight, M. R., Avent, C. M., & Kumaran, R. (2023). Employ ng M xed-Methods Citat on Analysis to Invest gate Transnat onal Influence in Evaluat on Theory. Canadian Journal of Program Evaluation, 38(2), 243-264.  link >

Goodnight, M. R., & Avent, C. M. (2023). In Pursuit of Democratic Values: Transnational Influences on Jennifer C. Greene. In J. N. Hall, A. Boyce, & R. Hopson (Eds.), Disrupting Program Evaluation and Mixed Methods Research for a More Just Society: The Contributions of Jennifer C. Greene (pp. 165-180). (Evaluation and Society). Information Age Publishing Inc..

Goodnight, M. R. (2023). Research on Evaluation Influence in India: Theorizing Beyond Process and Results to Design. American Journal of Evaluation, 44(4), 629-648.  link >

Goodnight, M. R., Avent, C. M., & Kumaran, R. (2023). Tracing the Transnational Influence of Jennifer Greene’s Ideas: Research on Evaluation Theory Across Countries. Journal of MultiDisciplinary Evaluation, 19(45), 81–98.  link >

Goodnight, M. R. (2022). “We went in favor of rebellion”: The decisions that made India's Annual Status of Education Report (ASER). International Journal of Educational Development, 94, Article 102656.  link >

Goodnight, M. R., & Bobde, S. (2018). Missing children in educational research: investigating school-based versus household-based assessments in India. Comparative Education, 54(2), 225-249.  link >

Goodnight, M. R. (2017). Critical race theory in India: theory translation and the analysis of social identities and discrimination in Indian schooling. Compare, 47(5), 665-683.  link >

Goodnight, M. R. (2017). The language-related academic self-confidence of noncitizen students in US higher education. Journal of College Student Development, 58(6), 947-954.  link >


I teach courses on evaluation theory, evaluation practice, and evaluation’s relationship to society. Essentially, these courses explore what evaluation is, how to do it, and why it matters. I enjoy working with students from different disciplines and fields of practice who are interested in the design, implementation, and evaluation of education and social programming (and policies). I also value advising students on cross-cultural fieldwork, social theory, and research design.

My experiences with social justice pedagogy and writing instruction have shaped how I approach teaching in the following ways:

  • Creating an affirmative learning space for students of all identities is an explicit, ongoing value that frames course discussions, tasks, and learning materials.
  • Texts are chosen and assignments are designed to promote students’ development as social scientists, writers, and critical and ethical thinkers.
  • Everyone has valuable knowledge and experiences: I strive for humility in sharing what I know with others and in learning from what others know.
  • Collective and individual reflection are essential to my teaching practice and to students’ participation in my classes.
  • Conversations with students about their learning priorities impact my instructional decisions.
  • My courses' main forms of assessment are discussion and writing.


CI 552: Qualitative Writing (CI 552) Focuses on analysis of data and writing of qualitative/ethnographic research in educational contexts. Topics include the history of qualitative research practices; approaches to the analysis and interpretation of multiple forms of data, including coding, discourse analysis, text analysis, and structural/post-structural analysis; different styles of qualitative writing; social theory as a framing device; and writing for publication. Provides a theoretically informed but very practical, hands-on approach to qualitative writing for graduate researchers across the broad range of educational and social science contexts. One part of the course focuses on methods of analysis through application, while a second part is designed as a writer's workshop in which students "write up" the data from a study in three narrative styles. Assignments include weekly readings, three short writing assignments, and a more substantial writing project. Advanced graduate standing is useful but not required.

EPSY 470: Introduction to Evaluation Theory (EPSY 470) Introduction to the major conceptual constructs and theories of evaluation; emphasis on the critical defining components of evaluation, particularly its role in program and policy development, and on critical distinctions among evaluation theories; provides grounding for further study of both evaluation theory and methods.

EPSY 471: Introduction to Evaluation Methods (EPSY 471) Introduces the methodology of educational and social program evaluation, including the design of an evaluation, the data collection and analysis, and reporting; emphasis on negotiating the unique facets of evaluative practice, notably evaluator role, working with clients and other stakeholders, the political dynamics of evaluation contexts, and utilization of evaluative results. Students collectively conduct a field-based evaluation project.

EPSY 578: Qualitative Inquiry Methods (EPSY 578) Introductory course addressing the practice of qualitative inquiry. Topics include developing inquiry questions appropriate for qualitative studies; designing qualitative studies; generating data via interviews, observations, document analyses; analyzing and interpreting qualitative data; judging the quality of inquiry; representing and reporting qualitative inquiry; addressing ethical and political issues in the conduct of qualitative inquiry.

EPSY 590: Advanced Seminar in Educational Psychology (EPSY 590) Seminar in educational psychology; topics relate to the areas of specialization represented by the various divisions within the department.

ERAM 555: Ethnographic Methods in Education (ERAM 555) Focuses on goals, nature, and methodological means of ethnographic research in educational settings broadly defined. Such research aims to describe and, moreover, to understand the ways of living of teachers, students, administrators, parents, and other participants in relevant social spaces. The class will be grounded in the disciplinary perspectives of cultural anthropology, linguistic anthropology, and cultural studies. We will have an ongoing discussion of how one conducts ethnographic research, and all members of the class will conduct their own mini-study.