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.

Academic Appointments

Administrative Appointments

  • Associate Professor, Stanford University (2024 - Present)
  • Associate Professor, Pennsylvania State University, State College, Pennsylvania (2021 - 2023)
  • Assistant Professor, Pennsylvania State University, State College, Pennsylvania (2018 - 2021)
  • Postdoctoral Scholar in Education, Stanford University, Graduate School of Education (2015 - 2017)

Honors & Awards

  • Sociology of Development Book Award (Occupying Schools, Occupying Land), American Sociology Association (2020)
  • Best Book in the Social Sciences Sérgio Buarque de Holanda Prize (Occupying Schools, Occupying Land), Latin American Studies Association (LASA) (2020)
  • Globalization & Education Book Award (Occupying Schools, Occupying Land), Comparative and International Education Society (CIES) (2020)
  • Michael Harrington Book Award (Occupying Schools, Occupying Land), New Political Science Caucus of the American Political Science Association (2020)
  • Finalist, Bourdieu Book Award of Sociology of Education (Occupying Schools, Occupying Land), American Sociology Association (2020)
  • Robert Reis Book Award (Occupying Schools, Occupying Land), Brazilian Studies Association (BRASA) (2019)
  • National Academy of Education/Spencer Postdoctoral Fellowship, Spencer Foundation (2019)

Professional Education

  • Ph.D., University of California, Berkeley, Graduate School of Education, Social and Cultural Studies in Education (2014)
  • M.A., University of California, Berkeley, Graduate School of Education (2008)
  • B.A., University of Michigan, Anthropology and Latin American Studies (2006)

Research Interests

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

2023-24 Courses

Stanford Advisees

  • Master's Program Advisor
    Maria Hortencio, Maria Luiza Rocha Bueno

All Publications

  • Networked Movements and Bureaucratic Unions: The Structure of the 2018 #RedForEd Teachers' Strikes ILR REVIEW Tarlau, R. 2023; 76 (5): 833-863
  • Take or reject state power? The dual dilemma for teachers’ unions in Brazil and Mexico Studies in Comparative International Development Tarlau, R. 2022; 57 (3): 361-384
  • Contentious Co-Governance and Prefiguration: A Framework for Analyzing Social Movement-State Relations in Public Education Educational Researcher Tarlau, R. 2021; 50 (8): 527-536
  • ‘For Once We’re Asking for MORE Testing’: organisational infrastructure in the safe schools movement during COVID-19 Globalisation, Societies and Education Stark, L. W., Tarlau, R., Maton, R. M. 2024
  • Special issue introduction: social movement struggles, learning and knowledge-making: in memory of Aziz Choudry (1966-2021) GLOBALISATION SOCIETIES AND EDUCATION Vally, S., Novelli, M., Tarlau, R., Motala, E. 2023; 21 (5): 589-594
  • “We bring in each other’s wisdom”: Liberatory praxis and political education for Black Lives in Philadelphia Globalisation, Societies and Education Nafziger, N., Strong, K., Tarlau, R. 2023; 21 (5): 609-627
  • Ocupar escolas, ocupar terras: como o MST transformou a educação brasileira Tarlau, R. Expressão Popular (Translation by Leda Beck). 2023
  • Social movements, popular education, and counterhegemonic schooling in Latin America Emergent Trends in Comparative Education: The Dialectic of the Global and the Local Tarlau, R. Rowman & Littlefield. 2023
  • Never let a good crisis go to waste: Labor organizing during Covid-19 Journal of Labor and Society Tarlau, R. 2022
  • The confluence of popular education and social movement studies into social movement learning: A systematic literature review INTERNATIONAL JOURNAL OF LIFELONG EDUCATION Kuk, H., Tarlau, R. 2020; 39 (5-6): 591-604
  • 'Philanthropizing' consent: how a private foundation pushed through national learning standards in Brazil JOURNAL OF EDUCATION POLICY Tarlau, R., Moeller, K. 2020; 35 (3): 337-366
  • Prefigurative politics with, in, and against the State: MST and Latin American philosophies of education Lápiz: Latin American Philosophy of Education Tarlau, R. 2020; 5: 1-33
  • Food sovereignty education across the Americas: multiple origins, converging movements AGRICULTURE AND HUMAN VALUES Meek, D., Bradley, K., Ferguson, B., Hoey, L., Morales, H., Rosset, P., Tarlau, R. 2019; 36 (3): 611–26
  • Activist Principals: Leading for Social Justice in Ciudad Juarez, Baltimore,and Brazil TEACHERS COLLEGE RECORD DeMatthews, D., Tarlau, R. 2019; 121 (4)
  • Paulo Freire’s continued relevance for U.S. education Wiley-Blackwell Handbook on Freire Carnoy, M., Tarlau, R. John Wiley & Sons. 2019: 221-237
  • State Theory, Grassroots Agency, and Global Policy Transfer: The Life and Death of Colombia's <i>Escuela Nueva</i> in Brazil (1997-2012) COMPARATIVE EDUCATION REVIEW Tarlau, R. 2017; 61 (4): 675-700

    View details for DOI 10.1086/693923

    View details for Web of Science ID 000414605500002

  • Gramsci as Theory, Pedagogy, and Strategy: Educational Lessons from the Brazilian Landless Workers Movement ANTONIO GRAMSCI: A PEDAGOGY TO CHANGE THE WORLD Tarlau, R., Pizzolato, N., Holst, J. D. 2017; 5: 107-126
  • If the past devours the future, why study? Piketty, social movements, and future directions for education BRITISH JOURNAL OF SOCIOLOGY OF EDUCATION Tarlau, R. 2016; 37 (6): 861-872
  • Thomas Piketty's relevance for the study of education: reflections on the political economy of education BRITISH JOURNAL OF SOCIOLOGY OF EDUCATION Moeller, K., Tarlau, R. 2016; 37 (6): 805–9
  • Critical food systems education (CFSE): educating for food sovereignty AGROECOLOGY AND SUSTAINABLE FOOD SYSTEMS Meek, D., Tarlau, R. 2016; 40 (3): 237-260
  • Pedagogies of struggle & collective organization: Educational practices of the Landless Workers Movement Interface Mariano, A., Hilário, E., Tarlau, R. 2016; 8 (2): 211-242
  • Education of the countryside at a crossroads: rural social movements and national policy reform in Brazil JOURNAL OF PEASANT STUDIES Tarlau, R. 2015; 42 (6): 1157-1177
  • Understanding rural resistance: contemporary mobilization in the Brazilian countryside JOURNAL OF PEASANT STUDIES Pahnke, A., Tarlau, R., Wolford, W. 2015; 42 (6): 1069-1085
  • How Do New Critical Pedagogies Develop? Educational Innovation, Social Change, and Landless Workers in Brazil TEACHERS COLLEGE RECORD Tarlau, R. 2015; 117 (11)
  • Critical food systems education and the question of race JOURNAL OF AGRICULTURE FOOD SYSTEMS AND COMMUNITY DEVELOPMENT Meek, D., Tarlau, R. 2015; 5 (4): 131-135

    View details for DOI 10.1111/edth.12067

    View details for Web of Science ID 000212813800004

  • Coproducing Rural Public Schools in Brazil: Contestation, Clientelism, and the Landless Workers' Movement POLITICS & SOCIETY Tarlau, R. 2013; 41 (3): 395-424
  • Education and labor in tension: Contemporary debates about education in the US labor movement Labor Studies Journal Tarlau, R. 2011; 36 (3): 363-387