Susan Jean Mayer is a democratic learning and curriculum theorist who thinks a lot about engaging students authentically in schools. In her 2012 book, Classroom Discourse and Democracy: Making Meanings Together, Susan employed discourse study and analysis  to investigate the roles that students assume in the construction of content understandings during classroom discussions. Published articles have also characterized features of what she has called distinctively democratic education. A forthcoming book proposes an organizing role for the philosophy of pragmatism within democratic schools.

In her research, Susan has also focused on a pedagogical approach called Critical Exploration in the Classroom (CEC), originated by Eleanor Duckworth (2006), which engages students in peer-driven considerations of some aspect of the world. A central aim of hers has been to contribute to making this inclusive and collaborative quality of learning experience available to all students, particularly those who tend not to thrive in their school lives. To that end, a new edited volume, In Search of Wonderful Ideas, due out March 2021, conveys the stories of ten teacher educators who have integrated the practice of CEC into their courses and programs.