NAU’s College of Education provides research opportunities in every direction
Northern Arizona University’s College of Education has several research projects in process. If you’re interested in participating, contact information for each project is provided within the project’s description.
Descriptions of COE’s research projects are listed below
Examining Patterns in Preservice Science Teachers’ Enactments of Three Types of Productive Classroom Discussions Accordion Closed
Investigator: Ron Gray, STEM Education
The goal of this study was to examine the ways in which secondary preservice science teachers (PSTs) drew upon specific high leverage practices (HLPs) and strategies as they enacted three distinct types of productive classroom discussions: 1) eliciting, 2) sensemaking, and 3) consensus building. Eliciting discussions most often occur at the beginning of instructional units and problematize the content, allowing the teacher to elicit students’ initial ideas that can be worked on together throughout the unit. Sensemaking discussions most often occur during and after classroom activities as students work to collectively make sense of the targeted concept. Finally, consensus building discussions often occur at the end of instructional units as the students’ work to come to consensus on the targeted concepts. The research question was: Which HLPs and strategies are PSTs drawing upon as they enact the three types of discussions? As described below, specific patterns emerged with direct implications to science teacher education.
For more information on this project, please contact Dr. Ron Gray.
Young Mothers Accordion Closed
Research Team: Caroline Black, Michele Craig, Heather Williamson, Natalie Cooke (Research Assistant) and Laura Burkhardt (Research Assistant)
The objective of the proposed study is to facilitate the use of photovoice techniques with a sample of young mothers (YM; mothers younger than 20 years old) attending a teenage parent program (TAPP) in Northern Arizona to identify issues in schools and communities affecting their educational success. YM will engage in social activism by using photographs to dialogue with community stakeholders and present practical solutions to issues identified through photography. Preliminary data generated from this study will strengthen our team’s application to extramural funding mechanisms (e.g., IES), which will provide opportunities to implement and pilot test photovoice as a means to increase YM’s motivation for learning and academic engagement. The proposed study is reflective of an on-going, collaborative research project between Dr. Caroline Black (PI), Christopher Koenker (Summit High School Principal), and Michele Craig (Director of Summit TAPP). Funding provided by the Dean’s Research Grant Award will be used to transcribe qualitative data and support a part-time graduate student.
For more information on this project, please contact Dr. Caroline Black.
Exploring Instantiations of Academic Risk Taking in University Students: A Grounded Theory Approach Accordion Closed
Principal Investigator: Sara Abercrombie
Academic risk taking describes students’ willingness and comfort with trying new or challenging tasks and their ultimate engagement with such tasks. In this grounded theory study, interviews with university students from a variety of academic disciplines were conducted to identify instantiations of academic risk taking, emotions related to risk taking, and disciplinary differences. Results indicated that academic risk taking during university studies is informed by students’ prior experiences, cognitive and emotional orientation, familial and cultural influences, systematic institutional influences, as well as instructor feedback practices, flexibility, warmth, and instructional design features.
For more information on this project, please contact Dr. Sara Abercrombie.
Preparing teachers in the areas of assessment & data literacy knowledge and skills Accordion Closed
Co-investigators: Dr. Cynthia Conn, Kathy Bohan, Shannon Sweeny, Lisa Persinger, Pamela Powell, Nicole Bies-Hernandez
More than ever before, teachers are being asked to use student assessment data in all aspects of their instruction. On an almost daily basis, teachers collect, analyze, interpret, and use data to make a variety of instructional decisions (e.g., setting student learning goals, documenting progress on goals, creating learning groups, differentiating instruction, providing evidence-based feedback to students and parents). Only a fraction of teacher preparation providers say they provide comprehensive training in using data for teaching, and the effectiveness of those trainings is unknown (Mandinach, Gummer, & Friedman, 2013). As a result, it is unclear whether teacher candidates are developing the data literacy skills necessary to positively affect student learning.
As a step towards addressing this critical shortcoming in teacher preparation, Northern Arizona University and the American Institutes for Research (AIR) are collaborating to create a data literacy assessment battery. The planned battery will consist of a knowledge assessment and a work sample assessment. The knowledge assessment will measure teacher candidates’ understanding of data literacy concepts, and the work sample assessment will measure teacher candidates’ skills in analyzing student assessment data and selecting instructional strategies in response to those data. This battery will support NAU’s College of Education in systematically evaluating candidates during their teacher preparation programs. Beyond the NAU context, these assessments may be used by other teacher preparation programs and districts to assess individuals’ areas of strength and opportunities for growth.
The development of the data literacy assessment battery is the focus of a larger grant proposal. In preparation for this external grant proposal, the following research questions are being investigated as initial steps in supporting the larger study.
- What are authentic examples of applied assessment and data literacy knowledge and skills for teacher candidates and first to third year teachers?
- What are the critical domains of assessment and data literacy that teacher candidates need to master in order to drive instructional change?
We will be collecting data from school and district representatives to: 1) identify the critical domains and 2) seek authentic examples of applied assessment and data literacy knowledge and skills for teacher candidates and first to third year teachers. We are also conducting a qualitative systematic review of the literature.
For more information regarding this project, please contact Dr. Cynthia Conn or Dr. Kathy Bohan.
First generation college students and the challenges of study abroad Accordion Closed
Investigators: Frances Julia Riemer, Grace Okoli, and Mariella Herold
Study abroad opportunities have increased significantly over the past decade as universities across the country have grown their international presence and developed partnerships with educational institutions across the globe. The typical study abroad student is a business or social science major, most often at a private university. Northern Arizona University offers an opportunity to examine the study abroad experiences of a unique population – first generation college students. Little literature exists on first generation study abroad experiences. We will conduct survey and focus group research to investigate how first generation students make meaning of their study abroad experiences, what barriers they faced, and supports on which they drew.
For more information on this project, please contact Dr. Frances Riemer.
Implementing a mindfulness-based stress reduction program with counseling students in practicum: a qualitative study of perceived benefits for supervisors Accordion Closed
Investigators: Saumya Arora and Steve Farmer
We are focusing on the lived experiences of a cohort of counselors in training. During the cohort’s practicum experience, students will participate in an eight-week mindfulness based stress reduction (MBSR) program. Due to high levels of stress and anxiety associated with the practicum experience, we hope that the implementation of the MBSR program will assist in reducing the negative thoughts and feelings faced by counselors in training (CIT). Utilizing a grounded theory approach, this study addresses the research question: What meaning does participating in a MBSR have for CITs enrolled in their practicum course?
For more information on this project or to assist, please contact either investigator Dr. Saumya Arora or Dr. Steve Farmer.
Teacher candidate perceptions of virtual reality as an instructional tool in elementary science and social studies practicum experiences Accordion Closed
Investigator: Brian Stone
This study will explore the usage of virtual reality (VR) in teacher candidates’ elementary science and social studies practicum experiences in comparison with traditional lesson-based content. Teacher candidates will teach science and social studies through traditional lesson plans in their practicum placements, and then teach the same content through VR. Candidates will be interviewed prior to training on VR, observed during teaching events, and then interviewed after both traditional and VR lessons have been completed. Candidates will also self-evaluate using the TAP rubric. Elementary students will be given pre- and post-tests for both the traditional and VR lessons to determine if there is a difference in retention of material. This study will be based in a constructivist framework and answer the main research question: How do VR expeditions impact teacher candidates’ perceptions of teaching in elementary science and social studies practicum experiences?
For more information, please contact the Principal Investigator, Dr. Brian Stone.
Policy, practices, and beliefs: what drives decisions about children’s gender expression Accordion Closed
Investigators: Lisa Persinger, Sara Abercrombie, Joey Persinger, and Todd Savage
This research will create and validate a category sorting task about four categories of gender expression in childhood. Children expressing a gender consistent with what was assumed at birth (cisgender), children assumed to be boys at birth expressing a female gender (transgender girl), children assumed to be girls at birth expressing a male gender (transgender boy), and children expressing gender in fluid and nonbinary ways (gender diverse) are the categories of gender expression that we want to learn about.
The purpose of the task is to help understand how adults unconsciously think about those categories in relation to one another. The sorting task asks respondents to quickly sort terms or images associated with each category into good or bad based on the directions provided. Ultimately, how quickly respondents pair the target category with either good or bad general terms helps us to understand unconscious associations that come easily or with more difficulty for the respondents. For example, if a respondent quickly pairs a term such as “wonderful” with “cisgender boy” but is much slower or makes errors in pairing “wonderful” with “transgender girl” then we have a better understanding of how that respondent considers those categories in an unconscious manner. These types of categorical sorting tasks are called Implicit Association Tests and are used to measure attitudes at an unconscious level. This type of instrument is helpful for examining and understanding social problems and issues when diverse personal attitudes and values are a factor in behavioral choices.
The goal of our research is to create a valid, implicit association test that assesses attitudes toward diverse gender expression in childhood so that we can use this measure in other research. To create a valid instrument, we need to compare our new instrument results to other established instruments that have been used in this field over the past two decades. For this reason, we have multiple instruments and items that we will include with our new implicit association test.
We are seeking an undergraduate research assistant from among education majors (primary or secondary) who will contribute up to 5 hours per week on our research team.
For more information on this project, or to apply for the research assistant position, contact Lisa Persinger.