Broadly speaking, my research focuses on educational reform and policy, with particular attention to issues of equity and the professional lives of educators. In my research, I uncover the successes and challenges that educators encounter when trying to reinvent schooling and implement new policies and practices.
I’m particularly interested in changes that have the goal of improving education for diverse student populations who have historically been marginalized in school systems. I pay close attention to context — the people, practices, policies, and patterns — in my research on educational reform. I am fortunate to conduct this work with a host of wonderful collaborators – faculty, students, research staff, school and district partners, and community members. I am increasingly interested in interdisciplinary research-practice partnerships as a vehicle for change in education.
Data use and teacher collaboration in schools. My recent projects investigate how teachers use data (defined broadly as information on student learning) to make instructional decisions — in one case at the elementary level and another at the middle school level. Despite the attention to data-informed decision making in K-12 educational reform and policy, we know little about how teachers actually use data, what types of data they use, and how their instruction is affected. We know even less about how equity is impacted. That is, what are the conditions under which educators’ use of data expand (or limit) opportunities for students? These projects address these gaps:
(1) Teachers’ Use of Data for Differentiated Instruction (with Co-PI Vicki Park) – The purpose of this study was to uncover how teachers use student achievement data to differentiate English language arts and math instruction. We examined how teachers’ beliefs about teaching and learning inform instructional decision making, as well as how teachers’ use of data is mediated by teacher collaboration, school organization, and the broader policy context. This project was funded by the Spencer Foundation.
(2) Changing the Odds: A Short Cycle Approach to Improving Students’ Long-Term Mathematics Outcomes (with Julian Betts, PI, and other university and district partners) – This study examined the extent to which implementing a Continuous Improvement (CI) model, together with data-informed decision making, coaching, and curricular and pedagogical supports, impacts student achievement in math and teacher capacity building. This project was funded by the Institute for Education Sciences, US Department of Education.
Transformative educational change. Two of my research projects focus on transformative change in education. Broadly speaking, these projects challenge us to think about how schooling might look different if it was re-envisioned to better meet the needs of all students. Inherent in transformation is the challenge of moving from more traditional modes of education towards one that is more learner-centered and equitable.
(1) Breaking the Mold (with co-PI Lea Hubbard) – This project examined how two schools engage students in design thinking as part of their efforts to create student-centered schools. The schools we studied operated quite differently than the typical school and studying them offers unique insights on how students and teachers experience education that attempts to break the mold or shift the traditional “grammar of schooling” (Tyack & Cuban, 1995).
(2) Bridging Knowledge of Education and Neuroscience for Personalized Learning (with collaborators Tim Brown, Shana Cohen, John Iverson, Terry Jernigan, and Alison Wishard Guerra and district partners) – In this project, we are partnering with a local school district in a pioneering project that bridges knowledge from education and neuroscience. A multi-disciplinary team of UCSD researchers is gathering real-time data on children’s development across the contexts of school and home and working with educators to use this information to co-analyze data and co-develop pedagogical strategies. The goal is to support transformational change in students’ early educational experiences.
My prior research has focused on comprehensive school reform, college access for low income students, the intersection of gender and educational reform, and detracking in racially mixed schools. Publications on these topics can be found in the publications page.