Research

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, graduate students, research staff, and school and district partners. I am increasingly becoming involved in research-practice partnerships as a vehicle for change in education.

Data use and teacher collaboration in schools. My recent/current 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 district partners) – This study examines the extent to which implementing a Continuous Improvement (CI) model, together with data-informed decision making, coaching, and curricular and pedagogical supports, impact student achievement in math. This project is 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.

(1) Breaking the Mold (with co-PI Lea Hubbard) – This project examines how two schools engage students in design thinking as part of their efforts to create student-centered schools. The schools we are studying look markedly different than the typical school and studying them offers unique insights on how students and teachers experience education that attempts to “break the mold.”

(2) Bridging Knowledge of Education and Neuroscience for Personalized Learning (with co-PI Terry Jernigan and collaborators Tim Brown, Shana Cohen, Alan Daly, Alison Wishard Guerra) – 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 will gather a real-time data on children’s cognitive, socio-emotional, and biological development and work with teachers and educational leaders to use this information to co-develop novel pedagogies. The goal is to support transformational change in students’ early educational experiences.

My prior research projects have focused on comprehensive school reform, detracking, college access for low income students, and gender and educational reform. Publications on these topics can be found in the publications page.