Prestigious research environment prepares students for a lifetime of success

Nov. 28, 2018

KALAMAZOO, Mich.—The College of Education and Human Development at Western Michigan University was awarded over $17.9 million in federally-funded grant dollars during the 2017-18 academic year and was ranked 42nd nationally for federally-financed education related research by the National Science Foundation. This learner centered, discovery driven and prestigious research environment affords CEHD students the opportunity to engage in authentic research experiences that help them prepare for a lifetime of success.

We are proud of our faculty members and the students working alongside them. Here are the stories of several CEHD students working on grant funded research.

Jeremy Andrick - High-Impact Leadership for School Renewal Project

Former elementary administrator and teacher from Colorado Jeremy Andrick moved his family to Kalamazoo to pursue a Ph.D. in K-12 Education Leadership. For his doctoral assistantship, he works with Drs. Patricia Reeves and Jianping Shen on the HIL Project, funded by a $12.5 million grant awarded by the U.S. Department of Education—one of the largest WMU has ever received.

The project is a three-year effort aimed at intense school leadership development and student achievement in 150 high-poverty schools across west Michigan. As a member of the HIL Project research team, Andrick focuses on instructional rounds and their effect on teacher collective efficacy. Instructional rounds have their roots in the medical field and have been adapted to fit the world of education. The method of observing instructional practices and systems in schools by teams of individuals offers a structure for educators to collaborate and solve common problems to collectively improve their practice.

“I moved to Michigan with the intent of earning my Ph.D., but I wasn't sure what I wanted to do after receiving it,” shared Andrick. “Working on the project and coordinating instructional rounds for 76 schools has shown me a new path. This experience, in conjunction with learning and practicing the core tenets of the HIL Project, has transformed my thinking about sustainable change in our elementary schools.”

Andrick plans to follow his passion of positively impacting the lives of children through education by pursuing a position where he is able to impact school renewal initiatives upon completing his degree.

Deniz Toker - English Learners and Teacher Education

Deniz Toker in front of computer

Deniz Toker

An international graduate student from Turkey pursuing a M.A. in Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages, Deniz Toker works with Drs. Selana Protacio, Susan Piazza, Virginia David and Hsiao-Chin Kuo on Project ELATE. The project provides a rigorous and comprehensive professional development program for both pre-service and in-service teachers working with English as a Second Language students.

Toker has undergone continuous inter-rater reliability training on the Sheltered Instruction Observation Protocol Model, so he can help observe teacher participants in their classrooms. The teachers are scored on thirty items ranging from lesson preparation to assessment.

“I firmly believe that this opportunity has made me a well-rounded graduate student who has developed professional skills ranging from academic research to inter-personal communication,” explained Toker. “I feel like I have gained a whole different perspective with regard to academia. It was kind of catching a glimpse of the future.”

Toker plans to move to Canada upon graduation and work as an ESL instructor and program coordinator in a college setting. He also plans to continue his current work of teaching English to refugees and immigrants.

Qi Zhang and Qian Wang - A User-Friendly Tool for Designing Cluster Randomized Trials with Power and Relevance

Qi Zhang and Qian Wang, both evaluation, measurement and research doctoral students, work with Dr. Jessaca Spybrook on her current grant-funded research to develop a user-friendly webtool. The tool will help researchers plan cluster randomized trials and combines three separate design considerations: generalizability, power to detect the average treatment effects and power to detect moderator effects. The findings and products from this study will help improve the capacity of education researches to design CRTs with both high internal and external validity, thereby increasing the relevance of applied education research results.

Being able to apply the research skills they learned in their EMR classes to authentic research has been a great learning experience. Zhang has especially appreciated the to work with researchers in other institutions-to learn from the ways they work and see how they approach research problems.

“Working with methodologists in this field made me understand and appreciate the work they do,” said Zhang. “I can definitely see myself as a research methodologist in the future, either working in academia or industry. Working on these projects gave me exposure to real-world research, which made me more confident in seeking a career in this field.”

Wang has learned how important collaboration and communication is between researchers on a shared project. Even when tasks are clearly divided, she shared, it’s important to have a make sure everyone is on the same page because everyone has a shared responsibility for the research integrity.

Megan Doorlag and Cindy Borja - Pathways to Science Teaching

For education majors Megan Doorlag and Cindy Borja, the opportunity to take part in the Pathways to Science Teaching Summer Institute allowed them to practice authentic science by helping design and conduct a research study on water quality in local streams that the team ultimately presented at the Geological Society of America’s annual conference. The institute is funded by a grant from the National Science Foundation led by Drs. Heather Petcovic, Steven Bertman, Todd Ellis, Stephen Kaczmarek and Paul Vellom.

“Getting the opportunity to participate in research has helped me develop my identity as a scientist,” relayed Doorlag. “K-12 science teachers play a vital role in developing the next generation of STEM workers, and one way to accomplish this goal is to encourage students to see themselves as scientists. Pathways to Science Teaching helped me do this myself, so I will be able to model it in a classroom more authentically.”

As for Borja, the experience helped solidify her desire to be a science teacher. “This experience reassured me that I am really doing what I am very passionate about-teaching. This reassured me that teaching is what I want to do for the rest of my life.”