My research interests include research-practice partnerships, design, improvement and innovation for solving difficult problems, organizational theory, social networks, and the design of physical learning spaces. My experience includes work with three research groups – PiP, PiPNIC, and Field Day Lab – and doing Action Research as a teacher in my 8th grade science class.
Personalization in Practice
I am currently the lead researcher on the Personalization in Practice (PiP) research team. This group has been together for five years focused on a phenomenological study of how personalized learning is emerging as a grass roots reform in Wisconsin and nationally. The data collected by our team is qualitative, including field notes of observations, interviews, and student focus groups. This work was funded in part by the Joyce Foundation. Our first paper, Personalization in Practice: Notes from the Field, was a white paper to define our early observations. I have presented findings from this work at numerous practitioner and research conferences, including the Institute for Personalized Learning National Convening, the Carnegie Foundation’s Improvement Summit, the Midwest Educational Research Association conference, the University Council for Educational Administration, and the American Educational Research Association.
During the first year of data collection, I noticed the significant redesign of the physical spaces and the importance educators placed on them in their change stories. I took this insight and wrote a solo-authored paper entitled, Participatory design in student-centered schools: How physical spaces become learning places, published in the Journal of Learning Spaces. I have presented this work at the University Council for Educational Administration (UCEA) and an international conference for Innovative Learning Environments hosted by the University of Melbourne and Steelcase.
As lead researcher for PiP, I have multiple roles, all of which have taught me how to lead inquiry conceptually and practically. I have organized the logistics of meeting with 6-10 people and kept running records. I manage a qualitative dataset in MaxQDA that has been collected at sixteen schools by over 12 different people throughout the last five years. I maintain and renew permissions, such as as the Internal Review Board application and district approvals. I also regularly meet with people outside of the university who are interested in our research, whether through presentations at local conferences or people connected to us via our partners.
PiPNIC: Personalization in Practice – Networked Improvement Community
In the third year of the PiP project, we launched a subproject called PiPNIC: Personalization in Practice – Networked Improvement Community. This project was funded in partnership with the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction by the Institute for Educational Sciences as part of the Statewide Longitudinal Data Systems grant program. I was the project director and responsible for designing how we would initiate and implement a Networked Improvement Community. Inspired by Atul Gawande’s book, Better, I proposed that we spend the first semester in a listening phase by meeting with educators and leaders from across the state to determine a relevant and meaningful problem of practice. I then coordinated the logistics and analysis of our team’s field notes and presented the work to a collaborative working group of researchers from across the grant.
After we had established a problem of practice, we moved on to organizing the collaborative design work. We recruited 5 schools to participate. I adapted the 90-day cycle as an organizing framework and sketched out the content and logistics of each meeting. Our work was emergent, so we made moment-to-moment adjustments as the work progressed. I also planned and coordinated data collection for the project and wrote the final report to share with participants on the last day.
During the middle of the 90-day cycle I had the idea to do a social network survey to study how relationships amongst participants had changed through the design work. I worked with our team to create and distribute the survey at our last meeting day. I brought the data to a week-long social network analysis LINKS training at the University of Kentucky and learned how to do the analyses. I have presented the analysis at the Carnegie Foundation’s Summit on Improvement and the American Educational Research Association annual meeting. This paper is currently under review. We are also working on a “how to” guide for using the 90-day cycle as a collaborative design routine for research-practice partnerships.
Field Day Lab
While much of my research has involved leadership and organizational design, I have also done fieldwork studying teacher-student-technology interactions in my work with the Field Day Lab. In my position as an educational research coordinator, I documented and described teacher integration of new place-based software in two schools and one outdoor education center. We wrote up our work as a white paper entitled, Using ARIS in Middle School Social Studies, and presented this at the ARIS (Augmented Reality Interactive Storytelling) Annual Summit.
The capstone thesis for my master’s degree in science education was an action research project to build collaborative learning in my eighth grade science classroom as a strategy for improving engagement and achievement. While this was a first foray into research, the process of conducting this study while teaching full time was challenging! I try to remind myself of this when partnering with full-time teachers and the importance of providing structures to support their engagement. This has also informed my desire for research to be participatory, because I know the value of teacher insight into the challenges they face and the possible solutions they see. I have put this into practice in my dissertation, in which I have built productive relationships with practitioners in a way that both facilitates my research and supports their interests. For example, I have collaborated with the teachers in my studies to present the work at local or state conferences.
Through my research activities, I aim to build productive relationships with practitioners, which both facilitates my research and supports their work. Not only does this fulfill their goals but also gives me another glimpse into how they think about the work.