Research News

GSE takes it to the streets — and classrooms

The Faculty-in-Residence program aims to benefit community education and the students who need it the most.

By CHARLES ANZALONE

Published February 9, 2018

“The hope is that faculty, in partnership with local community-based educational institutions, will identify a problem, concern or area for improvement that would benefit from a faculty member embedding himself or herself in the setting to conduct research and help draw up a plan to address the concern or problem.”
Suzanne Rosenblith, professor and dean
Graduate School of Education

For professors and researchers in UB’s Graduate School of Education, the classrooms and labs on campus are not enough.

Following an initiative from the school’s new dean, numerous faculty members have started projects that aim to benefit community education and the people most in need of the university’s expertise.

Grouped together under “engagement,” these Faculty-in-Residence projects range from developing school gardens to addressing the social and emotional state of displaced students. They are designed to serve the students in the community who need it the most.

“The Faculty-in-Residence program is an opportunity for faculty to engage in mutually beneficial site-based research,” says Suzanne Rosenblith, professor and dean of the Graduate School of Education.

“While the parameters are intentionally broad, the hope is that faculty, in partnership with local community-based educational institutions, will identify a problem, concern or area for improvement that would benefit from a faculty member embedding himself or herself in the setting to conduct research and help draw up a plan to address the concern or problem.”

One function of a school of education, Rosenblith says — particularly one in a research intensive institution — is to use its research skills to improve opportunities for individuals and communities.

“The Faculty-in-Residence program formalizes, institutionalizes and affirms this commitment by the Graduate School of Education,” she says.

Other GSE scholars and administrators agree.

“The program allows faculty the opportunity to do what all good scholars do,” says Gregory Fabiano, professor of counseling, school and educational psychology, and associate dean for interdisciplinary research.

“It provides an opportunity to share innovations and discoveries with the people who can really use them, and at the same time allows the faculty to observe how things work in applied settings, which generates the next set of research ideas.”

The eight Faculty-in-Residence projects:

  • “Middle School Response to Intervention” led by Lynn Shanahan, associate professor from the Department of Learning and Instruction. Shanahan spent a sabbatical year at Buffalo’s Enterprise Charter School to test how educational theories work in the classroom. This project partners with Enterprise Charter School and the Amherst Central School District to help middle schools design an intervention system for literacy learning.

“Historically, response to intervention has been implemented at the elementary level,” says Shanahan. Building on her work with Enterprise Charter, Amherst Middle School became one of 10 middle schools in the state to receive Response to Intervention resources to develop ways to improve student literacy learning.

  • Myles Faith, professor in the Department of Counseling, School and Educational Psychology, is addressing the issue of weight-bullying at school and at home.

Recurring teasing and intimidation about being overweight is associated with depression, suicidal attempts, disordered eating and poorer school performance, says Faith, who has developed a family-based treatment for childhood obesity using innovative technology that allows study participants to be treated in their homes.

 “To date, there are no empirically guided strategies to help children cope with weight bullying,” he says.

As part of this project, Faith will conduct the first research study of coping skills among adolescents related to weight-bullying; interview teachers and staff regarding perceptions of weight-bullying, as well as the perceived needs for helping bullied students; and develop a “weight-bullying toolbox” for school partners that will provide coping strategies.

  • Noemi Waight, associate professor of science education in the Department of Learning and Instruction, will be working with Buffalo Public School 200, a new college-prep school with a strong STEM emphasis. The school will benefit from the curriculum development, modeled teaching and curricular materials Waight will provide. The school will also provide UB with an embedded opportunity to conduct research at an emergent STEM program, and to focus on the often-neglected role that administration plays in sustained pedagogical change.  

This research builds upon Waight’s inquiry in STEM education and culturally relevant pedagogy, as well as her work in schools using simulations and online technology to teach STEM to urban students. The project addresses the importance and role the administration plays in the informal and structural culture of teaching and learning.

  • Corrie Stone-Johnson, associate professor in educational administration in the Department of Educational Leadership and Policy, will partner with the Buffalo Public Schools to develop a principal pipeline. She will address the challenge of making sure more individuals from minority backgrounds are recruited into leadership programs and supported throughout their development.

“Most pipeline research doesn’t specifically address how to ensure that educators from minority backgrounds rise to leadership positions for the sake of diversifying school leadership and influencing the achievement of students of color,” Stone-Johnson says.

Her research will attempt to shed more light on understanding the importance of minority leadership as it relates to student success, and examine whether there is a difference in family-school relationships in schools led by principals of color and schools led by white principals.

  • Melinda Lemke, assistant professor of educational leadership and policy, is the primary investigator on a study that will examine how school staff leverages available policy and programing supports to address the well-being of displaced students. Amanda Nickerson, professor of counseling, school and educational psychology, is co-investigator.

Displacement, or forced movement, can occur across and within national borders due to economic necessity, political upheaval, gender-based violence, natural disaster or trafficking. While growing interdisciplinary research examines the policies concerning displacement and the implications of displacement around the globe, less attention is given to the normative belief systems that shape those policies and, in particular, how such policies affect U.S. school systems.

“Much in current federal policy discourse not only fails to account for evidence concerning the positive contributions immigrants and refugees have made to the fabric of American life, but has fostered a climate of outright hostility toward the world’s most vulnerable children,” Lemke says.

  • Sarah A. Robert, associate professor of learning and instruction, will collaborate with Buffalo School Gardens and Grassroots Gardens of Buffalo on the “How Does Your Garden Grow?” project.

“What began as a handful of schools trying to garden, but with no coordinated effort, has now blossomed into the Buffalo School Gardens Committee,” says Robert. The goal, she explains, is “to support the development of sustainable school gardens that facilitate academic growth, community building and healthy lifestyles.”

“Despite limited resources and a constrained policy environment, as well as the newness of outside, interdisciplinary, experiential learning to city schools, enthusiasm for school gardens continues to spread throughout the district.”

But enthusiasm does not always translate to school community involvement, Robert says, especially in the early stages.

“Addressing this conundrum — of cultivating and growing involvement — is the goal of this proposed project,” she says.

“How Does Your Garden Grow?” aims to increase class time spent learning about the food system, as well as moving lessons into the gardens.

  • Ryan M. Rish, assistant professor of learning and instruction, will partner with the Herman Badillo Bilingual Academy, Buffalo Public School 76, on a project titled “New Literacies through Mobile Devices.”

The project will benefit the school’s teachers and students as they transition to a one-to-one tablet/computer learning environment, Rish explains.

“(The project will) investigate the relationship between students’ existing practices using technology and the new digital literacies supported by the instructional units,” he says.

“New Literacies” will then identify and share promising teaching practices and instructional units on digital literacies within the building and district.

  • Corey B. Bower, assistant professor of educational leadership and policy, will analyze results of the 2017 Youth Risk Behavior Survey (YRBS).

The national Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance System monitors six types of health-risk behaviors that contribute to the leading causes of death and disability among youth and adults: those that contribute to unintentional injuries and violence, sexual behaviors related to unintended pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases, alcohol and other drug use, unhealthy dietary behaviors and inadequate physical activity.

Bower plans to share findings of the 2017 survey with leaders and schools, and help start the 2019 redesign of the survey.

  • David L. Bruce, associate professor of learning and instruction, is partnering with the Cattaraugus County BOCES for the project “Professional Learning Communities around Digital Literacies in Rural Schools.” This project continues Bruce’s work with digital literacies.

“Following teachers and classrooms throughout the sustained professional development and communities of practice around digital video — particularly in rural contexts — provides for rich and varied data,” says Bruce. “There is benefit for all involved. CA-BOCES has had sustained professional development for their teachers in the areas of film literacy and digital literacies.”