Department of Teacher Education

Faculty Research Highlights

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Dr. Michelle Fleming’s research continues to examine ways of making STEM accessible, engaging and relevant to diverse populations. She is currently studying the application of STEM practices and methods to collaboratively address local social, cultural, and ecological problems and innovative ethical and sustainable solutions. She is building a network of partnerships around garden and outdoor learning classrooms in order to connect communities, resources, and research. Additionally she is partnering with other universities to build a network around STEM literacy, connecting research, resources, and participating school communities. Most recently she is collaborating with Colleen Saxen (Stanford University) studying the impact of approximately 120 kindergarteners’ garden-based scientific models on their cultural, social and ecological views of how and why plants grow.

Dr. Nimisha Patel is currently engaged in research focused on civic-mindedness. In collaboration with faculty from social work, Dr. Patel is examining levels of pre-service and in-service teacher civic-mindedness. Additionally, she is examining civic-mindedness of Teacher Education faculty. Data from Hatcher’s Civic-Minded Professional scale will be collected from a regional and/or national sample in order to examine between-group differences in civic-mindedness.

Currently, 2015-2016 academic year, the Peter Effect Expanded: Writing Self-Perception of Undergraduate Students study is still underway. Dr. Hannah Chai and her collaborators are currently working on analyzing the data, as well as ensuring reliability and validity via member checking. The process being followed is as such: individual analysis of the data, working together in pairs to go over the initial analysis, which is then followed by a larger discussion of the analysis with all four researchers. The group has met several times via Skype to discuss initial findings, categories, and themes. The initial analysis results of this study will be shared at the national American Literacy Educators and Researchers conference in November 2015.

During the 2015-2016 academic year, Dr. Romena Holbert focused on assessing classroom and field based strategies and materials for their effectiveness at supporting the learning aims of beginning teacher candidates engaged in urban service learning. Partnering with faculty and administrators at the PDS setting she coordinates, Dr. Holbert engaged in analyses of the candidates learning outcomes and dispositions prior to and following engagement in the service-learning experience. This analysis resulted in the identification and implementation of supports including revised materials, interactional strategies, and reflection protocols to maximize candidate learning and contributions. Two published articles and revisions to two courses reflect this work.

Dr. Jeremy Mills, along with several colleagues, completed research on determining if response cards are a form of evidence-based practice that potentially increases student engagement and academic achievement. Because teachers are being asked to document and demonstrate the ability to use evidence-based practices on a daily bases, they examined if the intervention meets the established criteria in research to be considered an evidence-based practice. The results indicate that it meets the criteria and is considered an evidence-based practice.

Dr. Mills also completed a case-study research project to measure the impact of self-monitoring paired with positive reinforcement to increase the level of non-preferred task completion with a student at the secondary grade level diagnosed with high functioning autism. The level of completion of a non-preferred task increased when the behavior was reinforced with a preferred reinforces. The individual was trained on how to appropriately and successfully self-monitor his or her behavior of the task while presented with the preferred reinforcer to build a positive association of self-monitoring with a non-preferred task. The behavior maintained once the external reinforcement was extinguished. 


Dr. Michelle Fleming’s research continues to examine ways of making STEM accessible, engaging, and relevant to diverse populations. Dr. Fleming teamed up with Lisa and Len Kenyon (COSM), and Bhaskar Upadhyay (University of Minnesota) to construct a framework for democratic science, by exploring how middle school students practice democratic science and how democratic science practices impact student and community engagement. Democratic science themes include: 1) co-constructing meaningful and engaging science through scientific modeling, 2) constructing science knowledge through peer dialogue and sharing, and 3) engaging the students and their community in scientific practices. Participation and engagement of students and their community illustrate the value of democratic science and the viability of including the community in science and providing transformative science experiences to students. This manuscript is published in the fall 2015 Education in a Democracy: A Journal of the National Network for Educational Renewal.

Dr. Fleming collaborated with two ECE program undergraduates, Samantha Baker and Kyle Phelps, to examine scientific identities and practices of inservice and preservice early childhood teachers’ science fair participation. Through informal interviews, surveys, and observations, this multi-level, critical instance case study examined six urban PK-2 inservice teachers’ experiences, dispositions, and practices while preparing and participating in a school science fair. Nested within this case were the lived experiences of two undergraduate early childhood preservice teachers. Findings show several cross comparative themes including hierarchical tensions, unaligned social and cultural conceptions of collaboration, and building capacity of scientific practices. 

Dr. Nimisha Patel continued her research on STEM Education and Student Engagement. More specifically Dr. Patel and her colleague Dr. Suzanne Franco examined student engagement, using the High School Survey of Student Engagement, across various STEM settings: STEM schools, STEM programs, and Traditional school programs. Analyses focused on both quantitative and qualitative data. Analyses of covariance along with post-hoc tests indicated that students’ emotional engagement significantly predicted high school students’ GPA and standardized test scores. Furthermore, for some students, cognitive engagement significantly predicted GPA and standardized test scores. Finally, students in the STEM schools and STEM programs typically outperformed students enrolled in the traditional schools. Qualitative analyses revealed more similarities across STEM settings, particularly with respect to the importance of student-teacher rapport as well as connections between content and real-world application.

Dr. Patel, along with external colleague Dr. Sharon Stevens continued their work on examining parent involvement among parents of middle-school students in urban settings. Using data from almost 200 parents, Dr. Patel and Dr. Stevens utilized a Structural Equation Modeling approach to model Erikson’s construct of generativity and the construct of social capital through parent involvement in middle school. Analyses suggested that a good-fit model for the data was a three-factor model in which social capital was delineated between individual-level social capital and community-level social capital; the third factor was generativity.

With IRB approval, the 2014-2015 academic year brought forth a continuation of the Peter Effect Expanded: Writing Self-Perception of Undergraduate Students. During this academic year, Dr. Hannah Chai led the charge to request, recruit, and collect data from three (two institutions and one branch campus) of the multi-research sites. Dr. Chai was involved in collecting, organizing, and transcribing the data that was collected.

During the 2014-1015 academic year, Dr. Romena Holbert also focused on the learning environments and supports she provides for practicing and pre-service teachers through her instructional roles as a teacher educator. One outcome of this line of research has been the recent publication of a qualitative exploratory study, which examined classroom community development across three graduate seminars for midcareer teachers. Increased classroom community was found to be connected to course structures and instructor actions, which supported teachers’ reflection upon practice and envisioning of possible selves. Personal/family selves, teaching selves and academic selves emerged. The model developed within the context of this study connects classroom community, motivators, and enacted classroom practices to each set of possible selves. Findings suggested increased attention to campus-based graduate seminars as avenues for the development of trust, open dialogue, reflection, strategy building, and improved classroom practice among midcareer teachers. During 2014-2015, Dr. Holbert also focused on the learning goals and associated supports required for the effective field-based teacher education of pre-service teachers. Several conference presentations reflected this focus.

Dr. Jeremy Mills presented at a national and an international conference on his research on the impact electronic classroom response systems have on student engagement and achievement in an inclusive secondary math class and resource secondary math class for students with high-incidence disabilities. A self-reporting survey was given to each teacher and student who participated in the study asking each individual their personal perception of using the clickers. Student’s overall engagement levels increased as well as their positive perception on the effectiveness of the response systems had on their achievement levels.

Dr. Mills was also awarded an internal professional development grant to examine the effectiveness of the iPad in classrooms and how educators are using the technology for students with high-incidence disabilities. Teachers were surveyed on their level of use of the iPad in the classroom, how they are use them with students and for instruction, and asked to provide suggested apps that they use on a regular basis. Several of the apps were then selected and implemented across 2 states to analyze the effectiveness of the iPad and the app in regards to students’ active engagement and level of learning. The results were then used to support professional development training for educators on how to effectively use the iPad to aid in instructional methods.

Dr. Mills conducted professional development to local educators on his research on the similarities and the differences between Dyslexia and Dysgraphia. The presentation examined how the two specific forms of a learning disability overlap each other in characteristics but can also appear very different. Specific signs of each were expressed along with specific interventions that help in the educational process of students diagnosed with Dyslexia and Dysgraphia 

Dr. Mills completed research on the use of Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) in faith-based communities. The research examined how the use of ABA is appropriate for faith-based communities and is not exclusive for academia and the clinical-mental health field. The principles of the behavioral based theory parallel many of the principles in faith-based communities.


Dr. Michelle Fleming, assistant professor of science and mathematics in Teacher Education, and undergraduate student Erica Riggs presented their collaborative study on elementary teachers’ perceptions of science, teaching science, the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS), and alignment between NGSS and the Ohio Academic Content Standards in Science this spring at the annual international conference of The National Association for Research in Science Teaching (NARST).  With the recent release of the NGSS and the national movement to adopt these standards, Ms. Riggs and Dr. Fleming electronically surveyed local PK-5 inservice teachers' current methods and views of teaching science and how these methods and views correlated to scientific practices. The researchers uncovered the great need for professional development around these new ways of learning and doing science. Implications of this research include developing and implementing professional development opportunities around NGSS and addressing the needs of inservice teachers through CEHS.

Dr. Michelle Fleming’s research examines ways of making STEM accessible, engaging, and relevant to diverse populations. Through her explorations of indigenous contexts of science, the integration of art and STEM, and joyful learning in STEM, Dr. Fleming is committed to examining how and why students connect with STEM content. Dr. Fleming collaborated with Eric Brunsell (University of Wisconsin Oshkosh) to co-author the book, “Engaging Minds in Science and Math Classrooms: The Surprising Power of Joy,” (ASCD Press). The text presents relevant stories and practical applications for K-12 STEM teachers.

During the spring 2014, Dr. Fleming collaborated with Lisa and Len Kenyon (COSM; biology) to guide approximately 180 eighth graders in a Midwestern public middle school in designing and implementing a Family Science Explanation Night event.  To examine project outcomes, data from participating students and parents were collected through the use of pre and post surveys, interactive science notebooks, and project observations.

Dr. Fleming also continued to research and consult on the Collaborative Communities in STEM Education (C2STEM) project she initiated at the University of Wisconsin Oshkosh (UWO). Collaborating with Reynee Kachur (UWO; biology and microbiology) over two years, the researchers presented two years of benefits and tensions with sustaining an undergraduate STEM preservice teacher collaborative community in order to recruit and retain students of color. Their study investigated how community impacts students’ interests, attitudes, and access to the profession, as well as capacity to teach STEM. Findings from the mixed-methods case study include 1) increased interests towards teaching science, 2) sustained positive attitudes toward science, and 3) increased access to the teaching profession. 

In addition, Dr. Fleming and Megan Winston, principal of Horace Mann PK-8 School (Dayton Public Schools), recently presented together at the National Association for Professional Development Schools (NAPDS) 2014 National Conference in Las Vegas, Nevada. Their presentation titled “Cultivating a Collaborative STEM Education Community” described the development of their professional development school, which encourages educators to collaborate on issues of teaching and learning.

Dr. Nimisha Patel was on Professional Development leave for the 2013-2014 academic year. During this sabbatical she focused on data collection and analyses related to a $134,000 grant she received from the Ohio Educational Research Center. Dr. Patel’s research focused on examining student engagement in various STEM settings. During this year, Dr. Patel analyzed qualitative data deriving from 32 one-hour focus group sessions involving high school students. Additionally, her work focused on statistical analyses of almost 3,000 high school students’ self-reports and social, emotional, and cognitive engagement across various STEM settings and across various demographic factors. The purpose of these efforts was to share with policy-makers data on the engagement and academic outcomes related to various STEM settings with the goal of using evidence to inform policy changes.

Upon the dissertation defense of The Writing Self-Perception of Four Girl Writers in 2013, Dr. Hannah Chai has spent the academic year on writing two manuscripts based on the dissertation research. One publication, “Not all girls like to write: The writing self-perception of one girl writer” has appears in The Ohio Reading Teacher journal, and a second manuscript is currently under review by the Mid-Western Educational Research Journal.

Attending and presenting at the national Literacy Research Association conference in December 2013, Dr. Chai has embarked in a collaborative research project with Dr. Anthony Applegate, Dr. Donna Rafter, and Mrs. Lee Welz. The multi-site project is tentatively titled, the Peter Effect Expanded: Writing Self-Perception of Undergraduate Students. During the 2014 year, Dr. Chai spent time on working through the IRB process at three institutions including WSU, while Dr. Applegate worked on the IRB at two institutions in Pennsylvania. Meeting via Skype, the collaborating researchers designed, field tested, and revised the writing self-perception survey tool.

During the 2013-2014 academic year, Dr. Romena Holbert’s scholarly work focused on examination of qualities of effective learning environments for novice teacher educators. One outcome of this research focus was an article published in the peer-reviewed journal Education in a Democracy. In this co-authored exploratory qualitative research, Dr. Holbert examined hybrid educators’ and university teacher education colleagues’ experiences for alignment to simultaneous renewal aims advanced by the National Network for Educational Renewal (NNER). Sixteen semi-structured interviews revealed individual, course/program, and classroom/school-based examples of renewal as well as renewal that extended beyond partner settings. Examination of policies and practices, role conceptualizations, and renewal outcomes suggested that a greater focus on cross-institutional communities of practice may support heightened collaboration, hybrids’ preparation for teaching adult learners, and more effective utilization of hybrids’ expertise. Opportunities to maximize simultaneous renewal outcomes through cultivation of communities of practice were advanced. In addition to this work, Dr. Holbert also presented several conference presentations on teacher educator roles and how interpersonal and organizational actions may be leveraged to maximize the effectiveness of novice teacher educators.

Dr. Jeremy Mills completed research on the disposition of middle school teachers. Middle school students were interviewed on their personal view of the attributes of teachers they perceived as effective and as non-effective in the classroom. Likewise, administrators and teachers of middle school children were asked the same questions. A brief video documentary was produced highlighting the opinions of various students, teachers, and administrators that participated in the study.


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