Two assistant professors in the University of Maryland College of Education have been selected as 2018 National Academy of Education (NAEd)/Spencer Postdoctoral Fellows.
COE faculty members Dr. Ethan Hutt and Dr. Campbell F. Scribner are both pursuing research in educational policy, and are two of the 30 NAEd/Spencer fellows selected this year from among 201 applicants. The $70,000 fellowships are administered by the National Academy of Education, an honorary educational society, and funded by a grant to the Academy from the Spencer Foundation. The prestigious fellowship program has nearly 800 alumni who include many of the strongest education researchers in the field today.
“The NAEd/Spencer Fellowship Programs cultivate the next generation of education scholars by funding their research projects and providing resources to strengthen their research and research training, including mentorship from NAEd members. We consider these fellows to be among the best in their respective fields, and I look forward to working with them in the coming year,” said NAEd President Dr. Gloria Ladson-Billings via a press release.
Dr. Hutt’s research will focus on the history on qualification -- thinking about the way we evaluate and monitor our school systems, including grading, testing and teacher credentialing, among other factors.“We hear a lot about the importance of data,” he said. “People are always marveling at the amount of information about schools and what they can do with new data gathering techniques.”
But data, he points out, don’t just exist in a vacuum. “We have to create systems to turn a school into a set of data that can be analyzed. And every time you measure something, you are going to make the system evolve in response to that measure.”
Part of Dr. Hutt’s work is examining the tensions between localized, qualitative work, and quantitative statistics, which are generally the focus of policymakers.
“There's no question quantification has produced really important information,” he said. “The problem is, you always get a level of abstraction. There's a lot of fuzziness.”
The core of his research, he said, is to help people think about how we think about schools. How does one do the work to discover what is behind the statistics? How do you turn schools, students and learning into reliable data? What is the interplay between statistical measurements and how schools have actually changed over the last century?
The son of a public school teacher, Dr. Hutt said he has always been fascinated by how schools function.
“I was always interested in how we created these institutions. I was always drawn to thinking about the origins and legacies of that attempt.”Dr. Scribner will focus his fellowship research on the history of vandalism in schools.
“I'm very interested in student voices and how students respond to their education,” he said, “but historically students don't leave many records [of their dissenting views on how schools are run]. It occurred to me that [investigating student] destruction is a way of accessing student voice.”
One of the primary challenges Dr. Campbell faces is finding sources, as damage is not something that is historically preserved, unless through criminal proceedings, which, he points, out, are typically one-sided.
“There are a million causes of vandalism; it’s not just wanton destruction. Sometimes it’s very soul-searching, and sometimes it’s a calculated political statement. It’s a problem that vandalism and violence are often lumped together, because there’s not a lot of research linking the two.”
Dr. Scribner became interested in educational policy and what he refers to as “the conflicting notions of democracy in American schools” when he worked as a history teacher in Dallas and nearly lost his job for teaching “objectionable” books, including Chinua Achebe’s “Things Fall Apart.
“That got me interested in how schools respond to conflict,” he said. “Democracy has a lot of tension built into it. In many cases, when people vandalize schools, it's to protest things they feel are undemocratic. This goes back to 18th century street protests, for example, the Boston Tea Party. Americans have often engaged in property damage to assert the public will. It's democratic, but also anti-democratic because democracy requires the rule of law.”
Both Drs. Hutt and Scribner are faculty members in the College’s Department of Teaching and Learning, Policy and Leadership.