Nathan Jones Receives $1.6 million IES Grant

Will develop tools to assess work and emotional experiences in the classroom

Nathan Jones, a Boston University assistant professor of special education, has received a four-year, $1.6 million grant from the Institute of Education Sciences (IES) for a project that will seek to measure how teachers spend their time in and out of the classroom, how they experience their school context, and how they respond emotionally to various aspects of their work. As co-principal investigator of the project, Jones will work alongside principal investigator Eric Camburn from the University of Wisconsin, Madison, which is the primary recipient of the Goal 5 Measurement grant. Jones and Camburn will develop a version of the Day Reconstruction Method for use with teachers. An excerpt from the project, which falls under the IES topic of Effective Teachers and Effective Teaching, is below:

For the past 15 years, teachers and the quality of their teaching have been major focal points of US education policy. In this context, there is a strong need for valid evidence on teachers and their work. While there have been important advances in this area in recent years, we argue that the array of tools for measuring both teacher quality and the factors that influence it needs to be expanded. Most existing measures of teacher effectiveness only focus on the quality of teachers’ instruction, not on classroom and school factors that contribute to teacher quality. We believe that having better tools for understanding teachers’ work will not only provide critical information about how aspects of the school environment shape teacher quality, but will also help researchers and policymakers better understand critical related challenges such as early departure from the profession, teacher burnout, and teacher dissatisfaction. In sum, in the current context, there is a strong need for effective, new tools that provide better evidence about what teachers do and about the factors in teachers’ workplaces that influence what they do.

Building on a successful small-scale pilot study that provided an informative descriptive portrait of teachers’ work activity, the social context of their work, and their affect while working, this proposal describes a plan for developing and validating the Day Reconstruction Method (DRM). The instrument we propose to develop and refine will capture rich evidence about teachers’ work activity, characteristics of the contexts in which it occurs, and teachers’ affective responses to their work. The proposed instrument will capture the simultaneous occurrence of these constructs, thus potentially yielding insight into aspects of teachers’ work that have historically been difficult to study, such as how teachers’ affect varies by activity and by context, the frequency of different activities when working directly with students, and teachers’ affect while working with students. Moreover, when aggregated to the school level, we believe that DRM data will provide useful diagnostic information about schools’ organizational functioning and climate.

A version of this article was originally published in the School of Education.

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