Education
3:30 am
Mon April 29, 2013

Pitt Professor Among National Team Leaders Granted Access to Education Research

Data collected from one of the largest studies ever conducted on teacher effectiveness will be made available to only 10 groups nationally. One of those teams will be led by a University of Pittsburgh professor.

“It’s a huge dataset and allows us to answer questions that we previously weren’t able to pose or answer because data simply wasn’t available to do so for average researchers like myself,” said Tanner LeBaron Wallace, a professor in Pitt’s Department of Education.

The database comes from a Gates Foundation-sponsored three-year research project, which involved 2,500 teachers in 317 schools. The $50 million undertaking was conducted in seven large school districts.

Wallace’s team will focus on perceptions of teacher effectiveness through classroom management. She said data compiled through classroom videos suggests 98 percent of teachers believe they are “very strong” on classroom management, while far fewer students see it that way.

“I’m going to recruit a new sample of urban adolescents to come in and view the video and talk through what they see, what they pay attention to,” Wallace said, “see if their perceptions help fill in the blanks, help us understand why students can perceive one thing but adult observers perceive something differently.”

The nine other teams will focus on other areas of teacher effectiveness. Wallace said the importance of such an effort will help strengthen tools and supports offered to educators throughout the country.

“It allows us the opportunity to offer very targeted professional development for teachers on specific aspects of their instructional practice that matter to students’ learning,” she said.

Wallace and her team members went through a vigorous security screening before being among the 10 teams granted access to the data. They had to prove the information would be safe – it will be accessed through a virtual data conclave system that prevents teams from downloading the data to computers. The team’s access began March 1 of this year and will end on March 1, 2014.

“One year is not enough time,” Wallace said, “but the good news is the data doesn’t go away. The data will be available for other researchers who can apply for access.”

It’s unclear whether her team will have continued access after the year, or if they will have to reapply.

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