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COVID-19 Seed Grant Lightning Talks

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Celebrate Research & Reconnect: COVID Seed Grant Lightning Talks

Sessions: Wednesday, September 14 and Tuesday, September 20, 2022

Education Building Room 22
Noon to 1:30 p.m.

Project Teams were funded under the auspices of the College of Education COVID-19 Seed Funding competitions, held Spring 2020, Fall 2020, and Spring 2021, with funding from the Dean, and in collaboration with the College Research Committee.

News Stories on the College of Education COVID-19 Seed Funding Program:

Presented Wednesday, September 14, 12:00 - 1:30 pm:

 Order Project

Teacher Hiring Before, During, and After a Pandemic

Team: Paul Bruno (EPOL), PI

Priorities: Developing Novel or Modified Research Methods; Improving Teaching and/or Learning in New Online Formats

The COVID-19 pandemic disrupted school district hiring processes even as it heightened many of their staffing challenges. In particular, the pandemic has made staffing disproportionately more difficult for specific teaching roles and in specific schools and, relatedly, made it harder to collect meaningful information about applicants before they are hired. This poses difficulties for attempts to hire teachers effectively and to staff classrooms efficiently and equitably. This project extends an existing research-practice partnership with the Los Angeles Unified School District to explore variation in screening strategies and effectiveness across teacher types, school contexts, and student populations. Results may have continuing implications for students and schools by informing how teacher hiring processes can be adapted to new labor market conditions and classroom realities (e.g., widening variation in the teacher supply and more frequent online instruction). In addition to informing additional ongoing work on teacher hiring processes in Los Angeles, this project has facilitated the development of new research relationships to study hiring issues in school districts in central Illinois.


Virtual Writing Intervention for Low-Income, Below-Proficient Middle School Writers

Team: Amber Ray (SPED), PI; Sarah Scully (SPED) Graduate Student; Crystal Williams (SPED) Graduate Student

Priorities:  Developing Novel or Modified Research Methods;  Educational Inequality; Improving teaching and/or learning in new online formats

Middle school students with high-incidence disabilities often struggle with source-based writing. Self-Regulated Strategy Development (SRSD) is an effective approach to writing instruction. SRSD provides students with explicit, scaffolded instruction for learning task-specific strategies, the knowledge needed to use the target strategies, feedback on their progress, and self-regulation procedures for managing the strategy, the writing process, and their writing behavior. This study expanded the knowledge of the effects of SRSD writing instruction using technology tools, the effectiveness of online Practice-Based Professional Development (PBPD), and coaching to support teachers in implementing SRSD. In this pretest post-test design study middle school special education teachers engaged in online PBPD in SRSD writing instruction. The teachers then implemented the SRSD writing instruction to teach source-based argumentative writing with technology tools.  In Fall 2021 Phase 1 of the study occurred and included 10 students and three teachers from northern Illinois. In Spring 2022 Phase 2 of the study occurred and included 58 students and five teachers from Washington, Kentucky, and New York. This study evaluated the impact of PBPD in SRSD on students' source-based argumentative writing performance. Implementation of the SRSD writing instruction by special education teachers positively impacted the number of argumentative elements, quality, length, and number of transition words in students’ source-based argumentative essays. Additionally, teachers were able to implement SRSD instruction with high fidelity and quality after receiving online PBPD in SRSD and coaching. Results indicated the technology enhanced SRSD writing instruction for source-based argumentative was effective.


City Settlers: Transforming a Collaborative STEM Education Game for COVID-19 Online Use

Team: Mike Tissenbaum (C&I), PI; Vikesh Kumar (U Wisconsin), External Consultant; Litong Zheng (C&I), Graduate Student; Ruby Wang (ENG), Undergraduate; Taehyun Kim (C&I), Grad Student; Zhanchen Huang (iSchool), Undergraduate

Priorities: Adapting to New Methods

This presentation will discuss an implementation of City Settlers - a whole-room immersive simulation – that took place during the summer of 2021 in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic. While the work was originally slated to move online, we found it difficult to recruit classrooms that were already over-taxed with online commitments; however, during a decrease in the infection rate in the summer of 2021, a middle school asked us to work with their students for a week-long session. In response, we pivoted our development to be able to work with these students. To this end, our research examined how the design of City Settlers promoted free movement of students through the learning space, and how this movement supported serendipitous collisions (students’ ad hoc interactions with their peers). Through the application of a coding scheme that revealed students’ collaborative interactions, we showed how these collisions promoted disequilibrating events that challenged students’ models around the underlying science content and helped them develop new understandings and game play strategies. This work also revealed specific categories of student serendipitous movement and engagement through the physical space (wandering, checking-in, trading, and strategy). These findings are helping us develop new design frameworks for supporting divergent collaboration in physically distributed learning environments.


The Role of Community-based Immigrant-Serving Non-Profits in Bridging Home and School during COVID-19

Team: Liv Dávila (EPOL), PI; Lucero Garcia-Villegas, (EPOL), Graduate Student; Susan Ogwal, (EPOL), Graduate Student

Priorities: Planning Grant for Covid-19 Specific Research

This presentation will analyze findings from a qualitative study that explores the work of four non-profit immigrant-serving organizations located in the Midwestern U.S. that provided educational, social, and financial assistance to immigrant and refugee families with school-aged children and youth during the 2020-2021 school year. The research centered on the following questions: How did immigrant-serving organizations support immigrant and refugee families with remote learning and other educational efforts during the first year of the pandemic? What challenges and successes did they experience? The objective of this research is to present nuanced understandings of how mutually beneficial partnerships between community organizations and schools can be nurtured and sustained during and beyond the pandemic. 

Findings are organized into four overarching themes that correspond to the ways in which each organization adapted their services in response to educational challenges presented by the pandemic, by: (1) strengthening their relationships with schools; (2) facilitating remote learning; (3) offering extra-curricular remote tutoring programs; and (4) addressing mental health concerns within families with school-aged children. These findings highlight the need for sustained communication and coordinated efforts between schools and community organizations to facilitate home and school-based learning.


Online Education Viewed Through an Equity Lens: Promoting Engagement and Success for All Learners

Team: Nick Burbules (EPOL); Irish Farley (EPOL) Graduate Student (Hyun Sook Kang (EPOL) Team PI)

Priorities: Educational Inequality; Improving Teaching and/or Learning in New Online Formats

Educational technologies have the potential to expand access to education to a wider range of people, including those currently without access to high-quality learning opportunities. However, this promise is largely unfulfilled. While technology can remove some barriers, it can also have the opposite effect, creating new inequalities. This meta-synthesis summarizes the main findings from current research that documents both structural and instructional barriers; and proposes research-supported best practices in online course design and instruction in order to promote greater student satisfaction and success.


Developing Robust Methods for Evaluating Policy Impacts in the Time of COVID-19

Team: Ge (Gabriella) Jiang (EPSY), PI; Catherine Corr (SPED), Co-PI; Jiye Kim (SPED), Graduate Student;Lixin Wu (EPSY), Graduate Student; Tianshu Qu (LAS), Undergraduate

Priorities: Developing Novel or Modified Research Methods; Improving Teaching and/or Learning in New Online Formats

Impact evaluation is an important cause-and-effect technique for policymakers to assess the impact of programs and interventions. Although randomized controlled trials (RCT) remain the gold standard, they are not always feasible, and researchers have to rely on observational data and advanced statistical methods to estimate the impact. Propensity score matching (PSM) is one such statistical method that effectively addresses selection bias in observational data. PSM makes two critical assumptions: (1) all variables must be free of measurement error, and (2) the intervention-covariates relationship is linear. Unfortunately, these two assumptions are commonly violated in practice, resulting in biased estimates of the impact. The proposed project aims to mitigate the bias by developing a robust PSM framework that uses structural equation modeling to adjust for measurement errors (especially in latent variables) and data mining methods to adjust for nonlinear relationships between the intervention and the covariates. Extensive simulation studies will be performed to evaluate the proposed framework and provide recommendations on the optimal methods under a variety of conditions. A demonstration will be given on a real dataset from the Early Childhood Longitudinal Study (ECLS-K:11).


Changes in Undergraduate STEM Motivation Due to COVID-19

Team: Jennifer Cromley (EPSY), PI; Andrea Kunze (EPSY) Grad Student; Elizabeth Zelenka (EPSY) Undergraduate

Priorities: Planning Grant for Covid-19 Specific Research

Media reports suggest the switch to online courses due to COVID-19 has “demotivated” undergraduates. Our semester-long study of motivation for biology was in progress when COVID-19 was declared a pandemic. We analyze changes in student (N = 182) motivation from before and after. Across variables, subgroups of students changed in adaptive and maladaptive ways; some remained stable. In cross-tabulations, one signifi­cant difference was found by sex, and a number of adaptive and maladaptive differences by race and socio­economic status (SES). Despite obvious burdens on low-SES groups, undergraduate motivation was affected positively and negatively in this sample; only some variables were related to intention to remain in STEM.


COVID-19 Risk Mitigation: Toward an interactive online counseling tool 

Team: Dan Morrow (EPSY), PI; Eugene Cox (Informatics), Graduate Student Lead; Suma Bhat (ENG), Co-PI; Mark Hasegawa-Johnson (ENG), Co-PI; H. Chad Lane (EPSY), Co-PI; Mukhil Umashakar (ENG), Graduate Student

Priorities: Adapting Research Methods and New Methods; Planning Grant for Covid-19 Specific Research

The COVID-19 pandemic has required people to understand and respond to evolving threats during their daily lives. Our goal is to develop an interactive risk counselor to help people evaluate risk-related implications of participating in daily situations and to consider behaviors that mitigate risk. Automated tools have been developed to determine whether users may have COVID or to help users evaluate daily risk and to provide advice. Our tool will use a conversational interface to educate users about risk in a wide range of situations and provide recommendations to manage risk. As an initial step, we conducted an online survey to elicit people’s concerns about COVID risk. Participants identified previously experienced and anticipated situations and then answered questions about dimensions relevant to risk in these situations, similar to questions we envision the agent asking. While some participants responded as expected, describing a variety of objectively risky situations (e.g., indoor activities without social distancing), others expressed a variety of stances toward daily situations or the pandemic more generally. These stances related to concern (e.g., about infection), uncertainty, opinions (e.g., about government responses), and plans (e.g., about how to handle risk). The situations in these latter responses were more briefly described and backgrounded relative to the writer’s stance. Coding the survey responses to capture these stances enabled us to identify diverse goals that users might bring to our risk counselor system and to explore the training requirements for developing an agent that can identify and respond to these goals.


E-Learning During a Global Pandemic: Adapting Preschool to a Socially Distant Reality

Team: Giselle Martinez Negrette (C&I), PI; Stephanie Sanders-Smith (C&I), Co-PI; Jadyn Harris (C&I), Graduate Student

Priorities: Planning Grant for Covid-19 Specific Research

In the midst of a worldwide pandemic, school communities were put to the ultimate test, as they had to move from face to face to online teaching suddenly. In preschool contexts, the concerns about this learning modality were heightened because of the young age of the children. With this in mind, our research investigated two multilingual preschools that were able to move online quickly and maintained quality educational experiences. We explored the journey of preschool teachers as they embarked on the sudden move from face-to-face to online instruction alongside school administrators, parents, and young children during the COVID-19 pandemic. Using a tripartite model of adaptability, we examined the cognitive, emotional and behavioral adaptations employed by the focal teachers, as they supported the learning process in a multilingual and multicultural early childhood program under unprecedented teaching conditions. Our work highlights the lessons learned during this traumatic time and the innovative ways educators partnered with families to develop new means of collaboration. In addition, we call attention to the socioeconomic line of division that exists among various populations both locally and globally, which shapes the educational landscape in significant ways.


Latinx Transnational Family Contributions to Students' Academic Well-Being

Team: Idalia Nunez Cortez (C&I), PI

Priorities: Transitions to Post-Pandemic Research

With rapid school closures due to the COVID-19 global pandemic, Latinx transnational families have relied on the support of family members across national borders to ensure the educational well-being of their transnational children. Through platicas and testimonios as a methodology, the findings revealed that transnational family members supported their children by centering on critical and collective border-crossing processes and knowledge that became the foundation of the transnational youth’s resistance and agency demonstrated in and outside of school. The findings of this study will inform teachers, curriculum specialists, and teacher educators in the field of literacy and bilingual education by providing more insights into the various ways we can partner with local communities and families to disrupt dominant views and content reproduced in schools through border-crossing epistemologies from transnational families and youth.


Presented Tuesday, September 20, 12:00 - 1:30 pm:



The Role of Online Museum Experiences in Supporting At-Home Science Learning in the Era of COVID-19

Team: Catherine Dornfeld Tissenbaum (C&I), PI; Stina Krist (C&I), Co-PI; McKenna Lane (C&I), Graduate Student

Priorities: Planning Grant for Covid-19 Specific Research

Online museum experiences, or OMEs, expand access to museums beyond physical buildings. With limited visitation during the COVID-19 pandemic, many museums increased OME offerings, including those marketed toward families. However, as most OMEs are developed for K-12 audiences, we have yet to understand how OMEs support–or fail to support– families’ engagement with science. To investigate how OMEs facilitated or constrained families’ engagement with at-home science learning, we conducted semi-structured interviews with parents and used quantitative discourse analysis to identify emergent affordances and constraints. These findings can inform the design of OMEs that effectively support families’ at-home engagement with science.


Addressing COVID-19 Health Disparities in Champaign and Urbana with Culturally Responsive and Sustaining Engagement

Team: Melissa Goodnight (EPSY), PI; Cherie Avent (EPSY), Co-PI; Nidia Ruedas-Gracia (EPSY), Co-PI; Emily Stone (Dean’s Office), Co-PI

Priorities: Educational Inequality

The disproportionate impact of COVID-19 on African American communities is not unique: ethnic and racial disparities in health outcomes are longstanding issues that stem from the compounding effects of racism across multiple dimensions of people’s lives (Feagin & Bennefield, 2014). Concomitantly, guidelines for collective safety and individual health protection are rapidly changing as the pandemic evolves. In the midst of this shifting informational landscape, many African Americans are weathering the continuing psychological, financial, and educational fallout of COVID-19 while seeking support in accessing basic resources and understanding changing advice. Since the early stages of the pandemic, local pastors in Champaign and Urbana have dedicated their time to combatting COVID-19 healthcare inequities and barriers. They have shared common challenges to accessing COVID-19 health services (e.g., testing) including current and accurate information, transportation, time, and importantly, trust in the health care system. Our project has been an ongoing collaboration between local churches and the College of Education’s Department of Educational Psychology and Public Engagement Office to address COVID-19 health disparities in our local African American faith-based community. Together, we have created messaging campaigns and educational materials, offered community-based vaccine clinics, and distributed vital prevention materials (e.g., masks, tests, sanitizer). We are continuing our collaborative work with local congregations to address ongoing COVID-19 issues, including a) assisting with developing community-initiated interventions to tackle not only COVID-19 but also related health and educational challenges and b) producing impactful research that draws upon these interventions and the community’s experience over the pandemic.


The HigherEd COVID-19 Response (HECR) Study Evaluation of Higher Education Institutional Responses during COVID-19 on Student Sociocultural Factors: Waves 1 and 2

Team: Nidia Ruedas-Gracia (EPSY), PI; Rodney Hopson (EPSY), Co-PI; Ananya Tiwari (EPSY), Graduate Student; Shiyu Sun (EPSY), Graduate Student

Priorities: Planning Grant for Covid-19 Specific Research

In light of COVID-19, universities rapidly shifted in how courses were delivered. How did this shift impact students? Results of two deliverables will be presented. Via a mixed-method data collection design, this study collected survey responses from 592 students enrolled at a public university during summer 2020. Faculty, teaching assistants, and staff administrators were then interviewed. Data represented all 15 colleges within campus via random selection stratified by college. Deliverable One explored: (1) How did the institutional leadership respond to providing continuity of education in the early stages of the COVID-19 pandemic? and (2) What approaches did faculty and teaching assistants (TAs) use to deliver online instructions and what were their perceptions of student needs? Results suggest students faced challenges (i.e., decreased academic motivation and increased social isolation), highlighting the need to create a more supportive academic environment to mitigate these negative impacts. The results also highlight the actions and accommodations provided by institutional leaders and faculty. Deliverable Two explored: (1) What were the reported levels of perceived course support, sense of universitybelonging, self-efficacy and well-being for minoritized students during the shift from in-person to online teaching due to the COVID-19 pandemic? (2) Does sense of university belonging mediate the association between perceived course support, self-efficacy and well-being? Findings indicate that the effect of perceived course support on self-efficacy and well-being was mediated by sense of university belonging. Implications include psychological challenges that contribute to exacerbating systemic inequalities in our society.


Do Social, Emotional and Behavioral Skills Predict Students’ Sustained Community Volunteering? A Longitudinal Evaluation of We CU: a campus-wide program that strengthens student community engagement to meet the needs of Illinois communities during COVID-19

Team: Chris Napolitano (EPSY), PI; Emily Stone (Dean’s Office), Co-PI; Brent Roberts, Psychology, Co-PI; Jisoo Youn (EPSY), Graduate Student; Madison Sewell (EPSY) Graduate Student

Priorities: Developing Novel or Modified Research Methods; Educational Inequality

Early evidence suggests that community needs created by the COVID-19 pandemic spurred individuals to volunteer in their communities (Churchill, 2020; Sin et al., 2021; Yazdani et al., 2022). Past work has explored how individual differences in trait-like characteristics—assessed as typical behavior—relate to adolescent and young adult volunteering (Carlo et al., 2005; Cemalcilar, 2009;  Metzger et al., 2016, 2018; Obradović & Masten, 2007; Oosterhoff et al., 2021). This study builds upon that literature by investigating how social, emotional, and behavioral (SEB) skills –assessed as behavioral capabilities – predict volunteering outcomes for students who were engaged in We CU, a university-wide volunteering initiative to ameliorate the negative community impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic.

We collected data from 248 students, ages 18 – 25 (M age = 20.6), who joined We CU. We assessed eight SEB skills at the beginning of the program: (1) task management, (2) leadership, (3) creative skill, (4) perspective-taking, (5) stress regulation, (6) capacity for consistency, (7) abstract thinking, and (8) cultural competence. Students’ volunteering outcomes were assessed 10-weeks later. Approximately 38% of students completed or exceeded the target number of volunteer hours for recognition set by the We CU program. We found that higher levels stress regulation was associated with more time spent volunteering. These results suggest that strength in stress regulation skills can prospectively predict prosocial, civic engagement behaviors.


Student Engagement in Online Graduate Programs: A Mixed Methods Study

Team: Hyun-Sook Kang (EPOL), PI; Jon Hale (EPOL), Co-PI; Nicholas Burbules (EPOL), Co-PI; Yoon Pak (EPOL), Co-PI

Priorities: Educational Inequality; Improving teaching and/or learning in new online formats

This study examined the nature of student engagement, as reported by students enrolled in fully online EdD and EdM programs in an academic unit at a U.S. land-grant university. Using an explanatory sequential mixed-methods research design, a Web-based questionnaire was administered (n = 83), and then follow-up interviews were conducted (n = 14). The result of an exploratory factor analysis of the survey data uncovered three factors in student engagement: emotional, social, and academic engagement. To gain a nuanced understanding of the identified factors, a content analysis of the interview data was conducted. Students’ feelings of being supported and included in a community through connectivity and interactivity constituted emotional engagement while their relationships with faculty and other students through immediate faculty feedback and technology-mediated peer interactions covered social engagement. Students’ interest and investment in academic tasks as relevant for their dissertation project and career development comprised academic engagement.


Student Experiences Amid the COVID-19 Pandemic: Examining the Aspirations and Beliefs of Black Males who Play Sports in a K-12 Setting

Team: Adeyemo Adeoye (EPOL), PI; Nathan Castillo (EPOL), Co-PI

Priorities: Adapting to New Methods

Researchers have examined how some Black male student-athletes view football and basketball as a pathway toward economic and social mobility. However, the suspension of athletic competition during the early parts of the Covid-19 pandemic has raised new questions about the athletic and academic aspirations and beliefs of Black males who play sports. This project explored the impact of the suspension of athletic competition on Black male student-athletes educational aspirations and beliefs. We employed a sequential exploratory mixed-methods design and utilized ethnographic techniques to explore this phenomenon. In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, we used video conferencing software to interview ten Black male middle school and high school student-athletes. We are utilizing the interview responses to develop a survey instrument along themes derived from the interviews. We will then administer the survey instrument to another sample of Black male student-athletes in the Southern Illinois community, all in areas connected to the new Illinois Innovation Network (IIN). Survey responses will be analyzed alongside semi-structured follow-up interviews to identify policy recommendations within the selected sampling frame. Findings from this study will generate preliminary data to apply to external funding for a broader, multi-site study examining the influence of the suspension of athletic activities on the educational aspirations and beliefs of these Black males across international boundary lines, schools, neighborhoods, and social class.


Supporting Preschoolers’ Motor Development During Remote Learning: Teachers’ Challenges and Strategies

Team: Michaelene Ostrosky (SPED), PI; Catherine Cheung (SPED), Graduate Student

Priorities: Improving Teaching and/or Learning in New Online Formats

Motor play is more than just having fun and being physically fit; it provides opportunities for preschoolers to develop early reading and math skills, along with communication and social skills which are all related to later academic performance. However, with the shift from in-person to virtual learning during the pandemic, there were no guidelines to ensure that gross motor content was addressed while simultaneously meeting the educational needs of preschoolers during virtual learning. The purpose of this study was to explore teachers’ perceptions of facilitators and challenges they faced while implementing motor play during virtual schooling. We also were interested in strategies they used to address challenges they encountered. Zoom interviews were conducted with 26 preschool teachers. Results revealed that the majority of teachers (94%) embedded motor play in virtual learning and believed that it was beneficial to preschoolers. Not surprisingly, all participants experienced challenges implementing motor play remotely. These challenges were (1) difficulty getting students engaged, (2) difficulty regaining students’ attention afterward, (3) interactions with parents, and (4) logistical issues. The findings provide insights into supporting children’s motor development, ideas for curriculum development, and suggestions for professional development offerings to support teachers. Research is needed that focuses on structured motor play ideas that are feasible to embed in a virtual context with young children.


Educating Undergraduates About Racial Microaggressions, Using a Serious Educational Game

Team: Jennifer Cromley (EPSY), PI; Andrea Kunze (EPSY), Graduate Student; Esther Whang (EPSY), Undergraduate

Priorities: Educational Inequality

Fair Play is a perspective-taking, online, videogame intervention that simulates racial microaggressions within academic spaces and aims to improve students’ understanding of implicit racial biases and empathy towards people of color. Using an experimental design with 625 undergraduate students, we examined the effects of Fair Play and during-learning self-regulatory processes on students’ racial attitudes. Students completed a pre/post survey with 12 cognitive, six affective, and five behavioral racial attitude measures, and we used Proctorio software to screen and audio record their gameplay and think-emote alouds during the experiment. Path analyses were conducted for each of the 23 measures and revealed nine statistically significant and small to large effects of Fair Play on students’ racial attitudes. More specifically, students became more confused about types of microaggressions, perceived some aspects of the racial climate more and less positively, and had changes to their intentions to behave as a racial ally. Additional path analyses also revealed select cognitive and motivational strategies and negative emotions students engaged in during Fair Play had small to moderate statistically significant effects on students’ racial attitudes. These findings provide evidence that a single session of an immersive, gamified racial bias intervention has immediate positive and negative effects on different aspects of students' racial attitudes, and how they regulate their learning during the intervention also has implications for attitude changes.


Transition Planning for Technology-Enhanced Learning Research in K12 Classrooms

Team: Robb Lindgren (C&I), PI; Barbara Hug (C&I), Co-PI; Cynthia D'Angelo (C&I), Co-PI; Grace Yun (C&I), Graduate Student

Funding Priority: Transitions to Post-Pandemic Research

Research on the impact of new technologies in educational contexts, particularly studies that involve small groups of students working together to use digital devices to explain or explore, has been significantly impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. One of the impacts that we have observed is an increase in hesitation by teachers to bring in researchers and new technologies that could potentially add to the disruption that already exists. At the same time, the need for students to engage physically with models and engage productively with their peers in small group contexts is even more important given the extended period of time where instruction was remote and online. For this project we assembled a group of 4 middle school science teachers and conducted a workshop to collect ideas on how to support scientific modeling activities and how to return, safely, to having researchers present in the classroom. We also took our gesture-augmented simulations into one of the teachers’ classrooms as part of a lesson on thermal conduction. Overall, we identified several findings about the teachers’ attitudes and perceptions about technology-enhanced learning in a post-lockdown context: (1) There is trepidation about using new technologies in the classroom, (2) teachers still want to support collaborative learning when possible, (3) teachers want to be included in the design of new technologies, and (4) teachers want the ability to customize the technology interface for their classrooms. 


Race, Racial Context, and Perceived Discrimination in the School Workplace

Team: Jennifer Nelson (EPOL), PI; Katrina Hasan Hamilton, (EPOL), Graduate Student; Rachel Fish (NYU), External Consultant

Priorities: Developing Novel or Modified Research Methods

Recent heightened awareness of racial injustice has prompted organizations to commit to improvements in diversity and inclusion. This project engages research on perceived discrimination in the context of employee-manager relationships. We know the manager is of central importance in creating diverse and inclusive environments, but less about how structural environmental factors – such as the racial composition of the workplace and the manager’s race – may generate differences in perceptions across organizational contexts. We investigate how a manager’s potentially racially discriminatory action around “group busting” – i.e., asking employees to refrain from affiliating at work with their racial in-group – affects whether employees perceive that their manager is threatened by their racial group, sees their racial group as a negative influence, and wants to make racial minority employees comfortable. Using mixed-methods data from an experiment, we consider how racial composition and manager race moderate these employee perceptions. We find that racial composition, manager race, and group-busting each independently and additively affected Black employees’ perceptions of discrimination. Meanwhile, White employees’ perceptions of discrimination were not affected by contextual factors. An implication of these findings for research and practice is the need for contextually-informed approaches to diversity and inclusion in the workplace.


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