Research Spotlight: Ashley MacSuga-Gage

Q & A with Ashley MacSuga-Gage, Ph.D., Clinical Assistant Professor in the School of Special Education, School Psychology, and Early Childhood Studies

What basic questions does your research seek to answer?

My research is focused on two main issues:

  1. What are the essential skills that teachers need to exhibit in order to effectively manage a classroom?
  1. What are the most efficient and effective ways to support teachers’ (both pre-service and in-service) development of evidence-based classroom management skills?

My background is in positive behavior supports (PBS) and focuses on developing classroom management skills using a proactive versus reactive approach. To date, I have conceptualized and focused on professional development for adults (i.e., pre-service and in-service teachers) utilizing a Multi-Tiered Systems of Support (MTSS) framework.

What makes your work interesting?

Changing adult behavior is difficult! However, if we are able to change adult (i.e., teacher) behavior, then we are able to accomplish two critical tasks. First, we change the way that students experience their classroom environment. By increasing teacher skill and understanding, multitudes of students benefit. That ripple effect of the impact of my work is both fascinating and exciting to me. I became an educator to change lives and by working with teachers I am able to touch the lives of more students than I could have ever dreamed. Second, many of the skills I focus on are simple (e.g., provide more behavior-specific praise to students or give them more opportunities to respond) and they work! Once a teacher is able to use the skills I teach him or her that teacher’s day improves. Further, the teacher learns that he or she has the power to truly change the classroom environment: this knowledge leads to empowerment.

What are you currently working on?

I am currently working on two studies related to the creation of tools to help support professional development and to identify teachers in need of classroom management support. The first tool involves the use of technology via the use of microphones and software to “observe” teacher’s use of evidence-based classroom management strategies. If this technology is successful, it could take the place of or augment in-person observation of teachers to determine levels of skill use and improvement. The second tool I am working to develop is the creation of a screening measure that utilizes existing student MTSS data already collected in schools to identify teachers in need of classroom management support.