Q & A with Mary Bratsch-Hines, Ph.D., Senior Manager for Research and Evaluation in the Lastinger Center for Learning
What research are you currently working on?
I am currently working on several research projects, which generally fall in three overarching buckets. These projects include numerous colleagues with whom I collaborate at UF and at other institutions across the US.
Early childhood educator professional development:
- Massachusetts Early Care Support Organization (ECSO): The Lastinger Center has developed a professional development model (including communities of practice, courses, and coaching) designed to support early childhood leaders’ and educators’ use of distributed leadership and evidence-based practices to improve classroom quality and children’s development. I assist the ECSO team in collecting and analyzing data.
- Hillsborough Early Learning Network (HELN): The Lastinger Center is using another professional development model (including communities of practice and courses) designed to support early childhood educators’ use of evidence-based practices to improve classroom quality and children’s development. I assist the HELN team in collecting and analyzing data.
- Flamingo Early Learning: The Lastinger Center has developed several courses offered in English and Spanish aimed to improve the knowledge of early childhood educators in providing developmentally and culturally appropriate care for young children. I assist the Flamingo Early Learning team in collecting and analyzing data.
Elementary educator professional development:
- Flamingo Literacy Matrix: The Lastinger Center has developed a 300-hour literacy professional development program designed to help educators align their reading instruction to the latest research in reading. Educators who satisfactorily complete Flamingo Literacy Matrix can earn reading endorsement for the state of Florida. I assist the Flamingo Literacy Matrix team in collecting and analyzing data.
- Targeted Reading Instruction (TRI): My colleagues at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill developed a literacy professional development program designed to help educators apply reading research directly in their classroom through one-on-one implementation of TRI lessons. TRI has been tested in multiple randomized controlled trials and found to be effective in improving student decoding and reading comprehension. I am co-PI on a grant funded by the Institute of Education Sciences (IES) to test the long-term impacts of TRI.
- TRI + Flamingo Reading App: Colleagues at the Lastinger Center, College of Education, and UNC-Chapel Hill are transitioning the paper-and-pencil version of TRI to a digital application using a Lastinger product called the Flamingo Reading App. I am PI on a this IES grant, which includes the additional goals of rapidly improving student reading following the COVID-19 pandemic and taking the new App to scale so it can be used widely by schools across the country.
Impacts of prekindergarten and early elementary school
- Early Learning Network (ELN): In 2016, IES funded a national network of researchers to follow students from prekindergarten through fourth grade. I have been involved with collecting North Carolina ELN site data since the beginning of the project. Using exploratory analyses, we have examined potentially malleable factors that show promise in improving students’ educational experiences, including teacher-student racial/ethnic match, Spanish-English dual language programming, and classroom instruction and quality.
- ELN + School impacts: I am PI on an IES grant to add national school-level data to the student and classroom data collected at ELN sites. We are exploring the degree to which school achievement, school strain, and school organization of resources are associated with classroom quality and children’s developmental outcomes.
What is the broader impact of your research?
My research focuses on the enormous potential of teachers and schools to improve students’ learning and development. The provision of ongoing high-quality supports for in-service teachers is vitally important. The evidence base for effective instructional practices and strategies for engaging students continues to be refined. My colleagues and I aim to translate this evidence base into easy-to-implement practices that can make a real difference in how students succeed in school.
What other research topics are you interested in?
The educational system – like other systems in the US – typically underserves students of color. I am interested in understanding how we can reshape educational systems to better serve students of color. This includes using professional development to help teachers provide high-quality learning experiences for all students, researching the development and use of more equity-focused measures of teacher and school success, and understanding systems-levels improvements that could have more far-reaching impacts.