Researcher-author on teacher ‘inquiry’ tapped for elite UF professorship

University of Florida education professor and best-selling author Nancy Fichtman Dana, recognized nationally for her research and books on novel strategies in school reform and professional development for educators, has […]

University of Florida education professor and best-selling author Nancy Fichtman Dana, recognized nationally for her research and books on novel strategies in school reform and professional development for educators, has been named a UF Research Foundation Professor for 2012-2015.

Dana, a professor in the College of Education’s School of Teaching and Learning, is one of 33 UF faculty scholars selected for the prestigious posts. The University of Florida Research Foundation awards the professorships annually to tenured faculty who have a distinguished record of research and a strong research agenda that is likely to lead to continuing distinction in their fields. The three-year award includes a $5,000 annual salary supplement and a one-time $3,000 grant to support their research.

Dana is one of the nation’s top scholars in the field of “practitioner inquiry” or action research, a novel approach to professional development for teachers, principals and other school administrators.  The process involves educators assessing their own practices, and then sharing what they learn with their peers to foster “whole school” improvement and enhanced student learning.

“Teachers are in the best position to identify problems in the classroom and find workable solutions. Rather than having outsiders come to schools and tell them how to fix their problems, we’re encouraging schools to take charge of their own professional development,” Dana said. “We coach them on becoming more reflective, analytical and critical of their own teaching, and then taking action to improve their classroom practices.”

“This self-reflecting and sharing process,” she adds, “allows schools to improve from within.”

Dana has coached the action research of thousands of educators from school districts across the state and nation, and has published eight books and more than 50 journal articles and book chapters on teacher and principal professional development and practitioner inquiry.

Two of her books—guides to classroom research and coaching inquiry-based learning communities in schools, respectively—were best sellers. The latter was chosen 2008 Book of the Year by the National Staff Development Council.  She recently published an electronic version of her 2010 book, “Powerful Professional Development: Building Expertise Within the Four Walls of Your School.”

Her publisher, Corwin Press, has an author’s website for Dana at:

Dana’s research on practitioner inquiry forms the core of the college’s innovative, on-the-job Teacher Leadership for School Improvement graduate degree program, which the Association of Teacher Educators cited as the 2011 Distinguished Program in Teacher Education.

“Dr. Dana is an exceptionally productive scholar and she continues to probe the possibilities and impact of practitioner inquiry, extending her work to special education teachers and the use of the latest Web technologies,” said Elizabeth Bondy, director of UF’s School of Teaching and Learning.

Dana is working with UF education colleagues Cynthia Griffin (in special education) and Stephen Pape (mathematics education) to develop and evaluate an extensive online professional development program for third through fifth grade teachers focused on the teaching and learning of math. Their work is funded by a $1.5 million grant from the federal Institute of Education Sciences.

Dana has a doctorate in elementary education from Florida State and master’s and bachelor’s degrees from State University of New York at Oswego. In 2009, the New York Association of Colleges for Teacher Education and the New York Association of Teacher Educators dually presented Dana with the New York Teacher Impact Award.

Dana joined UF’s education faculty from Penn State in 2003 and directed UF’s Center for School Improvement through 2010.  She received the national ATE organization’s Distinguished Research in Teacher Education Award in 2005.

More recently, she has helped the college’s Lastinger Center for Learning redesign professional development programs for several Florida school districts, with practitioner inquiry at the core.

She said her future research activities will focus on gauging the effectiveness of practitioner inquiry on K-12 virtual school educators, and on helping general and special education teachers use action research to meet the mathematical learning needs of all students, including those with disabilities.



   SOURCE: Nancy Dana, professor, UF College of Education,; 352-273-4204

   WRITER: Larry Lansford, director, news and communications, UF College of Education;; 352-273-4137