UF Foundation selects education professor for research award

Education professor Mary Brownell says the $25,000 UF Foundation Term Professorship Award will allow her to develop ways of improving the practices of new teachers and interns, especially for teaching students with disabilities.


August 22, 2016



Mary Brownell

Mary Brownell

The University of Florida Foundation has selected education professor Mary Brownell to receive one of just two grants given annually to university faculty members to advance their critical research projects.

Brownell, a leading scholar and policy expert in special education and teacher preparation, said the $25,000 UF Foundation Term Professorship Award would allow her to develop ways of improving the practices of new teachers and interns, especially for teaching students with disabilities.

UF created the special three-year award in 2013 to support Florida’s overall goal of becoming a preeminent global university by addressing complex societal issues. It is given annually to two research professors.

Brownell said the award would help her work on two related projects.

First, she and her research assistants will develop a digital assessment tool to allow faculty members to better evaluate the learning opportunities education students have when they work as teaching assistants in K-12 schools.

“The problem is that we assume school-based experiences improve teaching. Yet, we really do not know what it is about these that make them effective,” Brownell said. “If we are going to improve teaching, we need to better understand the aspects that work best.

“With this assessment tool you’ll be able to examine the best practices and link those back to teacher and student performance.”

Secondly, she wants to work with education technology colleagues to tap virtual technology in a fresh way to improve teacher practice. This would involve the use of video and simulations of specific practices of effective teachers.

She said such tools are underused in the education field though they are becoming widespread in training students in other professions, such as medicine, nursing and information sciences.

Brownell said she felt honored to receive the highly competitive award, for which she was recommended by the College of Education’s research advisory committee. But perhaps just importantly her selection shines a light on the College of Education.

“Education sometimes doesn’t get the attention and respect that it deserves, not only nationally but locally,” Brownell said. “Putting a spotlight on the college could be the nicest part of the award.”

Brownell joined the University of Florida faculty in 1990 and has a lengthy list of accomplishments, including publishing more than 100 scholarly works and securing $42 million in federal grants to fund education research. She directs the college’s CEEDAR Center to improve the preparation of teachers and leaders working with students with disabilities. It was launched with a record $25 million grant from the U.S. Department of Education. CEEDAR is short for Collaboration for Effective Educator Development, Accountability and Reform.

Source: Mary Brownell, 352-273-4261
Writer: Charles Boisseau, 352-273-4449