There is a gap between those researching practices in education and those implementing that research (teachers). This gap doesn’t really serve anyone and only adds to the disconnect between researchers and classroom teachers. Both ‘sides’ would greatly benefit from listening to the other. A teacher is a veritable treasure trove of expertise. Why would those conducting experiments to better education not want that important experience to drive and shape their research? A researcher’s knowledge of proper experimentation and understanding of outcomes could only stand to benefit the classroom teacher.
This series (Ask A Researcher) is my attempt to close that gap a bit. By providing an opportunity to know a little more about those conducting the research, I hope teachers may feel a little more at ease with reading research articles and writing to those conducting the research…asking questions, seeking clarification, providing assistance. This obvious partnership could really improve both research/experimentation, classroom instruction, and education, overall.
Dr. Regan A. R. Gurung is Professor of Psychological Science at OSU where he has been since 2019 after 20 years at the University of Wisconsin, Green Bay. A social psychologist by training, his research encompasses social, health, and pedagogical psychology. He is the co-author/co-editor of 15 books. He is honored to have won numerous teaching awards such as the American Psychological Foundation’s Charles L. Brewer Award for Distinguished Career in Teaching Psychology, The national Council for the Advancement and Support of Education’s Wisconsin Professor of the Year, and the University of Wisconsin System Regent’s Teaching Award. He is a past President of the Society for the Teaching of Psychology (APA Division 2), President of Psi Chi, the International Honor Society in Psychology and is the founding Co-Editor of APA’s journal Scholarship of Teaching and Learning in Psychology. He is currently Co-Chair of the APA General Psychology Initiative. (http://regangurung.com/curriculum-vitae-2/)
Without further ado, let’s ask a researcher:
1. What is the focus of your research?
I have two main streams of research influenced by my training as a social/personality psychologist. I work on ways to reduce sexism and prejudice (https://liberalarts.oregonstate.edu/sps/asc-lab) but more relevant to your series, on ways to improve teaching and learning.
In particular, I focus on the individual differences that influence teaching and learning and work on increasing the methodological rigor of pedagogical research. I want to increase robust work done in classroom settings, coordinate multi-site research, and facilitate the sharing of materials, data, and findings (see http://hippr.oregonstate.edu/)
2. What are you currently working on?
I enjoy having a good blend of active empirical research in progress as well as larger scale writing projects.
From an empirical project standpoint, I am analyzing data on pandemic learning and teaching looking at what pedagogical techniques worked better than others and what individual differences and student behaviors predicted better learning outcomes. The data comes from over 600 students who took Intro Psych. Some fascinating results on how preferences for online learning and the extent to which instructors used synchronous versus asynchronous activities influenced learning and even general outlook on education.
A bigger project is the APA Introductory Psychology Initiative (https://www.apa.org/ed/precollege/undergrad/introductory-psychology-initiative/). We are finalizing a manuscript reporting on what near 1000 instructors of intro psych do in their classes and what works well. There are also numerous associated studies related to this where we are looking at the effects of modifying instruction and course design.
From a writing standpoint I am working on a student-focused book translating cognitive science into practical strategies that are actually tested and used by students. This is a lot of fun to write and I am working with John Dunlosky on this Study Like A Champion project due out early next year. I am also working on a book for faculty at primarily teaching institutions (with Pamela Ansburg of Metropolitan State in Denver and Mark Basham of Regis College), and a new take on Research Methods in Psychology.
3. What work have you done that you believe most applies to the classroom?
Most of my pedagogical work is based in, and relates to the classroom. It all started when I found that students who used key terms more actually did worse on exams, what I like to call Dangerous Detours (Gurung, 2005). This line of work was replicated a few times and has many implications for how students should study. A number of my publications have clear cut practices for how students should study. I am also very interested in testing the best way to use Open Educational Resources (OERS). My first major study on over 4000 students highlighted some key limiting factors and I am currently testing the utility of an OER based textbook in Intro Psych. Most recently, I did a multi-site quasi-experimental study (with Kate Burns, Gurung & Burns, 2019) where we tested how high and low levels of bother repeated practice and spaced practice influence objective student grades. This work has significant implications for how instructors require quizzing, a topic I have explored a lot.
4. What do teachers need to know about being a researcher as it relates to education?
Learning is based on a number of different factors. Do not feel disheartened if a lot of your effort does not bring on change, do not give up and try varying something else. The classroom is not a lab so do not expect a lab study’s findings to directly work. Likewise, contextual factors – you, your setting, your students – are enough to change the outcomes of a study.
5. What can teachers do to work with the research community?
Be open to collaboration. If you are willing to have your classroom be a site for research (even if you are not trained in doing it) sign up to be on the participant pool of HIPPR and explore ways to collaborate (http://hippr.uwgb.org/page-2/)
Dr. Gurung is a huge inspiration for me as a teacher of AP Psychology. His resources and positive attitude have definitely improved my teaching and my classroom. In particular, the APA Introductory Psychology Initiative is a project I am very excited about.
So, what can you do? If you’re a teacher, simply write an email of gratitude or inquiry to an author. It’s that easy. You’ll probably be pleasantly surprised how appreciative they are. If you’re a researcher, find classroom teachers on twitter or just email a local school. I assure you, we’d love to be included in the process.
Create the relationship. Close the gap. Improve education.
Are you a researcher interested in being featured in this series? Please feel free to contact me.