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Mars Hill Professor Receives Award from the American Education Research Association
Dr. Jessica Van Cleave, assistant professor of education at Mars Hill College, has received an award from the American Educational Research Association for her dissertation research analyzing the effects of legislation like No Child Left Behind on the scope of educational research.
The American Educational Research Association’s Qualitative Research (SIG) Outstanding Dissertation Award recognizes dissertations that exemplify excellence in qualitative methodology related to educational research. Van Cleave will be recognized for receiving the award at the AERA annual meeting in San Francisco in April.
Van Cleave’s dissertation, titled Scientifically Based Research As a Regime of Truth: An Analysis Using Foucault’s Genealogy and Governmentality, analyzed whether definitions of “scientifically based research” originally developed for the Reading Excellence Act of 1999 and expanded for the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001, were so narrow as to effectively diminish the scope of research regarding effective educational methodology.
She said: “In No Child Left Behind and other similar legislation, the federal government determined that what happened in classrooms should be based on scientifically based research. That sounds really good. But what essentially happened was that the definition of what counted as science in educational research was very narrow and excluded a whole lot of really valuable findings. Furthermore, most of us realize that human beings are walking variables, so it’s difficult to narrowly define what constitutes effective research on their learning and behavior.”
In her research, Van Cleave used the work of French philosopher and social theorist Michel Foucault to postulate that the federal government’s definition of SBR as the only acceptable way of doing educational research had become what Foucault called a “regime of truth,” or a set of values that were unquestioned to the point that they smothered, rather than fostering, inquiry and conversation. She also examined how the issue was obfuscated when politics and rhetoric became entwined in the discussion regarding what constituted effective educational research.
She said: “Because this one idea of what counted as science in education was repeated in so many ways and taken up by so many organizations, it began to appear as if it were an accepted truth
-it was normal; it was natural; it had always been that way - when in fact, it was just one possible way of doing effective research.”
Van Cleave hopes to use her research for articles related to educational research. Her eventual goal is to author a book on the topic.