By Judy Nichols Mitchell
Dean, WSU College of Education
Washington State is a research university, a place where all faculty members are working to expand knowledge within their fields of expertise. Most people understand why it’s important for university faculty to do research in science or engineering, but many seem puzzled that we in the College of Education also engage in research. We do so for the same three reasons that science and engineering professors do. They are:
Research makes us better teachers of our university classes. Faculty members who conduct research in the subject matter they are teaching have a deep understanding of their topics. As a result, they are better able to convey the fine points and provide the most up-to-date information to their students. Plus, active researchers display an infectious enthusiasm. They make a topic—for example, the influence of technology on learning in schools—come alive for their students. It’s always more interesting to learn from someone who has done a study, rather than a person who has simply read about a study.
As researchers, we model an inquiry learning process for future teachers and other education professionals. Let’s say a researcher is striving to understand how children comprehend what they read. By continually asking questions and working to find the answers, the professor shows by example how to approach inquiry-based learning. That is the method that classroom teachers use to guide students in asking and answering their own questions. Actively involving children in their own learning is a hallmark of good teaching.
Research advances the knowledge base of the profession of education. Every year, more knowledge is accumulated through research by professors and their graduate students. As a result, we understand more today about leadership styles, counseling strategies, and physical education than we did in the past. We may never fully understand everything about cultural differences as they relate to learning, but we know much more than we did 10 years ago because of the research that has been published on that topic. It is one of the obligations of a research university to create knowledge on which future generations can build.
Some of the stories in this newsletter are about research under way at the College of Education. This is important work and we’re proud of our professors and our student researchers, both graduate and undergraduate.
Next time friends talk about the exciting discoveries of our scientists and engineers, tell them that important educational research is also improving lives. At the WSU College of Education, we know there is always more to learn.