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ODU Graduate Wins Prestigious National Doctoral Dissertation Award

It's arguably the top doctoral student award for research in teacher education in the United States.

And this year, it has been won by an unassuming Navy veteran who earned both his master's and doctoral degrees through Old Dominion University's Darden College of Education.

Bill Reed will journey to Chicago this week to receive the American Association of Colleges for Teacher Education's 2009 Outstanding Dissertation Award.

Reed's work assessing the value of education versus professional development in the acquisition of teaching skills will be recognized during the AACTE's 61st Annual Meeting and Exhibits.

"Being chosen is beyond my wildest expectations," Reed said, adding that he hadn't planned to apply for the award, but was encouraged to by Darden College Dean Bill Graves.

"But his belief in my project to carry the torch and that the Darden College of Education might benefit from such an honor propelled me forward."

Graves isn't nearly as shy in talking about Reed's accomplishments.

"The AACTE is the organization of colleges for teacher education in the country," he said.

"It's the first time in 18 years that a dissertation from Virginia has won, and only the third time ever. The quality of the work is outstanding. The contributions of his adviser, Dr. John Ritz, were invaluable.

"He deserves the attention. It's a wonderful accomplishment."

Reed, who was in the Navy from 1965 to 1994, served on submarines as a cryptologist, on logistical ships and on various staffs around the world.

He received his master's degree in education in 1996 through ODU's Military Career Transition Program.

In conducting research for his doctoral dissertation, Reed wanted to find out what impact school leadership has on the development of teachers. He looked at the merits of teachers' professional development, as well as how their training and preparatory and graduate education influenced their capacity to develop formative assessment skills.

"Restated another way: if a teacher had time to participate in more professional development versus more specific education, which would be most cost-effective?" Reed explained.

The dissertation tested teachers' ability to instruct third graders in mathematics, thereby improving the students' achievement.

In testing teachers in the Norfolk Public Schools, Reed found that professional development contributed the most to the teachers' ability to instruct, followed by graduate education. Undergraduate topics did not appear to contribute as much to students' performance.

Reed said more expansive research needs to be done in this area, because it could demonstrate the best way to give teachers the tools they need to bring about optimal performance by students in the classroom.

Reed currently works as an assessment coordinator and psychometrician for the Norfolk Public Schools' Department of Strategic Evaluation, working to develop quarterly benchmark assessments.

Graves said the fact that Reed did the research for his groundbreaking dissertation entirely in the Norfolk Public Schools, "shows that not only world class research, but also world class teaching, can be done right here."

Reed will receive his award on Sunday, Febuary 8, as part of the Charles W. Hunt Lecture at the AACTE conference, which is being held at the Hyatt Regency Chicago.

This article was posted on: February 4, 2009

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