Research and Scholarship

Q&A with the College of Education

JMU's Memorial Hall houses the College of Education.

SUMMARY: JMU Research & Scholarship explored the scholarly activities of the College of Education with Dean Phil Wishon.

By Benjamin Delp (’05 and ‘08), JMU Research & Scholarship 

JMU was once named the State Teachers College at Harrisonburg, and the academic roots of the institution developed out of the College of Education.  What early principles of teacher preparation remain relevant to this day?  How has the responsibility of educating teachers changed during your tenure at James Madison? 

The theoretical and philosophical tenets of Progressivism championed most notably by John Dewey from the early 1920s and well into the 1950s continue to inform educator preparation practice today.  These conceptual areas of focus include principles of democracy and civic engagement; active, hands-on learning (learning by doing); communities as living/learning laboratories (e.g. community engagement); involvement of parents, businesses, civic leaders and policy-makers in the life of the schools (and vice versa); preparing young citizens to be active in the civic life of the community; and implementing curriculum that is oriented toward preparation for careers and professions of the future. 

Since my arrival here at JMU 14 years ago, our responsibility for preparing future educators has focused helping teacher candidates understand and respond effectively to a number of social, economic, and civic-minded exigencies including: addressing inequities of wealth, power, opportunity, etc.; serving the needs of hard-to-staff schools and depressed communities; enabling candidates to support the learning and development of every learner; helping candidates acquire the knowledge and the determination to inspire the development of each student’s most sustainable self; empowering candidates with the means to harness technologies and the expressive arts to explore most creatively possible solutions to society’s most vexing issues; and instilling in candidates the will to promote issues of civility, social justice, and interpersonal respect worldwide and among all members of the human family.

It is rare to have an education policy discussion without referencing assessment.  How does the College of Education approach assessment to ensure student success in K-12 schools across the country and world?

Educator preparation is one of the most rigorously regulated of all professions.  Educator preparation programs must be approved by the Virginia Department of Education, and every successful program completer must pass a series of knowledge-based licensure exams upon program entry and again upon completion of their program.  Academic domains assessed on licensure exams include general content knowledge, Reading, Language, Mathematics, and Writing.  Virginia’s cut (passing) scores on these exams are among the strictest in the nation.  Moreover, every candidate for a teaching license and every licensure program must demonstrate the impact of performance on P-12 student learning.  In addition to these assessment measures, the overall Professional Education Unit undergoes a rigorous, high stake, massively complex, national accreditation review every seven years by the Council on Accreditation of Educator Preparation (CAEP, formerly NCATE).  JMU’s educator preparation programs are among the relative few in the nation which have been continuously accredited since 1954, when national accrediting efforts were first implemented.

What are some examples of research and scholarship being produced by the College?  Do faculty involve students in the process?

Sustainability Summit Series

In support of JMU’s vision to become a national model for the engaged university and as a convener of international scholars engaged in critical dialogue around current educational imperatives, the College of Education co-sponsored the third in a series of international sustainability summits: Cultivating the Globally Sustainable Self-- a series on Transformative Teaching, Training, and Learning in Research and Practice co-directed by Drs. Craig Shealy, Teresa Harris, Lee Sternberger, Michele Estes, and Phil Wishon. The 4-day conference brought people together from 19 nations around the world and from different professional areas of interest to explore the possibilities and challenges for transforming local and global educational, self-efficacy, socio-economic, research- and policy-driven sustainable community engagement systems. Co-hosted keynote speakers: Randy Newcomb, President and CEO of Humanity United, and John Paul Lederach, Director of Peace Accords Matrix and Professor of International Peacebuilding at the Kroc Institute for International Peace Studies, University of Notre Dame. (March 22-25, 2017). 

As an outgrowth of the college’s work with the Sustainability Summit, poverty studies-related themes were a major focus of the College of Education faculty and students and were explored through multiple and varied endeavors sponsored by the college including: 

  • Together with Harrisonburg City Schools and a coalition of Virginia city school systems, co-sponsoring and hosting the Institute on Best Practices for Equity, Poverty, and Diversity in November 2017.  Keynote speakers included Dr. Steve Staples, State Superintendent of Public Instruction; Dr. Chris Edmin, Associate Professor at Columbia University and author of For White Folks Who Teach in the Hood…and the Rest of Y’all Too; and Dr. Allison Sampson-Jackson, licensed Clinical Social Worker and expert on trauma-informed care.

  • Hosting esteemed humanitarian Jonathan Kozol for a series of salons spread out over a three-day period.

  • Hosting Dr. Paul Gorski, a nationally-recognized specialist in Poverty Studies for a day-long symposium.

  • Establishing the cross-disciplinary Poverty Studies Work Group to study the educational, health, and financial impact of poverty and to discuss ways that different units on campus can work together to respond more effectively to poverty-related issues in local and regional communities.

  • Engaging education students and faculty in an extensive Poverty Simulation exercise designed to help participants examine interdisciplinary solutions to challenges facing individuals impacted by poverty.

  • Redesigning ELED/ECED 510 Creativity in the Arts courses with a field placement for candidates to serve 25 children of refugee and immigrant families in a 3-week summer program CARE (Community with Creativity and Reading Education).  The program, developed by Drs. Holly McCartney and Dr. Kara Kavanaugh, provided children and their families with opportunities to learn English through the creative arts and literacy through first-hand experiences with local field trips.  The success of the program for ELED and ECED candidates was documented and led to several professional presentations and acceptance of a book chapter currently in progress. 

This work closely aligns with the Sustainability Summit Series as it investigates, analyzes and re-imagines educational systems in a more egalitarian way where students who are perceived as the least among us in terms of socio-economic status, ethnicity, diversity, and country of origin are afforded the very best educational opportunities.

Research includes: 

  • McCartney, H. (January 3-6, 2017). James Madison University Engaging the Refuge Community with C.A.R.E. (Creativity and Reading). Presentation at the International Conference in Education, Honolulu, HI.

  • McCartney, H. & Kavanagh, K. (April, 2017). James Madison University Engaging the Refuge Community with C.A.R.E. (Creativity and Reading). ACEI Summit on Educational Diplomacy. Washington, DC.

  • McCartney, H. (March 10, 2017). Engaging College Students with Refugee Families through C.A.R.E. Workshop presented at the Annual SECA conference. Biloxi, MS.

ILEP Program 

As one of only four universities, JMU CoE has won the prestigious U.S. Department of State International Leaders in Education Program (ILEP) grant five out of the last six years (2012-2018).

Nasaruni School for Maasai Girls (

As a faculty member in the ILEP program, Dr. Michelle Cude met and taught several teachers from Kenya. Born out of her friendship with ILEP fellows from Sub-Saharan Africa, Dr. Cude was invited to Kenya to work with schools in the local area.  She has spent the last five years working with teachers and students in Narok, Kenya.  Dr. Cude serves as the executive director of the Nasaruni School for Maasai Girls in Narok, Kenya. In this work, she is fully involved in all aspects of fundraising, strategic planning, local decision-making, organizational logistics, and domestic public relations. Following are several examples of student engaged learning: 

  • As director of the Future Social Studies Educators student organization, Dr. Cude has immersed her students in this service learning work, resulting in fundraisers such as Empty Bowls which benefitted the Nasaruni School.

  • Stemming from this work, Dr. Cude and her students presented their ideas about service learning at the 2017 Virginia Council of Social Studies conference.

  • Dr. Cude applied for and was awarded a U.S. Department of State Fulbright U.S. Scholar Grant.

  • As part of her Fulbright grant and Madison Trust funding, Dr. Cude is forming Madison Camp Kenya, creating opportunities for JMU students to have direct service learning opportunities associated with this partnership.

  • Dr. Cude collaborated with Engineering faculty Dr. Brad Striebig on his ENGR 360 course, Water in Africa, helping his JMU students to design a sustainable water system for the Nasaruni Academy and write the professional proposal for its production. These JMU students then worked with high school students at the Massanutten Regional Governor’s School to design a fluoride filter for the water system.

  • Additionally, Dr. Cude collaborated on a service learning project with Skyline Literacy in which her MSSE 470H methods students taught a 10-session citizenship class for local residents.

Housing and Food Scarcity in Native American Communities

Dr. Noorie Brantmeier’s work with Native American communities has spanned the last decade.  Dr. Brantmeier is considered a leading voice on the stubborn persistence of poverty in Native American Communities. She has always included her students in her consulting and scholarship.

In 2015/16, Dr. Brantmeier was tasked by the White House Rural Council, Administration for Children and Families and the American Academy of Pediatrics to serve as a coach and subject matter expert to the Rural IMPACT Initiative, a cross-agency effort to combat poverty and improve upward mobility in rural and tribal places. The Department of Health and Human Services announced a new demonstration project, Rural Integration Models for Parents and Children to Thrive (IMPACT), to help communities adopt a two-generation approach to addressing the needs of both vulnerable children and their parents, with the goal of increasing parents' employment and education and improving the health and well-being of their children and families. Dr. Brantmeier is the subject matter expert assisting the pilot site White Earth Reservation, MN in its efforts to address community-wide poverty.

In 2016/17, as step 2 of the project above, Dr. Brantmeier collaborated with the new Center for Indian Country Development and multiple federal agencies (the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, Rural Development, and the Minneapolis Federal Reserve) to co-plan a national convening and develop a digital story.  Dr. Brantmeier continued to design, develop, and implement a national research study to understand the Native food systems landscape for the Intertribal Agricultural Council--she is the lead researcher. 

In her HRD 485 undergraduate class, Dr. Brantmeier’s students served as consultants for a Native American non-profit located in Rapid City, South Dakota using distance technology and social media for communication. The course had a special focus on consulting with underserved communities, integrating diverse perspectives, using technology professionally, project management, and business communication.

Her recent scholarship in Native American studies is as follows: 


  • Brantmeier, N.K. & Oldman, V. J. (2017.) Building Cultural Bridges to Housing Counseling. Curriculum developed for the Rural Community Assistance Corporation and the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.

  • Brantmeier, N.K. (October 2016). A Digital Story: The Twenty-Year Retrospective of Native Homeownership. Center for Indian Country Development, Minneapolis, MN. Can be accessed from: Dr. Brantmeier conducted online focus groups, interviews, literature reviews, and data analysis over the course of four months to construct a timeline of homeownership integrating policy and key events culminating in a digital story.

Presentations (with first-generation college, African American/Native American graduate student -- Kendra Hall):

  • Brantmeier, N.K. & Hall, K. Y. (June 2017). Diversifying Engaged Student Learning in HRD: A Project-Based Case Study with a Native American Organization. Presented at the International Conference on Human Resource Development Research and Practice Across Europe. Lisbon, Portugal. (International Conference, June 2016).  (This is the first time Kendra Hall has traveled outside the US—funding, in the form of a scholarship, provided by the JMU CoE and CGE).

  • Brantmeier, N. K. (September 2016). Mortgage Lending in Indian Country. Center for Indian Country Development Convening. Scottsdale, AZ. (Regional Conference).

  • Brantmeier, N. K. (October 2016). Exploring the Training and Technical Assistance Needs of the Native Food System. Native Track at the Opportunity Finance Network Conference. Washington, DC. (National Conference).

Undergraduate Research Interest Group

Laura Desportes, EFEX, created the CoE Undergraduate Research Interest Group (URIG) in 2016, where CoE faculty work with students to develop research initiatives.  Together with faculty members Ray Rodriquez, Amanda Sawyer, Katie Dredger and Joy Myers, Dr. Desportes sponsored a series of fall meetings where students had the opportunity to develop professional relationships with faculty members, pursue interesting questions about education, present at conferences, compete for monetary research awards, gain an advantage for applying to graduate school and publish their written work.  Undergraduate research group activities included: 

  • An evening of Inquiry with In-Service teachers where current classroom teachers shared with 50 undergraduate students how they conduct research to find answers about to questions about their teaching practice.

  • 28 students participated in the CoE December Undergraduate Research Symposium. With faculty direction, students in EXED 401 and TESL 426 each selected individual research questions.  Students in EXED 200 investigated the topic “Measuring the Impact of Service Learning on Participating Students and Agencies and the Impact of Research on this Experience”.  Each student created a poster and presented his or her research at the symposium.

  • Amanda Mandy Kousen, under the direction of Dr. Laura Desportes, won the Virginia State VACTE excellence in student research award in Spring 2017 (Emotional Behavioral Disability Prevalence Trends in Virginia and Teacher Efficacy).

  • Robin Lauber, under the direction of Dr. Holly McCartney, has been selected for the National Conference on Undergraduate Research in April 2018.

Literacy Research

Several faculty engaged undergraduate students in their work on literacy as follows: 

  • Dr. Joy Myers collaborated with Dr. Judy Paulick of UVA to receive a $5000 4-VA grant from JMU and an additional $5000 from UVA for their project In Search of Effective Practices and Pedagogies in Elementary Writing Methods Courses in the Commonwealth. Joy also received a $5000 JMU Provost STAR award for Examining Changes in Novice Elementary Teachers’ Beliefs and Practices Related to Teaching Literacy.

  • Dr. Katie Dredger partnered with Fredericksburg Academy in a digital practicum. Now in its 8th year, this partnership allowed JMU students in READ472 to partner digitally with “Real World Readers.” This year, students read young adult literature with 8th-grade students and then discussed in a Google Classroom space as reading buddies. The 8th graders pick a current, award-winning young adult novel to read and their JMU buddy reads it too. The buddies use Google Hangout at the culmination of the project to talk about the book.

Educational Technology Research

Faculty engaged their students in the following technology research projects: 

Technology has transformed the way teachers teach and students learn.  Can you talk about the role of technology in K-12 education and how this role might evolve over the next decade?

A key difference you’ll see is that right now we’re still largely using technology to deliver content. It’s largely about presenting information. It’s high-quality information and interactive—we’re doing some good stuff. But a shift you’ll see down the road is that tech will be used less for presenting content and more as a tool to design and create and explore and connect to other learners, to experts around the world. It will be much more of a tool to enable new types of learning than it will be a tool for distributing content.

Former Director of the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Educational Technology Richard Culatta, responding to “What do you think the ed-tech landscape will look like in the future?”


Virtual and Augmented Reality

A student opens a book to what appears to be a page with a picture of the earth on it. Then, the student puts on a pair of special glasses and a three-dimensional image pops out at them. Now, instead of seeing a simple, flat image, they can see various landforms; look at a cross-section of the planet to see all of the various layers going down to the earth’s core. Picture a student walking through an art gallery and scanning a code next to a picture using a special app on their cell phone and then being able to watch a video of the artist speaking about their own work. This is all possible today because of a technology known as augmented reality. Apps and other educational devices act upon trigger images to create an augmented learning experience. Here’s something else to imagine: Middle school students in a rural classroom, more than 100 miles from the nearest major city are told that they will be spending the day touring a science museum. There are no buses to take them anywhere. Instead, the students are each given a pair of inexpensive virtual reality headsets that have been constructed largely from cardboard, and a glove. With just these two items they are able to virtually walk through the museum, page through books, watch presentations given by docents, and view any image they want from any angle. What does all of this mean for the classroom of the future? It means that geography and finance will cease being a barrier for teachers who want to give students access to enrichment material that can only currently be found outside of the school building. It also means that various learning styles can be accommodated by adding sound, video, images, and interaction to what used to be a text-based, two-dimensional world.


Game-based Learning

Growing up at a time when the world is connected by the internet, kids today seems to have very short attention spans. This is unsurprising, since their childhood revolves around YouTube, Facebook and smartphones that provide them with on-the-go 24-hours updates and the answers to all their queries through Google and Wikipedia.  To cater to such a fast-paced generation, schools will eventually abandon traditional teaching methods of rote learning to align themselves with the times. One way to achieve that is to use what had always been considered as a major distraction to learning – video games.  For example, a professor from the University of Washington Bothell teaches mathematics to her class by giving them the first-hand experience of learning through their motions which are captured by Kinect. Along with successful devices like Wii Remote and PlayStation Move, the motion-sensing technology is believed to be able to provide the necessary level of interactivity for students to feel more engaged with learning.


Cloud Computing

Cloud computing is buzzing these days and will most likely continue to change many aspects of our society, particularly education.  In the future classroom, students may just need an electronic device to access all their homework and all other learning resources in the Cloud. This means no more lugging heavy textbooks to school, and having constant access to reading materials as long as students have an Internet connection.  Such convenience will provide students the freedom to work on their projects or homework anytime and anywhere. The digital library is accessible even when the campus library is not.


Collaborative, Deep Learning

Learning science’s expanded viewpoint is uncovering new approaches to education. Research by Professor R. Keith Sawyer, a leading scientific expert on creativity and learning, emphasizes the power of technology to influence and enhance academia by providing experiences that lead to deep learning. These include allowing students to learn collaboratively, test out and redesign models, and articulate their knowledge both visually and verbally.

Imagine a classroom infrastructure that includes wireless technologies, remotely accessible switches and routers, and collaboration tools to create an “intelligent” environment for the invention of real-world Internet of Things (IoT) products, services, and experiences by students. Creation takes place in different venues, for example, in the classroom during project-based learning or alongside passionate technology peers via hackathons. Students model the networks they create in a simulator and prototype with cloud-based technology at home. Instructors are empowered with a customizable learning management platform while collaborating with peer instructors across the world.


While we are on the topic of forecasting, what are your expectations/vision for the College of Education?  What role will research, scholarship, and creative activities play?

My vision for JMU’s College of Education is that it invests the equity of its long-standing reputation as one of the premier professional educator preparation and agency/institutional leadership higher education entities in the country into championing the cause of the least, lost, and most needy of America’s citizens.  To make their concerns our concerns, and to prepare educators and leaders who are dedicated to creating and preserving sustainable communities across the U.S. and worldwide.  Creative inquiry, bold utilization of technologies, courageous imagining, and entrepreneurial thinking will be key components of education and leadership programs and initiatives that look at the future of communities, the nation, and the world through a lens that embraces opportunities for growth and renewal that uplift all humankind.

What is an exciting College of Education initiative or accomplishment that community members or even colleagues at JMU may be unaware of?

The college is on the threshold of embarking on the most transformational journey impacting professional educator preparation since the Civil Rights era: marrying our responsiveness to the need for equity of power, resource, voice, and opportunity across all segments of our population with the necessity of renewing professional programs that will help the Commonwealth and the nation confront the most severe shortage of teachers that the United States has faced in over two generations.

Back to Top

Published: Tuesday, January 30, 2018

Last Updated: Monday, February 1, 2021

Related Articles