Jeffrey Alan Greene
Professional Statement (Research Only)
August 11, 2009
Background Information and Overview
I am an educational psychologist who focuses upon doing conceptually generative, methodologically rigorous, and practically influential research on student learning. In 2007 I graduated from a double-degree program at the University of Maryland that included a PhD in Educational Psychology and a Master of Arts degree in Measurement, Statistics, and Evaluation. I joined the faculty of the School of Education (SOE) at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill in the Fall of 2007. During my time on the faculty, I have been affiliated with the Educational Psychology, Measurement, and Evaluation (EPME; MA and PhD) and the Master of Arts in Teaching (MAT) programs.
I have been developing and integrating two lines of research that focus upon a) students’ self-regulated learning (SRL) and b) their beliefs about the nature of knowledge and knowing (i.e., their epistemic and ontological cognition; EOC). I am interested in how these phenomena interact to influence academic performance. I have made scholarly contributions to each literature base, publishing ten peer-reviewed journal articles on SRL and three peer-reviewed journal articles and two book chapters on EOC. I am also co-editing, with Roger Azevedo, a special issue on SRL for Educational Psychologist in which I will publish two more articles, one of which involves the influence of EOC on SRL. I have seven SRL and/or EOC manuscripts either under review or in preparation1. I have authored over 30 papers that were presented at national and international conferences. I am currently on the editorial boards of two journals and perform ad-hoc reviewing for nine other journals and four professional organizations. I have submitted 16 grant proposals and successfully obtained over $100,000 in grant money as either sole Principal Investigator or co-Principal Investigator.
Educational psychology can be rightly credited for numerous advances in the understanding of how learning occurs. Yet, it is also the case that the field has lagged in its investment in research that attempts to influence learning in a positive manner (Berliner, 2006). While maintaining literacy in current theory and scholarly thinking, and doing work that builds upon strong conceptual foundations, ultimately I judge my research in terms of whether it advances the field toward empirically-supported recommendations for practice. Another critique of the field appears in the Handbook of Educational Psychology, where Wright (2006) laments the lack of methodological and statistical rigor in educational research in general. I received excellent training in psychometrics, research design and analysis during my graduate program, and I have vowed to ground my work in the tenets, practices, and ethics that I learned then, and build upon now. In my work, phenomena and research questions drive decisions regarding design and analysis, not dogmatic allegiance to a particular methodology. I pay careful attention to the underlying assumptions, mechanics, and execution of my analyses, so that the inferences I draw from data are supportable. Evidence of the careful attention I pay to issues of theory, validity and applicability can be found in my research regarding SRL and EOC.
Past and Current Work in SRL
Students’ academic success often depends upon their ability to self-regulate their learning: to understand tasks, create an effective and efficient learning plan, utilize appropriate strategies, monitor and adjust their plans and strategies as needed, and reflect upon the efficacy of their entire learning process (Pintrich, 2000; Winne & Hadwin, 1998; Zimmerman, 2000). While different models of SRL abound, most outline an iterative and sometimes recursive process where students move through planning, learning, and reflection phases, monitoring and controlling their cognition, motivation, behavior, and context. SRL knowledge and skills are essential to developing a conceptual understanding of complex topics (Azevedo, 2005; Chi, 2005; Greene & Azevedo, 2009).
My work in SRL, begun under the training of Roger Azevedo at the University of Maryland, has focused upon studying how students self-regulate to learn complex science topics and gain historical understanding, specifically while using hypermedia environments. My conceptual foundations include work by Azevedo (2005), Winne and Hadwin (1998) and Zimmerman (2000), and in a theoretical review I explored the alignment of Winne and Hadwin’s model with contemporary educational research (Greene & Azevedo, 2007a). Methodologically, I study SRL using think-aloud protocols (Ericsson & Simon, 1993), which have been shown to be more informative than notoriously unreliable self-report measures used in other research on SRL (Winne & Jamieson-Noel, 2002). By asking students to think-aloud while learning, I am able to dynamically track the decisions students make regarding what processes to enact as well as their SRL processing, i.e., when and how they are making these decisions. I coordinate these process data with product data such as pretest and posttest scores to determine how SRL processes are associated with superior academic performance, as captured by declarative and conceptual knowledge measures that have been shown to have strong psychometric properties (Greene, Costa, Roberston, Pan, & Deekens, under review).
My empirical work has demonstrated that the frequency and quality of SRL processing is associated with learning from pretest to posttest, both in homogenous samples (Greene & Azevedo, 2007b) as well as between groups expected to differ a priori (Greene, Moos, Azevedo, & Winters, 2008). However, the sheer number of SRL processes we have identified leaves little power for examining the predictive utility of these activities in comparison to one another. Thus, I proposed a reconceptualization of our measures of SRL to focus upon the types of processing enacted (i.e., what I call “macro-level SRL processing”), rather than the specific examples of each type (Greene & Azevedo, 2009). I examined whether the frequency of macro-level SRL process use was predictive of the acquisition of deep conceptual understanding. The results showed that above and beyond the influence of all other predictors, students who enacted more monitoring activities were also more likely than their peers to display deep conceptual understanding at posttest. This study contributed to the literature by demonstrating a new method of modeling SRL to allow for more power in and insight from predictive analysis designs, as well as providing support for the prominent role of monitoring in many models of SRL.
I have continued studying SRL at UNC through work in my Cognition and Learning Lab. As a part of this lab, I have trained five graduate students to reliably collect, score, and code both conceptual understanding data and SRL think-aloud protocols (e.g., Greene, Costa et al., under review). We have collected these data from 170 participants to analyze how students’ implicit theories of intelligence (Dweck & Leggett, 1998) influence their self-regulatory processes, and subsequent academic performance. The results of this study indicate that self-beliefs (e.g., implicit theories of intelligence, EOC) do influence SRL processing, and that the amount of SRL processing multiplies the positive effects of prior knowledge, and ameliorates the negative effects of maladaptive self-beliefs upon learning. We have presented this research at AERA and currently have a manuscript under review with the Journal of Educational Psychology. In addition, I secured an internal grant, along with my co-PI Dr. Cheryl Mason Bolick, to transfer this research design to the domain of history through a research project on high-school students’ self-regulation while learning with a digital library. In that project we found that the frequency of SRL planning processing is associated with knowledge acquisition (Greene, Bolick, & Robertson, accepted for publication).
In summary, my work has contributed to the field’s conceptual understanding of SRL, the means by which it can be measured and modeled, and how it relates to academic success. My research has been published in prominent educational psychology and research journals that are read by a diverse audience of scholars. For instance, my review of Winne and Hadwin’s work (Greene & Azevedo, 2007a) was published in the Review of Educational Research, which has an acceptance rate of 15% and is ranked #1 out of 112 educational research journals with an impact factor of 3.361 according to Thomsen Reuters Journal Citation Reports. My empirical study of group differences in SRL (Greene, Moos, et al., 2008) and our study of historical understanding and SRL (Greene, Bolick, et al., accepted for publication) was or will be published in Computers & Education, which has an acceptance rate of 23% and is ranked #6 among education research journals with an impact factor of 2.190. Likewise, my work on macro-level SRL processes (Greene & Azevedo, 2009) was published in Contemporary Educational Psychology, which has an acceptance rate of 12% and is ranked #13 among educational psychology journals with an impact factor of 1.408. My work has begun to influence other researchers, as shown by the fact that Zimmerman (2008) cited the methodology described in Greene and Azevedo (2007b) as a promising means of capturing SRL. Also, my work on macro-level SRL processing (Greene & Azevedo, 2009) resulted in a Graduate Student Research Award by the Studying and Self-Regulated Learning Special Interest Group of the American Educational Research Association. Finally, I am excited to have been asked to contribute a chapter to an upcoming issue of New Directions for Teaching and Learning on SRL and hypermedia (Greene, Moos, & Azevedo, in prep). This chapter will allow me an opportunity to focus on how SRL research can be used by educational practitioners in the classroom.
The implications of my work are clear: SRL knowledge and skills are essential to acquiring deep conceptual understanding of complex topics in science and history. One reason why students may not enact SRL processing is that they have maladaptive beliefs about the nature of knowledge and knowing (Hofer & Pintrich, 1997). The future of my work lies in integrating SRL research with my work on EOC, and investigating how interventions based upon this research can influence classroom performance and understanding.
Past and Current Work in EOC
Scholarship into students’ beliefs about the nature of knowledge and knowing is often called personal epistemology research (Hofer & Pintrich, 1997; Perry, 1970), but I believe the terminology epistemic and ontological cognition (EOC) most accurately and completely captures the phenomena (Greene, Azevedo, & Torney-Purta, 2008; Murphy, Alexander, Greene, & Edwards, 2007). Semantics aside, despite the dramatic increase in interest and scholarly work on EOC over the last 40 years, there remains little consensus regarding the constructs under study, how they can be validly measured or described, or how practitioners can operationalize this area of research to foster student learning (Hofer, 2004). Nonetheless, the implicit assumption in personal epistemology research is that students’ beliefs about what knowledge is and how it is determined exert a “quiet but powerful” (Alexander, Murphy, Guan, & Murphy, 1998, p. 97) influence upon what students learn, and how they learn it. In Greene (2009), I tested this assumption in a study of university faculty member’s ratings of students displaying various kinds of EOC. I found support for the contention that to be successful, students must display “sophisticated” (Schommer, 1990) EOC, including critically examining what they learn, reflecting whether it coheres with prior knowledge, and utilizing domain-specific criteria to determine its quality. Conversely, students with “naïve” EOC act as mere vessels, passively committing information to memory without the kind of inquiry necessary to sort knowledge from speculation, or construct coherent, accurate models of our complex world.
Integrating work from educational psychology, developmental psychology, and philosophy, my model of EOC (Greene, Azevedo, et al., 2008) is major step forward for the field because it directly answers Hofer’s (2001) call for “an integration of ideas from multiple models: an identifiable set of dimensions or beliefs, organized as theories, progressing in reasonably predictable directions, activated in context, operating as epistemic cognition” (p. 377). While a full description of my model is beyond the scope of this statement, the strengths of my model are that it a) provides a parsimonious integration and expansion of developmental and multidimensional theories of personal epistemology, b) models development that occurs prior to college age, addressing a common criticism of many other models of personal epistemology (Chandler, Hallett, & Sokol, 2002; Hofer, 2008), c) describes how beliefs can vary at domain-specific and more general levels, d) emphasizes multiple means of justification, which better aligns with the focus of philosophical epistemology (Plantinga, 1993; Pollock & Cruz, 1999; Williams, 2001), and e) is composed of claims that are directly testable using quantitative measurement and analysis techniques. The significance of my model for the field is illustrated by the fact that it was published (Greene, Azevedo, et al., 2008) in the top conceptual journal in my field, Educational Psychologist (which has an acceptance rate of 18.9% and is ranked #2 out of 42 educational psychology journals with an impact factor of 3.600). In an email from the editor, I was told, “You should be very proud. You are only one of two people to publish an article out of their dissertation in EP during my editorship” (Dr. Gale Sinatra, personal communication, May 1, 2008).
An empirical test of the adequacy of my conceptual model and its predictive validity (Greene, Torney-Purta, & Azevedo, accepted for publication) will be published in the APA flagship empirical journal in my field, the Journal of Educational Psychology (which has an acceptance rate of 16% and is ranked #3 out of 42 educational psychology journals with an impact factor of 2.903). I have also co-authored a book chapter (Greene, Torney-Purta, Azevedo, & Robertson, in press) on the development of the quantitative instrument I used in this research, and I am currently doing qualitative work with middle-school students, high-school students, and university faculty to inform revisions of both my conceptual model and instrument (Greene & Dellinger, in prep).
The focus of my future work is the integration of models of SRL and EOC into testable interventions designed to foster students’ conceptual understanding in science and history. While calls to integrate EOC and SRL date back to over ten years ago, very little progress has been made (Hofer, 2004b; Muis, 2008), with no attempts to jointly address these phenomena through classroom interventions. Currently I have a National Science Foundation Faculty Early Career Development Program proposal under review that would involve me spending the next five years of my career developing and implementing classroom interventions that leverage my work in SRL and EOC to promote high school students’ science understanding. I have received a one-year Spencer Foundation Teaching, Learning, and Instructional Resources Area of Inquiry grant to do similar research to the Career proposal, but focusing on an SRL intervention with undergraduates. I am also working with Dr. Cheryl Mason Bolick to extend our work on SRL and historical understanding. The journal Educational Psychologist has accepted a proposal by Roger Azevedo and I to guest edit a special issue on SRL, and within that issue I am publishing an article on how EOC and SRL can be studied within hypermedia environments (Greene, Muis, & Pieschl, under review, scheduled for publication in December, 2010). Finally, I was honored to be asked by P. Karen Murphy and Patricia Alexander to co-author a chapter with them in the new American Psychological Association Educational Psychology Handbook on the past, present, and future of the field (Murphy, Alexander, & Greene, in prep).
I firmly believe that my work must be judged based upon three criteria: conceptual contribution, methodological rigor, and practical influence. My research to this point has strengthened and expanded the conceptual foundations of SRL and EOC research. My training and experience have provided me with the skills, knowledge, and ability to conduct research with methodological rigor. Regardless of whether or not my grant proposals are funded, my intentions are to work with North Carolina school districts to situate my research within the classroom context to help students succeed. To do this, I must partner with these constituencies to determine how issues of SRL and EOC play out in their classrooms, altering my models and developing interventions that are responsive to the actual needs of students and educators. I plan to heed Berliner’s (2006) words and determine how my research can be relevant for educators, and what I can do to help them foster student success.
In addition to the Graduate Student Research Award mentioned previously, I was honored to be part of the team that won the 2008 Outstanding Article of the Year from the Association of Educational Communications and Technology (for Azevedo, Moos, Greene, Winters, & Cromley, 2008).
Grant Writing Activities
Given the resource-intensive nature of my research, and my desire to fund my graduate students’ education, I have endeavored to obtain grant money. As either a principal or co-principal investigator I have successfully solicited $102,886 of grant money from sources within UNC and the Spencer Foundation. This money has been used to fund graduate students and my own summer efforts, and to obtain equipment to execute five separate research studies. In addition to the NSF proposal mentioned previously, I have a proposal under review with APA to fund additional materials for an upcoming study on an SRL intervention. Finally, among the eight grant proposals submitted but not funded, I was a co-principal investigator on the National Research Center on Rural Education Support proposal to the Institute of Education Sciences.