by Claire Miller
The “Mind the Gap” signs posted throughout British rail stations remind travelers to be aware of the gap between the train door and the station platform.
But this simple three-word message can take on a whole new meaning when applied to conducting educational research.
For Donna Mertens, professor in the Department of Educational Foundations and Research at Gallaudet University, the phrase “Mind the Gap” can be used to remind educators to be conscious of and courteous to the diverse populations they encounter in their research and teaching.
“We should be cognizant of the differential treatment and the gap that occurs when we’re talking about people who are deaf or disabled, people of different races and ethnicities, people with language barriers and other bases of discrimination that are present in our society,” Mertens told College of Education students, faculty and staff at the Feb. 8 Research Wednesdays. “I feel very privileged to have had the opportunity to learn how to use research for the purposes of social transformation.”
In her career, Mertens has lead professional development activities on research and evaluation for students who are deaf and hard of hearing in both national and international settings. She encourages fellow researchers to evaluate their research projects and methods to ensure they are being respectful of different cultural groups and bringing to light their experiences with discrimination to effect positive change.
“If we begin by prioritizing social justice and human rights and we appropriately involve community members in the research process, then we will increase the probability of social transformation as a result of our research,” she said. “We should be aware of the cultural groups we’re working with and the behaviors that are necessary in order to interact respectively with those groups. As researchers, we should challenge discrimination and oppression.”
The Research Wednesdays Speaker Series is designed to fulfill three goals: to provide a platform for explorations of new ways of conducting and disseminating educational research, to discuss new methods of mentoring doctoral students in an effort to enhance their development as researchers, and to fill a professional development need by providing access to cutting edge researchers at the state and national levels.
For more information on Mertens and the Research Wednesdays Speaker Series, visit http://education.gsu.edu/main/coe_events.htm.