Blue ribbon set against a gray background

Six CEHD faculty awarded Spencer Grants

Six College of Education & Human Development faculty members have received grants from the Spencer Foundation, which supports high-quality investigation of education through its research programs.

Their research projects will address a range of issues facing educators today, from the effects of students grading each other’s work to the connections between teacher beliefs and writing instruction and assessment.

Assessing early education in Atlanta Public Schools

Gary Bingham

Gary Bingham

Headshot of Kevin Fortner

Kevin Fortner

Dr. Nicole Patton-Terry

Nicole Patton Terry







Professor Nicole Patton Terry, Assistant Professor Kevin Fortner and Associate Professor Gary Bingham received a $400,000 grant to assess the state and quality of early education in Atlanta Public Schools.

Their project, entitled, “Partnership for School Readiness and Achievement from Age 3 to Grade 3,” will focus on collecting and analyzing school readiness and achievement data on students in preschool, PreK, and kindergarten through third grade classrooms.

From there, researchers will collaborate with the district and local early childhood education providers to create a database that links information on children from their preschool years through 3rd grade.

“The database will allow them to launch new studies that answer key questions about student achievement and equity,” Patton Terry, the project’s principal investigator, wrote in the grant proposal. “Answers to these questions will provide the opportunity to design research teams whose activities will focus on developing and implementing evidence-based practices to improve school readiness and K-3 achievement.”

Analyzing peer assessment and its impact on students’ learning

Hongli Li

Hongli Li

Instead of grading every assignment themselves, some teachers ask students to grade each other’s work using a rubric or an answer key – a process known as peer assessment.

Assistant Professor Hongli Li received a $50,000 grant to study the effect peer assessment has on learning and determine the factors that influence its effects.

“This analysis will reveal the general effect of peer assessment on learning and the conditions in which peer assessment might be more conducive to learning,” she wrote in her grant proposal. “It will also show researchers and classroom teachers how to more effectively use peer assessment as a learning tool, especially for students with disabilities and for English language learners.”

Incorporating writing instruction in preschool classrooms

Chenyi Zhang

Chenyi Zhang

Assistant Professor Chenyi Zhang received a two-year, $70,000 postdoctoral fellowship to incorporate writing instruction into routine activities in preschool classrooms that primarily serve low-income communities.

Zhang will help child care centers across metro Atlanta provide professional development workshops and on-site coaching for teachers, who will learn to infuse daily activities with children’s writing and literacy lessons.

“For example, writing will be incorporated into morning meeting time, when reading a morning message and discussing daily calendar activities,” he explained. “Including writing opportunities in routine activities is an effective approach because it adds little additional teaching and lesson planning burden and, because it occurs daily, provides an effective context for explicit and repeated teaching.”

Examining interactions among teacher beliefs, writing instruction and assessment

Nadia Behizadeh on a boat

Nadia Behizadeh

Assistant Professor Nadia Behizadeh received a $46,000 grant to better understand how teachers can provide more interactive, meaningful writing instruction to diverse groups of students.

For this project, she will examine interactions among teacher beliefs, writing instruction and writing assessment through case studies of six middle school teachers at three urban, public middle schools serving racially and socioeconomically diverse students.

This information will help Behizadeh determine what factors allow or prevent teachers from implementing what she terms powerful writing pedagogy, “a combination of  effective, authentic and critical writing instruction. Importantly, in powerful writing pedagogy, students are encouraged to write to address social injustice and attempt to have an impact through their writing.”

“Powerful writing instruction matters because students who learn to write powerfully have a major tool with which to shape the world. Yet in the U.S., most middle and high school teachers are not engaged in activities in which students’ compositions extend beyond the classroom and can impact others,” she explained in her grant proposal. “Exploring aids and obstacles to powerful writing pedagogy is a crucial first step in understanding how teachers can provide writing instruction that is engaging, rigorous and meaningful to racially and socioeconomically diverse students.”