Hanna Dumont’s research agenda can best be described as the study of educational inequality from a psychological perspective. She studies the micro-level processes in families and schools that lead to differences in students’ cognitive and motivational development as a function of social background. She focuses on three main areas. First, she investigates whether family processes and parental behavior can explain why children from privileged families are doing better academically. Her second research area focuses on how secondary school tracking perpetuates educational inequalities. Finally, she investigates whether and how educational inequalities can be reduced through the practice of adaptive teaching.
What have I achieved during my fellowship?
During my Jacobs Fellowship, I mainly focused on two topics: First, I studied the role of schools for educational inequalities. More specifically, I conducted secondary data analyses using large-scale assessment studies to analyse how secondary school tracking and the student body composition affect students’ cognitive and motivational development. For example, together with Douglas Ready, Professor of Education and Public Policy at Teachers College at Columbia University, I was able to show that elementary school students learn less in schools with higher percentages with African and Hispanic Americans. Second, I started a new line of work on adaptive teaching. After writing and publishing two conceptual papers on adaptive teaching, I developed a tablet-based experience-sampling instrument to measure the degree to which teachers’ instruction is adapted to students’ needs in their classroom, called “adappt”. I conducted a small pilot study showing that students who were taught more adaptively were more motivationally and cognitively engaged during class. On a more general note, the fellowship greatly allowed me to strengthen my international network by attending conferences in the US, Canada, UK and Japan and by organizing several research visits from international scholars to Germany.
My plans for the future
My immediate plan for the future is to use the instrument “adappt” in a larger study with more than 40 classrooms in order to analyse the effectiveness of adaptive teaching in terms of supporting children’s cognitive and motivational development. My long-term goal is to study whether and how adaptive teaching can reduce educational inequalities.