Visiting Scholars R2Ed seeks to maintain ongoing dialogue and collaboration with prominent rural education researchers. To achieve this goal, scholars are invited to the Center for discussions with R2Ed research teams on topics such as technology-supported coaching, randomized control trials, and the measurement of implementation fidelity. Scholars also have the opportunity to deliver a formal presentation, conduct faculty and graduate student seminars on various rural education topics, and actively contribute to the research agenda of R2Ed.


Cathy CavanaughCathy Cavanaugh, Ph.D. | 
October 2011

Cathy Cavanaugh, associate professor of educational technology at the University of Florida's School of Teaching and Learning, participated in the National Center for Research on Rural Education's Creating Rural Connections Speaker Series in October 2011. Dr. Cavanaugh presented on "Evidence-Based Practices for Online Teacher Professional Development."

The presentation highlighted promising, online-based efforts to enhance the knowledge and practice of K-12 educators. Cavanaugh also provided specific guidelines, recommendations and examples for developers and facilitators of online professional development programs.

Cavanaugh's primary research interests include indicators of quality in online and blended education and equitable access to quality education through technology. She has conducted studies of classroom technology and professional development in Florida schools, effective practices in virtual schools, online professional development, and design of online and blended courses.

Cavanaugh has served as co-director of the Northeast Florida Science, Technology and Mathematics Center, as assistant director of the Florida Center for Instructional Technology, and as a classroom teacher in Florida and the Caribbean. She holds a bachelor's in education from the University of the Virgin Islands, a master's in education from the University of Central Florida, and a doctorate in curriculum and instruction from the University of South Florida.

Jim KnightJim Knight, Ph.D. | April 2011

The National Center for Research on Rural Education commenced its 2011 Creating Rural Connections Speaker Series with an April visit from Dr. Jim Knight, Research Associate with the University of Kansas Center for Research on Learning.

The presentation, "Leveraging Coaching for School Improvement: Theory and Practice of Instructional Coaching," focused on the form of teacher professional development that Knight has dedicated more than a decade to studying. Approximately 60 teachers, coaches and researchers attended.

Knight opened the presentation by discussing the difficulties and potential pitfalls of professional development efforts. Having interviewed many teachers over the years, he shared quotes from those who expressed frustration with the limitations and impracticality of traditional professional development workshops.

"What we see, again and again, is that a workshop, by itself, doesn't do much in terms of changing teaching practices," Knight said.

Knight then explained the process of developing a response to these frustrations – a response that would eventually become Instructional Coaching. That process began with the advent of the Partnership Learning Approach, a forerunner of Instructional Coaching that emphasized principles such as equality, choice, dialogue and reciprocity.

"It's my belief that we will never get the kind of schools we want unless the professional learning we [implement] creates this opportunity for a mutually humanizing conversation," said Knight, "[in which] all parties feel like they've been heard."

Though Partnership Learning improved teachers' comprehension of and engagement with professional development, Knight said participants often failed to implement the strategies they gleaned from it. This realization led him to develop Instructional Coaching, which emphasizes modeling, observation and teacher-directed goals to encourage buy-in from participants.

"For us, Instructional Coaching is a way of helping people learn proven practices," Knight said. "We're all about learning a practice to change beliefs [about teaching]."

After reviewing the essential components and demonstrated impacts of Instructional Coaching, Knight summarized efforts to continually refine and modify the approach according to feedback from coaches, teachers and students. He concluded by outlining plans for future publications and studies that will further evaluate and augment Instructional Coaching. A 20-minute question-and-answer session followed the presentation.

CicchinelliLouis Cicchinelli, Ph.D. | January 2011

R²Ed kicked off the Advances and Opportunities in Rural Education Research Speaker Series with a January visit from Louis Cicchinelli, executive vice president of Mid-continent Research for Education and Learning (McREL) and a member of R²Ed's National Leadership Advisory Board.

Dr. Cicchinelli opened his presentation, "Rural Schooling: Necessity is the Mother of Innovation," by discussing scholarly and everyday conceptions of rurality. After providing a background on McREL, he examined the need for quality rural education research and enumerated common topics addressed by rural scholars. He also delved into a recent co-authored meta-analysis, noting that much research classified as "rural" failed to truly address questions, issues, arguments or phenomena specific to rural communities.

In addition to reviewing practical limitations that have hindered rural research, Cicchinelli offered examples of creative approaches to overcoming such obstacles. He followed with an overview of reform priorities for rural schools and concluded with a potential rural research agenda focused on promoting quality teachers through policy studies, improving graduation rates with best practices, and ensuring equity for all rural students.