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Research at Falk School

Conducting and participating in educational research is one of Falk’s core missions as a university-affiliated laboratory school.  We collaborate with departments across the University of Pittsburgh as well as with other partner institutions of higher education. By participating in and/or sponsoring research projects, teachers at Falk School engage in regular examination and refinement of their pedagogy and instructional practices. Research helps us to better understand how students learn and aids us immensely in our growth as educators.   

Research is woven into our students’ and teachers’ experience from a variety of perspectives during their time at Falk.  By participating in research studies, both Falk adults and Falk children gain exposure to a broad range of research questions relevant to their own lives, and some of the methods used to answer those questions.  Students are guided in the use of research to answer their own questions, beginning with observations and curiosities on the playground or classroom in the earliest years, and leading to formal research projects in science and language arts in middle school.  See examples of both on our current and past research projects.

Considerations made when evaluating proposals for research collaboration at Falk include:

Does the study align with Falk’s educational philosophy? It is expected that the general research question of a study will be consistent with the principles of Progressive education, and that any interventions and assessment instruments are consistent with our pedagogical approaches.  We are invested in both pursuing novel research and providing the best learning environment for our children, albeit always within the broad framework of Progressivism; we appreciate the flexibility of research partners as we work together to make adjustments to proposed work, when and where appropriate.

Is the proposed work realistic and achievable? Falk’s teachers and students are accustomed to and remarkably flexible about trying new approaches and adjusting classroom routines as part of research investigations, and can accommodate studies both on an “opt-out” basis in the classroom and an “opt-in” basis in our after-school program.  There are limitations on the number of classroom hours, educator time, and facility space that may not make it possible to engage in some collaborations.  This can be particularly true toward the end of any given school year.

How will Falk (namely Falk students and teachers) benefit and learn from the collaboration? Falk School firmly believes in the value of research in furthering our understanding of teaching and learning.  In our research partnerships, we look for collaborators who will consider classroom teachers to be critical partners in the process.  While all studies are different, it is anticipated that collaborations involve Falk educators to a significant degree or otherwise recognize the contribution of the School to the study.  Falk’s preference is for educators to serve as co-investigators or senior staff where appropriate.  It is also preferable for researchers seeking to partner with Falk to recognize the use of the School’s spaces and educator time through formal incorporation into the budget of a project.  Because students are a key part of research conducted at Falk, we ask that the study team provide a presentation of the study--for example, in a poster or flyer--that can be shared with students and their families.

As the school functions as a department of the University of Pittsburgh’s School of Education, all research studies conducted at the School must be approved by the Pitt IRB; Falk can help with this process for studies proposed by researchers without Pitt affiliation.  

For questions or to submit a request for research collaboration, please contact a research co-chairperson, Ms. Leah Northrop, Dr. Jeff Suzik, or Dr. Laura Tomokiyo.