At a time when many experts are pointing to the crucial need to fill research gaps in education, Karen Harris, EdD, wants her role as incoming editor of the Journal of Educational Psychology (JEP) to stretch beyond disseminating the best research on education to also steering more up-and-coming educators and psychologists into careers in research.
"We don't have the numbers of researchers that we need in some areas of educational psychology," says Harris. "The evidence shows that the shortage is even more extreme than we thought it was in some areas, and I am interested in finding ways to make the research and publication process less intimidating."
When she took the helm of the journal last month, Harris, a former associate editor of the journal and a professor in the department of special education at the University of Maryland, College Park, put a system in place to enable doctoral students around the country to gain greater experience in the journal-editing process.
"I would like to set in place a formal process through which faculty or experienced researchers in any institution who review for us would have the right to invite a doctoral student to review as long as they supervise and approve the review, which will be in addition to the typical review process," says Harris. "It's certainly not new to JEP, but we're talking about formalizing it more, making it a regular part of procedures and reaching out to more doctoral students."
Harris foresees that such a system will lead to more doctoral students pursuing research careers, and, it's hoped, tackling some of the areas where research is most needed, such as students at risk academically, socially and emotionally, for example, and effective interventions for students at all levels.
Harris also hopes to stimulate more school, classroom and other educational settings-based research as JEP editor. As a former elementary and special education teacher and a longtime researcher, she knows all too well how long it can take for good research to make it into the classroom.
"We know a lot more about what to do than we have in place," she says. "For example, when we know strategies for literacy and self-regulation make a difference for a first-grader who is struggling...how do we make that happen in schools? How do we get people geared up to be able to do the instruction?" she asks. "It's a fascinating area of research, and there's some good work being done, but we need a lot more at every level of education--administrative, supervisory and family."
Backing Harris up on these new efforts is a team of associate editors whose expertise not only complements her own--literacy, self-regulation and learning difficulties--but who share her commitment to moving education research forward and nurturing the next generation of researchers.
"Among us, we have so many viewpoints and experiences, as well as expertise in multiple forms of research," she says. "We have a broad base covered and we know where to go for something that one of us doesn't specialize in."
As editor, Harris says she will work to ensure that readers continue to see the journal as a broad-based resource dedicated to the highest quality research in all areas of educational psychology, whether it's education for nurses, superintendents, parents, schoolchildren or others. At the same time, she would like to see the journal better integrate all these different areas of research.
"Much of what we learn in one specialty is relevant in another," she says. "We have many different knowledge bases, and that's a good thing initially because you need separate focuses, but the field really matures when it comes together."