Research for Social Good is a MethodSpace focus for October. We are delving into this broad topic with guest posts, interviews, and links to articles or instructional resources.
This guest post is an interview with independent scholar and consultant Dr. Gina Gullo. Note the opportunity she is offering to join in her research on mindfulness in educational leadership.
JS Tell us about your research.
GG My research is focused on unintentional discrimination, typically through implicit bias, and how school leaders concerned with social justice and school equity work to reduce the impacts of such biases. I have worked more empirically using the Implicit Associations Test, hierarchical linear modeling and multiple regression, and existing data sets as well as more qualitatively with interviewing, document analysis, and some observations. I work mostly with school principals, assistant principals, and vice principals, but also some with superintendents as well.
JS How did you (and any partners or collaborators) decide on a particular social concern to study?
GG Implicit bias became my passion when I was pregnant and saw a man concerned for the safety of his Black son while wearing a hoodie and playing with water guns. I couldn’t believe that anyone would have to worry about something so simple. It was really in how this man realized that no one wanted, or intended, to hurt his children but just were driven bias bias and fear that made me see this problem and know that it was where social responsibility was leading my research. When I went to better understand this in principals, I found there wasn’t really much out there. We expect our children to form relationships of respect and trust with authoritative figures, but we didn’t even know how implicit bias was playing out in one of their most prominent away-from-home power relationships!
Since then, the research has driven my work into understanding the discipline process and how principals avoid bias in schools (such as using mindfulness). Now, I’m realizing I need to see the bigger picture and have begun to put together a group of researchers interested in mindfulness in educational leadership. I’m hoping that together we can alter our researcher minds to a solution-focus for school (in)equity.
JS If goals for your study included advocacy or work for change in policies or practices, how did you address any concerns about researcher bias?
GG I started addressing researcher bias by working empirically with quantitative data and a lower level of researcher interaction with the data. In social justice work, this only gets you so far. In working qualitatively and advocating, I simply acknowledge my researcher identity and biases which stem from the person I am and the passions I hold. While it is not acceptable to let researcher bias become your findings, much work is framed by my researcher identity and when I make that clear in my research discussions AND take time to check with others to make sure my interpretations are similar to those of others (build trustworthiness and credibility), I feel confident that I am providing the high quality research needed in the field for progress.
JS What do you wish you had known when starting this research project? What advice or recommendations do you have for social researchers interested in social good?
GG I’m beginning to learn that I can’t do it all by myself–even though I’ve preached that for so long. While students working towards their dissertation are often required to make that effort someone alone (understanding they have good advisor and committee support), collaborative research is simply put, better research. The reason we have journals and conferences is not just to gain tenure and cite each other, but rather to talk and explore others’ research and develop researcher relationships. We don’t learn in isolation in school, and we should not learn in isolation post-doctorate either.
We need to form more research teams and stop collecting and hoarding our own data. We can have more rich, more meaningful, and more student and school-respectful data when we are a team. Researchers need to get back to working in teams that collaborate with researchers and schools alike, and I’m hoping to be one of the researchers that brings that kind of collaboration to the forefront of modern methodology in educational research.
More about Dr. Gina Gullo
Gina Gullo, leading author of Implicit Bias inSchools: A Practitioner’s Guide, received her doctorate in Educational Leadership and masters in Special Education from Lehigh University where she now adjuncts between collaborative researcher projects. Her research focuses on how school leaders work to avoid the impacts of implicit bias and other forms of unintentional discrimination in their schools and communities. With a focus on bridging the gap between research and practice in education, Gina assists schools working towards equity through professional development and data support as CEO and founder of GLG Consulting. Gina offers solution-focused leadership paired with evidenced strategies to create realistic, accessible plans for schools working towards social justice and greater equity for all.