From families as change agents to distance-learning students in underserved populations, Walden Faculty Research Initiative Grant recipients will be investigating a wide range of topics.

To support research that leads to real-world solutions, Walden University awarded 12 Walden faculty members the 2010 Faculty Research Initiative Grant, totaling $90,000. The grants provide seed money for the development of faculty research agendas.

Walden University congratulates the following individuals and research teams for their standout projects:

Self-Perceived Parenting Expertise among Parents of Young Children in Washington State and Its Effect on Motivation for Parent Development Programs

  • Principal Investigator: Dr. Patricia Nan Anderson, The Richard W. Riley College of Education and Leadership
  • Grant Amount: $8,000
  • Project Abstract: Parents who are not mandated to participate in parent development programs largely eschew such programs, despite the fact that fewer than half of kindergarten entrants in Washington state and elsewhere are deemed ready for kindergarten work. This study examines the problem of limited parental engagement in parenting support and development programs and tests the hypothesis that parents’ satisfaction with their present level of parenting expertise reduces motivation to participate in parenting services. Theories of expertise originating with Dreyfus and Dreyfus and the expectancy-value theory of achievement motivation promoted by Wigfield and Eccles form the foundation for this research. A survey of parenting satisfaction and motivation for further parent development will be undertaken by 1,000 parents of children aged 12 months to 71 months in the Seattle/King County, Washington, area. Follow-up interviews with 50 parents will contribute detail concerning parents’ self-beliefs of expertise and the sources of their parenting knowledge. Survey data will be analyzed by a Value (3) x Expertise ANOVA and through chi-square analysis of expertise and sources of expertise. Interview data will be analyzed for themes. If the expected relationship between self-perceived parenting expertise and reduced motivation for parenting development programs is found to exist, this information will be helpful to social service agencies, school districts and others in formulating more attractive parenting education services and in supporting early childhood development at home.

Measuring Sense of Community in Online Courses: Establishing the Reliability and Validity of the Sense of Community Scale

  • Principal Investigator: Dr. Linda Crawford, The Richard W. Riley College of Education and Leadership, with co-principal investigator Dr. Justice Randolph, Tift College of Education, Mercer University
  • Grant Amount: $7,000
  • Project Abstract: Attrition in online courses is a major concern in many universities. Some estimates indicate that 10 percent to 20 percent of online students drop out of their courses. One possible cause for this attrition is a lack of sense of community, which may be especially difficult to establish in an online format. To be able to create interventions and design instructional practices that increase sense of community, valid and reliable measures of sense of community need to be created. Currently, no valid and reliable measures of sense of community in online courses exist. Therefore, the purpose of this study is to further develop the Sense of Community Scale and establish its reliability, convergent and divergent validity. This will be accomplished by administering the scale to Walden students and investigating the degree to which items and subscales correlate with one another. Reliability analyses, item analysis, principal components analysis and linear regression are the types of data analyses that will be used.

Enhancing System Integration of Families as Change Agents: Empowerment and Advocacy

  • Principal Investigator: Dr. Donna M. L. Heretick, School of Psychology
  • Grant Amount: $10,000
  • Project Abstract: This project addresses an important topic in social change by exploring ways in which empowerment may be related to readiness, development and outcomes among family members engaged in various types and levels of advocacy within family-driven models of care. Approximately 100-plus family members from across 26 Colorado counties will complete surveys to assess family member involvement in family advocacy activities (types, levels, as well as types of training and their experiences), as well as their self-reported knowledge, skills and attitudes about family advocacy. The survey pool will include individuals who currently serve as county coordinators for family advocacy development and oversight, as well as family members who are engaged in family advocacy as a representative on the county's service delivery policy-making board, advocates to other families who are currently receiving services for their children, family members who have worked with a family advocate to support their own family's service needs and/or as family members who may not have experience with a family support partner/advocate while receiving services for their own family's needs. This quantitative research will explore differences in Empowerment Level and Expression, as measured on the Family Empowerment Scale, between groups of family members who report different types of advocacy experiences, roles and preparation. Approximately 50 family members in various family advocacy roles and from five Colorado counties, with different levels and types of family advocacy activities within the county, will be recruited for more in-depth qualitative semi-structured interviews (individual and/or focus groups) in order to explore further their experiences, beliefs, attitudes and skills related to family advocacy and empowerment. Particular attention will be given to factors such as family members' experiences of preparation and support regarding family advocacy which may lead to what has been described as “empowered” or “unempowered advocacy.”

Implementation of Positive Behavioral Supports System in a Rural New Zealand School: Research to Practice

  • Principal Investigator: Dr. Steven G. Little, School of Psychology
  • Grant Amount: $10,000
  • Project Abstract: Schools have become increasingly interested in identifying factors to reduce disruptive and violent behaviors and increase prosocial behaviors in students. Although severe behavioral problems are caused by a small percentage of students, these children utilize a much larger percentage of resources. Research in the United States has supported the efficacy of a system of positive behavior support (PBS) for decreasing problem behavior and increasing academic achievement of elementary and secondary school students. PBS is an alternative to aversive interventions and applies positive behavioral interventions and systems to increase appropriate behavior. While the efficacy of PBS has been established in selected parts of the United States, little research has been conducted in countries outside of North America. It is therefore the intent of this research study to establish a PBS system in a rural school on the South Island of New Zealand. Using single subject design methodology, baseline levels of disruptive and academic behavior will be recorded for a period of one month. During this time teachers will receive intensive training in principles of effective classroom management and a positive behavior support system will be developed with school personnel to ensure the ecological validity of the system. This will be followed by implementation of the PBS system with ongoing monitoring of student behavior and treatment integrity. In addition, social validity data (consumer acceptability) will be collected from teachers, students and parents. The principal investigator and consultant will work closely with the school on implementation for the first three months of the program, at which time outside support will be thinned but data will continue to be collected for another five months. This would be an important contribution to the existing literature and would enhance social change initiatives through establishing the efficacy of a self-sustaining system supporting the positive behavior of children in schools in an environment that is currently provided with few supplemental services. If this system can be successfully implemented in an isolated rural area of New Zealand, it has the potential to work in other similar environments throughout New Zealand and the world. This would result in a better-educated populace who has greater potential to contribute to their country’s future development.

Dr. John MarszalekExploring Long-Term Gay Male Relationships in Mississippi

  • Principal Investigator: Dr. John Marszalek, School of Counseling and Social Service
  • Grant Amount: $7,000
  • Project Abstract: The aim of this research project is to identify the factors that promote and challenge long-term relationships for gay male couples in Mississippi, including a couple’s community. The goal of this project is to learn more about how the factors that promote and challenge long-term relationships for gay couples in Mississippi compare to factors for gay couples in long-term relationships in other areas of the United States, thus providing couples and family counselors serving gay couples with the knowledge they need to best serve their clients. Interviews will be conducted with 10 to 15 gay couples throughout Mississippi who have been in sustained relationships of at least five years. Using a qualitative research design, the principal researcher and a research team of five research collaborators will analyze the interview data for common themes. A research auditor will then review the analysis and determine if the research team’s analysis is consistent with the data. Once consensus has been reached among all members of the research team and the research auditor, the analysis will be considered complete and summarized in a research report. The research findings will provide counselors with a more in-depth understanding of relationship dynamics, factors that impact relationship satisfaction and sources of challenge and support for relationship persistence. In addition research findings will add to the little research in counseling and psychology on gay male couples in long-term relationships and provide an initial look into how challenges and supports for gay male couples may differ based on geographical locations.

Dr. Nina A. NaborsProfessional Psychology Graduate Students in Distance Education: Impact on Underserved Communities

  • Principal Investigator: Dr. Nina A. Nabors, with co-principal investigator Dr. Marilyn Powell, School of Psychology
  • Grant Amount: $20,000
  • Project Abstract: There are several communities in the United States underserved by the psychological community, including rural communities, communities of color and communities of working-class or impoverished individuals. The purpose of this study is to determine the direct impact of training psychology graduate students at a distance on the mental health needs of these underserved communities. Specifically the goals of this project are to document the percentages of students who live in and/or are members of underserved populations; to document the ways in which these psychology graduate students currently serve the needs of underserved communities; to document the percentage of alumni of the professional psychology distance education program who are working with or in underserved areas; and to compare the percentages of students representing underserved populations with demographics typical of doctoral students in U.S. doctoral programs as collected by the American Psychological Association. Current students in and recent alumni (past three years) of the professional psychology doctoral programs at Walden University will be asked to participate using a Web-based survey method approach. The participants will be asked to describe their current work with underserved populations within their community, how the knowledge gained through their current program informs that work and their post-graduation plans with underserved populations. Alums will be asked to describe their current work with underserved populations and how that work changed following graduating with their doctoral degree. Participants will also describe their own identities to determine the percentage of participants who are themselves members of underserved communities. In addition, information about the participants’ communities, including percentages of underserved populations and their access to mental health services, will be collected via the Web and other sources including census data. Data will be analyzed through analysis of variance using the SPSS statistical program.

About the Faculty Research Initiative Grant

The Faculty Research Initiative Grant program is open to all faculty members who have been employed by Walden for a minimum of six months. Grant funds can be used to support pilot research projects and small-scale research studies and to supplement new areas of investigation that are spin-off studies or sub-studies of larger ongoing research projects.