It is my belief that educational practice is best imbedded in empirical research, thus rooting my research in theoretical frameworks such as Dewey’s educational and social philosophy. For Dewey, pedagogy and epistemology were related-his theory of knowledge was related to and derived from his notions of citizenship and democracy The overarching goal of my research is the creation of environments that develop character through citizenship for children and preservice teachers, while collaborating with community agents. My research approach integrates a theory-to-practice connection between service-learning and personal relationships as the mechanism, which allows instruction to be obtained. Focusing on the whole student is one avenue of creating a character-learning environment or learning atmosphere where the child or student will flourish and grow to his or her fullest capacity. While this may seem like a common practice for most classrooms, the lack of student achievement across America and the increase in violence in school settings has proven otherwise. With in mind, I have developed several interconnected research strands that examine, in depth, specific areas of character education that inform my scholarly practice. This narrative encompasses my full body of research to date including my work at The Ohio State University, prior to my arrival at the University of North Florida. By including this view of my research, it is my hope that reviewers will see the breadth and scope of the impact of my work. The analysis section specifically addresses my years as an Assistant Professor to the present.
Overview of My Research.
It begins with three core components: service-learning, preservice teacher education, and working with marginalized children and families. In the area of service-learning, I have been conducting research for many years focusing on prek-3 and teaching social skills. The two newest areas of my research focus on social justice/justice-learning and working with parents and families. In preservice teacher education, my research has concentrated on the integration of integrating service-learning as a pedagogy, early childhood social studies methods, and working with marginalized populations (for example, English language learners, and children living in poverty). Each of these areas will be detailed below.
The theoretical framework under which my research is structured has evolved from researchers in the area of character education such as Dewey, Noddings, Gilligan, Lickona, and Vygotsky. These theorists view morality as a journey of overlapping and progressive events and choices. Additionally, my understanding about how the terms moral and social are synonyms comes from the work of Noddings and Dewey. One of my research inquiry lines is unique in that it explores the role of the service-learning in early childhood education teacher education courses. As Dewey suggests, the fundamental mission of education is social integration. It ensures the individuals` participation in the social development and it favors their responsible involvement in the improvement of social consciousness. My research therefore helps students identify community needs, and in order for students to succeed and be productive citizens service-learning is one such way to teach and practice democracy in education.
Service-learning is both an instructional approach and a philosophy of learning; it combines service objectives via community engagement with academic standards and objectives. The application of service-learning projects includes social skills training with curriculum concepts and skills (Winterbottom & Lake, 2013). Of concern in the service-learning community is the lack of research and resources for prek-3 (service-learning is often considered an intermediate, middle, and high school methodology).
Since 2011, I have been conducting research and publishing books and articles in the area of early childhood pre-service teacher education service-learning. My co-edited book with Vickie Lake from the University of Oklahoma that was published in spring 2016 is titled, Praxeological Learning: Service-Learning in Teacher Education, and consists of chapters that are theoretical in nature and empirical research articles. The review board evaluated blind copies of every chapter submitted, and two chapters I wrote (One was co-authored with Amy Brunell) were accepted. (As co-editor of the book, I did not cast votes for my chapters) “Introduction” and “Praxeological Education: What are the Teacher Perceptions of Service-Learning in Early Childhood Education in Ohio?”
In addition to this book and consequent chapters, I have five additional peer-reviewed book chapters (Lake & Winterbottom, 2010; Winterbottom & Lake, 2013; Nemeth & Winterbottom, 2015; Winterbottom & Munday, 2016; Winterbottom & Mazzocco, 2017) and five refereed journal articles detailing aspects of my service-learning work in the following journals: International Journal of Education for Social Studies (Winterbottom, Lake, Ethridge, Kelly, & Stubblefield, 2013), Journal of Higher Education Outreach and Engagement (Lake, Winterbottom, Ethridge, & Kelly, 2015), Exchange Press (Winterbottom & Lake, 2013), Early Child Development and Care (Winterbottom & Mazzocco, 2016), and European Early Childhood Education Research Journal (Winterbottom & Mazzocco, 2016)
A powerful component of service-learning is its emphasis on teaching contextual social skills with marginalized children and communities. At The Ohio State University I had an ongoing collaboration with Shayne Piasta where we created a mentoring program at an elementary school in Columbus, focusing on increasing children’s language and literacy outcomes. This work led to a grant of $50,000 and allowed me to expand my work internationally focusing on creating character education in the UK as well as in the USA. This area of my work in service-learning led me to focus on examining the teaching practices of instructors working in a primary school in the UK. Four articles resulted from this collaboration in the UK and were published in the Early Childhood Education Journal (Winterbottom & Leedy, 2013; Winterbottom & Winterbottom, 2017), European Early Childhood Education Research Journal (Simpson, Loughran, Lumsden, Mazzocco, McDowall, & Winterbottom, 2017), and the Journal of Poverty and Social Justice (Simpson, Loughran, Lumsden, Mazzocco, McDowall, & Winterbottom, 2017). The two publications with six authors were written collaboratively as there were data from two countries, but in 5 cities, so we agreed to list our names in alphabetical order.
Examining service-learning pedagogy content with the standard curriculum in early childhood teacher education programs also creates questions regarding the quality of the schools the students are working in. In this vein, I have published two articles in the following referred journals that focus on the quality of preschools in the state of Florida, and to what extent accreditation has an impact: Journal of Research in Childhood Education (Winterbottom & Piasta, 2015), Journal of Early Childhood Research (Winterbottom & Jones, 2013). Both of these articles received nationwide interest, especially from the National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC) as they wanted empirical data on the effectiveness of their accreditation program.
Another aspect of creating environments that enhance character education is how teachers treat children in their classrooms, especially those that are different from them. Ninety-eight percent of early childhood and elementary teachers are white, middle-class females (Zumwalt & Craig, 2005). However, since 2012, over 50% of children born in the US are born to non-white families, thus creating a more diverse classroom setting then ever before. Concentrating on classroom-based practices including issues of bullying and English for Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL) promotes a positive environment conducive to all children succeeding in school. Contributions to the literature in this area of education include a referred article, originating from the research that I did in my dissertation for my Ph.D., in the journal Early Childhood Education Journal (Winterbottom, 2012).
My most recent publication focuses on the discussion in early childhood education of evidence based practices vs. developmentally appropriate practices. In this article we review guidelines from professional and government organizations and provide suggestions for how the field of early childhood education might develop its own guidelines. Published in The Journal of Research in Childhood Education (Farley, Brock, & Winterbottom, 2017). This work will be important to the work that I do at the University of North Florida as I look to continue my work of working with pre-service teachers and with the larger community.
Analysis of Research Creativity
I believe my research productivity of publications and presentations presents a compelling body of work. Since beginning my career as a professor I have published one book, a second book is under contract and due out spring 2019; 13 referred articles with another one under review; seven referred book chapters, with one under review; and I currently have two referred articles in preparation. My overall publishing average as an Assistant Professor is approximately three manuscripts per year. The fact that I have published papers in some of the leading journals in the fields of early childhood education and teacher education suggests that I have been successful in reaching a wide audience of readers. For most of the publications I was the first author, indicating that my contribution to those publications was the most significant. Furthermore, as a teacher education, I have chosen to disseminate applied research findings in publications read by practicing teachers.
In addition to publishing in high-quality journals, as an Assistant professor I have also disseminated my research findings at 41 international, national, regional, and local conferences or professional meetings with two presentations being invited; averaging 5.5 presentations per year. For example, I have regularly presented papers at the annual meeting of the National Association of Early Childhood Teacher Educators, National Service Learning Conference, American Education Research Association, and the National Association for the Education of Young Children. I have also presented papers at the annual meetings of the European Early Childhood Education Research Association, British Early Childhood Education Research Association and the Summit for Service-Learning.
The creation of environments that embody character is at the heart of everything I do. You will find it in my teaching, advising, and mentoring, and because of the emphasis I place on the connection of theory to practice, you will also find evidence of moral and social justice practices in my research. In conclusion, I believe that my scholarly accomplishments provide clear evidence of professional performance and growth. My achievements in scholarship and creative activity further indicate that I have established myself as a significant contributor in the field of early childhood education. In 2017 I was awarded the Florida Campus Compact Award in the Engaged Scholarship Research Sector. As an Assistant Professor, I feel especially accomplished to have won this award. Moreover, I have been nominated for Outstanding Faculty Community Engaged Scholarship Award in 2016-2017, and I was given the title of “Community Scholar” in 2016-2017 at the University of North Florida.
Future Research Direction
Going forward, my research plans include continuing to focus on the two newest areas of my service-learning research – examining the experiences of all students who are participating in service-learning courses at the University of North Florida and engaging with school districts in the United Kingdom to integrate a service-learning pedagogy in their schools. Additionally, I have completed one year of my service-learning collaboration with a local PTA and school. We have begun planning for SY 2018-2019 and are excited about continuing our partnership and having my preservice teachers become more engaged in working with their diverse families. In 2017, I applied for a grant with the UNF foundation, and received funding to conduct a larger service-learning project using students in both early childhood and educational leadership majors. Moreover, I am collaborating with my peers in psychology to examine the Community Based Transformational Learning experiences of students, faculty, administration, and community partners.