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2016 publicity photo of Lauren Bailes, assistant professor in the school of education. - (Evan Krape / University of Delaware)
UD's Lauren Bailes has been honored by the American Educational Research Association.

AERA recognition

Photo by Evan Krape

School of Education’s Lauren Bailes receives Outstanding Dissertation Award

Lauren Bailes, assistant professor in the University of Delaware’s School of Education (SOE), has received the 2016 Outstanding Dissertation Award from the American Educational Research Association’s (AERA) Division A in Administration, Organization and Leadership.

The award recognizes outstanding dissertation research in the leadership, organization and administration of schools and in the preparation of educational leaders.

Bailes’ dissertation, titled “A Theoretical and Empirical Investigation into the Meaning and Measure of Political Efficacy and its Application to Education,” examined political efficacy within educational policy systems.

“Political efficacy asks two critical and timely question about the nature of engagement with political systems and the responsiveness of those systems,” said Bailes. “Do you feel like you know how to make your voice heard? Do you feel like systems are responsive when you do so?”

Bailes’ dissertation study used survey data from more than 700 public and charter school teachers. She found that teaching experience, after ten years, was associated with increasing internal political efficacy yet decreasing external political efficacy.

Internal political efficacy refers to an individual’s ability to interact with political systems, while external political efficacy refers to the perception of the system’s responsiveness to the individual.

Bailes’ findings may indicate that experienced teachers feel more confident about their ability to influence policy, but less confident about the abilities of districts and schools to make decisions in the best interests of teachers.

Her research also suggested that active collaboration among teachers, school leaders and policy makers leads to stronger beliefs in the ability of a policy system to respond to teachers’ concerns.

“Lauren is doing innovative and methodologically sophisticated work around educator and parent political efficacy, and she’s advancing the scholarship of educational leadership,” said Elizabeth Farley-Ripple, associate director of the SOE. “She’s also bringing her own leadership to our professional programs and strengthening regional leaders through her teaching in our doctoral program in education leadership.” 

This research has practical implications for teachers’ roles, school leadership and education policy. With an understanding of political efficacy, teachers, schools, and education policy systems can collaborate to better accommodate and sustain experienced teachers, as well as provide a more responsive environment for all education policy stakeholders.

“Through a survey project in Wilmington, Delaware, I was able to bring this work to a group of parents and to ask them the same questions about their experience with political efficacy,” said Bailes. “I hope to learn about patterns of inclusion and exclusion in education policy making and parents’ understanding of their ability to contribute to those decision-making processes. We also want to learn what schools and systems are doing to successfully invite widespread engagement so that we can replicate it.”

Bailes received her doctorate degree in educational administration from Ohio State University and joined the SOE in August 2016.

Prior to her doctoral work, Bailes taught English language arts (ELA) in a middle school in Brooklyn, New York, designed ELA curriculum and assessments for fifth through eighth-grade students, and served as a professional development and literacy coach in Columbus, Ohio.

In addition to designing curriculum and teaching, Bailes is engaged in service and scholarship related to educational leadership and policy. Next year, she will assume the role of program coordinator for the SOE doctoral program in educational leadership.

Her recent work focuses on relationship between political efficacy, demographic characteristics of teachers and organizational characteristics such as collaboration.

Bailes received the award at the AERA 2017 annual meeting in San Antonio, Texas.

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