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K-State Today

November 8, 2016

College of Education conducts research related to military-connected students

Submitted by Patrice Scott

Since 2012, the College of Education has used excellence funding from the president's and provost's offices to jump-start expanded endeavors to meet the needs of military-connected students and their families in educational settings. These college efforts include a recent research study designed to identify faculty perceptions about military-connected students.   

According to the education researchers who are conducting the study, understanding the culture of the military family and the unique dynamics and contextual factors that are a part of the military lifestyle can provide educators with better insight into facilitating the academic needs of military-connected students of all ages. The investigators are Linda P. Thurston, professor and associate dean in the College of Education; Royce Ann Collins, associate professor of adult education; and Ana Paulo, a graduate student.

Thurston said she believes it is a national imperative to conduct research about the most effective ways to prepare educators and to identify the most efficacious strategies for the educational success of military personnel, veterans and military-connected children.

The College of Education became a member of the Military Child Education Coalition, a nonprofit, worldwide organization focused on ensuring quality educational opportunities for all military children affected by mobility, family separation and transition. The college became one of the first 100 universities to join Operation Educate the Educators, a nationwide Joining Forces initiative that was given guiding principles set forth by the American Association of Colleges for Teacher Education and the Military Child Education Coalition. In addition, the college's adult education program has a long history of engagement at Fort Leavenworth and the Command and General Staff College.

One of the specific goals of the project funded with excellence dollars was to contribute to the knowledge base about education and military-connected students and families. College of Education faculty and graduate students are conducting important research that contributes to and informs the field of K-12 education, educational counseling, student affairs, educational leaders and adult education. The college has produced numerous books, chapters, professional presentations, special journal editions and peer-reviewed research articles related their research about military-connected students. Students have produced more than a dozen related dissertations in the past five years. 

A study is currently being undertaken to assess faculty attitudes, perceptions and knowledge of post-9/11 veterans and active duty military-connected students at four-year universities. The researchers are focusing on postsecondary students because current downsizing trends in the military are translating into increasing numbers of veteran and military-connected students in higher education.  

"Military students are a campus subculture in need of attention that has largely gone unnoticed in terms of research," Collins said. "Since a good faculty-student relationship can be very influential on student achievement and well-being, one of the strategies that may be necessary is faculty professional development. However, this strategy is rare."

Thurston said there is much to be gained from this research.

"Effective professional development that builds faculty-student relationships and promotes educational success must be based on accurate data from both student and faculty perspectives."

The team is preparing to launch a survey to K-State faculty very soon to collect data on faculty perspectives. The research team urges faculty to complete the survey when they receive it from Qualtrics.

"Our goal is to produce relevant professional development to promote the academic and social success of military students in higher education," Collins said. "The survey questions are based on previous research projects about military-connected students and veterans and on a series of interviews we conducted with military students in higher education. The success of the study hinges on the instructional faculty's participation, and we truly value faculty input."