University of South Florida (USF) College of Education professors Ilene R. Berson, PhD, and Michael J. Berson, PhD, were selected to participate in the Association of Teacher Educators (ATE) inaugural Inquiry Initiative. The initiative is a first-of-its-kind collaborative exploration of teacher education practices and research focused on opportunity gaps in education.
Drs. Ilene and Michael Berson are two of 80 teacher educators and scholars chosen to participate in this national initiative, which aims to cultivate and support collaborative research inquiries across geographic and institutional contexts over a three-year span. At USF, Dr. Ilene Berson is a professor of early childhood education, and Dr. Michael Berson is a professor of social science education.
“Many young children and their families have limited access to high-quality early childhood education,” Ilene Berson said. “Sharing experience and knowledge with researchers from a multi-disciplinary lens may offer unique insights on the preparation of effective educators who foster joy and wonder in young children as they engage in exploratory learning and play-based inquiry. These types of early experiences promote improved social and cognitive outcomes and address the malleable factors associated with social inequities.”
Through their participation in the ATE Inquiry Initiative, the Bersons hope to establish collaborative partnerships that lead to new ways to look at challenges in the field, explore ideas for sustainable innovation, implement strategies across diverse contexts and disseminate these ideas to advance equity and improve learning outcomes.
“In the elementary grades, the marginalization of the social studies has contributed to widening gaps in the opportunities and experiences provided to students across diverse school settings. Especially concerning are the gaps in civics education,” Michael Berson said. “Civics education lays the foundation for civic engagement that is essential for an inclusive democracy.”
Imagined as an alternative to the traditional “drive-thru” model of professional engagement available through most academic conferences, the Inquiry Initiative will include sustained and sustainable professional partnerships that result in pedagogical innovations, research reports and presentations and education policies.
ATE is the nation’s oldest professional organization dedicated to the preparation of teachers. The organization aims to promote advocacy, equity, leadership and professionalism for teacher educators in all settings and supports quality education for all learners at all levels.
“ATE is committed to exploring ways teacher education scholars and practitioners can impact the pressing teaching and learning challenges of our time,” said Rachelle Rogers, EdD, President of ATE. “The Inquiry Initiative is a unique, sustainable and collaborative structure that we believe can have that impact.”
The Inquiry Initiative will officially launch at ATE’s Summer 2022 Conference in July.