It's all about research: Supporting students through dedicated study

By Morgan Appel, director of UC San Diego Extension's Education Department

Although research is typically not the bailiwick of extended studies programs at most postsecondary campuses, the Education Department at UC San Diego Extension believes strongly in the tri-fold mission of the University of California: a mission that explicitly includes research and service.

Our proximity to practitioners and ongoing partnerships with schools and districts across the globe proffer unique opportunities to examine curriculum and instruction in real time, and to adjust our own programming accordingly. This is true not solely for PK-12, but for postsecondary institutions as well.

For example, the Department is working in collaboration with a major metropolitan school district to develop an intervention model focusing specifically on the cognitive and affective needs of underserved gifted and talented students across two grade levels at five schools. addresses two essential objectives vital to the future of gifted and talented education: (1) meaningfully increasing the number of identified pupils from underserved populations; and (2) enhancing achievement and process-based skills within and across Science; Technology; Engineering; Arts and Mathematics (STEAM disciplines).The project provides a sophisticated approach to this endeavor that is simultaneously holistic and targeted, longitudinally employing four research-proven interventions that benefit from organic synergies. To evaluate the impacts and scalability of the model, a causal path analysis coupled with findings from surveys, focus groups, observations and semi-structured narratives will be used.

The Education Department is also engaged in action research projects examining pipelines to health and science professions as students transition from community colleges to universities. We are working to support students as they progress forward, as well as to build capacity among community college instructors who impart critical metacognitive and content-based skills to their charges. We are also working with private providers and community colleges to explore the use of large datasets in the context of building healthy schools and training practitioners, coaches and other professionals to this end.

Other research efforts focus on the econometrics of local charter schools using multiple regression models to examine the impacts of teachers’ pay differentials and professional development on pupils’ achievement, given rather fluid and porous environments for practice.

We are eager to share findings from these studies as they move forward, and intend to do so in this context and other venues, including professional conferences and in lay and professional journals. Please do stay tuned for more in the near future. For questions about ongoing research projects undertaken at the Education Department, please contact Morgan Appel, director at

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