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Summer 2023: A Look into the Work of a Research Assistant!

To our Lead to Include readers, we would like to present another post in our Summer 2023 blog series "A Look into the Work of a Research Assistant"! These blog posts are written from the perspectives of some of our incredible research assistants this summer, detailing different aspects of their educational experiences working on our research team. For our third post of the series, we would like to present Maddie Dunn's experience working on the Lead to Include team, where she considered the role of school leaders in inclusive education through a psychological perspective! Maddie is an extremely driven and engaging research assistant that we are so glad to have on our team. To read more about her experience working as an RA, please refer to her post below! "My role on the Lead to Include research team this summer, and continuing this fall, was to consider the role of school leaders in inclusive education through a psychological perspective. This meant seeking to understand how school leaders are motivated and why they do what they do. Employing a variety of psychological theories on motivation, including self-efficacy theory, goal-orientations theory, motivational displacement, and a primary focus on self-determination theory, a project that I accomplished with Lead to Include was preparing a summary of what makes leaders tick? This summary included the basic principles of a few psychological theories that underline much of the research completed by Lead to Include and how these theories can be applied to the actions of school leaders. Along with these notes, I created a couple of simple visuals for self-determination theory and motivational displacement, so that each theory could be more easily understood. These notes and visuals were prepared for Dr. Sider to use at an upcoming presentation for school principals.


Although I don’t plan on becoming a teacher, I hope to work in schools as a school psychologist in the future. The work that I completed with Lead to Include this past summer has impacted my perspective on inclusive education and has shaped the type of school psychologist I would like to become in the future. Through working on the Lead to Include research team, I have a new understanding of the roles motivation plays in school settings at the level of the student, teacher, and principal. Although the specific motivations are different, students, teachers, and principals all share the same basic psychological needs of competence, relatedness, and autonomy that need to be met to ensure healthy motivation. As a school psychologist, I hope to be able to work with students and teachers to find strategies effective in motivating and meeting the needs of students in inclusive classrooms.

To me, inclusive education looks like empowering and supporting students with any level of needs to be successful in the classroom. Inclusive education means that no students are excluded from the opportunity to succeed in classrooms and that all students receive the tools and support they need from school leaders. Inclusive education sets high standards and teachers and principals must also receive support in order to make their schools and classrooms an inclusive environment for all students." We hope that you enjoyed this post and make sure to tune in to the upcoming posts to read more about the experiences of research assistants working on the Lead to Include team and the various interesting projects they are working on!

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