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Leafgren dissertation earns two awards

01/07/2009

Sheri Leafgren
Sheri Leafgren, who joined Miami University's teacher education department in 2007, has won outstanding dissertation awards from two separate professional organizations for research that challenges the presumptions that teachers often make about the actions of young children as either "good" or "bad."

"This type of scholarly recognition is wonderful. It reflects well on not only Dr. Leafgren but Miami University and its teacher education program," said Carine Feyten, dean of the School of Education, Health and Society. "And it gives teachers new ways of thinking about classroom management."

Her dissertation received the 2008 Outstanding Dissertation Award at the annual Curriculum and Pedagogy Conference in Decatur, Ga., in October. The committee that made the award described the dissertation as "quality research that advances the field of curriculum studies and offers a significant contribution to the body of educational research."

The National Association of Early Childhood Teacher Educators also awarded Leafgren its 2008 Outstanding Dissertation Award at the NAECTE annual meeting in Dallas in November.

Leafgren, who recently received her Ph.D. from Kent State University, studied the possibilities within and complexity of children's disobedience in her dissertation titled "Reuben's Fall: A Rhizomatic Analysis of Moments of Disobedience in Kindergarten."

Most research on such behavioral issues has focused on "fixing" the problem, said Leafgren, but she wanted to look beyond that. "There is more to 'goodness' than compliance-there is also the goodness of joy; of awareness and wonder; of sensuality and sensing; of valuing, mystery and awe; and of engagement and belonging," said the former kindergarten teacher.

The goal of her study was to help teachers see the everyday disobedience of kindergartners as many things, so that they would be more apt to consider responding in a number of ways.

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