Lowell, Haifa, and Belfast Collaborate on Education Research

Professors from UMass Lowell, Queen's University, Belfast, and University of Haifa, Israel met in Lowell to discuss how to improve academic equity and excellence.

For three days in June, two Graduate School of Education (GSE) faculty members holed up in a conference room in O’Leary Library with four international peers, two each from Israel and Ireland. Their goal: come up with a plan to help public schools help themselves. 

"Our goal was to identify evidence-based practices for school improvement that can be led by school-level folks – teachers, principals, parents, students, community members – and to then design intervention strategies to assist communities in improving their schools," says UMass Lowell Asst. Prof. James Nehring.

Joining Nehring and his GSE colleague Asst. Prof. Stacy Szczesiul were two professors from Haifa University in Israel – Lily Orland-Barak and Rivka Eisikovits – and two from Belfast’s St. Mary’s College at Queens University – Martin Hagan and Frank Hennessey.

While the collaboration was initially the result of already-existing relationships between the University and each of the other institutions, it makes sense for the three teams to work together on this project.

"All three countries have diverse populations with some groups that are privileged and others that are marginalized. This inequity expresses itself in student learning outcomes between privileged and marginalized groups," Nehring explains. "Also, all three countries regularly perform in the middle or lower on international indicators of student achievement among developed nations."

The intensive June summit – which included visits to Lowell High School, Daley Middle School in Lowell and University Park Campus School in Worcester – "changed all of us and has set us on a trajectory for an exciting multi-year project," he adds.

At the end of the three days, the Belfast-Haifa-Lowell Educational Research Group had a research proposal it intends to use to apply for grants from external funders.

To celebrate, the local faction showed the visiting team around Lowell.

"Our visitors were able to attend a lovely reception for the UMass Trustees at the UMass Lowell Boathouse, we had a nice evening out at Lowell’s Garcia Brogan’s, complete with trivia-night competition, and we spent an evening in Concord to give our guests a taste of old-time New England," Nehring says.