P. Karen Murphy, head of the Department of Educational Psychology, Counseling and Special Education and Social Science Research Institute cofunded faculty member at Penn State, has been elected to the National Academy of Education (NAEd), an honorific society consisting of U.S. members and international associates who are elected on the basis of outstanding scholarship related to education.
“To be elected to this esteemed community by those scholars whose ideas and writings have been transformational to education is deeply humbling. Professionally, this honor stands as an indication that those scholars I have long admired see value and worth in my theoretical and empirical work. That recognition is an honor in itself,” said Murphy, who also is distinguished professor of education (educational psychology) in the college.
“On a personal level, I am still processing the transition from a rural high school kid who earned money for college by bailing hay and working in the rice fields of Texas, to membership in the National Academy of Education. What I know is that this honor is not solely mine. My academic journey would never have been possible without the guidance and support of my family, mentors, colleagues, students and friends,” she said.
Kim Lawless, dean of the College of Education, said, “Election to the NAEd is the highest honor that could be bestowed on an educational researcher, and I am thrilled — but not surprised — that Dr. Murphy is now joining this esteemed group. I have had the pleasure of knowing Dr. Murphy and following her work dating back to the early days of our respective academic careers. The impact she has had internationally on the field of education through the practical applications of her research is immense. The opportunity to work closely with her is one of the highlights of my role as dean here in the college.”
Murphy’s research led to her creation in 2002 of Quality Talk (QT), a teacher-facilitated small-group classroom discussion approach designed to enhance students’ critical-thinking and reasoning about disciplinary texts.
“Unlike other approaches to discussion, this model is founded on an instructional framework, discourse tools and signs, teacher discourse moves, and pedagogical principles that have been empirically linked to students’ high-level comprehension, which results from students’ critical-analytic thinking and epistemic cognition about, around and with textual content,” Murphy said.
Alongside the intervention, her research team has created and implemented an extensive teacher professional development program and content-specific curricular materials intended for classroom instruction.
Although Murphy began this collaborative research on Quality Talk in elementary reading classes, it has been extended successfully to a variety of contexts in the U.S., including elementary mathematics, middle-school science, high school physics and chemistry classes for high-need students, and elementary mathematics teacher education.
Internationally, Quality Talk has been implemented through collaborative projects in English-language learning at the university level in Taiwan; with high-school students attending remote, rural schools in South Africa; with urban middle-school students in mainland China; and with primary-grade children in Switzerland focused on social moral reasoning.
“Across these various contexts, content areas and languages, QT has been shown to positively enhance students’ ability to think critically and analytically about complex texts and phenomena by gathering, weighing and evaluating various forms of evidence both orally and in writing,” Murphy said.
She said such fundamental abilities are particularly essential in today’s technologically diverse and globalized economy, where students are inundated with information that often is unsubstantiated, misleading or fabricated.
“Thus, the discourse and reasoning processes we have been investigating are gateway abilities to students’ continued development throughout their academic careers and into their professional lives,” Murphy said.
As a member of the NAEd, Murphy will serve on expert study panels that address pressing issues in education.
“Although there are many critical concerns facing education, one area of interest that I find particularly pressing pertains to the need to increase research focused on improving the lives and learning of all students, but especially those who populate high-needs schools and communities and whose educational experiences and voices have too long been overlooked, undervalued and underserved,” Murphy said.
Founded in 1965, the mission of NAEd is to advance high-quality education research and its use in policy formulation and practice.