PhD in Public Policy

Mark Schrader ’15

Mark Schrader

Career

  • Current position: Building Administrator K-8, MSAD #72
  • Position during PhD studies: Principal, C.A. Snow School, MSAD #72

Mark has been in education for over twenty years. He has taught subject matter to students in elementary school, middle school, high school and at university level. He has taught in self-contained, resource, and general education settings. He has lectured at both the local and state level on behavioral strategies, response-to-intervention, and high performing, low income schools. His professional passion is “raising the bar” for students, teachers, and administrators. After serving as the principal, Mark is now an administrator at a western Maine PK-8 elementary school where the focus is on learning-centered instruction to improve student engagement.

Degrees and Certifications:

  • PhD in Public Policy with a concentration in Educational Leadership and Policy, University of Southern Maine, 2015
  • Certificate of Advanced Study in Principal and Supervision, Virginia Commonwealth University, 2002
  • MSEd in Special Education, University of Virginia, 1997
  • BS in Hotel Administration, University of New Hampshire, 1987 

Dissertation

Title: Understanding Elementary-Aged Student Engagement

Abstract: Researchers agree that students who are actively engaged in their own education have more successful educational experiences.  Studies show a connection between engagement and success in all stages of academic growth. However, researchers have made assumptions about the definition of engagement by defining it through the adult lens.  Some research suggests that engagement measured in terms of visible engagement behavior may only be measuring the appearance of engagement, not necessarily active engagement. (Lankshear & Knobel, 2005; Pope, 2001) 

The purpose of this research was to uncover the characteristics of student engagement from the source, the child. Research has shown that lack of success in the later years of school often stems from disengagement in the early years of schooling.  Thus, developing a knowledge base of students’ internal thought processes around school activities in their elementary years can help develop an understanding of how to keep students engaged throughout their academic careers.

Twelve elementary school students, grades 3 through 5 were interviewed using a multi-interview design.  The findings provided insight into student priorities.  Conversations with students suggested that they reflect on their school and learning frequently.  Positive peer-peer as well as peer-teacher relationships were important to students.  Preferred assignments included a creative element and working on assignments with peers was important for collaboration purposes but not necessarily product completion.  Patterns in student preferences were found when subject responses were categorized by gender, grade-level and teacher-perceived engagement levels.  The findings were similar to previous studies with the addition of depth and specificity in student responses.

Understanding student engagement through a child’s lens is of great importance to designing curriculum, classrooms, and instructional pedagogy.  Educators would do well to create a better understanding of the engagement of their students both emotional and cognitively to help them succeed as learners.