Research News – March 2018

HIV research supports young black men

Young black men in North Nashville who have sex with other men must navigate many challenging and unwelcoming social spaces, according to new findings by Sandra Barnes, professor of human and organizational development. In a five-year study that partners with Fisk University, she is examining the social-emotional support strategies of the target population, while also providing resources, emotional support and free testing. Results were published in the Journal of Positive Sexuality. 

Doug and Lynn Fuchs

RTI deserves another look

Response to Intervention is being regarded unfairly in the wake of a negative evaluation by the U.S. Department of Education, according to an article published in Exceptional Children by Douglas Fuchs, Nicholas Hobbs Professor of Special Education, and Lynn Fuchs, Dunn Family Professor of Psychoeducational Assessment. The national report concluded that RTI negatively affected the academic achievement of first-graders and produced no effect at all on second- and third-graders. In their in-depth response, the Vanderbilt researchers argue that the evaluation methods used were fundamentally flawed and implementation had not been consistent.

Principals gain more influence on teacher hiring decisions

Principals have gained more influence over teacher hiring decisions over the past 25 years, according to a new study by Research Assistant Professor of Leadership, Policy and Organizations Marisa Cannata. In the late 1980s and early 1990s, principals of urban schools tended to have less influence over teacher hiring than nonurban counterparts. Cannata’s study finds their influence has increased more than that of other principals. This is the first study to explore whether and how principal influence in teacher hiring decisions has changed over time. Future research should examine the implications of the increased influence of principals in teacher hiring on equity of access to quality teachers. The results were published in Journal of Educational Administration.

Online education blooms at Peabody

Peabody launched two new online professional programs last fall, welcoming a larger-than-expected class of highly accomplished and diverse graduate students. The new programs—an Ed.D. in leadership and learning in organizations and an M.Ed. in human development counseling with an emphasis on school counseling—have enrolled a combined total of 43 students. The classes are a partnership with educational technology company 2U.

New film produced on gifted child study

Peabody released a 14-minute mini-documentary, “Quick Learners; High Achievers: Study of Mathematically Precocious Youth.” Emmy Award–winning film and television actor Andre Braugher served as narrator. The film includes interviews with Peabody Dean Camilla P. Benbow and Professor of Psychology and Human Development David Lubinski, as well as archival images from the early days of SMPY. The film has been watched more than 30,000 times. A story on Upworthy last fall that included the video received about 750,000 views. Watch the video at

“PAL” (used by permission)

Kids are flexible about gender identity

The Amazon children’s program Annedroids was the subject of a new paper by doctoral student Sara L. Beck and Peabody alumna Colleen Russo Johnson, MS’14, PhD’17. Annedroids is a live-action show that introduces viewers to PAL, a human-like android, programmed by a child scientist named Anne to choose its own gender. The study found that children who believed PAL should choose a gender (as opposed to those comfortable with PAL remaining ungendered) showed increased flexibility in thinking about gender after watching clips of PAL and PAL’s friends. Results were published by Nordicom Review.

It’s not about money, say STEM students of color

High-achieving undergraduates of color pursuing lucrative careers in science, technology, engineering and mathematics have their sights set on social justice, not just a big paycheck, according to a new study by Ebony McGee, associate professor of education, diversity and STEM education, and doctoral student researcher Lydia Bentley. They found that the prevailing perception of STEM as a means for global domination was troublesome for many of the students, who expressed a desire to make a positive difference in the world. Results were published in American Journal of Education.