Tiffany Roman Honored with 2020 Michael Pressley Award for Promising Educational Researcher
“Flexibility is really key. That's an ACE one too, right?” asks Tiffany. “They often say, ‘always changing everything,’ but they really mean being very flexible with changing circumstances.”
The current changing circumstances of a worldwide pandemic prompted a paradigm shift in how the world approaches education. The increased emphasis on virtual learning demands leadership and innovation. Dr. Tiffany Roman (ACE 9, Dallas), a researcher and educator who has long studied learning habits and classroom instruction, stands ready for the challenge. “This time period, for better or for worse, will require us as educators to seek out new resources or identify resources that we never knew existed,” she says.
In her role as assistant professor of instructional technology at Kennesaw State University in Georgia, Tiffany says, “I teach teachers how to teach online.” She helps her students integrate technology into their own teaching practices, enabling them to transform their schools into digital age learning environments; becoming, not only full participants, but leaders in the global community.
In recognition of her tenacity in challenging the status quo and her dedication to encouraging her students’ aspirations, ACE honored Tiffany as the 2020 recipient of the Michael Pressley Award for Promising Educational Researcher. The award is given annually to an ACE graduate whose work in academia echoes ACE’s first academic director, Dr. Pressley, and his commitment to strengthening education through research and scholarship.
Tiffany has been honing her design skills since her days as an undergraduate at the University of Notre Dame. For her BFA thesis, she designed a children’s book focusing on early childhood literacy strategies. It was meant to be a nonprofit piece that would be distributed and teach parents how to make reading to their child a much richer and more engaging experience. ACE took notice of her interest in education and her enterprising spirit.
“ACE took me out of my comfort zone. I had never lived in any other part of the country and definitely not in the South,” says Tiffany, who grew up in South Bend and was placed in Dallas, Texas where she taught fifth grade at St. Mary of Carmel Catholic School. “That was a great part of ACE—pushing everyone who was involved to a state and city that they wouldn't have ended up in otherwise.”
After her two years serving in ACE, she stayed in Dallas but moved to Bishop Dunne Catholic School, where she taught art and design. “I knew I loved teaching, but I was also really quite passionate about design,” Tiffany says. Bishop Dunne was a Blue Ribbon School of Excellence for Technology Integration, but it didn’t offer any technology courses geared towards art students. Tiffany saw a need and wanted to fill it, so she started the school’s graphic design department, whose courses helped students meet their two-year technology requirement while still advancing their art and design skills. “It was so much fun for me to teach. I had some students who hadn't been exposed to the career before and they followed up with me years later that they appreciated having those foundational skills in design that they could apply to their professional career,” she says. “It was very worthwhile because those skills you never lose. You can adapt them in whatever career you go into.”
Tiffany became increasingly interested in design instruction and decided to pursue a trajectory in research and academia. She attended Indiana University in pursuit of her doctorate in Instructional Systems Technology (IST), where she met her soon-to-be mentor, Dr. Elizabeth Boling, a professor of education at IU. "Tiffany is experienced, responsible, intelligent, and talented. She balances her intention to make a long-term difference in secondary design education with the constraints of individual study design and the rigor required at each step to establish new knowledge moving in the direction of that goal,” Elizabeth says. “I see her as a strong role model to peer faculty and to students as an academic, a mentor, and a teacher."
Tiffany sees Elizabeth’s support as instrumental. “I had the most amazing mentor, Elizabeth Boling,” Tiffany says. “I think the absolute world of her. She was very supportive of my interest in how we teach design, how we design instruction for students to learn design.”
Tiffany now serves as assistant professor of instructional technology in the Bagwell College of Education at Kennesaw State University. She credits ACE with some of her formative inspirations about the impact one can have through education. “Michael Pressley was always trying to inspire us to think even beyond the classroom and how we can continue to work in education,” she says. “He saw ACE as a unique and special program where the graduates could then go on and become principals, superintendents, scholars in the field of education.
“What ACE taught me to try to do in my own work is to use the talents I have to benefit those in need.”
And she has done that. In 2019, Tiffany received a $67,000 grant sponsored by the Steelcase Corporation for an Active Learning Center to be put in Marietta Middle School. The classroom in need was transformed. Tiffany said, “It’s like HGTV. They take out everything in the room and you put in brand new furniture: rolling tables, chairs, portable white boards for every student allowing for collaboration and interaction. The whole classroom space is full of joy. When kids walk in the space, they’re excited to learn.” Tiffany continues to conduct research to see if the renovations in the classroom have any impact on student learning outcomes and learner engagement, with the support of the National Science Foundation Quantitative Research Methods Scholars Program.
Now, more than ever, there is a need for innovation and leadership in online teaching. Tiffany, along with her IU IST colleague Dr. Matthew Callison, created software called Round3. It is a cloud-based platform that helps facilitate peer feedback in online, blended, or face-to-face learning environments. “We looked at taking the idea of doing, let's say, face-to-face critiques—taking that process and moving it into an online space. I will continue to support avenues of using the tool for research, teaching and service,” Tiffany says.
Tiffany sees an intersection between her different areas of research. She believes in the power of the ACE teaching community.
“I do think that ACE teachers are freely giving. As a network, they have the ability to come together and share what’s working and what isn’t,” she says. “These experiences, through ACE and others, make us have a perspective and understanding on life that we can share with others. I really want to try—in my scholarship—to see how I can make this one cohesive narrative to serve schools.”