Dr. Claire Crooks is a psychologist who focuses on bridging the gap between research and practice relating to the healthy development of children and youth. She explains that it is important to scientifically evaluate programs that promote healthy relationships and prevent violence because, despite good intentions, some programs actually do more harm than good. Research helps inform which programs work, how to implement them effectively and how to “thoughtfully adapt” them when necessary.
Crooks has been a driving force behind The Fourth R project for over a decade now, developing and evaluating programming for healthy relationships in schools. The Fourth R has been shown to reduce dating and peer violence, as well as delinquency amongst abused children. Now that this program is established, she is investigating strategies to appropriately adapt it for other contexts. In, the most recent Fourth R project, “Healthy Relationships Plus,” Crooks and her team are promoting positive mental health. The program, funded by Health Canada, is being implemented in thirty-seven schools in five provinces and territories.
Crooks is also involved in the evaluation of health-related programs. With Canadian Institute of Health Research (CIHR) funding she is currently assessing the Mental Health First Aid for First Nations program.
Dr. Isha DeCoito combines her background in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) with an interest in a cross-disciplinary approach to problem solving, and an integrated, holistic approach to teaching. She currently has three research projects under way.
The first investigates the ability to engage grade six, seven and eight students in STEM education through outreach workshops that highlight the ways in which these areas intersect. She explains that learning in this way is more holistic, contextualized and relevant to students’ lives, making the learning experience more memorable. In her classes for teacher candidates at Western, she advises them to develop a “lesson hook” in order to engage students, since engagement is crucial for learning success.
DeCoito is also examining how teacher candidates conceptualize STEM, and specifically how they integrate the four subject areas and develop interdisciplinary projects. In her own classroom, she models this by including a wide range of teaching tools: communicating through diverse genres, technology and games, professional development workshops, to mention a few. Her efforts resulted in receiving the President’s University-Wide Teaching Award at York University earlier this year, before joining Western’s Faculty of Education.
Finally, DeCoito is involved in a research project, Borderless Higher Education for Refugees. She will travel to Kenya to work with refugee teacher candidates in teaching math, science, and technology. She will examine how refugee students respond to inquiry and integration practices presented from a western cultural perspective.