Oct. 31, 2012 - Dr. Ben T. Phillips was recently named as a 2012-13 Pew Research Grant recipient. The Pew Research Grant is a $4,500 internal grant from Union University. The Pew Research Committee, composed of university faculty, distributes a maximum of four grants each year. The Pew Research Grant seeks to nourish Christian scholarship that will make a meaningful contribution to academic discussion. Phillips’ proposed research, Determining the Cognitive Strategies of High-Performing Test-Takers on a College Readiness Math Assessment, aims to determine what strategies high-scoring test takers use to answer questions on the ACT math test. More specifically, Phillips is seeking to observe and describe the cognitive strategies used by high performing test takers so such strategies can be identified and distinguished from the strategies used by average performers on the ACT.
Phillips, an Associate Professor of Educational Leadership and Director of the Ed.S. and Ed.D. programs, has been studying the ACT and training high school juniors and seniors for the test over the past 10 years. He anticipates that the research for his newly proposed study will be completed within the next 12-18 months.
This research topic is one for which Phillips holds great passion. He indicates, “I have encountered countless students who struggle in the classroom, particularly the mathematics classroom. Some students who find math difficult do not have even rudimentary strategies for problem solving or mathematical reasoning.” Based on his concern for such students, Phillips would like to transfer the successful cognitive strategies of high performing test takers to those who need such assistance. To this end, Phillips states, “I have had the privilege of knowing and teaching extremely bright students who speak math as fluently as a native language. These talented students often develop their own problem solving strategies and may not even need a teacher to explain the techniques to navigate a challenging problem. These personal experiences beg the question: Could we in a sense ‘export’ the cognitive strategies of gifted students to those who desperately need them? Could we identify exactly what is happening in the minds of the bright students and then teach that to students who struggle?” This approach offers a respectable goal, as it does not aim to merely offer a shortcut or quick tip for success. Rather, it aims to rightly inform the minds of struggling students.
Phillips feels he has a responsibility to complete this work for the benefit of students who need to learn such strategies. He states, “If it is possible to transfer these cognitive strategies from students who know them to students who need to know them, the Christian-informed educator in me says I have a moral obligation to facilitate it.” Likewise, Phillips is grateful that the Pew Research Grant committee selected his project. He says, “Winning the Pew Research Grant was validation that this is a worthy research project. I’m honored the committee viewed the project as significant. I am excited about getting into the data and discovering some insights about how the human brain works!”
Phillips was the first professor from Union University’s School of Education to be a Pew Grant recipient as a sole applicant. This is a noble accomplishment and is testament to the significance of his achievement, especially considering that the Pew Research Grant is the single largest research grant offered by the university. Further details about the Pew Research Grant, along with Phillips’ proposal can be viewed on the Pew Research Program’s website: http://www.uu.edu/programs/pew/.