How do we effectively reach all students, from our highest to our lowest? That’s a really daunting challenge.

Douglas Dexter

A high school teacher may teach to a different class of 20 to 25 students six or seven times over the course of a day, spending about 45 minutes with each. With such a limited amount of time to spend with each group and little more to investigate new and better approaches to learning, how does a teacher ensure that all students get the attention they need?

"That's been the focus of my research for the past six years," says Professor Douglas Dexter, education. "How do we effectively reach all students, from our highest to our lowest? That's a really daunting challenge."

By focusing on evidence-based practice and applied research, Dexter helps arm students, teachers and potential future teachers with the skills to critically evaluate research, statistics and different theories in order to optimize the classroom experience for both teachers and students.

Dexter's own path to the classroom was a circuitous one. Classically trained in the clarinet, he graduated from the Berklee College of Music. Rather than pursue a career in performance, he wanted to work on the business side, allowing other musicians to focus on their craft while he dealt with record companies, labels and publishing companies on their behalf.  

Finding the work unsatisfying, he left the music industry and found work in Nashville as a substitute teacher. He was often hired to work in special education classrooms and soon found that despite a lack of expertise, he enjoyed working with students who have special needs.

"I found that, wow, this is really neat. This is something I am going to devote my life to," he says.

Inspired, he pursued a master's degree in special education at Texas State University, where he worked closely with students facing cultural and socioeconomic challenges. He subsequently earned a doctorate from Penn State University in order to take what he has learned and share with others as a teacher of teachers.

"I've found my passion, and I couldn't imagine doing anything else at this point," Dexter says. "I'm growing as a teacher and researcher and as a person every day with what I read, what I research, what I teach my students and the feedback I get from my students around the globe. I don't think that will ever stop."

Posted Oct. 7, 2016