Homer Montgomery, Ph.D.
Dr. Montgomery’s research interests in science education are focused on evaluation of teacher-student interactions in both an interpersonal sense and in the dynamic created in the undergraduate classroom. Specific areas of assessment include relevance, immediacy, and credibility. Of particular interest is assessing the environment of classrooms in which instructors profess adherence to a constructivist philosophy. Research projects are ongoing in Kenya, Ghana, Uganda, and Botswana. In the next year, several projects in the U.S. and one in Japan will begin.
Dr. Montgomery is also a researcher in geology with several published contributions that shaped the thinking of the origin of the Caribbean Plate. Of paramount importance was the discovery of fossils in a mélange in Puerto Rico that were deposited in a deep ocean floor environment approximately 195 million years ago. The ocean between North and South America began forming only about 165 million years ago. Therefore, the Caribbean plate must be exotic. It turns out to be a remnant of Pacific crust that was enveloped in the gap as North and South America moved west. There are no other possible solutions. Current work includes paleontological and geochemical evaluations of terrane fragments in La Desirade, the Dominican Republic, and soon in Cuba in association with Dr. Andrew Kerr at Cardiff University, Wales and Dr. Jorge Cobiella of the University of Pinar del Rio in Cuba.
Emerging investigations of best practice in undergraduate classrooms in the U.S. and in other countries highlights a central debate mostly concerning the effectiveness of constructivist methods. My research is focused on obtaining data that describes the current level of constructivism in a classroom and comparing this to the student’s preferred level of constructivism. Not surprisingly, students almost always prefer a more constructivist classroom. Following this first evaluation that largely amounts to assessing the educational philosophy of the instructor and his/her student’s reactions to it, several other surveys are utilized to evaluate the critical importance of classroom environment in terms of teacher immediacy and credibility, relevance of the material taught and learned and student perceptions of learning/learning loss. The surveys are all well-understood and frequently utilized tests. Unique to our approach is combining numerous surveys and sifting the data in creative and instructive ways. Also unique is our use of surveys in science classrooms that have heretofore only been employed in communication research.
Immediacy and credibility are strongly linked to cognitive learning. Far too much value has been traditionally placed on assessing only what is learned. Minimal effort is dedicated to assessing and fine-tuning the classroom environment. This is not best practice. My goal is to illuminate the problems and to offer effective solutions.
Emerging university systems are keen to understand and improve undergraduate science teaching. University administrators regularly invite us to visit and to evaluate their classrooms. Our chosen focus at the moment is several countries in Africa. Of critical importance in Africa is addressing the well-recognized problem of power distance. The societies are strongly stratified or ranked such that vertical interactions (student to teacher) that would lead to better performance are routinely rendered burdensome and ineffective to non-existent. The West, in general, enjoys far more horizontal interaction and less cumbersome stratification. Of great concern, we have found that this stratification is especially true for universities that produce science teachers, thus perpetuating the difficulties. Our work in Africa is directly addressing the desires by senior administration to better understand their extant classroom environments and to effect change that will bring them in line with best practices in the West. We will continue these assessments in order to document change over time. It is highly likely that we will also improve our own practices.
- Updated: November 17, 2006