Avis M. Masuda is an associate professor of education at the University of Hawai‘i at Hilo. She also serves as vice chair of the School of Education. She has over 20 years of teaching experience and works with K-12 classroom teachers in areas of literacy, assessment, and teacher learning communities. She continues to work and conduct research with teachers in professional communities.
About the focus of her research, Masuda says UH Hilo’s School of Education is committed to supporting teachers at different stages of their career. In addition to preparing prospective (preservice) teacher candidates and working with licensed teachers in their graduate studies, Masuda also provides professional development for teachers in K-12 schools.
“One of my recent research projects was to study what influenced teachers’ attitudes toward professional development at different career stages,” she says. “I engaged in a collaborative inquiry with two of my colleagues to examine what might influence teachers’ attitudes and willingness to engage in professional development.”
The research team interviewed teachers at varying career stages: preservice (prospective), beginning (one to five years), mid-career (six to 20 years), late-career (20-plus years), and retired teachers. They discovered the content of professional development had to be meaningful and relevant to the teachers’ teaching context (grade level and subject) and demographics of their students. Masuda says teachers were willing to invest in professional development where benefits outweighed the costs of time and effort. Benefits included having something tangible to use immediately in their classrooms, such as a strategy, tool, or handout.
“We found that at every career stage teachers fostered an inherent love for learning, acknowledged the need for continuous growth, and expressed their purpose in teaching was making a difference for children,” she says. “All teachers viewed professional development as a means to continuous improvement of their pedagogy.”
Masuda teaches undergraduate and graduate courses in literacy and secondary instructional methods in UH Hilo’s master of arts in teaching program. She also teaches graduate courses for licensed teachers in the master of education program.
As a teacher educator, she says, it is imperative she stay on top of what is going on in K-12 classrooms and the broader educational discourses that impact teaching and learning practices.
“My research with classroom practitioners seems to mutually benefit the teachers who continue to refine their instructional practices, and this knowledge in turn helps me to refine my teaching to better prepare prospective teachers,” she says.
Participants in her research projects include students who have graduated from UH Hilo’s School of Education and are now teaching, as well as other licensed teachers. Currently, her work and research with classroom teachers focuses upon implementation of the Common Core State Standards.
“While engaging in practitioner inquiry takes time and focused effort, the teachers’ sense of professionalism never ceases to amaze me,” she says. “It is an appreciation and validation for the work of teaching. The teachers I’ve worked with are committed to learning and refining their instruction; they willingly share their knowledge and practices, and are truly dedicated to their students.”
Masuda says her research benefits the local educational community by providing opportunities for teachers to continue learning through practitioner inquiry with colleagues (teacher educators and other teachers), which helps them to examine a particular issue or instructional focus relevant to their classrooms.
“Having opportunities to closely examine their teaching practices with respect to student learning, analyzing student work, learning with and from their colleagues, and engaging in dialogue, binds them together as professionals,” she says. “They can try new practices and engage in powerful learning because it takes it to their teaching practices at the ground level within their individual contexts. Practitioner inquiry deepens and continues to transform teacher learning.”
Masuda’s future goals are to develop and sustain teachers as literacy professionals within the Big Island teacher community, from preservice through their different career stages.
“As a teacher educator, I work to continuously support teacher candidates in their preparation for a teaching career,” she says. “For prospective elementary preservice teachers, I hope to strengthen their knowledge of literacy foundations through an applied learning model.”
Masuda says for prospective secondary teachers, one of her research areas aligns with a current shift from preparing teacher candidates with knowledge of general literacy strategies across content areas to the need for helping middle and high school students understand what it means to read, write, and think from a disciplinary perspective.
“I hope to explore possibilities with other UH Hilo faculty to see how we might collaborate, given their disciplinary expertise,” she says.
Masuda received her master of arts in education from Washington State University, Pullman, WA, and her doctor of philosophy in education from the University of Queensland, Brisbane, Australia.
This profile has been updated to reflect Associate Professor Masuda’s promotion.