Adele Eskeles Gottfried’s Road to Research
By Dr. Cynthia Desrochers, InnovatED Editor
Dr. Adele Eskeles Gottfried, Professor and Director of Research Enhancement
The Eisner College has its own Adele, and she tops our charts when it comes to research. We had a lengthy conversation last fall, when I was intrigued to learn more about her accomplishments, her road to becoming our Director of Research Enhancement, and the lessons she’s learned that might benefit other faculty.
Dr. Adele Eskeles Gottfried recalls that she first learned about graduate school as an undergraduate at Queens College of CUNY, where she double majored in education and psychology. This discipline pairing established the foundation for her scholarly achievements throughout her stellar career. Moreover, renowned mentors inspired Adele during her University of Chicago M.A. program, including Benjamin Bloom and Jacob W. Getzels. Their focus was on research, the same focus she found in her Ph.D. program at the Graduate School and University Center of CUNY, where she was mentored by Dr. Phyllis Katz. And between degree programs, Adele taught for the New York City public schools, an experience she credits with giving her practical understanding of schooling.
Adele’s 2011 Western Psychological Association (WPA) Social Responsibility Award in many ways culminates her career, representing the various themes of her research interests. Some key comments, based on the WPA press release, include:
- Dr. Gottfried’s research has had an extensive impact on social policies relating to the well-being of children and their families.
- Her research on maternal and dual earner employment was among the first major studies to demonstrate that maternal employment does not have a negative effect on children’s development.
- The findings from her studies served as a basis for a landmark California Supreme Court ruling, which prohibits the judiciary from using a parents’ (mothers’ or fathers’) employment status per se in a child custody determination.
- She developed the Children’s Academic Intrinsic Motivation Inventory, an instrument that assesses intrinsic motivation in school subject areas (reading, math, social studies, and science) and for school in general. As well as being used nationally, it has been translated into numerous languages for use internationally.
- Very few developmental psychologists have had such an enormous impact on practical applications of research in the schools.
Moreover, with so many accomplishments, Adele was also recognized with CSUN’s Outstanding Faculty Award in 2009.
For many years, Adele has done research related to intrinsic motivation. I asked her how this focus came about:
It occurred when a school asked me to consult with them regarding students’ underachievement. And the school's interest in this stimulated my interest in intrinsic motivation, as I felt that would be a factor related to underachievement in children. Hence, the practical issue of underachievement in the schools stimulated my research interests—a way of combining an applied issue with research.
Asked to share some of her findings on intrinsic motivation for InnovatED readers, Adele states that no one factor explains it; however, she gives a short summary of what the research reveals:
- Children who are more intrinsically motivated tend to have higher academic achievement than those who are less motivated.
- Because success in school is positively related to intrinsic motivation, school success may play a role in its development.
- A family environment that simulates intellectual curiosity is positively associated with higher intrinsic motivation.
- Intrinsic motivation tends to decrease through the grades, and this is a worldwide phenomenon. It is likely due to many factors, including greater nurturing in the lower grades as well as greater controlling factors in middle and high school.
- Intrinsic motivation is facilitated to the degree that there is an optimal level of reach. Students need learning tasks that are just right for them, versus too easy or too difficult, in order to foster intrinsic motivation.
- Extrinsic rewards should be avoided.
Lessons Learned and Suggestions for Faculty
Adele believes that faculty should do what they love and for which they have first and foremost, a personal commitment to their research and its value, even in the face of that occasional rejection letter. She urges faculty to develop a direction and stick to it. Know your work is good and believe in it. Plan carefully from conception through design, measurement, data analysis, and write up. Think of your peer community and ways to insure that they will see your work as valid. Moreover, Adele offers the following:
- If you have a research idea, contact her. She is willing to mentor you. And if she can’t help you directly, she will help locate someone who can.
- Visit the COE Research website at: http://www.csun.edu/education/research/
In conclusion, she remarks that we all owe a debt of gratitude to Dean Spagna who initiated this research enhancement direction in the College. He recognizes this need for all of our students, including our Ed.D. students, masters, and other student-career paths, as well as for faculty. Moreover, Adele states: Thanks are also extended to Dick Gregory, Director of the Ed.D. Program in Educational Leadership, Ian Carroll, our Web Master, and the Research Advisory Committee for their contributions to development of the COE Research Website, Annual Research Colloquium, AERA Annual Reception, and establishment of research enhancement goals. Thanks also go to the faculty for their support of these initiatives.