The Neag School of Education’s Department of Educational Leadership welcomed Reem Al Ghanem as a postdoctoral researcher in September.
Dr. Reem Al Ghanem earned her B.S. in Special Education from King Saud University in Saudi Arabia, and her Ed.M. and Ed.D. in Special Education from Boston University. In her undergraduate studies, she majored in severe disabilities, but in her graduate studies, Al Ghanem shifted her interests to mild/moderate disabilities with a focus on reading disability.
Al Ghanem’s interests in reading disability developed from her professional experience as a special education teacher in Saudi Arabia, where she worked alongside Arabic/English bilingual students with reading difficulties. The school in which she worked had numerous resources for reading intervention strategies in English, but similar resources in Arabic were scarce. Given the thin literature on reading disabilities and reading intervention in Arabic, the school relied largely on translating and trying to adapt English reading interventions to Arabic and Al Ghanem began to question whether this approach was truly effective as English and Arabic are distinctly different languages. She also challenged herself to identify ways she could better help those students with the most severe reading disabilities.
These questions lead Al Ghanem to focus her graduate studies in the area of reading. She became more heavily involved in reading research when, during her first year of doctoral studies, she began working with Dr. Devin Kearns and in 2015 she jointly published a literature review with Dr. Kearns on word recognition in Arabic in the Reading Research Quarterly journal. Today, Al Ghanem continues her research and efforts to help improve reading interventions in both English and Arabic.
Al Ghanem became involved in leadership and policy research during her last year of graduate studies. Her interest in leadership, policy, and teacher education developed as a result of her own experience as a student-teacher and her experience teaching methods classes to pre-service and in-service teachers working with students who had reading disabilities. In both experiences, she ran into cases where school administration and district personnel, played a great role in determining what reading programs, interventions, and instructional methods were to used to support students with reading difficulty.
These thought provoking disparities align with the work that Dr. Al Ghanem will be conducting at UConn working on an IES-Funded Project with Professor Morgaen Donaldson. The project focuses on the associations between district policies related to principal evaluation, principal’s enactment of learning-centered leadership practices, and student achievement in reading and mathematics. Al Ghanem and Donaldson are working together as part of a larger research team headquartered at the University of Connecticut with collaborators at the University of Virginia, and Michigan State University.
Within her role at Neag's School of Education, Dr. Al Ghanem’s responsibilities will include interviewing principals, conducting surveys, and analyzing student data to learn more about the principal’s involvement in making instructional decisions, their leadership style, and how they influence student achievement. She is working primarily from the University of Connecticut branch in Downtown Hartford, CT, and is looking forward to working with the community of scholars in the Department of Educational Leadership. Welcome Dr. Reem Al Ghanem!