Doctoral candidate overcoming the odds, making an impact in education

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — A College of Education doctoral student in the education theory and policy (EDTHP) program developed a dissertation that is helping improve student achievement and teacher evaluation and appraisal systems. Gulab Khan, of Gilgit, Pakistan, hopes that his work will positively impact education internationally.

Khan’s dissertation focused on how student achievement in mathematics, science and reading relates to teacher monitoring and evaluation. It emphasized designing teacher appraisal systems that aim to improve instructional capacities instead of penalizing teachers for poor student test scores.

“There is an increasing emphasis on high-stakes accountability approaches to teacher evaluation here in the U.S. and around the world,” said Khan. “These approaches mainly use student test scores as a measurement for teacher performance and reward teachers accordingly. However, evidence shows that these approaches come with the pitfalls of their own, most often to teaching and learning practices and cultural elements in schools.”

Khan said he believes this will contribute to reforms in teacher monitoring and evaluation internationally and hopes it will lead to more effective and meaningful teaching and learning experiences for teachers and students.

Mindy Kornhaber, associate professor of education and graduate program coordinator for EDTHP, is Khan’s academic adviser who said Khan’s dissertation is a very comprehensive study.

“It helps to shed light on what kinds of teacher evaluation practices may contribute to student learning,” said Kornhaber.

Growing up in an economically disadvantaged family in Gilgit-Baltistan, a remote territory in Pakistan, inspired Khan to shape and change students’ lives.

“My parents, who are not literate themselves, have a large family,” Khan said. “With such a large family, it was beyond the economic capacity of my parents to send me to a good school and college.”

In spite of these challenging circumstances, Khan went on to acquire a bachelor’s degree, two master’s degrees and Fulbright funding for his doctoral degree at Penn State.

Prior to his studies at Penn State, Khan worked in Pakistan as a chemistry teacher, principal and administrator with the Aga Khan Education Service (AKES), a large international school network. He said that he is honored that in these roles he was able to improve the learning and lives of hundreds students and through them, their families.

“The students I taught were mostly from very difficult socioeconomic circumstances,” said Khan. “(Many of the students) are now trailblazers in their own lives, shaping the societies in which they are now taking on leadership roles.”

Khan will graduate in fall 2013. After graduation, he plans on returning to Pakistan with his wife and resuming his work at AKES.

“Khan is incredibly gracious, hardworking and thoroughly dedicated to improving teaching and learning,” Kornhaber said. “I am thrilled to see him finishing his dissertation and returning home, but I’ll miss seeing him at Penn State.”

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Last Updated December 19, 2013