Serena J. Salloum PhD, is an Associate Professor of Educational Leadership at Ball State University who began her career as an elementary classroom teacher, working in Los Angeles (with Teach for America) and in Chicago (at a small charter school for immigrant and refugee students). She earned her doctorate at the University of Michigan in Educational Policy and Leadership. At Ball State, she teaches courses on research methods and educational policy. Her research focuses on how school context facilitates educational outcomes. In particular, how organizational culture and structure promotes equity in high poverty schools.
PsychED: What is the source of your interest in educational psychology?
Serena Salloum: I was a psychology major in undergrad -- I've always been very interested in human development and learning about how people think. Applying psychological theories to education was a perfect balance for me, given my interest in both fields.
PsychED: Your featured article focuses on the importance of social capital in education. Could you help us understand how the quality of relationships within the school community influences student achievement?
Serena Salloum: There is a lot of work that shows that when students are more comfortable in their classrooms, they are more likely to engage with their work and therefore, perform. In our article, we focused on social capital - or that relationships have value - and how that influences performance. When students get to know their teachers, there are opportunities that teachers can offer that students may not have known about otherwise.
PsychED: What are some ways in which administrators can improve the social capital of their schools?
Serena Salloum: Perhaps one of the most important ways, is for school leaders to model relationship building with teachers, students, and staff. Administrators might also work to build in time and opportunities for relationship building within the school day. Finally, leaders can encourage teaching strategies that are more conducive to building relationships - for example, teaching through discussion as compared to lecture, might foster more productive student-student, and student-teacher relationships.
PsychED: For your study, you surveyed elementary schools in Michigan. Do you expect social capital to have the same importance in other countries and cultures?
Serena Salloum: This is a great question. The United States tends to be a very individualistic culture - so I would expect that social capital might have an even more profound effect in places that are more focused on community (e.g. Asia).
PsychED: What other areas of educational psychology are you currently interested in?
Serena Salloum: I'm really interested in collective efficacy, or teachers' assessment of collective will/skill to achieve a goal. There is a lot of work that shows that school faculties with higher levels of collective efficacy tend to have students who do well.
PsychED: Thank you so much!