BackgroundTop of page

Since its inception in the 1950s, the Alberta Advisory Committee for Educational Studies (AACES) has made an important contribution to educational research in Alberta. The main purpose of the AACES is to encourage and financially support educational studies. It may also support publications designed to disseminate the results of educational studies. AACES currently involves a partnership among the faculties of education at the Universities of Alberta, Calgary and Lethbridge and the Alberta Teachers’ Association. Until recently Alberta Education (now Alberta Learning) was a contributing supporter.

A Brief History of AACESTop of page

1952/53 Founded by the University of Alberta, the Department of Education, the Alberta Teachers’ Association, the Alberta School Trustee’s Association and the Home and School Association
1954 Founded the Alberta Journal of Educational Research
1970 The University of Lethbridge joins AACES
1980s AACES supports two thriving journals: the Alberta Journal of Educational Research and the Journal of Educational Thought
1983 In its first 30 years, AACES funded some 240 research projects

Guidelines for Grant ApplicationsTop of page

Am I Eligible to Apply for an AACES Grant?

  1. To apply for an AACES grant, an individual must be formally affiliated with one of the contributing organizations (the University of Lethbridge, the University of Alberta, the University of Calgary or the Alberta Teachers' Association) in one of the following categories:
    • a certificated teacher who is a member of the ATA
    • Faculty of Education sessional instructor
    • Faculty of Education member
    • Faculty of Education professor emeritus
    • Faculty of Education adjunct
    • Faculty of Education post-doctoral fellow

What Types of Projects does AACES Support?

  1. Grants in excess of $6,000 are awarded rarely because of limited available resources.
  2. AACES is particularly interested in projects designed to improve teacher preparation or to benefit elementary and secondary education. Preference will be given to projects that are investigating educational issues or questions.
  3. Graduate students may not be the principal investigator on projects that involve their thesis or dissertation; however, graduate students involved in research funded by AACES may use part or all of the work for a university degree or course subject to the approval of the principal investigator. 
  4. AACES will not support activities whose major purpose is to produce commercial products (such as books, texts, curriculum guides and audiovisual aids) or that are deemed to constitute professional development.

How Do I Apply for an AACES Grant?

  1. Download and fill out each section of the grant application form.
  2. Written submissions will be accepted in English or French.  Proposals submitted in French require a summary of the research project in English.
  3. The Ethics Approval Report or the application to the Ethics Review Committee must be included with the grant application. It would be prudent to ensure the required information to complete your research project is available from the source cited in your proposal. 
  4. Mail or deliver eight copies of the completed application form and each of the attachments to the AACES secretariat office by 4:30 pm on the published deadline
    or
    Assemble the application form and all attachments into one document, attach the document to an email and send it to doreen.link@ata.ab.ca by 4:30 pm on the published deadline. Faxed copies will not be accepted.

How are Grant Recipients Chosen?

  1. AACES meets twice a year, once after the spring deadline and once after the fall deadline, to review applications that meet the above criteria. In the case of each application, the committee will rule in one of three possible ways: (a) to accept it for funding, (b) to reject it or (c) to recommend that the applicant revise and resubmit it by the next application deadline. Resubmitted proposals will be considered as part of a regular subsequent competition. Decisions of the committee are final.

What Expenditures Qualify for an AACES Grant?

  1. Among the expenses that AACES may reimburse, in whole or in part, for a project that has been accepted are:
    • research assistants’ salaries
    • telephone and postage charges
    • non-capital materials costs, such as paper, pencils, tapes and film
    • research-related travel expenses
    • transcription costs
    • consultants’ fees
    • release time for school-based staff (provided that the school or school jurisdiction involved agrees to match the amount requested from AACES)
  2. Among the expenses that AACES will not reimburse are:
    • indirect costs. Researchers are encouraged to list this item as part of the university’s funding for the proposal.
    • honoraria for the principal researcher or researchers
    • capital expenses exceeding $250
    • travel expenses associated with attending a conference in the researcher's community.

What Happens if I Qualify for a Grant?

  1. Projects must be initiated within one year following the date on which the grant was approved.
  2. Grants funds awarded for research will not be released until AACES has received an Ethics Review Committee Approval Report. This report must be received within one year following the date on which AACES approved the grant, or the grant will be forfeited.
  3. Grants funds awarded for research being conducted in a school or schools will not be released until AACES has received a school district and a school approval report. This report must be received within one year following the date on which AACES approved the grant, or the grant will be forfeited. 
  4. AACES grants will be disbursed only to an audited account on which the grant recipient may draw.
  5. Grant recipients are expected to complete their project within two years, although they may apply in writing to the AACES secretariat for an extension of up to one year.
  6. Grant recipients must submit a copy of the final report, along with an abstract of not more than 500 words, to the AACES secretariat within six months of the termination date of the project. If the final report is not received within the specified time, AACES will not consider further proposals from the principal investigator for a period of three years. AACES will also inform the dean of the relevant faculty of education or the superintendent of the relevant school jurisdiction in writing that the final report was not received by the deadline. Grant recipients who fail to meet all obligations within two years of the termination date of their grant will not be considered for future grants.
  7. AACES reserves the right to circulate the final reports of projects to participating organizations and interested parties.
  8. Grant recipients who publish articles resulting from AACES-funded research should submit a copy of their articles to the AACES secretariat.

Obtaining an Application FormTop of page

Application forms are available in writable PDF format. Simply download the form, fill it out and e-mail it to doreen.link@ata.ab.ca or mail it to the following address:

Secretary, Alberta Advisory Committee for Educational Studies
c/o The Alberta Teachers' Association
100, 3016 5 Avenue NE
Calgary AB  T2A 6K4

The next deadline for applications is October 17, 2017 at 4:30 pm

Contacting AACESTop of page

To find out more about AACES, contact either of these individuals:

  • Doreen Link at 403-265-2672 in Calgary (1-800-332-1280 from elsewhere in Alberta)
  • Jean-Claude Couture at 780-447-9462 in Edmonton (1-800-232-7208 from elsewhere in Alberta)

Recent ProjectsTop of page

Grants Approved in 2017

“Examining Interventions for Persistently Poor Readers”

Rauno Parrila, Professor, Department of Educational Psychology, University of Alberta

A critical problem in reading intervention research is what alternative interventions are effective with children who struggle with reading acquisition despite receiving high-quality Tier 1 and Tier 2 reading interventions in earlier school grades. These children, called persistently poor readers, have an increased risk for major academic difficulties and a cascading risk of socioemotional, attentional and behavioural problems if their intervention needs are not met. In this study, the effects of two alternative Tier 3 intervention programs on word reading and spelling skills of 30 persistently poor readers in Grade 3 will be compared. The first program represents the current “gold standard” in intervention research and consists of intensive one-on-one phonics training. The second program, called Structured Word Inquiry (SWI), builds on the observation “the present [English] orthography is not merely a letter-to-sound system riddled with imperfections, but instead, a more complex and more regular relationship wherein phoneme and morpheme share leading roles” (Venetzky, 1967, p 77). In the SWI program, the graphemephoneme instruction is combined with an introduction to morphological and etymological spelling conventions how to investigate the origins of word spellings. Both programs will consist of 30 minute on-on-one sessions delivered three times a week for ten weeks. The participating children will be randomly assigned to the programs and their word reading and spelling skills are assessed immediately before and after the intervention and again three months later to see the maintenance of effects. It is expected that children in both programs will show immediate gains in their word reading, but that the SWI program will have an larger impact on spelling and, due to its inquire nature focused on self-teaching skills, a larger long-term effect as evident in maintenance scores.

“Teacher Strengths: Understanding Psychological Attributes and Skills in Teachers”

Emma A Climie, Assistant Professor, School and Applied Psychology, Werklunk School of Education, University of Calgary

In today’s classrooms, teachers are expected to develop optimal curricula that supports their students’ academic, social, and emotional growth (Goroshit & Hen, 2016). Novice teachers often feel overwhelmed with supporting the needs of large classrooms and, consequently, early attrition from the profession is common (Kim & Cho, 2013). It is known that self-regulated learning and self-efficacy are key factors that positively impact student academic success (Bembenutty, 2016); however, the role that they play in pre and inservice teachers’ learning has yet to be studied.

The goal of the Teacher Strengths project is to study the relationship between self-regulated learning, self-efficacy, and empathy to identify psychological attributes that can be developed and strengthened in preservice teachers. Although previous research in this area is scarce, some research has highlighted the link between self-regulated learning and academic success in college students (Dörrenbächer & Perels, 2016), while self-efficacy has been linked with fewer symptoms of anxiety and depression in students (Erozkan, Dogan, & Adiguzel, 2016). Empathy has been identified as important to maintaining positive teacher-student relationships (Barış, 2016). Collecting information regarding these psychological attributes in preservice as well as inservice teachers could inform teacher training programs regarding the development of psychological skills that will benefit teachers’ well-being and competence once they actively engage in the education system.

“Exploring Beauty and Aesthetics in Science Education with Pre-Service Teachers”

Sharon Pelech, Assistant Professor, Faculty of Education, University of Lethbridge

The purpose of this research is to explore how a class project, “Beauty and Aesthetics in Science,” impacts students’ understanding of the nature of science, how they define science and, as a result, how it impacts their understanding of science curriculum, teaching and learning.

The primary research question directing this research project is: How can preservice students experience science as a tentative, creative free space amidst the intensified and alienating processes they often experienced in their own schooling? The Beauty and Aesthetics in Science assignment is an attempt to support and encourage a contemplative and creative orientation to teaching – a pushing back and resisting of the noise and fragmented busyness that subordinates the emancipatory potential of educational practice. As such, my research raises three subsidiary questions: What constitutes creative space in the context of teacher education where preservice teachers are given the opportunity to experience a sense of wonder?; How does the opportunity to explore science from a sense of wonder impact preservice teachers understanding of what is science and science education?, and finally, How does incorporating beauty and aesthetics within a research assignment impact students’ relationship and understanding of the process of inquiry and their connection with nature?

Initial data from the pilot samplings have shown that students experience initial frustration with the open-endedness of this assignment, but once they delve into the topic, they love the freedom it offers to creatively pursue their interests. Second, including an emotional and aesthetic connection to their research and to nature impacts their experience with the research process in a meaningful way. Finally, students have reported being given “permission to wonder” within a formal education setting was a foreign experience within their own schooling.

“Pre-Service Teachers at Risk: Intervention Strategies by and for Teachers”

Amy Burns, Director of Field Experience, Werklund School of Education, University of Calgary

This research will investigate strategies for supporting pre-service teachers who experience significant challenges in the field experience. Based both on personal experience of the investigators and on evidence provided in the literature (Nielsen, Trigges, Clark, & Collins, 2010; Patrick, 2013; Willegems, Consuegra, Struyyven, & Engels; 2017), it has been noted that these challenges present themselves for pre-service teachers in a variety of ways, including mental health disorders and issues with navigating the professional context. These challenges can also resolve in many ways including additional pre-service teacher support, intervention by the postsecondary institution and pre-service teacher failure of the experience. Through interviews with teachers and school-based leaders who have previously worked with struggling pre-service teachers, common strategies will be examined for intervention and support as well as the role played by policy in either supporting or hindering the enactment of pre-service field education.

Through semi-structured interviews with ten teachers and five school-based administrators, strategies designed to support pre-service teachers in two key areas will be examined. These will include supporting interpersonal relationships in the field experience and supporting the professional work of teaching such as lesson design. Finally, the study will include discussions with school-based leaders on ways legislation both supports and hinders pre-service teacher field education and the ways in which postsecondary institutions can better facilitate this critical component of teacher education. The semi-structured interview data collected from these 15 participants will form the pilot data of a bigger research project that will take into account issues of mental wellness. The ultimate goal of this research is to create a program/framework that helps struggling pre-service teachers become successful in-service teachers.

Grants Approved in 2016

“Image, Body and Voice: Supporting Girls’ Sense of Well-Being”

Alexandra Fidyk, Associate Professor, Secondary Education, University of Alberta

Mental Health Day Canada, sponsored by Bell, Right By You Campaign, Dove “Girls Self Esteem,” Teen Mental Health and The Jack Project seek to improve the wellbeing of youth in Canada. With suicide a leading cause of death among young Canadians, schools are attempting to address mental health. One factor of mental health is body image. As social media and media culture target youth, dangerous and unrealistic cultural ideals of slimness and beauty have distorted a healthy sense of self. Having a poor body image is highly related to low self-esteem, affecting learning and, in some situations, can lead to self-harm and eating disorders (Westerberg-Jacobson, Edlund et al. 2010). Canadian Mental Health Association (2014) indicates that mental health needs a balance in “all aspects of life – social, physical, spiritual, economic and mental.” Such realities must pervade curriculum and pedagogy. With these aspects in mind, and a request from a junior high school where students have high social needs and low parental involvement, a year-long wellness project was developed for girls identified as vulnerable. Dedicated to supporting wellness, a participatory hermeneutic study using arts-informed methods is proposed. Through body maps (Gastaldo, 2012; Devine, 2008; McGregor, 2009; Weinand, 2006), photovoice (Karlsson, 2012), and a symbolic approach, the study seeks to make meaning of these girls’ sense of self and well-being while developing new skills. It also plans to reach into the community to engage families then turn back to support teachers and administration through collaborative, community of practice professional development opportunities.

Of note, mental health is only “a subsidiary element in this study as it is intended to increase our understanding of individuals, groups and/or societies” (SSHRC Canada). 

“Understanding Perspectives on Practicum Supervision by University Supervisors and Student Teachers in a Faculty of Education: A Case Study”

Dawn Burleigh, Assistant Professor, Faculty of Education, University of Lethbridge

Field experiences are an integral component of any teacher education program. Teacher education programs have attempted to address the potentially limiting, normative influence of practical experiences by enhancing the coherence of the various elements of preservice professional development through the establishment of close relationships between universities and schools and having tenured faculty and other instructors working with student teachers in the field as part of their teaching responsibility. Involvement from university supervisors ensures the integration of theory and practice to prepare the student teachers for success in a variety of classrooms and educational contexts. Nonetheless, the influence of university supervisors on practicum experiences has not been widely investigated. This research study will address this gap by investigating the supervisory process and the experiences of both university supervisors and student teachers during practicum supervision. The results of this case study research will focus on effective approaches to supervision, means of enhancing student teaching practice and the role relationships play in the supervision process.

“Academic Vocabulary Learning in Grade 3 – 4: Which words? How many?”

Hetty Roessingh, Professor, Werklund School of Education, University of Calgary

Grade 3 – 4 has been widely recognized as the shift from “learning to read” to “reading to learn.” Making meaning of written text is dependent on having a robust vocabulary. Written literacy, similarly, requires significant vocabulary knowledge to engage with the increasingly complex demands of curriculum and academic tasks associated with expository genres. The key predictor of succeeding with these school related tasks is control over a large and sophisticated vocabulary repertoire. Language sample analysis (LSA) – analyzing students’ writing samples affords insights into their control over productive vocabulary. Time series data consisting of writing samples (N=260) taken one year apart (ie the end of Grade 3 and the end of Grade 4) are first analyzed for writing quality standard following a trait based rubric. They are then digitized, corrected for spelling, and submitted to online tools available in the public domain (www.lextutor.ca/vp/kids) that generate various indices of vocabulary use. This research will investigate patterns and thresholds of vocabulary use at four quality standards (excellent, proficient, satisfactory, limited), producing lists of words that distinguish high proficiency from low proficiency samples. These will provide useful starting points for classroom practitioners to teach targeted words in contexts that are meaningful and engaging for young learners. Children who are linguistically vulnerable, including English language learners, Aboriginal children and children raised in poverty are particularly dependent on their teachers to make the difference in their language development. On these counts, we must and can do much better in Alberta classrooms.

“Middle school literacy: A three-year study of the impact of an Indigo Love of Reading Foundation Grant on student engagement and motivation for reading and teachers' perceptions of themselves as teachers of reading”

Robin M Bright, Professor, Faculty of Education, University of Lethbridge

Wilson Middle School staff in Alberta, Canada, identified that students’ low literacy levels were having a negative impact on engagement and academic success. School administration and lead teachers proposed an initiative to address this area through a six-week exploratory option block in the daily timetable. All students received a daily literacy block for six weeks taught by all staff. Students were grouped by reading levels established from the Canadian Test of Basic Skills scores with ranges falling between: Kindergarten–Grade 3, Grades 4–6, Grades 7–8, and Grades 10+. The staff was guided through several professional development sessions to develop the literacy initiative consisting of daily 50-minute classes. The teachers offered students daily and direct instruction to improve reading through phonics, phonemic awareness, comprehension, vocabulary and fluency using a variety of literature at the students’ reading levels. After the first year of implementing the six-week exploratory, the Motivation for Reading Questionnaire based on the research work of Guthrie and Wigfield (1997) was administered; students’ motivation for reading was targeted in an effort to elevate student attitudes towards and engagement with reading. Results from the motivation survey indicated that the majority of students showed an increased interest in reading and reported increased positive feelings about their reading. Having recently been awarded a large national literacy grant to purchase books with, the proposed study will examine the continued impact of this award on students’ engagement and motivation for reading, teachers’ perceptions of themselves as teachers of reading, and the families’ perceptions of their children as readers over three years.

Grants Approved in 2015

“Argumentation in-the-making in/for Socio-scientific Problem Solving”

Mijung Kim, Associate Professor, Elementary Education, University of Alberta

According to the definition of scientific literacy by the Council of Ministers of Education, Canada (2014), scientific reasoning, evidence-based decision making and problem solving are the goals of science education for the 21st century citizenship. Scientific argumentation has recently emerged as an important tool to develop children’s reasoning and problem solving in science and mathematics education. Toulmin’s Argumentation Patterns has been widely accepted as an effective tool to teach argumentation, yet, in recent years, it has been criticized for the linear structure and lack of epistemic criteria to understand the complexity of children’s reasoning process. Educational researchers generally and Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics educators specifically have become interested in dialogical pedagogies of argumentation to understand children’s reasoning in real life situations. This study aims to investigate argumentation as a tool to develop children’s collective reasoning and problem solving in socio-scientific and technological issues. This study particularly questions how teachers and children engage and transform argumentation strategies (eg, evidence-based claim, critical moves, etc) in problem solving processes and how they internalize the culture and skills of argumentation through dialogical relations. Two Grade 5-6 classes will participate in an interpretive case study. Video-data of classroom activities, interviews and field notes will be collected and analyzed through interaction analysis and thematic coding strategies to analyze the structure of events and the temporal organization of classroom interactions and knowledge building. The study findings are expected to yield critical insights into children’s appropriation of scientific argumentation and suggest new approaches to science teaching toward children’s reasoning and problem solving.

“A Phenomenological Investigation of Adolescent Newcomers’ Experiences of School Integration”

Anusha Kassan, Assistant Professor, Werklund School of Education, University of Calgary

The aim of this study is to develop an in-depth, contextual understanding of adolescent newcomers’ integration into the Canadian school system. As a large and growing segment of the population, immigrant and refugee youth play a vital role in the school fabric and future of Canada. Entrance into the school system is, for most newcomers, their first introduction to the host culture within which they reside and consequently can impact their community involvement, career pathways and contributions to society (Areepattamannil & Freeman, 2008; Rossiter & Rossiter, 2009; Suarez-Orozco & Suarez-Orozco, 2001). Yet numerous studies have highlighted the diverse range of challenges that adolescent newcomers face as they enter high school in Canada (Naraghi, 2013; Ngo, 2009; Li, 2010; Stodolska, 2008). These findings point to a critical need to understand how to improve the academic and social transition of newcomer youth. Through a phenomenological research design, this study explores the phenomenon of “school integration” among newcomer youth in Calgary, thus positioning youth themselves as experts of their own experience and the types of services they need during their academic adjustment (Ngo, 2009). Participants will be recruited through a public high school in the city, which hosts numerous adolescent newcomers every year. The central research questions to be investigated in this study include (a) How do adolescent newcomers describe their integration into high school in Canada? And (b) What do adolescent newcomers need as they integrate into high school in Canada? The adolescent perspective is vital in order to expand our understanding of the challenges newcomers face at school and inform future efforts to deliver accessible, relevant and culturally sensitive resources and programs.