🔬 Research

Genesis of Research

My path to research began when I first started as a CFO for a startup Edtech company. We developed a prototype School Information System utilizing basic data mining techniques to manipulate data so teachers and educational leaders could generate reports to aid in their decision making. The genesis of the idea came when I discussed the difficulty with several colleagues in regard to writing Individualized Educational Plan’s (IEPs) without a central database generating reports that related to various pages of the IEP.  Thus, through our development of this product, we were able to cut down the time of writing IEPs from hours to minutes. Unfortunately, we never got our product to market and faded as a company. However, as a silver lining, through this time with the startup, I began to become interested in how we can use data practices to help aid in the decision making for educational leaders. This is why I began doctoral research on this topic, 

Ultimately, what this research turned into was looking into how educational leaders perceive their ability to be a leader in your current educational setting, how they use data on a daily basis in their leadership capacity, and their perceived confidence in how they use data on a daily basis. This research is intended to help further develop the body of research on data use by educational leaders as well as develop solutions to many of the problems educational leaders face regarding data use in their capacity as leader’s in K-12 schools and school districts. My goal with this research is to develop a curriculum for both administrator and teacher preparation programs to teach them how to access data, manipulate data, and utilize data to make data-driven decisions in their educational setting to best support the students they serve.

Research Expertise

My research expertise includes the topics of leadership efficacy and data use, data practices for K-12 schools and districts,  data-driven decision making for educational leaders and teachers, evidence-based practices, and professional development. Included in my research expertise are the abstracts of my doctoral and master’s research, including an Executive Summary of the doctoral dissertation’s findings, a link to the ProQuest publication of my doctoral dissertation, and a link to the draft of the Master’s thesis. 

  • Instructional Strategy Integration with EdTech: Since the beginning of my career in education, I have focused on researching and implementing research-based instructional strategies within my instruction. My goal has always been to take research-driven strategies that help students learn and to integrate them with EdTech tools to further amplify the strategy and learning that takes place.
  • Leadership Efficacy & Data Use:  How do leaders perceive his/her abilities? What are the forces in play that make one believe they can accomplish a task and/or goal? I take this idea of efficacy and relate it to data use and data confidence amongst educational leaders. By learning how educational leaders perceive their data use, we can determine which data practices are proficient amongst educators as well as data practices that need to be taught to educators through teacher and administrator preparation programs.
  • Data Practices: Data practices relates to taking a set of data and organizing it to develop useful patterns by transforming it by employing statistical analysis. The sole purpose of employing data practices in the classroom, school, and district environment is to improve student achievement as well as the effectiveness and efficiency of K-12 schools and districts. The data practices relate to how we can transform the data by using statistics to yearn knowledge to ultimately utilize in the decision-making process. It’s fascinating the see with a little creativity and innovation, what can be done with the data you have at your school site and district to help teachers, administrators, and students flourish. I want to teach educators who to utilize these data practices in classrooms, schools, and across school districts.
  • Data-Driven Decision-Making: How do teachers and educational leaders make decisions? Are they innate? Or, are they well-thought decisions? What goes into decisions made in classrooms and across the school? These questions always intrigue me. I love asking educators these questions because depending on who you talk to, you get their thought process and reasoning for the decisions they make. I want to help train teachers and educational leader’s various decision-making frameworks to help aid in the decisions they are going to have to make every day.
  • Evidence-Based Practices: This term is used by many educators to describe best practices used in classrooms and throughout the school. However, how do we know we are using best practices? Are you researching how the study was utilized to determine the effectiveness of the practice? Are your leaders doing the same? Where are you getting this information? It intrigues me when I ask these questions to educators. I research various methods of how to locate research and how to scrutinize the research based on its research design, sampling, data collection/analysis, and its results. Through my research, I hope to provide strategies for teachers and educational leaders to find and utilize the best research available as well as how to discern the reliability of the research they want to use at their school-site and district.  
  • Professional Development: I have analyzed the effectiveness of traditional and non-traditional professional development in K-12 settings. Traditional professional development, one single training/lecture on content in large group settings, is what is most commonly utilized by districts and schools, but is the most ineffective method of professional development. Non-traditional professional development, going to a large event and then developing several small events over the course of a school year, is the most effective form of professional development because it creates the onus on teachers and administrators to learn the content and then bring it back to their colleagues at their school site and district.

Doctoral Dissertation (2019)

Title: Educational Leadership Efficacy: The Relationship Between Data Use, Data Use Confidence, Leadership Efficacy, and Student Achievement


The purpose of this study was to understand the relationships between how educational leaders use data, levels of leadership efficacy with which they use data, and the relationship between data use, efficacy toward data use, and student achievement in K-12 school settings. Also, the purpose of this study was to understand how data practices and data-driven cultures are being established and utilized by educational leaders in different leadership positions at K-12 schools and school districts.

This study utilized a mixed-methods research design to answer six quantitative and two qualitative research questions. For the six quantitative research questions, the researcher employed a correlational research design to determine if correlational relationships exist between leadership efficacy, data use confidence, data use, and student achievement. For the two qualitative research questions, the researcher employed grounded theory to code the data gathered thematically.

The quantitative data results indicated that several relationships existed among several of the variables utilized for this study: data use confidence and educational leadership efficacy; educational leadership efficacy and data use; and data use and data use confidence. However, data use confidence, data use, and efficacy did not have a relationship with the student achievement variable. Qualitative findings demonstrated how educational leaders have the responsibility and obligation to implement, mandate, and model data-driven cultures. In addition, qualitative findings indicated that educational leaders perceived data practices as driving decision making for instructional and school improvement. Lastly, qualitative findings found several constraints, such as the lack of time, lack of capacity to use data, and resistance from staff and teachers impeded the use of data and data practices by educational leaders in K-12
schools and districts.

Please click the link below to read the Executive Summary of the Dissertation’s findings.

Matt Rhoads Ed.D Dissertation Executive Summary

To view the entire dissertation, please click on the following link to the ProQuest Database where it is published.

Masters Thesis (2015)

Title: High School Professional Development and Funding: Effect on Student Achievement as Perceived by Teachers and Principals


This study was conducted at two high schools in San Diego County. The data collection focused on identifying the types of professional development in the two categories of traditional and non-traditional as well as the funding sources. This was a mixed-methods research study that had both quantitative and qualitative elements that involved document analysis, interviews, and Likert type surveys. The first area analyzed was whether a correlation existed between student achievement and the funds allocated to professional development by the district and school site. In addition, this study also collected data on the perceptions of two high school principals and seven teachers at two high schools of differing academic departments to determine whether a correlation existed between traditional and non-traditional professional development and student achievement.

For the first area of focus, the findings showed there was a negative relationship between the total amount of professional development funding and student achievement at one high school while there was a very weak correlation found at the other high school. In regards to the additional area of focus for this study, the results indicated the principal at one site did not perceive that there was a sound method to measure the effect of professional development and student achievement; whereas, the second principal felt that professional development was an effective method to increase student achievement. Additionally, teachers overwhelmingly believed their professional development participation resulted in their students test scores to go up.

The conclusions of this study demonstrated that professional development and the amount of professional development funding was not a major variable in determining student achievement. Rather, researcher concluded further research is needed to focus on other variables effecting student achievement. In addition, researcher concluded there must be comprehensive professional development plans available to be distributed to teachers to ensure higher levels of transparency and accountability between teachers and principals for school-sponsored professional development.

Please click the below link to view the entire draft of the Master’s thesis.

High School Professional Development and Funding Effect on Student Achievement as Perceived by Teachers and Principals Final Draft

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