The College of Education is proud to recognize several research award winners that have been named this year. This is one in a series of posts.

Dr. Steve Mertens, professor of middle level education in the School of Teaching and Learning, earned the Vincent A. Anfara, Jr. Outstanding Research Award.

This award is given by the Middle Level Education Research (MLER) Special Interest Group (SIG) of the American Educational Research Association (AERA), recognizing SIG members who make significant contributions to middle level education research through the publication of an article, book chapter, monograph, book, or book series.

This award recognized his role as the lead editor for the second edition of The Encyclopedia of Middle Grades Education which contains over 210 entries from nearly 160 expert contributors.

Mertens’ research focuses on middle level teacher preparation, teacher employment and attrition, and successful programs, practices, and policies in middle grade schools through the Illinois Schools to Watch program and the National Forum to Accelerate Middle Grades Reform.

His goal in studying the middle level teacher preparation program and its graduates is to work to further refine and improve the program to best meet the needs of young adolescents in middle grade schools both within and outside Illinois. Similarly, his teacher attrition research examines the length of time graduates remain employed in education. Not surprisingly, Illinois State education graduates have lower attrition rates than the national or state averages. Lastly, the research with the Illinois Schools to Watch program examines the implementation of the best middle level education practices, programs, and policies and their impact on improved student learning and achievement.

“This award was a tremendous honor and means a great deal to me,” said Mertens. “Vince Anfara, who passed away in 2013, was a friend and middle level colleague. We had worked together for over a decade on various research projects, presentations, and publications. He was a mentor to me as I was beginning my career in middle level education research.”

Fun fact
Mertens’ colleagues might be interested to note that he spent nearly a year (1990-91) doing his doctoral dissertation research in Bucharest, Romania right after the supposed fall of communism in the country, which made for some very interesting cultural and life experiences.

For more information about Dr. Mertens’ research, visit his website.