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Karen Beard

Assistant Professor, Department of Educational Studies

Program Area: Educational Administration

(614) 688-1384

Personal Website


Karen Stansberry Beard is an assistant professor of Educational Administration in the Department of Educational Studies. She teaches leadership, inquiry and ethics. She also teaches: school and community relations, organizational theory, policy and politics, school culture, climate and change, educational administration, supervision, and curriculum leadership for principals. 

Karen’s research focuses on educational administration and leadership development with the intentional exploration of positive psychology and related constructs (flow and academic optimism) in educational administration. She explores the impact of positive psychology on teaching and learning, as well as the implementation of policy supportive of cross cultural understanding and reducing gaps in achievement. African American student achievement and civil rights legislation are central to her interests. These foci undergird her publications as well as her presentation activities across the United Stated and internationally.

As a parent, former teacher, and principal, she pursues “best practices” and predictors of effective organizational leadership and conditions which support teacher and student well-being. She is among the first scholars to introduce Positive Psychology into the work of educational administration and policy implementation and the first known scholar to introduce flow into Educational Administration literature.


  • PhD, Educational Administration, The Ohio State University, 2008
  • MA, Educational Administration, The Ohio State University, 1989
  • BS, Elementary Education, K-8, The Ohio State University, 1983

Research Interests

Research Summary

Beard’s research stands apart from others in the field of educational administration because it is grounded in positive psychology. Through the intentional exploration of positive psychology and related constructs (Flow and Academic optimism), Karen pursues best practices, organizational dynamics, and policies that reduce gaps in achievement and support positive conditions for cross-cultural understanding, and student well-being. These foci undergird her publication and presentation activities across the United States and internationally. Her publications link educational leadership and positive psychology constructs to issues pertaining to gaps in achievement and opportunity. The inherent nature of Beard’s research requires highly developed skill in both quantitative and qualitative research methodologies. Her dissertation study introduced positive psychology into the field of educational administration and won her The William Loadman Best Dissertation in Educational Administration Award. She has also received several awards in recognition of her teaching and service to the profession including: The EHE Distinguished Teaching Award (2018), The Miami University Top 100 Faculty Commendation (2014), and Urban Education’s Kofi Lomotey Reviewer of the Year (2017). Karen has over twenty single and first authorship publications yielding hundreds of citations.

Positive Psychology in Educational Administration

Educational Administration as a field of research has often borrowed theoretical perspectives from business management, medicine, and psychology. Most of the research in education pertaining to achievement and opportunity gaps views students of color and/or low socio-economic status from a deficit perspective. Critical theories expose and inform the field of inequitable practices, the extant inequities of organizational structure, and consequential outcomes. While the evidence of “what is” is disconcerting, it also provides opportunity to consider positive change toward “what could be.” What has been missing in educational research, is an appropriate perspective through which to theorize and bright-line situational factors and phenomena when things go well. Positive psychology provides that lens. Positive psychology offers a unique perspective because it invites new thought allowing us to go beyond treating illness toward effective interventions useful in aiding achievement and student well-being. It is particularly useful in the exploration of what works as educational administrators address challenges in practice promoting equity and excellence, as well as the political and social challenges of policy implementation. Researching what works in practice to gain traction in closing stubborn gaps in achievement, and unveiling the conditions under which students can engage and flourish is exciting. This optimistic focus leans toward enhancing competencies and capacities, rather than treating deficits and limitations. Research with a bend toward enhancing marginalized student well-being is timely and highly relevant

Educational Administration and Policy Respective of Achievement and Opportunity Gaps

There are two achievement gaps of greatest concern to American educators. The first is between white, affluent students in the U.S., and students of color and those in poverty. The second is between U.S. students and those in other high-achieving nations that have made greater and more equitable investments in education over the last forty years. While deficit a perspective, “pervades most of the educational thinking related to difference” (Shields, Bishop & Mazawi, 2005, p. 4), positive psychology provides a fresh lens through which to work on challenges associated with achievement. It also provides scientific understandings and effective interventions toward building thriving individuals and communities. Beard makes intentional connections that while African American achievement gain differences are the most prevalent, finding practices and conditions conducive to learning, which positively impact achievement for African Americans, could also impact achievement gains for other marginalized, negatively stigmatized populations. Gaps in achievement and opportunity have been long-time interests of hers, with respect to leadership, decision-making, curriculum access, culture, and climates within schools and districts. Beard brings issues pertaining to the educational experiences of the marginalized into the mainstream discourse of educational administration and leadership.

Educational Administration and Leadership Development

Teaching educational administration and leadership development provides opportunity to further discussions of school policy, curriculum, and community (business and parent) engagement positively impacting school reform. Creating conditions in which teachers and students flourish provides another interesting dimension to Beard’s work hence, the third strand of research developed. The specific interest in positive psychology and leadership preparation has allowed her to explore the conceptual theories of flow, academic optimism, grit and PERMA(H) for practical application. Leadership development has provided the opportunity to incorporate her research on engagement into the work of preparing administrators and educational leaders for what is expected of them in practice. Social justice through positive psychology is the overarching theme of her work in educational administration and leadership development.

Selected Presentations

Keynote or Invited

1.    Beard, K. S.  (2016, November) 2016 ICERI Invited (ICERI2016 Organizing Committee). ICERI is a (Peer Reviewed) conference organized by The International Academy of Technology, Education and Development. Seville, Spain

2.    Beard, K. S. (2016, October) Answering the Call: Informing the front line through research of the impact of marginalization experiences. Invited (Bob Thomas, OCTEO Conference Coordinator) Keynote Speaker for the 2016 Ohio Confederation of Teacher Education Organizations Conference. Dublin Ohio, United States.

3.    Beard, K. S. (2015, June). Leading with purpose: Administration and policy implementation using positive psychology. Battelle For Kids Educators Connect for Success Conference. Columbus, Ohio, United States. Solo Presentation. Invited (Denise Snowden).

4.    Beard, K. S. (2014, July). Leading Schools: Using School, Parent and Community Relations to promote student engagement and well-being while implementing Educational Policy. Invited (Aimin Wang) Presenter and Workshop Lecturer (10 lectures) for 90 Chinese educators of the Fengtai Education Bureau, Beijing China

5.    Beard, K. S. (2014, February). Theoretically Speaking: Contemporary Theory Addressing Historical Challenges. The University of Alabama 7th Annual Educational Administration Research Conference. Invited (John Tartar) Keynote. University of Alabama. Tuscaloosa, Alabama, United States. The conference audience included peers within the field but the talk was for student researchers.


1.    Adeeko, O., Beard, K. S. (April, 2018). Charter School Authorization Practices: Two Models of Governance. A roundtable paper presentation for The American Education Research Association (AERA). New York, NY

2.    Thomson, S., Beard, K. S. (April, 2018). Positive Parent and Community Engagement: An Exploratory Case Study of an Urban Minority-Majority School District, PERMA(H) and Student Well-being. A roundtable paper presentation for The International Network on School, Family and Community Partnerships (INET). New York, NY

3.    Beard, K. S., and representatives from each state of the United States (November, 2017). What is Your State’s Plan for School Leadership? A Cross- State Analysis of ESSA. A Special Session Roundtable on ESSA at the 31st annual University Council of Education Administration (UCEA) annual conference, Denver, CO.

4.    Adeeko, O., Beard, K. S., (2017, November). Charter school authorization: A gateway to school equity, parent choice, and community engagement. (Peer Reviewed) University Council of Educational Administration UCEA annual conference.  Authorship: 50%

5.    Adeeko, O., Beard, K. S. (2017, November) Examining Charter School Authorizer Effectiveness: What Matters Most? In Principal Behaviors and the Market’s Role in Education and Leadership. Ignite session presentation for the Graduate Student Summit at the 31st annual University Council of Education Administration (UCEA) annual conference, Denver, CO. Authorship: 20%

6.    Marshall, J., Beard, K. S. (2016, April). Work-life balance and educational leadership faculty: Themes and strategies. American Education Research Association (Peer Reviewed). Washington, United States, DC. 50% Authorship: Coding, analysis and poster design

7.    Watkins, S., Anthony, A., Beard, K. S. (2016, November). Innovating Under Pressure: Perceptions of innovative public school principals working in a high stakes policy context. University Council of Educational Administration (Peer Reviewed). Detroit, Michigan, United States.15% Authorship: Assisted in framing policy context, contributed to literature and editing reviews

8.    Beard, K. S. (April, 2015). Becoming Marginalized: A Study of Educational Administration Student Discourse in the Experience of Marginalization. A paper presentation for the 2015 AERA Annual Convention (Peer Reviewed), Chicago IL. Solo presentation of research

9.    Beard, K. S. (2015, November). Beyond the great wall: Preparing leaders to reimagine policy implementation to enhance student engagement and well-being. University Council of Educational Administration (Peer Reviewed). San Diego, California, United States. Solo presentation of research

10.    Beard, K. S. (2015, November). Integrating spirituality, work, and not-work in educational leadership: A critical conversation. University Council of Educational Administration (Peer Reviewed). San Diego, California, United States. 25% Authorship

11.    Beard, K. S. (2014, April). Developing engaged school leaders: An assessment study of an innovative principal preparation program. American Education Research Association (Peer Reviewed). Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, United States. Solo presentation of research
12.    Beard, K. S. (2014, November). A window seat: Exploring the interplay between law, policy and community engagement through the remedy of forced busing found in Keyes, Milliken and Penick. Paper presented on the Special Topic Symposium: A Wrong Without a Remedy?: 40 Years Post-Milliken in the Struggle to Right Educational Inequities. The Annual Convention of the (Peer Reviewed) University Council for Educational Administration, Washington D.C.

13.    Beard, K. S., Radd, S. I. (2014, November). Becoming marginalized: Preparing school leaders to understand the impact of marginalization in intellectual spaces. University Council of Educational Administration (Peer Reviewed) Convention. Washington, District of Columbia, United States.

14.    Beard, K. S. (2014, November). Exploring the Faith and Work of Education Faculty: Running with the wolves to care for the sheep. 2014 University Council for Educational Administration Annual Convention (Peer Reviewed). Washington D.C., District of Columbia, United States. A panel presentation.

15.    Peters-Hawkins, A., Beard, K., & Reed, L. (2013, November). From Theory to Classroom to Practice: Preparing Students to Lead Schools in Diverse Contexts. University Council for Educational Administration Conference (Peer Reviewed). Indianapolis, Indiana, United States.

16.    Beard, K. S. (2013, November). The Politics of Policy: Consideration of Practice Promoting Social Justice in K-12 and Higher Education. Critical Conversation/Dialogue presentation for the Annual Convention of the University Council for Educational Administration Conference (Peer Reviewed), Indianapolis, IN


1.    Beard, K. S. (2016, November) Engaged leadership: An international qualitative study linking effective school leadership with flow theory research, Conference Proceeding-Paper presented at the 9th annual International Conference of Education, Research, and Innovation (Peer Reviewed), Seville, Spain November, 2016. 100%

2.    Xi Zahn, Anthony, A.B., Goddard, R., Beard, K. S. (2016, November). Development, Factor Structure and Reliability of the Shared Instructional Leadership Scale (SILS). International Conference of Education, Research and Innovation (Peer Reviewed). Seville, Spain. 5%

3.    Beard, K. S. (2013, July). Theoretically Speaking: Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi speaks on the development of flow theory and its usefulness in educational administration. International Positive Psychology Conference (Peer Reviewed). Los Angeles, California, United States. Poster Presentation. Solo presentation of research

Selected Publications

1.    Beard, K. S., Gates, S. (In Press). Providing a passport to the future for foster youth: A case for educational leadership and policy. Journal of Cases in Educational Leadership.

2.    Beard, K. S., Adeeko, O. (In Press). Charter School Authorization: A New Gateway to Excellence and Equity. Journal of Transformative Leadership and Policy Studies.

3.    Beard, K. S. (In Press). Getting on track: Aligning the achievement and opportunity gap conversation with ethical educational practice. International Journal of Leadership in Education.

4.    Beard K. S. (In Press). Toward a theory of Engaged School Leadership: Positive psychology and principal candidates' sense of engagment and their preparedness to lead engagement. Journal of School Leadership.

5.    Beard K. S. (2017). Promises kept or opportunities lost: A case of a wicked problem and educational leadership. Journal of Cases in Educational Leadership, 20(3), http/doi: 10.1177/1555458916685749

6.    Beard K. S. (2015). Theoretically Speaking: An Interview with Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi on Flow Theory Development and Its Usefulness in Addressing Contemporary Challenges in Education. Educational Psychology Review, 27(2), 353-364. http/doi: 10.1007/s10648-014-9291-1

7.    Beard, K. S. (2015). Standing in the gap: Theory and practice impacting educational opportunity and achievement gaps. Urban Education. http/doi: 10.1177/0042085915613553

8.    Beard, K. S. (2013). Character in action: A case of authentic educational leadership that advanced equity and excellence. Journal of School Leadership, 23(6), 1015-1046. Retrieved from:

9.    Beard, K. S. (2012). Making the case for the outlier: Researcher reflections of an African American female administrator who decided to close the achievement gap. International Journal of Qualitative Studies in Education, 25(1), 57-71.
10.    Beard, K. S., Hoy, W.K. (2010). The nature, meaning, and measure of teacher flow in elementary schools: A test of rival hypotheses. Educational Administration Quarterly, 46(3), 426-458. http/doi: 10.1177/0013161X10375294

11.    Beard, K. S., Hoy, W. K., & Woolfolk Hoy, A. (2010). Academic optimism of individual teachers: Confirming a new construct. Academic optimism of individual teachers: Confirming a new construct, 26(5), 1136-1144. http/doi: 10.1080/09518398.2011.647724

12.    Beard, K. S., Brown, K.M. (2008). Trusting schools to meet the academic needs of African American students: Suburban mothers’ perspectives. The International Journal of Qualitative Studies in Education, 21(5), 471-485. http/doi: 10.1080/09518390802297763