Back to top


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 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

Beard, K. S. (September 2014).  Leading Schools: Positive Psychology constructs promoting student engagement and well-being. Individual Presentation as part of the panel “Positive Psychology in Education” at the 1st WPPA Conference, Claremont, CA

Beard, K. S. (July 2014). Leading Schools: Using School, Parent and Community Relations to promote student engagement and well being while implementing Educational Policy. Presentation and week long workshop for 90 educators of the Fengtai Education Bureau, Beijing China

Beard, K. S. (April 2014). Developing Engaged School Leaders: an Assessment Study of an Innovative Principal Preparation Program Paper Presentation at the 2014 AERA Conference, Philadelphia, PA

Beard, K. S. (February 2014). Theoretically Speaking: Contemporary Theory Addressing Historical Challenges. Invited Keynote Speaker for The University of Alabama 7th Annual Educational Administration Research Conference, Tuscaloosa, AL

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

Beard, K. S. (November, 2013). From Theory to Classroom to Practice: Preparing Students to Lead Schools in Diverse Contexts. A Critical Conversation/Dialogue session at the University Council for Educational Administration Conference, Indianapolis, IN

Selected Publications

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. 

Beard, K. S. (2012). Making the case for the outlier: An African American female administrator who decided to close the achievement gap. International Journal of Qualitative Studies in Education.25(1), 57-71. 

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.

Beard, K. S., Hoy, W. K., & Woolfolk Hoy, A (2010). Academic optimism of individual teachers: Confirming a new construct. Teaching and Teacher Education, 26, 1136-1144. 

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.