Research Award Winners

2014 Research Award: Astrid Joanna Tonna

2015 Outstanding Dissertation Award: Dr. Brendon Byrne Browne, PhD

2015 Outstanding Dissertation Award: Tom Mboya Okaya

2015 Outstanding Independent Research Award: Dr. Robert E. Lockwood, Tina G. Allen, and Rhonda G. Chicone

Recent Research & Dissertation Awards


tonna2014 Research Award: Astrid Joanna Tonna

Awarding Institution: University of Leicester, UK for a Master of Science Degree in Educational Leadership

University or School Affiliation: Head of Department Social Studies within the Directorate for Quality and Standards in Education, Ministry of Education and Employment, Malta

Title of Work: An Investigation into the Perceived Effectiveness of Educational Leaders through the Use of the Invitational Style of Leadership in Maltese Secondary Schools.

Abstract: This dissertation investigated the perceived effectiveness of educational leaders through the use of the invitational leadership style in their organization. For the purpose of the investigation, research carried out by Burns (2007) in her doctoral thesis, Invitational Leadership in Public Schools, was reviewed and replicated in Maltese secondary schools. A multiple case study approach supported by a mixed methods paradigm was employed in this study.


browne2015 Outstanding Dissertation Award: Dr. Brendon Byrne Browne, PhD

Awarding Institution: Brock University, St. Catherines, Ontario, Canada

 University or School Affiliation: Superintendent of Education, Special Education Services, Halton Catholic District School Board, Burlington, Ontario, Canada

 Title of Work: Inviting Leadership from a Belfast Bedroom: Invitational Leadership in Contemporary Schools

Abstract: Dr. Browne’s dissertation used a unique methodological approach called autoethnography. In it he blended his own story of using Invitational Education as a young and unsure principal in a school in Southern Ontario, Canada, with the story of a counterpart who applied Invitational Education in a sectarian housing estate in East Belfast, Ireland. Some of the interviews of were conducted as this man lay dying in his Belfast bedroom. The result is a compelling story of the kind of reflective practice that characterizes invitational leadership.


okaya (1)2015 Outstanding Dissertation Award: Tom Mboya Okaya

 University or School Affiliation: Australian Catholic University, Victoria, AU

Title of Work: School Board Governance in Urban Low Socio-economic Setting: A Case Study of Public Primary Schools in Kibera, Kenya


Kenya hosts the largest informal settlement in sub-Saharan Africa, known as the Kibera slum. Most children living there have no access to proper housing, safe water, or sanitation. Hunger, malnutrition, poor health and frequent sicknesses keep them from attaining their full potential. A common assumption has been that the climate of public primary schools located within this setting would be disinviting, leading to poor performance. Paradoxically, some schools in Kibera have performed much better than schools in well-off settings. Dr. Okaya’s dissertation study was motivated by this paradox. He focused on the impact of public primary school boards in challenging settings, as these boards are legally responsible for the overall management of schools in their local communities. This study used Invitational Education Theory and Practice (IETP) as a framework to assess how inviting a public primary school is, specifically related to school climate, parental involvement and academic achievement. Dr. Okaya’s research, conducted during political unrest and insurgent attacks, supported his recommendation that school boards should use Invitational Education as a measure to inform their approaches to improving education.


lockwood2015 Outstanding Independent Research Award: Dr. Robert E. Lockwood, Tina G. Allen, and Rhonda G. Chicone

University or School Affiliation: Kaplan University, Montgomery, AL

Title of Work: The Development and Validation of the Invitational Online Teaching Assessment (IOTA)


The question, “What are the conditions under which students can learn?” is foundational to Invitational Education. Students must feel invited into the classroom. In traditional face-to-face classroom, teachers use many non-verbal clues to convey invitations to students. However, online instructors are limited to mainly written communication. How the instructor communicates and treats students can create conditions in which online students can and will learn. This research modified Amos’s (1985) Invitational Teaching Survey to address the online teaching environment. The resulting IOTA provides one tool for online instructors to use to evaluate their inviting teaching behaviors and make changes as needed.

The IOTA instrument is web-based and designed to be administered to students. It automatically scores the results and sends a report to the instructor via e-mail. Located at, the website also includes a general overview of Invitational Education and a User Manual for the IOTA.