2014 Postdoctoral Fellows
2014 Postdoctoral Fellows, Affiliation, Project Abstracts, and Bios
Daphna Bassok, University of Virginia
Daphna Bassok is an Assistant Professor of Education and Public Policy at the University of Virginia and is also the Associate Director of EdPolicyWorks. Her research addresses early childhood education policy, with a particular focus on the impacts of policy interventions on the academic and social well-being of low-income children. Her current and recent projects examine changes in the early childhood teacher labor force over time, the impacts of Florida’s Voluntary Pre-Kindergarten program, and the increasingly academic focus of preschool and kindergarten classrooms. Bassok has received funding for her research from the Institute of Education Sciences (IES), the AERA Grants Board, the Smith Richardson Foundation, the Foundation for Child Development and the Annie E. Casey Foundation. Her work has appeared in education policy and early childhood outlets including Educational Evaluation and Policy Analysis and Child Development, among others. She holds a Ph.D. in the Economics of Education, a M.A. in Economics and a M.A. in Policy Analysis and Evaluation, all from Stanford University.
Early Parental Investment and the Emergence of School Readiness Gaps: Changing Patterns over the Past Two Decades
Socio-economic gaps in cognitive skills emerge years before children enter elementary school and those gaps persist throughout school and into adulthood. Early childhood interventions are increasingly touted for their potential to narrow achievement gaps and serve as societal equalizers. However, as researchers and the media have placed greater emphasis on the importance of the early childhood years, higher-income families may have expanded investments in their young children at rates that far outpace more modest increases among middle and low-income families. The purpose of this study is to leverage a number of large, national datasets, several of which include waves that were only recently released, to provide new evidence on this issue. In particular, the study addresses three questions. First, how has parental investment in the enrichment and development of their young children changed between the early nineties and today? Second, is there evidence of a growing “early childhood parental investment gap” between low and high-income families? And finally, do changing patterns of parental investment over this period correspond to changing trends in children’s “school readiness” and to a widening of socio-economic school readiness gaps?
The achievement gap between poor and rich children in the United States has expanded substantially in recent decades. While we know that socio-economic gaps emerge early, to date we have not had empirical evidence about changing trends in early childhood achievement gaps. Given the heightened public investment in early childhood education over the past two decades, we might expect early gaps to have narrowed. However, there is also suggestive evidence that early childhood parental investments may have increased disproportionately among high-income families, actually exacerbating gaps. The proposed study will explore these issues providing insights for the design of early interventions targeted towards narrowing achievement gaps.
Nolan Cabrera, University of Arizona
Nolan L. Cabrera is an assistant professor in the Center for the Study of Higher Education at the University of Arizona. His primary research interests include Whiteness, racism, and racial dynamics in the college campus. Additionally, Dr. Cabrera is deeply involved in the controversy surrounding the Tucson Unified School District’s Mexican American Studies program. Specifically, he led the research team assessing the relationship between taking the classes and increased student achievement. Dr. Cabrera graduated from UCLA with his PhD in Higher Education and Organizational Change. Prior to that, he was a Director of a Boys and Girls Club in the San Francisco Bay Area. He completed his undergraduate work at Stanford University where he studied Comparative Studies in Race and Ethnicity with and Education focus.
The Socialization of Victimization: How White Male College Students Come to See Themselves as Racial Targets
It has been extensively documented that White people in general, and White men in particular, believe that anti-White bias (i.e., "reverse racism") is more prevalent than anti-Black. It is not understood how these perceptions form. Using a combination of Hurtado et al.'s (2012) Diverse Learning Environment framework and Feagin's (2010) White Racial Frame, this research examines how White male college students are socialized to see themselves as racial victims. I will conduct semi-structured interviews with 50 White male students at the University of Arizona focusing on the roles the following play in this process: racial and masculinity ideologies, diverse interpersonal interactions, race-conscious programming, virtual space (e.g., Facebook), and Arizona's racial politics. I will specifically focus on Arizona because it is a unique locale given the anti-Latina/o racial politics of 2010 (e.g., SB1070) that played off racial fears among the electorate and are still being contested. Frequently, proclamations of reverse discrimination derail discussions about creating inclusive campus environments. Thus, these perceptions represent key barriers to creating healthy campus racial climates, and understanding the socialization of victimization will illuminate methods of transforming it. This can help foster greater campus racial inclusion that increases the cognitive, emotional, and democratic learning for all students.
Alexandra Schindel Dimick, University at Buffalo
Alexandra Schindel Dimick is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Learning and Instruction at the University at Buffalo. She earned her Ph.D. in Curriculum Theory and Research at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Her research focuses on issues of equity, power, and social justice in science education. In one line of research, she examines the theoretical and practical implications of the nascent field of social justice science education. In another line of research, she explores the contexts of formal environmental education to examine young people’s understandings of environmental action and citizenship and the ways in which classroom structures facilitate students’ environmental participation.
Urban Youth and Environmental Participation: The Influence of Classroom Experiences
"Global environmental concerns are one of the most pressing issues of our time because of their enormity and basis in human activity. In response, environmental education aims to prepare students to actively participate in addressing environmental issues and concerns at both societal and personal levels. Although a large body of research focuses on the active participation aim of environmental education, little is known about the pedagogical and curricular experiences that might support young people to develop as environmental participants. This concern is especially great for the youth in poor and urban communities who often live on the margins—socially, economically, and frequently environmentally as well.
This research aims to investigate the relationship between urban young people’s environmental participation and their classroom experiences. The main research questions are: (1) What classroom experiences (curricula, pedagogy, and discourses) influence urban young people’s participation or non-participation with the environment?; (2) Why do some youth engage as environmental participants while others do not?; (3) What are environmental educators’ understandings of environmental participation and how do they enact them within their classroom practices? I will answer these questions by engaging in a multiple-site study that employs a mixed methods approach and combines in depth qualitative data with analysis of pre/post survey data. Findings from this project will begin building a research basis for the identification of classroom experiences that influence urban youth’s participation or non-participation with the environment. "
Mimi Engel, Vanderbilt University
Mimi Engel is an assistant professor of public policy and education at Vanderbilt University’s Peabody College in the department of Leadership, Policy, and Organizations. Through her research, Mimi aims to contribute to our understanding of how policies and programs affect children’s opportunities to learn. Spanning several areas including teacher labor markets, early skill formation and classroom instruction, and program evaluation, the central focus of her research is to inform our understanding of policies, programs, and administrative factors that have the potential to improve students’ school-related outcomes, particularly among students from traditionally under-served populations. Her publications include peer-reviewed articles in American Educational Research Journal, Educational Evaluation and Policy Analysis, and Educational Administration Quarterly, among others. She has a Ph.D. in Human Development and Social Policy from Northwestern University’s School of Education and Social Policy and a master’s degree in Social Service Administration from the University of Chicago.
Instructional Time, Content Coverage, and Student Outcomes in Kindergarten
"The importance of academic content coverage has been highlighted through the vigorous public debate currently being waged around the Common Core State Standards. Regardless of the controversy around the Common Core initiative, there is little doubt that educators and the general public alike believe that students should be taught rigorous academic content beginning in first grade and continuing through high school. The same cannot be said, however, about kindergarten. Recent research documents a striking move toward an increased academicization of kindergarten. However, how kindergarteners’ classroom time should be spent has been the subject of much debate, around which little to no consensus has been reached. The current study takes advantage of the newly released Early Childhood Longitudinal Study Kindergarten Cohort 2010-2011 to conduct a cross-cohort comparison with the original ECLS-K.
Through my study, I will answer four questions, examining differences across the two nationally representative cohorts for each. First, what reading and mathematics skills do children have at kindergarten entry? Second, how much time do kindergarten teachers spend on instruction and other activities, and how much coverage of “basic” and “advanced” content in reading and mathematics do they report? Third, what is the association between time use, content coverage, and student learning in kindergarten? Finally, what are the effects of time use and content coverage on kindergarteners’ socioemotional and behavioral outcomes? This study will inform our understanding of changes over time in school readiness and kindergarten content coverage. It will provide new information about the effects of time use and content coverage on students’ academic and socioemotional outcomes."
Perla Gamez, Loyola University Chicago
Perla B. Gámez is an assistant professor of psychology at Loyola University Chicago. She received a PhD from the University of Chicago and completed a postdoctoral fellowship at the Harvard Graduate School of Education. She leads a program of research focused on language and literacy development, particularly in children from homes in which English is not the primary or only language used. Her current research examines how variations in the features of home and school language impact children’s language and literacy skills during preschool through adolescence. To date, her work, employing both naturalistic observation and experimental techniques, suggests that exposure to high-quality language experiences is a significant source of children’s oral language and reading development.
The Language of Shared Reading in Transitional Bilingual Classrooms
"The linguistic diversity of U.S. classrooms is increasing as the population of English Language Learners (ELLs; children for whom English is not the primary language) continues to grow. Thus, educators and policy makers face the pressing challenge of meeting the instructional needs of the growing number of linguistically diverse students. Historically, research with ELLs has been focused on the role of the native (L1) and second language (L2) on their L2 language and reading development. Yet, if we are to develop a clear understanding of the optimal classroom setting for ELLs, we ought to move away from broad questions about which language (i.e., quantity) should be used for instruction and towards questions focused on what type of language (i.e., quality) is most effective in supporting ELLs’ learning.
At the center of recommendations for promoting all children’s language and reading development is early exposure to high-quality, language-rich experiences. However, few studies have investigated the instructional contexts that stimulate the use of high-quality language in classrooms with diverse groups of children, including ELLs. The objective of the proposed study is thus twofold: 1) to generate an empirical description of the quality of the language used, not just the quantity of language exposure, in classrooms designed expressly for young ELLs, and 2) to examine the influence of this classroom-based language on the L1 and L2 oral language skills of young, Spanish-speaking ELLs. In particular, I will conduct a fine-grained analysis of the language used in Transitional Bilingual Education (TBE) kindergarten classrooms, primarily focused on the use of high-quality language (e.g., vocabulary diversity, grammatical complexity) during shared book reading, an instructional context conducive to language-rich interactions. The data for the proposed study is part of a larger study in which 21 kindergarten TBE classrooms were audio/videotaped throughout the school day and a random sample of ELL students from each classroom (total n = 101) was administered oral language assessments in fall K and spring K. The assessments included standardized measures of L1 and L2 expressive language skills (e.g., vocabulary) and an oral narrative production task, which has the advantage of providing insight into multiple levels of linguistic knowledge, including vocabulary and grammar.
The findings from the proposed study on the relationship between the specific features of the language used during shared book reading and ELLs’ language development have the potential not only to make a theoretical contribution to the existing literature, but also to yield practical guidance for ELL teachers about how to lead effective shared-book reading sessions. While a majority of research that informs the teaching of ELLs has focused primarily on student outcomes and/or specific instructional practices, little attention has been paid to understanding the foundational processes of the classroom-learning environment. The proposed study will contribute to our understanding of the characteristics of language-rich interactions that are optimal for the learning of young ELLs, and eventually, to the design of more effective curricula and teacher training programs. "
Monica Grant, University of Wisconsin-Madison
Monica J. Grant is an assistant professor of sociology at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and faculty affiliate of the Center for Demography and Ecology. She received her Ph.D. in Sociology and Demography from the University of Pennsylvania in 2009. Her research focuses on gender inequalities in early life course transitions, primarily in less developed countries. Within this general framework, her research can be categorized into three areas: the consequences of expanding female school participation, education and family decision-making in the context of the HIV epidemic, and the consequences of free primary education policies in sub-Saharan Africa. Monica’s research has appeared in academic journals such as Demography, Population and Development Review, Comparative Education Review, and Economics of Education Review.
De facto Privatization and Inequality of Educational Opportunity in the Transition to Secondary School in Rural Malawi
"In 1994, the government of Malawi implemented a universal primary education policy that removed all school fees at the primary level. As a consequence, school enrollment rates increased substantively at both the primary and secondary levels. Students are sorted into government secondary schools according to their performance on the Primary School Leaving Certificate examination (PSLCE), but places are not available for all students who successfully passed the PSLCE. Students who are not offered admission to a public secondary school have the option of attending private secondary schools, many of which rarely turn away students who are able to pay the tuition.
For this project, I use data from the Malawi Schooling and Adolescent Survey (MSAS) to examine how socio-economic inequalities affect the transition to secondary school in rural Malawi. In addition to examining how family background characteristics are associated with enrollment in secondary school, I will also examine how family background influences the type of secondary school in which a student enrolls. Then, conditional on ever enrolling in secondary school, I will examine how family background, the type of secondary school attended, and the interaction between family background and school type are associated with the likelihood that a student eventually takes and passes the Junior Secondary Certificate Examination (JCSE), which is taken at the end of the second year of secondary school."
Soo Hong, Wellesley College
Soo Hong is an assistant professor of education at Wellesley College. Her first book, A Cord of Three Strands: A New Approach to Parent Engagement in Schools (Harvard Education Press, 2011), examines the role of community organizing groups in facilitating relationships between families and schools and promoting new forms of parent engagement and leadership. Her research focuses on the relationship between schools, families, and communities. She examines issues such as parent leadership, education organizing and school-community partnerships. She explores these as avenues for school and community transformation, particularly in communities that seek to foster improved relationships between families and schools. These research questions originate from her experience as an elementary and middle school humanities teacher. She holds an Ed.D. from Harvard University and a B.A. and M.T. from the University of Virginia.
Natural Allies: Voices of Teachers Committed to Families
While the teacher-parent relationship may be the most common interaction between families and schools, it may also be the least examined. Studies of the relationship have often focused on sources of conflict and tension—fueled by differences in race, class and experience—leading to the oft-cited conclusion that parents and teachers are “natural enemies.” Progress in this area is stymied by the frequent challenges expressed by teachers in communicating and collaborating with parents coupled with the lack of teacher support or training in family engagement. This project recasts the possibilities of parent-teacher relationships through a study of five urban teachers who engage families in varied, meaningful and effective ways. These teachers work in impoverished communities with students of color, English-language learners and immigrant students whose families may be labeled as “hard to reach” and where challenges to parent-teacher communication might be expected. This ethnography is rooted in teacher narratives about their motivations and experiences gleaned through a series of in-depth interviews, observations of formal and informal interactions between teachers and parents in and out of school, and parent narratives that describe families’ experiences with schools and teachers. These narratives along with the fuller school context that is explored within each teacher case will freshly examine the parent-teacher relationship and its potential for collaboration and partnership.
Rosa Jimenez, University of San Francisco
Rosa M. Jiménez is an Assistant Professor in the International and Multicultural Education Department at the University of San Francisco. Her research examines classroom pedagogies and theoretical principles necessary for conceptualizing and enacting critical language education and culturally responsive learning environments. She focuses on Latina/o immigrant and bilingual/bicultural youth. Jiménez has conducted classroom-based research in several k-12 contexts from rural Central California, to urban Los Angeles, and Arizona. Her research has been supported by the Spencer Foundation, the National Council of Teachers of English (NCTE) Research Foundation, and the American Association of Hispanics in Higher Education (AAHHE). She serves on the editorial board of the International Multilingual Research Journal (Taylor & Francis). Jiménez has over fifteen years of experience working with K-12 public schools as a bilingual social studies teacher, literacy coach and educational researcher.
Culturally Relevant/Sustaining Pedagogies with Secondary Immigrant Latina/o Youth
Latina/o immigrant students’ low academic achievement and schooling alienation marks a significant social problem. Yet, too often this reality is decontextualized from the restrictive ways immigrant youth are taught—in overly reliant technocratic second language acquisition models, mediated by restrictive language policies, and revitalized assimilationist projects. This study examines classroom pedagogies and theoretical principles necessary for understanding and enacting critical and culturally relevant/culturally sustaining pedagogies (CRP/CSP) in secondary classrooms (Paris, 2012). I will conduct five qualitative case studies with social studies and English teachers committed to CRP/CSP. The study will be carried out in Northern California’s Bay Area, with a focus on immigrant Latina/o students. This study will add to the burgeoning work in CRP/CSP, expanding upon its conceptual framework and highlighting the nuanced pedagogical processes of sustaining immigrant Latina/o students’ linguistic repertoires, cultural practices, histories and knowledges. The findings from this study can contribute to understandings of culturally situated pedagogical approaches, more expansive opportunities to engage Latina/o immigrant students, and educational possibilities for an increasingly multicultural/multilingual world.
Erika Kitzmiller, Harvard University
Erika M. Kitzmiller is a historian of race, social inequality, and education. Her book manuscript, The Roots of Educational Inequality: Germantown High School, 1907 – 2013, examines the political, economic, and social factors that have contributed to the transformation of urban high schools and the escalation of inequality over the course of the twentieth century. Currently, she is a postdoctoral fellow at Harvard University’s Hutchins Center (formerly the W.E.B. Du Bois Institute).
She earned a joint Ph.D. in History and Education, Culture, and Society from the University of Pennsylvania in 2012 and a M.P.A. from the Fels Institute of Government at Penn. She received her B.A. in History and Italian from Wellesley College. Before graduate school, she worked with the Steppingstone Foundation in Boston, MA and served as middle school teacher and administrator at the Calhoun School in New York City and Wayland Middle School in Wayland, MA.
The Roots of Educational Inequality: Germantown High School 1907 – 2013
“The Roots of Educational Inequality” is the first study to examine the political, economic, and social factors that have transformed urban high schools over the course of the twentieth century and led to this nation’s growing educational disparities and social inequality. Through a fresh, longitudinal analysis that investigates daily events rather than focusing solely on key turning points, this study challenges conventional, declension narratives that suggest that American high schools have moved steadily and inevitably from pillars of success to institutions of failure. Many of these narratives argue that the current failures of urban public schools stem from postwar white flight and failed desegregation policies.
In contrast to these traditional declension narratives, my work illustrates that the fiscal crises and educational inequality that urban schools experience today has existed since the moment these schools opened at the turn of the twentieth century. At that time, urban school districts across the nation lacked the tax revenues to fund their schools adequately. Rather than raise taxes to meet the school district’s actual needs, many school districts relied on private philanthropy and local institutions to subsidize urban public schools. The School District of Philadelphia’s dependence on philanthropy provided additional resources to the city’s revenue-strapped public schools, but at the same time, this approach masked the school district’s fiscal insolvency and contributed to the escalation of inequality between youth who had access to the city’s finest educational institutions and those who did not.
Victor Lee, Utah State University
Victor R. Lee is an Associate Professor in the Department of Instructional Technology and Learning Sciences at Utah State University. He obtained his Ph. D. in Learning Sciences from Northwestern University. His research focuses on student thinking in STEM content, the use and design of external representations, and emerging technologies to support learning in science and mathematics. Most recently, his work has involved designing and studying ways for wearable sensor technologies to be used in support of personally relevant, data-intensive learning activities. This has involved introducing such sensors and associated curriculum into classrooms and studying how adults use such technologies on their own in informal contexts. Previously, Lee served as chair of the American Educational Research Association’s special interest group for Advanced Technologies for Learning. His work has been previously recognized with an NSF CAREER award and with the Jan Hawkins Early Career Award. His most recent book, Learning Technologies and the Body, was published in early 2015 by Routledge.
Understanding the role of immediate embodied experience in students’ dynamic conceptualizations of motion
While there has been much debate about the precise nature of students’ intuitions about science, there is general agreement that body-based experiences are foundational and that they play an important role in shaping these intuitions over time. However, precisely how body-based experiences shape conceptual understanding is still largely unknown. The goal of this project is to examine and better characterize how intuitive physics knowledge associated with motion interacts with immediate body-based experiences associated with familiar physical activities. Stated differently, this study asks whether students’ ideas about motion change when they are physically involved in producing and enacting that motion rather than thinking through something akin to a prepared textbook question about that motion. If there are indeed immediate changes in student thinking, then a second and related goal is to understand the nature of these changes in terms of how the underlying conceptual system behaves.
To do this, videorecorded interview and physical activity protocols involving various objects in motion will be collected with several high school physics students. These protocols will involve students reasoning through a variety of motion scenarios before, during, and after they physically enact the described scenarios themselves. The videorecordings will also be supplemented with a variety of physiological and motion data, as obtained from wearable and portable sensor devices. These will serve as additional records of what actions were being taken by their bodies and some indication of what their bodies were experiencing during the enactment of the prescribed motions. Together, these data will be jointly analyzed for patterns and co-occurrences of bodily experience and changes in intuitive physics reasoning. Findings from this work will be informative to both educational research communities concerned with science education and those concerned with embodied cognition.
Christine Malsbary, Vassar College
Christine Brigid Malsbary is an anthropologist of education (Ph.D. UCLA, 2012) whose work is concerned with educational equity in contexts of new immigrant urban diversity. A former public high school teacher, writer and photographer, Malsbary began her academic career as an assistant professor at the University of Hawai'i Manoa. She is currently a visiting professor at Vassar College. In her dissertation work (2009-2011) and a short curriculum study (2013), Malsbary documented immigrant, emergent bilingual youths' sociocultural integration (e.g., belonging) and learning in classrooms that are culturally and linguistically pluralist. Recent publications forInternational Journal of Qualitative Studies in Education and Anthropology & Education Quarterly discuss how youths' "transcultural repertoires of practices" and translanguaging are enacted across diverse ethnolinguistic affiliations and cultural identities, leading to transnational learning and social life. In a second line of research, Malsbary considers how education policy shapes restrictive, racialized schooling environments that obscure the fascinating transnational work youth do.
Malsbary's work carries implications for public reform with goals of pluralist, multilingual, racially-just outcomes. She has received research support from such foundations as the Fulbright-Hays and the Association of American University Women. For the Spencer Postdoctoral Fellowship, Malsbary will conduct long-term ethnography on the ways in which teachers negotiate, adapt, and resist policy reform in highly diverse immigrant, multilingual schools in New York City.
Teachers as policy-makers: Navigating cultural politics and learning in a school for new immigrant youth at a time of reform
In the spring of 2014, a group of high school teachers in Brooklyn held a press conference. They announced that they would no longer administer one of the high-stakes tests required by the city's education department. The test, they stated, had been designed without the city's immigrant, emergent bilingual students in mind, providing little to no information about their students' learning or their instructional effectiveness as teachers. The teachers called the experience of administering the test "traumatic" for both themselves and their students, and noted that half of their students' parents and guardians wanted their children to opt out of testing.
Amidst over-generalized conceptions of education policy reform as necessary and good, this long-term ethnographic study aims to provide nuanced and richly textured understandings of policy in the context of the daily life of students and teachers. Building on emerging anthropology of policy research, this study shifts the focus of policy research from policy texts and district, state and federal level policy-makers, to the ways in which teachers are policy-makers. It is hypothesized that teachers of immigrant, bilingual students will (a) navigate, adapt and resist formal, top-down education policy during daily activity to fit their unique student population and (b) set their own policies formally and tacitly according to their deeply held principles and beliefs. I call this process "teacher policy-making", and seek to understand what policies teachers' create, which policies they value-- and why. At this school studied, teachers are policy-makers in a context of heightened cultural and linguistic diversity. Hence, a second purpose of the study is to understand how formal, official policy-- which has tended to be standardized towards the goal of "common" principles -- are differentiated and made salient by teachers for immigrant and emergent bilingual youth.
Jamaal Matthews, Montclair State University
Jamaal S. Matthews (Ph.D., University of Michigan) is an assistant professor in educational psychology at Montclair State University in New Jersey. His program of research examines the interplay between student self-beliefs and achievement motivation, and how the socio-cultural context, gender, and race shape academic identities over time. During adolescence, identity can serve as a catalyst for motivated academic engagement, as well as predict how students respond when they encounter the natural frustrations and challenges associated with deep learning. Born and raised in Harlem, Dr. Matthews’ research interests are grounded in his experiences as a middle school math teacher in NYC public schools. His research also has powerful implications for counseling and out-of-school youth interventions, as evidenced through his youth mentorship program, T.H.R.E.A.D.S (Truth, Honor, Respect, Education and Development of Self) which promotes positive youth development for urban middle school boys in a ten week after-school format. Dr. Matthews is also a recipient of multiple national awards, including outstanding dissertation awards from the American Psychological Association and ProQuest.
Classroom and Cognitive Processes in the Development of Valuing Mathematics during Early Adolescence
“How will this ever be important for me in the real world?” It is the inevitable question that arises in almost every middle school math classroom. Valuing mathematics is essential for math efficacy, performance, and choice across the secondary years and beyond. However, scholars know relatively little about how adolescents come to value math or see the importance of it for their personal lives. This is particularly unclear among historically marginalized youth. The current study attempts to understand this issue through examining how classroom social interactions and adolescent cognition interact to inform how students identify with mathematics. As many urban adolescents often have difficulty understanding the relevance of math for their daily lives, teachers have entrée into providing cultural validation and coping-support messages for students to help them negotiate their cultural values with their math identity.
Within a sample of four 6th grade math classrooms in the urban northeast United States, I hypothesize that math teachers’ use of student informal knowledge, sensitivity to student culture, encouragement for critical thinking, and provision of coping-support messages will positively relate to students’ identification with mathematics (i.e., math identity), conceptualized as valuing math, math efficacy, and a sense of belongingness in math class. However, there are core shifts in early adolescent thinking that are directly tied to social consciousness, meaning-making, and identity formation. These cognitive shifts, such as developing meta-cognition, abstract reasoning, and multi-dimensional thinking may account for whether adolescents adhere to the socialization messages of teachers and how effectively they internalize these messages to negotiate their own values. Thus, the timing and depth of these changes during adolescence may not only help explain whether a student can handle abstract mathematical content but more importantly whether the student can process the value of the content for their own lives. This latter cognitive process is sufficiently complex compared to the former but is also the real substance of valuing math and developing a personal ownership of it. This is markedly important for marginalized adolescents who contend with social stigma and broader societal messages that math is personally irrelevant, impractical, and an area of cultural deficiency. This study utilizes a combination of survey methodology, semi-structured interviews, and computerized cognitive assessments to address these aims.
Andrew Maul, University of California, Santa Barbara
Andrew Maul is an assistant professor in the Gevirtz School of Education at the University of California, Santa Barbara. Andrew completed his Ph.D. in 2008 at the University of California, Berkeley. His scholarship focuses on the intersection of technical, conceptual, and applied issues in research methodology in the human sciences, with a particular focus on the measurement of human attributes. He is interested in the history and philosophy of the human sciences, the logic of measurement, the connections between metrology and psychometrics, and the semantics of foundational concepts such as validity, causality, constructs, latent variables, and psychological attributes. His dissertation research explored technical and conceptual issues in the measurement of nontraditional models of intelligence. He spent three years as a postdoctoral fellow at the University of Oslo, Norway, and two years as an assistant professor at the University of Colorado, Boulder, prior to joining the faculty of UCSB.
Improving the Measurement of Affective Attributes
A wide range of skills, abilities, domains of knowledge, and other psychological attributes are critical for success in college and careers, and life in general in the twenty-first century. It is commonly acknowledged that traditional educational tests are capable of, at best, assessing only a constrained subset of these attributes. Skills and abilities that academic tests may fail to measure are often referred to as “affective” or “noncognitive,” and include, for example, grit, perseverance, and passion, work ethic, self-discipline, and organization, emotional and social intelligence, self-efficacy, self-concept, and locus of control, cultural sensitivity, and integrity or character.
Despite the widely acknowledged importance of such attributes, many aspects of their measurement remain highly controversial. In part, this may be related to constraints imposed by following conventional practices in survey development and validation. In particular, it is commonly believed that traditional survey methodologies can provide meaningful evidence regarding attributes such as grit, but theoretical and empirical justification for such beliefs is often lacking.
The goals of this project are twofold. The first goal is to advance the methodology for measuring affective attributes by engaging in an iterative process of developing, pilot-testing, and refining new measures of a core set of affective attributes, particularly those associated with the ability or disposition to persevere over long periods of time (i.e., grit). The second goal is to advance the theory and practice of survey methodology in general, by exploring some of the shortcomings of traditional methods and by exemplifying alternative strategies consistent with modern thinking about best-practices in instrument design in the context of measuring cognitive attributes.
Alon Pinto, Weizmann Institute of Science, Rehovot, Israel
Alon Pinto is a Postdoctoral Fellow in the Science Teaching Department at the Weizmann Institute of Science. He earned his Ph.D. in Mathematics from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem in the field of geometric group theory. Pinto's research focuses on mathematics teaching and learning at the post-secondary level. His work aims to uncover how university instructors’ beliefs and knowledge shape their instructional practices and consequently the mathematical ways of thinking and doing that their students develop. He is currently studying the mathematics left implicit by various instructors teaching in parallel the same curriculum for a single course. In his NAEd/Spencer project, Pinto intends to extend this work as a step towards an empirically based theory of how math teaching at the university can lead math undergraduates – the math teachers of tomorrow - to a better understanding and appreciation of mathematics.
Towards a Theory of Teaching and Learning to Think Mathematically at University
The purpose of this study is to set the foundations for a long-term research program on the teaching and learning of mathematics at the post-secondary level. My overarching goal is to develop an empirically based theory of how math teaching at the university can shape the mathematical ways of thinking and doing (e.g. beliefs, habits of mind, practices) that students develop.
There is no doubt that there is more to mathematics than the content that is taught and discussed explicitly in math classrooms. Thus the lessons students learn about mathematics extend far beyond the scope of explicit mathematical knowledge. Ways of thinking about and doing mathematics that may be beneficial for the students are often left implicit in the curriculum, and may not be considered the teachers' responsibility, if at all teachable. There is extensive literature describing how students pick up mathematical habits, practices and beliefs through instruction regardless of what is taught and how, and that these mathematical ways of thinking and doing are often unproductive and undesirable. This problem is even more apparent at university, due in part to the widening gap between school mathematics and mathematics as practiced by mathematicians. Students at university are required to pick up the norms, language and ways of thinking and doing of the mathematics community, which are often tacit and rarely discussed explicitly.
I propose a study of the mathematics that is left implicit by various university instructors teaching the same concepts, theorems and proofs. The goals of this study will be: (1) To describe how different instructors adapt a common curriculum and how these adaptations affect the mathematics addressed in their lessons, particularly mathematical ways of thinking and doing; and (2) To propose explanations as to why the instructors implement the curriculum and address the mathematics the way they do. In order to achieve these objectives, I will attend lessons, examine the mathematics that is addressed explicitly and implicitly in the lessons and discuss with the instructors selected episodes from their lessons. The data will be collected and analyzed in iterative cycles in order to uncover the instructors' beliefs and goals and their impact on the mathematics in their lessons. The analysis will be guided by the Resources-Orientations-Goals (ROG) theory on decision making processes develop by Alan Schoenfeld and his Teacher Model Group at the University of California at Berkeley.
This study takes a novel approach of examining practices not only in light of how mathematics is taught, but also what mathematics is addressed and why. This will provide important new insights both regarding the factors that shape teaching practices and the mathematics that is left implicit at university math lessons. The potential impact of this study extends beyond undergraduate math teaching. Improving the math education of math undergraduates, the teachers of tomorrow, by leading them to a better understanding and appreciation of mathematics, would significantly impact math teaching at all levels.
Sarah Powell, University of Texas
Sarah Powell is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Special Education at the University of Texas at Austin. Sarah is currently Principal Investigator of an Institute of Education Sciences Goal 3 efficacy study about a mathematics word-problem intervention for third-grade students. She is also a Faculty Fellow of the Greater Texas Foundation. Sarah completed her Ph.D. in 2009 at Vanderbilt University. Her dissertation, focused on the influence of equal-sign understanding within word-problem solving, won awards from the Council for Learning Disabilities and the Division for Learning Disabilities of the Council for Exceptional Children. Before starting at the University of Texas, Sarah completed a post-doctoral position at Vanderbilt University and worked for two years as an Assistant Professor at the University of Virginia. Sarah’s research interests focus on developing and testing interventions for students with and without mathematics difficulties. She is especially interested in peer tutoring, word-problem solving, and understanding how mathematics symbol interpretation influences mathematics performance.
Understanding the Influence of Math Symbols and Vocabulary on Math Performance
To solve problems in math, students use numerals (e.g., 4, 29, ¾) and other math symbols (e.g., +, >, ÷). If students do not recognize a symbol or if students misinterpret the vocabulary of a symbol, math performance may suffer. Therefore, my primary research question is: How does math symbol and vocabulary understanding influence math performance?
Investigation of this research question occurs over two years. In Year 1, I sample the math symbol and vocabulary knowledge of students in 1st, 3rd, 5th, and 7th grades by collecting data from 12 classrooms at each grade level. During Year 1, I learn (a) which symbols and vocabulary cause the most difficulty for students, (b) which demographic and achievement factors influence symbol and vocabulary interpretation, and (c) how symbol and vocabulary knowledge influences math performance. In Year 2, I develop classroom activities related to the most problematic set of math symbols and vocabulary at each grade level and ask students to interact with enactive and iconic representations to determine which, if any, representations foster better understanding of symbols and vocabulary. I recruit 20 classrooms at each grade level and randomly assign 12 classrooms (at each grade level) to participate in the enactive and iconic instruction and eight classrooms to act as business-as-usual control classrooms. With the Year 2 intervention work, I learn (a) which methods promote students’ correct interpretation of symbols and vocabulary, (b) how effective enactive and iconic activities enhance interpretation of symbols and vocabulary, and (c) which demographic and achievement factors may influence response to such intervention.
Enid Rosario-Ramos, University of Michigan
Enid M. Rosario-Ramos is an Assistant Professor of Educational Studies at the University of Michigan’s School of Education. Her research focuses on studying the intersections between adolescents’ development of civic engagement skills and identities and their devlopment of critical literacy skills. Her previous work looked at the ways in which a school’s institutional structures, teachers’ discursive practices, and classroom instruction supported and encouraged adolescents to critically examine their worlds and their textual representations. With the support of the Spencer postdoctoral fellowship, she hopes to investigate the development of civic engagement skills and participation in social action among minoritized youths living in urban contexts and participating in educational programs that encourage their development as critical and active members of their communities. Additional research interests include teacher education, disciplinary literacies, and social justice education. Rosario-Ramos teaches courses in Secondary Teacher Education and Educational Studies.
Understanding the development of civic engagement among minoritized youth in activist communities
This study investigates the development of civic engagement skills and participation in social action among minoritized youths living in urban contexts. The project utilizes Participatory Action Research (PAR) to examine how educational programs’ instructional approaches and initiatives promote students’ civic identity and participation. It is hoped that such a study can contribute to knowledge on innovative approaches that can involve youth, particularly those living in low-income communities of color—who have disproportionately low rates of civic participation (Levinson, 2009)—in civic action on behalf of their communities, as well as elaborate a more nuanced and robust definition of civic identity and engagement.
This project builds on previous work about the role of community-based organizations and educational institutions in engaging young people in counter-storytelling practices and social change (Rosario-Ramos & Johnson, 2013). Grounded in the tradition of participatory action research (see Hall, 1992; Lather, 1986), the research is being conducted in collaboration with educators and administrators who serve as co-researchers. I am particularly interested in understanding how educators integrate the civic engagement goals of the educational organizations into their instructional practices. I also want to identify the kinds of knowledge that students acquire through their participation with other community members and peers, and the skills they develop as they contribute to the well-being of their communities. Finally, I am interested in the role of literacy and literacy learning in students’ growth as active members of their communities.
Nicole Russell, University of Denver
Nicole M. Russell is an assistant professor of mathematics education at the University of Denver. Dr. Russell holds a doctorate degree in curriculum and instruction with concentrations in multicultural and mathematics education from the University of Washington, where James A. Banks served as her dissertation chair. Her research interests include equity, access, and social justice in mathematics education as it specifically relates to African Americans. She is also interested in the role of race, class, and gender in the teaching and learning process of mathematics. Dr. Russell's work is founded in the tenet of education as liberation. She utilizes critical theoretical frameworks to understand the historical, social, cultural, and political nature of mathematics teaching and learning in the U.S. and its role in perpetuating dominant ideologies in mathematics education.
The Mathematics and Science Education of African Americans, 1854 – 1954
Mainstream mathematics education research and policy is dominated by social science orientations that primarily rely on traditional theories, models, and interpretations of the mathematical competence of African Americans. Contemporary scholarship and national discourse surrounding the mathematics education of Blacks often center on the notion of pathology, a view largely supported by deficit perspectives. More pointedly, that national discourse suggests that to be African American is to be mathematically and scientifically illiterate, incompetent, and unmotivated.
The National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) has been reporting disaggregated mathematics achievement data since 1969 and most policymakers, school districts, and researchers use these data to make claims about student progress across the nation. Some researchers point to factors such as inequitable distribution of quality teachers. Others position Black parents negatively, blaming them for placing low value on early education. Still other scholars contend the U.S. does not have an achievement gap at all, but an educational debt. The rise in national focus on the achievement of Blacks using state and national summative assessments can be marked by important legal decisions beginning with Brown vs. Board of Education; but also the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) of 1965. What did the mathematics education of Blacks look like before these legal decisions?
Several important historians of education have presented to the field counter-narratives about segregated schools (but with a focus on general education). This project builds upon previous scholars’ work by examining specifically the mathematics education of Blacks over the period of legal segregation. Using archival materials (over 20 different data sources such as catalogs, department correspondence, faculty papers, student records, photo collections, textbooks, course syllabi, alumni records, yearbooks, student handbooks) from 25 Historically Black Colleges and Universities, across 11 states, this study reconstructs, recovers, and examines a history of mathematics and science education of Blacks during segregation; a study that has never been conducted. Finally, because access to education has never been a defacto legal or social right, Critical Race Theory is utilized to frame, analyze, and interpret the significance of the mathematics and science education of Blacks, 1854 – 1954.
Kihyun Kelly Ryoo, University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill
Kihyun Kelly Ryoo is an Assistant Professor of Learning Sciences in the Learning Sciences and Psychological Studies program at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill. She received her Ph.D. in Learning Sciences and Technology Design with a specialization in Science Education from Stanford University. Prior to joining the faculty at UNC-Chapel Hill, she was a postdoctoral scholar at the University of California, Berkeley. Her research focuses on designing and studying innovative technologies that can support English learners and language minority students in developing a coherent understanding of complex scientific phenomena. Funded by the Spencer Foundation and UNC-Chapel Hill, her current research explores how different types of visualizations in web-based inquiry instruction can improve science learning for both English learners and their English-proficient peers in linguistically heterogeneous classrooms.
Designing Effective Guidance for Visualization Technologies to Help English Language Learners Succeed in Mainstream Science Classrooms
New visualization technologies have the potential to improve science learning for all students, including English Language Learners (ELLs) who have been marginalized in mainstream classrooms. Dynamic visualizations can depict the continuous changes and processes of dynamic systems that are difficult to infer from static pictures or text-based representations. This unique feature of dynamic visualizations can strengthen science instruction in general and potentially benefit ELLs by reducing the linguistic burden of instruction and providing ELLs with a visual context to interpret instructional explanations. However, simply visualizing scientific phenomena using these technologies does not automatically lead to improved learning. Effective learning from dynamic visualizations requires instructional guidance to help students distinguish among multiple ideas and reflect on their learning progress. While a number of studies have explored various forms of guidance for dynamic visualizations in general, there are no clear guidelines concerning how best to support ELLs in learning from dynamic visualizations. This proposed research will therefore explore how to design effective guidance to help ELLs benefit from dynamic visualizations and succeed in mainstream science classrooms. Building on my previous research, this mixed-methods project will compare the effects of generating guidance to reading guidance while interacting with visualizations in improving ELLs’ and non-ELLs’ integrated understanding of energy and matter transformations at the molecular level and explore how these two forms of guidance affect their discourse patterns and learning paths.
Josep Simon, Universidad del Rosario, Colombia
Josep Simon is an assistant professor in history of science, technology and medicine at the Universidad del Rosario, Colombia, where he belongs to the Grupo de Estudios Sociales de las Ciencias, las Tecnologías y las Profesiones. He has previously been a lecturer at the Universitat de València (Spain) and a tutor at the universities of Leeds and Oxford (United Kingdom). He was trained in physics, science education, history of medicine, science and technology studies, history and philosophy of science, and museum and scientific instrument studies, and has developed funded projects in these fields in Spain, the United Kingdom, France, Mexico and the USA. He is the author of the award-winning Communicating Physics: the Production, Circulation and Appropriation of Ganot’s Textbooks in France and England (1851-1887) (London: Pickering & Chatto, 2011), the Oxford Handbook chapter “Physics Textbooks and Textbook Physics in the Nineteenth and Twentieth Centuries” and a number of special issues, edited books and articles in international journals, aimed at science education, history of science, and history of education readers.
Transnational Paradigm: Physics and Pedagogical Innovation in the Americas (1945-1975)
This project is a history of the co-construction of American hegemony in science pedagogy, built upon an interdisciplinary, comparative, and cross-national analysis of pedagogical innovation in the US and its appropriation in Latin America, between the end of WWII and the university reforms of the mid 1970s. It uses a major case study (the Physical Science Study Committee) in four national contexts (USA, Colombia, Brazil and Mexico) which exemplify different pedagogical, scientific and political cultures, and the emergence of transnational processes of knowledge co-construction. It is unique in combining approaches from the history of science, the history of education and science education. It stands on an already established tradition of historical studies on science education, but contributes to renew it. It presents a strong historical case able to inform reflection on the design of current science and education policy.
The project addresses the making of Cold War physics and pedagogy through a study of the production of the pedagogical packages designed by the Physical Science Study Committee in the US and their circulation and appropriation in Colombia, Brazil and Mexico. It acts on four major grounds: a) Internationality: it assesses physics and pedagogy through a genuinely comparative, cross-national and transnational perspective; b) Interdisciplinarity: it combines approaches from science education, history of education, history of science, book history, visual studies, oral history and scientific instrument studies; c) Science Pedagogy: it stands on an already established tradition of historical studies on science education, but contributes to renew it and take it a step forward, with the particular aim of revising and overcoming the impact of Thomas S. Kuhn’s Structure of Science Revolutions. It is an important step towards a better integration of the historiographies of science and education and their interaction with science policy.
By means of particular case-studies dealing with the pedagogical practices of physics teaching in the US, Colombia, Brazil and Mexico between the end of WWII and the early 1970s, this project intends to study the production, contents, circulation and use of the pedagogical tools characterizing 20th-century physics and their changing status in education and research in the Americas.
By combining comparative analysis in space (contemporary developments in different countries) with comparison in time (changes over three decades), and a multidisciplinary focus, this project seeks to produce strong results in global perspective. Accordingly, its objectives are to produce:
- A new history of the making of Cold War physics education based on an original combination of international comparison, transnational perspectives, multidisciplinary analysis, and an innovative focus on pedagogy and its production, circulation and consumption.
- A major contribution to the boost of the study of science pedagogy within history of science, history of education and science and technology studies.
- A strong historical case able to inform reflection on the design of current science & education policy.
Vanessa Svihla, University of New Mexico
Dr. Vanessa Svihla is an Assistant Professor at the University of New Mexico. She received an M.S. in Geology and a Ph.D. in Science Education from The University of Texas at Austin. She served as a Peace Corps Volunteer in the Philippines (1998-2000), was a post-doctoral scholar in the Graduate School of Education at UC Berkeley and interned at the Learning in Informal and Formal Environments (LIFE) Center, University of Washington. She chaired the AERA special interest group, Learning Sciences (2010-2011). She directs the Interaction and Disciplinary Design in Educational Activity (IDDEA) Lab. Dr. Svihla is a learning scientist who studies learning in authentic, real world conditions; this includes a two-strand research program focused on (1) authentic assessment, often aided by interactive technology, and (2) design learning, in which she studies engineers designing devices, scientists designing investigations, teachers designing learning experiences and students designing to learn. She is passionate about interdisciplinary research as a means to find innovative solutions and applies integrated methods (interaction analysis, regression modeling, temporal analysis, design-based research and network analysis) to investigate complex phenomena.
Learning to design and designing to learn
The students who present the greatest need– those who are underrepresented in science and engineering and who come from low socioeconomic groups– are the least likely to receive authentic, intellectually engaging learning experiences. Diversity matters for the future of STEM fields; diversity is a critical resource for the kinds of perspective-taking that results in innovative solutions to grand challenges. The goals of this project are (1) to identify teacher-guided strategies that allow underserved, underrepresented, struggling learners to engage in problem finding and problem framing, and (2) to document connections between such experiences and learning. These goals are investigated in the context of students designing. While a great deal is known about problem solving, problem finding and framing are much less studied and understood, especially in relation to how they can support learning.
Project activities include examining designing as a learning process, and in particular, as a way to support struggling, underserved learners by providing a context in which learners have agency and see instrumentality in what they are learning. Instrumentality describes the degree to which an individual considers something s/he is learning to be useful in his/her future. Essentially, when students don’t see a need to learn something, their learning tends to be negatively impacted. Designing places the learner in an agentive position, meaning that the learner has the power to make and carry out decisions. This study explores the following research questions: 1) How do teachers guide struggling, underserved learners to engage in design processes- specifically problem finding and framing? 2) How do problem finding and framing provide opportunities for increasing agency and instrumentality? 3) To what extent do measures of design authenticity, instrumentality and agency explain variance in student learning?
In order to accomplish project goals, I will engage in field-based data collection, analysis and dissemination. In Phase 1, I will document student learning and interactions across two design projects, spending 1-2 days per week at the field site engaged in data collection, including collecting video records, design artifacts (examples of student work), and surveys. Concurrent to and following this, I will conduct interaction analysis (Phase 2). Regression modeling will occur in Phase 3. Triangulation of data sets will compare qualitative and quantitative findings (Phase 4).
The participants (N~100) are teachers and students at a charter school whose mission involves high impact—that is, they seek to serve those who have not been well-served by traditional schooling. Neither traditional nor a trade school, this hybrid charter, grounded in notions of funds of knowledge, builds on students’ strengths (e.g., a student organizes gang activity; the teachers see that she knows how to organize, and they work with that strength). The mission of this school is to serve “the bottom 15%” of students. The students are 80% Latino and male, over 80% off-track to graduation, and over 90% free/reduced lunch. The school includes a focus on engineering and architectural design, informed by industry partners. The school has seen success in its three-year tenure, with 86% retention and increases on state standardized test scores. Recently, three students successfully completed a university engineering course and over 90% of the graduates have gone on to college or internships. Students develop and demonstrate mastery in state standards across 2-5 projects per semester.
Ebony Thomas, University of Pennsylvania
Ebony Elizabeth Thomas is an assistant professor in the Reading/Writing/Literacy Division of the Graduate School of Education at the University of Pennsylvania. A former Detroit Public Schools teacher, Dr. Thomas joined the Penn GSE faculty after completing her PhD in 2010 at the University of Michigan’s Joint Program of English and Education, and working as an assistant professor of reading, language, and literature at Wayne State University in Detroit. Her program of research focuses on children’s and adolescent literature (broadly construed), the teaching of African American literature, history, and culture in K-12 classrooms, and the roles that race, class, and gender play in classroom discourse and interaction. She is currently the principal investigator of a multiyear reading and classroom interaction study at a West Philadelphia middle school, partnering with notable literacy teacher, activist, and blogger Samuel Reed III. She has published current and forthcoming peer reviewed articles in the Journal of Teacher Education, Qualitative Inquiry, Linguistics and Education, English Journal, The ALAN Review, and Sankofa: A Journal of African Children’s and Young Adult Literature. Dr. Thomas is a former NCTE Cultivating New Voices Among Scholars of Color Fellow, is a member of the NCTE Standing Committee on Research, and was elected to serve on the executive committee of NCTE’s Conference on English Education (CEE). In 2014, her work received an Emerging Scholar Award from AERA’s Language and Social Processes Special Interest Group.
Healing Fictions: African American Middle Schoolers “Restorying” History Through Children’s and Young Adult Literature
How do students read tales about the past? What kinds of stories might they tell in response to these histories? Many popular historical topics in children’s and young adult literature—slavery, segregation in the Jim Crow South, the Japanese internment camps of World War II, and the genocide of Native Americans, to name just a few—are set amid the incomprehensible horrors of American history. In Healing Fictions, I will examine how African American middle school students in Philadelphia and Detroit navigate disconnections between literary representations of the past they read in school and their everyday experiences in their communities through the stories that they tell. In particular, I am interested in how Black middle school students in low-income urban neighborhoods read, interpret, and narrate history through the literature they encounter in their reading and English Language Arts classes. After inviting youth participants in my study to choose, read, and respond to historical African American children’s and young adult literature, I will then ask them to retell or “restory” the historical information that the authors present in the books, and then narrate their own family and community histories, creating double-voiced narratives that connect the past to the present.
While the challenges of teaching history through literature have been taken up more generally within history, English, and area studies (Baker, 1984; Boerman-Cornell, 2011; Cole, 2007; Kharem, 2006; Loewen, 1996; Nodelman, 1990; Oglesby, 2007; Schwebel, 2011), I propose to extend this line of inquiry specifically into the teaching of historical African American literature at the middle school level. As we provide historical texts and facilitate reading and discussion in classrooms and other spaces inside of schools, we have to consider the ways history is presented by the texts (Edinger, 1998, 2000; Martin, 2002), as well as the ways that literacy teachers and learners construct narratives of society and self through literature and the curriculum (Glenn, 2012; Tatum, 2008). Furthermore, the ways authors interpret and narrate historical events may interfere with student understanding and engagement, causing feelings of disconnection from reading and school (Tatum, 2008). By situating my study among young African American adolescents who attend school in two low-income urban neighborhoods in different regions of the United States, I am attempting to shed light on how students who are among the most disconnected from and underserved in schools grapple with these issues.
Fictionalized accounts of past events written for middle school students are often framed within metanarratives, or master stories, of progress, triumph, and optimism. African American history is often carefully retold in ways that show principles of liberty and equality always prevailed over the forces of slavery and racism. However, the lived realities of many of today’s urban students clash with these master narratives of triumph and unfettered progress. When children’s and adolescents’ experiences contradict those of the characters they read about, they are bound to feel disconnected from those characters and their histories. Inviting students to “restory” the history they read so that it is relevant to their lives may improve student engagement with the past – and in the present.
Candace Walkington, Southern Methodist University
Candace Walkington is an Assistant Professor of Mathematics Education in the Annette Caldwell Simmons School of Education and Human Development at Southern Methodist University. She received her doctorate in Mathematics Education from University of Texas and completed an IES Postdoctoral Fellowship in Mathematical Thinking, Learning, and Instruction at University of Wisconsin. Her research focuses on how abstract mathematical concepts can become grounded in students’ interests, experiences, and everyday reasoning practices. She is a long-time collaborator with Carnegie Learning and the Pittsburgh Science of Learning Center, both of whom have supported much of her research. At SMU, she teaches courses for pre-service and in-service teachers related to methods for mathematics and STEM teaching.
A new approach to personalized learning: Students as authors of their own algebra stories
Algebra acts as a gatekeeper to many careers and to higher-level mathematics, and students struggle to understand the abstract representations introduced in this course. Concepts from algebra are often not seen as being connected to students’ worlds, including their home and community activities. Exploring ways to connect mathematics to students’ lives, experiences, and unique funds of knowledge is critical to making algebra both accessible and captivating, especially when considering the participation of students from diverse backgrounds. In previous work, I found that students draw upon rich algebraic ways of reasoning when pursuing their out-of-school interests in areas like sports, social networking, and video games, and that making connections to these topics in algebra class can improve long-term understanding of algebraic ideas.
In this study, I will implement an intervention where Pre-Algebra students generate personalized connections between concepts they are learning in algebra and their out-of-school interests. Students will author their own “algebra stories” where they describe how linear relationships can approximate things they encounter in their everyday lives. I hypothesize that authoring these stories will elicit students’ interest in the content to be learned, and meaningfully draw upon their funds of knowledge from their home and community lives. My work is unique in that it combines cognitive theories related to activation of prior knowledge with motivational theories related to the development of interest, in order to understand and intervene upon students’ mathematical understanding.
Using qualitative and quantitative methods that compare an experimental group to a control group, I will examine how the intervention elicits students’ interest in learning algebra, and promotes a positive outlook towards mathematics. I will look at the impact of the intervention on students’ classroom discussions and on their learning of algebra concepts. This research will reveal ways in which abstract mathematical content can be made more accessible and enhance motivation, especially for students who struggle with mathematics. Personalizing instruction has the potential to improve learning and attitudes in algebra courses that are a key barrier to academic advancement and economic attainment. And through emerging, adaptive technology systems, personalization can in the future be scalable to large groups of students.
Chun Wang, University of Minnesota
Dr. Chun Wang is an assistant professor at the University of Minnesota in the Department of Psychology and specializes in quantitative and psychometric methods. She received her PhD in Quantitative Psychology from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign in 2012. Her research interests include multidimensional and multilevel item response theory, computerized adaptive testing, cognitive diagnosis modeling, test security, and semi-parametric modeling for item response time analysis. Since 2012, she has received two innovative Research & Development grants from CTB/McGraw-Hill to develop (1) advanced psychometric models for measuring individual change/growth in longitudinal studies; (2) sophisticated statistical models for differentiating various test-taking behaviors , including solution behavior, cheating behavior, and rapid guessing behavior, by way of integrating information from both response pattern and response time pattern. Dr. Wang has received numerous awards including the 2011 Nancy Hirschberg Memorial Award, 2012 Jeffrey Tanaka Memorial Award, 2013 JEBS Best Reviewer Award, NCME 2013 Alicia Cascallar Award, and NCME 2014 Jason Millman Promising Measurement Scholar Award.
Multidimensional Analysis of Student Growth Using Item Response Theory
Recently, the federal government instituted a program entitled “Race to the Top”, in which schools are encouraged to “build data systems that measure student growth and success”. To help the government improve measuring student ability, psychometricians have proposed sophisticated models that presumably pinpoint students’ strength and weakness on relevant content areas. However, the currently available models mainly focus on data collected at a single time point, and no systematic efforts have extended these models to measure individual change (across multiple time points). This study focuses on the development, evaluation, and application of longitudinal extensions of multidimensional higher-order item response theory models. These longitudinal hierarchical IRT (L-HIRT) models will be developed to measure individual change (with a focus on aptitude/academic change) over time. The flexibility of the new L-HIRT models allows incorporating test designs that include multidimensional content areas, multiple time point measurements, and multiple subpopulations. Simulation studies will be conducted to explore the recovery of all model parameters and to demonstrate the applicability of the new models in reliably measuring growth. Multivariate hypothesis testing will also be proposed to evaluate the significance of individual change. Finally, the NELS (National Educational Longitudinal Studies) dataset will be used to illustrate specific L-HIRT model applications. I hope that this study will provide useful statistical tools for reliably reporting and evaluating individual growth on a general, overall trait, and across several, more specific content domains.
Christina Weiland, University of Michigan
Christina Weiland is an Assistant Professor in Educational Studies at the University of Michigan School of Education. Her research focuses on the effects of early childhood interventions, developmental contexts, and public policies on children’s development, particularly among children from low-income families, and on the mechanisms by which such effects occur. Her body of work includes a large-scale, Institute of Education Sciences-funded evaluation of the Boston Public Schools prekindergarten program’s impacts on children’s language, literacy, mathematics, and executive function skills. She has also conducted studies of the role of classroom quality and peer socio-economic composition in promoting the outcomes of children enrolled in the Boston program. For her Boston work, she was awarded a Best Dissertation Award from the Society for Research in Child Development. She is also conducting research on the impacts of Un Buen Comienzo, a preschool teacher professional development program in Santiago, Chile, and on variation in the impacts of Head Start through the Secondary Analysis of Variation in Impact (SAVI) Study of Head Start Center. A former middle school teacher, she holds a master’s degree and an EdD (Quantitative Policy Analysis in Education) from Harvard University's Graduate School of Education, and a BA from Dartmouth College.
Inclusion Preschool for Children with Special Needs: Impacts, Dosage, and Mechanisms
Approximately 700,000 preschool-aged children in the U.S. have a diagnosed special need (6%). As of 2009, 48% of these children received all of their special education services within preschool inclusion classrooms alongside their typically developing peers (U.S. Department of Education, 2012). In stark contrast to the more than 80 rigorous studies since 1965 that have demonstrated the efficacy of preschool in improving the outcomes of typically developing children (Yoshikawa, Weiland et al., 2013), little is known about the causal impacts of inclusion preschool on children with special needs. Even less is known about optimal program dosage or the mechanisms by which such programs promote positive child development.
I will conduct two rigorous studies on the impacts, dosage, and mechanisms of the inclusion preschool model that may help to meet this critical gap in the literature. In Study 1, I use regression discontinuity to estimate the impacts of inclusion preschool on the cognitive school readiness of young children with special needs. Study 1 also examines whether the gains of enrolled children with special needs are on par with those of their typically developing peers, as well as the added value of two vs. one years of inclusion preschool. Data for Study 1 come from a sample of children enrolled in a highly successful prekindergarten program. In Study 2, using data from the National Head Start Impact Study, I will use principal stratification with Bayesian estimation to examine whether impacts on the cognitive and socio-emotional skills of children with special needs are mediated causally by care-setting support for family involvement. Such support is often challenging for inclusion programs, but is thought to be critical in improving the outcomes of this subgroup. Results from the two studies stand to make significant contributions to educational practice and policy, given the dearth of rigorous evidence on the preschool inclusion model and given current policy proposals to dramatically increase access to preschool.