Site for Research-related news stories–the latest and also an Archive of past Research stories.

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Higher Education professor awarded co-funded grant to continue work on performance-based funding

Justin Ortagus, director of the Institute of Higher Education and assistant professor of Higher Education & Policy, who received $373,590 in co-funding to analyze how variations in performance-based funding policies impact outcomes for underserved students and under-resourced institutions. The grants serves as Phase Two of a two-part project to identify the impact of PBF policy design elements on college access and student success.

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AERA recognizes multidisciplinary team with Best Paper Award

The American Educational Research Association (AERA) presented the Best Paper Award in the special interest group category of “Computer and Internet Applications in Education” to a multidisciplinary team of faculty and graduate students.

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UF Professors Receive $956,733 To Pilot Cryptography-Focused Elementary-Level Curriculum

Cryptography has been used for thousands of years to conceal covert messages, but researchers believe it may serve another purpose — to help children become successful readers and writers.

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Exceptional Children honors two COE faculty for impactful contributions

Patricia Snyder, director of the Anita Zucker Center for Excellence in Early Childhood Studies, and Nicholas Gage, assistant professor of special education, were awarded Reviewer of the Year by Exceptional Children, the nation’s most respected scholarly journal in special education.

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University of Florida Initiative Seeks Solutions to Critical Challenges Affecting Society

The University of Florida is spearheading the search for solutions to society’s most ever-present challenges through its latest initiative.

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Endowed professor raises the bar on teaching English language learners

Bilingual Ed. scholar Maria Coady fills a prestigious endowed Fien professorship that allows her to expand her landmark multilingual studies aimed at helping at-risk English language learners at rural high-poverty schools.

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Higher Ed assistant professor gets UF excellence award

UF has honored Justin Ortagus, a faculty researcher in Higher Ed Administration and Policy, with its 2018 Excellence Award for Assistant Professors. He also is the new director of the UF Institute of HIgher Education.

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Acclaimed study adds new dimension to college chemistry instruction

To 3D or not to 3D? College instructors in chemistry and other science disciplines are debating whether it’s best to use traditional, two-dimensional renderings of basic structures like organic molecules and crystals, or to adopt new technology that can render images of molecular structures in three dimensions.

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COE scholar: Students with disabilities more involved in bullying over time

Bullying graphic

Graphic courtesy of Kari Weis, Columbia (Mo.) Missourian

Research by education scholars has shown that students with disabilities are generally more likely to be victimized and to perpetrate bullying than other students.

But few studies have examined whether this discrepancy in bullying behavior changed over time as students advanced through grades.

Now a new study co-authored by UF College of Education scholar Nicholas Gage has found that the students with disabilities in the third through 12th grades are consistently more involved in bullying than other students.

“We were not surprised there was a gap in bullying, but our most notable finding was that this gap remained the same over time,” said Gage, UF College of Education assistant professor of special education.

Disproportionate bullying

Generally, as students progress in age, the level of bullying declines across all groups of students. But students with disabilities consistently are more likely involved in bullying.

For example, 44 percent of third-grade students reported some level of bullying, Gage said. In contrast, the rate was 66 percent among third-graders with a disability. In fifth grade, 40 percent of these same students reported bullying while 60 percent of students with disabilities said they were bullied or engaged in bullying. Overall, 21.8 percent of students with disabilities were bullied versus 14.5 percent of students without disabilities.

Nicholas Gage

UF College of Education Assistant Professor Nicholas Gage.

Gage co-authored with Chad A. Rose, professor of education at the University of Missouri, the study, “Exploring the Involvement of Bullying Among Students with Disabilities over Time,” which is published in the academic journal Exceptional Children.

The scholars evaluated the victimization and perpetration rates of 6,531 students in a school district in Connecticut; Gage did post-doctorate work at the University of Connecticut’s Institute of Education Science. Gage and Rose analyzed the responses third through twelfth graders provided in a survey of bullying over a three-year period.

Bullying defined

The scholars used a generally accepted definition of bullying as pervasive peer aggression with the intention to cause physical or emotional harm.

Roughly 16 percent of the students surveyed had a disability. These disabilities included: autism spectrum disorder, emotional disturbance, learning disabilities, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder and other health impairments. These students were integrated into general classrooms.

Previous studies on the victimization of students with disabilities reported increased verbal abuse (e.g., name-calling, mimicking disability characteristics, teasing), social exclusion, and physical aggression when compared with nondisabled peers. Scholars have said one serious concern is that over time victimized students may develop aggressive characteristics as a strategy to combat the victimization.

Gage said that students with disabilities are less likely to have the social and communication skills to avoid bullying.

As a result, Gage says schools need to increase their efforts to build an awareness, increase teacher training and develop ways to combat bullying in the education plans of students with disabilities.

“Kids with disabilities may need some bullying intervention to recognize and also develop social skills to prevent bullying,” Gage said. “And schools and teachers need to develop more proactive approaches around bullying, particularly for kids with disabilities. It’s about working with schools and teachers to develop competency and social skills that can have a positive impact.”


Source: Nicholas Gage, 352-273-4282
Writer: Charles Boisseau, 352-273-4449

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Learning Gains from our Brains

Faculty scholars are merging neuroscience and education research to personalize multimedia and online learning

antonenko-lab-8-1-16_6665a

UF education technology researcher Pavlo “Pasha” Antonenko adjusts his EEG headwear on a study subject.

UF education technology researcher Pavlo “Pasha” Antonenko has never been afraid to take risks and go against convention. His pioneering spirit emerged in the 1990s in his Ukraine homeland, where personal computers were scarce and there was no internet connection. Fast forward two decades, to today, and you’ll find him leading groundbreaking studies at the College of Education on a radical new approach for advancing and personalizing the still-fledgling field of online learning.

SETTING THE STAGE

Antonenko’s journey to UF started in the late 1990s when he was a high school teacher. He became fascinated with computers at a time when his hometown of Nizhyn, Ukraine had no internet connections and few computers. He began building and selling computers to supplement his income while he earned a master’s in linguistics in English and German languages.

“I was one of the first people in my hometown to get an internet connection, but it wasn’t very good. I started building websites even before I had internet, but they were just sitting on my computer,” he recalls.

His career path changed dramatically in 2002 when he traveled to Orlando to work as an interpreter at a conference on education technology, a discipline that wasn’t even recognized in Ukraine. But Antonenko had found his passion: exploring ways computer technology can improve education.

“Everything I heard there and the people I met, I said ‘wow, this is what I want to do as my graduate education and job,’” he says.

Within a few months, he and his wife, Yuliya, moved a half-world away to settle in Ames, Iowa, where he spent five years at Iowa State University earning a doctorate in curriculum and instructional technology and human-computer interaction.

Along the way, Antonenko worked with Iowa State neuroscientists on one of his personal research interests—the use of electroencephalography (EEG) to monitor brain activity known as “cognitive load,” which is the amount of mental effort expended by the working memory during a learning task. EEG, which records the brain’s electrical activity, is most commonly used in medicine as a first-line, non-invasive method of diagnosing stroke and other brain disorders.

It would have been intriguing to monitor Antonenko’s own brain activity as he thought to himself, “Hmmm, I wonder if EEG might be a reliable way to study the mental processes underlying learning.” He wrote his dissertation on the topic and became one of the first education researchers to use EEG to measure the cognitive dynamics of learning.

The stars begin to align

After earning his doctorate and serving five years on the education technology faculty at Oklahoma State University, Antonenko joined UF’s ed. tech faculty in 2012. His appointment coincided with the education world’s identification of personalizing online learning as a global challenge and a top research priority of the U.S. Department of Education and the National Science Foundation.

UF administrators also targeted research of personalized e-learning for investment of state “preeminent university” funds, which enabled the College of Education in 2014 to recruit top ed. tech scholar Carole Beal from Arizona State University, where she was conducting her own pioneering neuro-education studies. Beal became the first director of UF’s new campuswide Online Learning Institute.

The College of Education made a priority of integrating neuroscience with education research to improve online learning at all levels. Pivotal developments during the 2015-16 academic year made that push a certainty.

Kara Dawson

UF Education Technology Professor Kara Dawson

Merging Neuroscience and education research at UF

In 2015, Antonenko, Beal and UF education technology colleague Kara Dawson attracted vital grant funding to lead novel interdisciplinary research projects using wireless EEG brain monitoring and other neuro-technology to study how multimedia learning can be impoved for all students, not just those who test well on academic exams. These studies focus on education in the STEM disciplines—science, technology, engineering and math—areas in which the use of multimedia learning tools “has far outstripped the ability of research to keep pace with,” says Antonenko.

Their focus on custom-tailoring instructional design for individual learner differences, rather than a “one-size-fits-all” approach, is a distinctive feature of their studies.

“Virtually all research on multimedia learning methods has been performed on high-achieving students at elite research-intensive universities, where studies like this usually occur. We are evaluating these methods with more diverse student populations and those with special needs,” Antonenko says.

FAST FACT:

In 2015, Antonenko became the first UF education faculty researcher to win 5 NSF grants in the same year.

NSF study focuses on community college students

Antonenko heads a team of highly specialized researchers drawn from multiple institutions on a three-year study, supported by a $765,000 grant from the National Science Foundation. The researchers are gauging how effective technology-assisted learning practices are for a diverse group of community college students, which now constitute nearly half of all U.S. higher education students.

The team, dubbed the Science of Learning Collaborative Network, includes top scholars in education technology, neuroscience, STEM education, neuropsychology, computer science and educational measurement. They hail from UF, the University of Massachusetts-Boston and Washington State University.

Some 120 students from three colleges—Santa Fe College in Gainesville, Bunker Hill Community College in Boston and SUNY Buffalo State in Buffalo, N.Y.—are participating in the study. The students are screened for demographics and learning differences, such as working memory and visual attention levels, to ensure a varied test group.

Team specialists in cognitive neuroscience are employing EEG and other high-tech methods, including functional near infrared spectroscopy (to measure neural changes in blood oxygenation) and eye tracking (to understand visual attention) to assess the students’ attention and mental processes while they learn using multimedia materials that include text, images, videos, animations and audio.

The researchers hope to land follow-up NSF grants by demonstrating the effectiveness of their network’s organization, infrastructure and integration of diverse research strategies, along with their unique approach to personalized learning.

“Working with scholars from other disciplines and other institutions is really exciting but it’s also challenging because each discipline and each person has a different way to work,” Antonenko says. “We have to make sure everyone is invested and feels valued and make sure we pull all of the expertise together in a way that makes sense.”

UF co-researchers are ed. tech faculty members Dawson and Beal, and psychology professor Andreas Keil. Co-principal investigators are computer science and STEM education scholars Matthew Schneps from Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Marc Pomplun from the University of Massachusetts-Boston, and Richard Lamb of SUNY Buffalo State, who focuses on science education and measurement.

Adapting digital media for students with dyslexia

Professor Dawson heads an educational neuroscience study focused on multimedia learning for students with dyslexia, the most common language-based disability. People with dyslexia typically have difficulty reading and processing words.

Dawson was awarded $85,000 for the one-year project from UF’s Office of Research, which awards Research Opportunity Seed Fund grants to UF scholars for the merit and potential of their research proposals. Antonenko is a co-principal investigator.

The study involves 72 college students with dyslexia, each participating in one of four multimedia learning settings while wearing wireless EEG headsets to monitor and record brain activity during the multimedia exercise and comprehension assessment. The student volunteers are drawn from four institutions: Santa Fe Community College and the universities of Central Florida, North Florida and South Florida.

While neuroscience-based methods are central to the study, Dawson is quick to make one thing clear: “In no way am I a neuroscientist.”

“To me, this is not about neuroscience,” she says, “I am interested in what neuroscience techniques can tell us about the learning process. That is what it’s all about for me.”

Dawson and her team will use their findings to evaluate the validity of merging EEG and behavioral measures and, ultimately, to develop new instructional strategies and materials that teachers can personalize for individual students with varied learning traits and backgrounds.

Besides Dawon and Antonenko, the research team includes UF ed. tech colleagues Beal and Albert Ritzhaupt, dyslexia diagnostic specialist Linda Lombardino from UF’s special education program, and UF neuropsychologist Keil. Doctoral students participating are Kendra Saunders from school pyschology and Nihan Dogan, Jiahui Wang, Li Cheng, Wenjing Luo and Robert Davis from the School of Teaching and Learning. Matthew Schneps from the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysicists also is collaborating.

“We all share this mutual goal of figuring out how technology can help all types of learners,” Dawson says. “We need to make technology work so everyone feels they can learn and be smart and successful.”

MUCH PROMISE BUT NOT YET READY FOR PRIME TIME

The researchers describe both educational neuroscience studies as exploratory, but Antonenko says he expects them to yield solid preliminary findings that may lead to follow-up NSF research proposals.

“EEG appears to be a great tool for educational research that can produce important implications for teaching and learning in education.” he says. “Our focus is on helping people who need additional support as they learn using 21st century online and multimedia tools in education.”

“That is what I find most rewarding.”


WRITER: Larry Lansford, communications director, UF College of Education; 352-273-4137; llansford@coe.ufl.edu

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Counselor Ed’s Kristina DePue receives national research honor

ACES President Heather Trepel presents research award to Kristina DePue

ACES President Heather Trepal presents research award
to Kristina DePue

After nearly three-and-half years of conducting behind-the-scenes research, Kristina DePue was suddenly overcome with emotions earlier this month when she was thrust into the spotlight in her field of counselor education.

“Honestly, I broke into tears,” DePue said when she received one of the most prestigious awards given annually by the American Association for Counselor Education and Supervision (ACES).

DePue, an assistant professor of counselor education at the University of Florida College of Education, accepted the Research in Counselor Education and Supervision Award at the southern region ACES conference in New Orleans attended by scores of her peers from across the country.

“I was shocked,” DePue said. “It was an honor to be recognized, especially as I’m one of the newer faculty members in our field.”

Lead author on research project

DePue was the lead author of a research project that measured the strength of the relationships between graduate student counselors and their supervisors, as well as the relationships between these students and their clients.

The clients are people who come for therapy because of they are under mental distress, such as depression, anxiety and suicidal ideation. Professors in the studies provided live clinical supervision of graduate students, as is typical in counseling education.

The report, titled “Investigating Supervisory Relationships and Therapeutic Alliances Using Structural Equation Modeling,” is slated to appear in the December issue of ACES’ Counselor Education and Supervision, a leading journal in the counseling field.

Benefits of strong student-supervisor relationships

The study found counseling trainees who reported strong relationships with their supervisors also had the strongest relationships with their clients. In a follow up study, DePue and her co-authors discovered that both the relationship between the client and counselor, and the relationship between the counselor and supervisor predicted client improvements.

Counterintuitively, DePue’s studies show these relationships work independently of each other. While these findings may seem obvious, they are not linear — in contrast what was previously thought. Instead, the two relationships (supervisor-supervisee and client-counselor) work independently, though both directly impact client change.

DePue and her co-authors are submitting this second study to the Journal of Counseling and Development.

Although the importance of supervision is undeniable, few researchers have investigated the influence of the supervisor-supervisee relationship on whether clients’ distress is lessened in therapy, Jacqueline Swank, UF assistant professor of counselor education, wrote in a letter nominating DePue for the award.

DePue came to UF in 2013 after earning a doctorate in counselor education from the University of Central Florida, where data for the study was collected. The project had the participation of 169 master’s-level counseling trainees and 253 clients served by UCF’s community counseling center.

DePue led a team of three other researchers: Ren Liu, a doctoral student in the UF College of Education’s Research and Evaluation Methodology (REM) program, Glenn Lambie, a professor of counselor education at the University of Central Florida, and Jessica Gonzalez, an assistant professor in counseling and career development at Colorado State University.

Sources: Kristina DePue, 352-273-4339, Kathryn Henderson, ACES awards co-chair

Writer: Charles Boisseau, 352-273-4449 (office), 352-431-2269 (cell)

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Athletes have coaches, why not teachers?

The Lastinger Center’s Coaching Academy has become a national leader in certifying teacher coaches in preschool through high school.

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — NFL quarterback Tom Brady has a coach. So does tennis superstar Serena Williams. Same goes for many of America’s most successful CEOs.

So why not teachers?

Scholars at the University of Florida’s College of Education and two nonprofit educational organizations are recommending just that: all teachers should have a skilled coach as a way to improve the nation’s educational system.

Research has shown that strong coaching can enhance a teacher’s practice and student learning — yet a majority of teachers say they don’t receive regular professional coaching, according to a new report from the UF Lastinger Center for Learning, developed jointly with the groups Learning Forward and Public Impact.

“Coaching is for everyone,” said Don Pemberton, director of the Lastinger Center, which serves as the college’s teaching and learning innovation incubator.

“There is kind of a stigma in education that coaches are only provided to the weak teachers,” Pemberton said. “In our work, we have reimagined coaching for all teachers. Anyone can gain value from it as they do in sports, and as CEOs do. We believe that should be the case in education. It’s really about human development.”

Only half of teachers receive coaching

Graphic - Intensive Coaching Relatively Rare
Nationwide, just half of teachers reported receiving coaching in a recent 12-month period, and only 12 percent had weekly coaching sessions, according to a 2014 survey funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and cited by the researchers.

This new report, “Coaching for Impact: Six Pillars to Create Coaching Roles that Achieve Their Potential to Improve Teaching and Learning,” is aimed at schools and administrators nationwide in hopes of developing a framework and conversation about the importance of teacher coaches. The UF Lastinger Center teamed up on the research, writing and dissemination of the report with Learning Forward, a Dallas-based professional association for kindergarten-to-12th-grade teachers, and Public Impact, a Carrboro, N.C.-based organization working to improve learning for all U.S. children.

UF education professor emerita Dorene Ross served as project leader for the Lastinger Center.

Pemberton said the report comes at a time that schools across the country are spending tens of millions of dollars on implementing some form of coaching for teachers but these programs haven’t been fully conceptualized and developed to have the greatest impact.

“The question is how to get more value? It’s a field that is ready for some innovation,” Pemberton said.

The report serves as a roadmap for schools: It summarizes the findings of academic research, provides effective coaching models and makes recommendations for incorporating high-quality coaching in the daily routine at schools.

Six ‘pillars’ for coaching programs

The authors cite six “pillars” necessary to implement successful coaching programs:

  • Commitment of education system leaders
  • Careful selection of teacher coaches
  • Shared responsibility for student outcomes by the coaches and the teachers they coach
  • Clarification of roles, time allotted and culture
  • Adequate training and support
  • Improved compensation for coaches to attract and retrain great teachers in coaching positions

Pemberton and Ross acknowledged more study was needed about ways budget-constrained school districts can provide higher or “differentiated” pay to teacher coaches.

One step toward that goal is professionalizing the coaching field through formal certification programs. The Lastinger Center’s Coaching Academy has become a national leader in certifying teacher coaches in preschool through high school, with more than 1,500 coaches either certified or currently enrolled in the program.

It is working with seven Florida school districts(1), all 30 of Florida’s early learning coalitions, and the Charleston, S.C., school system to develop coaching programs, including specialty ones aimed at early childhood education, literacy and STEM (science, technology, engineering and math). The center also has contracted with the state of Georgia to develop a statewide designation for preschool coaching.

Ross said, “We think the more school districts invest in coaching the more they will realize how valuable coaching is, especially as coaches show they are truly improving the practice of teachers and, ultimately, student achievement.”


(1) NOTE:  The seven Florida school districts working with the UF Lastinger Center’s teacher-coaching program are in Alachua, Duval, Indian River, Miami-Dade, Orange, Palm Beach and Seminole counties.


Source: Don Pemberton, 352-273-4100, UF Lastinger Center for Learning
Source: Dorene Ross, 352-538-1920, UF Lastinger Center for Learning
Writer: Charles Boisseau, UF College of Education news & communications office, 352-273-4449

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UF awarded $3.5 million to help improve social, emotional behavior of schoolchildren

Ann Daunic, Stephen Smith, Nancy Corbett and James Algina

Ann Daunic, Stephen Smith, Nancy Corbett and James Algina

 

Ever since teachers have taught they have also had to manage the behavior of their students.

But in recent years primary grade teachers are reporting a spike in the number of young children who struggle to handle their emotions and regulate their behaviors – meaning more students have issues such as being unable to follow instructions, resorting to tantrums and arguing with peers.

Now, scholars from the University of Florida College of Education have begun research on a curriculum they hope will provide teachers and schools with new tools to improve the social and emotional “literacy” of the youngest schoolchildren.

The researchers recently received a $3.5 million federal grant to study the effectiveness of the Social-Emotional Learning Foundations (SELF) curriculum they developed through a previous pilot study.

Thousands of schoolchildren to participate

“If these children don’t receive some support during this critical time they could develop more serious and chronic behavioral problems that will interfere with their future school success.”

Ann Daunic, principal investigator

Approximately 1,400 students in kindergarten and first grade at 60 urban and rural elementary schools in Florida will participate in the project following a screening process to select students at risk for emotional and behavioral problems. In this first year, 20 schools in five school districts have signed on – in Baker, Bradford, Levy, Marion and Putnam counties. Twenty more as-yet-identified schools will participate in each of the subsequent two years.

“If these children don’t receive some support during this critical time they could develop more serious and chronic behavioral problems that will interfere with their future school success,” said Ann Daunic, scholar emeritus at the UF College of Education and principal investigator on the project.

“As a matter of fact, researchers have determined that social-emotional development is closely linked to future academic performance,” she said.

Co-principal investigators on the project – also from the UF College of Education – are: Nancy Corbett, assistant scholar in special education, Stephen Smith, professor of special education, and James Algina, professor emeritus of research and evaluation methodology.

The four-year study is funded by the Institute of Education Sciences, the research arm of the U.S. Department of Education.

Daunic said research shows that about 10 percent of students who receive special education services have been diagnosed with emotional and behavioral disorders. But these students are not usually identified until they approach adolescence, particularly those who have internalizing problems such as anxiety and depression – which are more difficult for teachers to spot than externalizing behaviors such as class disruption, aggression or defiance.

Curriculum includes 50 lessons

The new UF study is designed to identify and help children earlier who may have these problems. The researchers will measure the effectiveness of a curriculum that includes 50 lessons integrated with selected storybooks, given over 16 to 20 weeks.

According to Co-PI Corbett, “These lessons are designed to help students build social-emotional competencies such as learning to identify emotions – their own and others’ – to develop self-management and relationship skills and assume responsibility for their own behavior.”

While about one-third of the lessons will be provided to the entire class, the majority of SELF lessons will be given to small groups of the preselected students who are at risk of developing emotional and behavioral issues, Corbett said.

This approach is one way the UF project differs from previous research, explained Daunic. “The small group setting allows these children more time to develop receptive and expressive language skills that are fundamental to social-emotional growth.”

Students at participating schools will be assessed before and after program delivery and measured against control group students, to see how much of a difference the curriculum makes. The researchers expect to see improvements, based on findings from a previous pilot study.

“We hope to determine whether the curriculum enhances students’ social-emotional development and overall adjustment to school,” Daunic said. “This project will make an important contribution to researchers and practitioners looking to help children at risk for emotional and behavioral problems.”


Source: Ann Daunic, 352-359-1871
Writer: Charles Boisseau, 352-273-4449

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School psychology professor wins second Mensa research award

UF school psychology Professor John Kranzler has received the 2016 Award for Excellence in Research from Mensa International Ltd.

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UF awarded $10M to personalize online math learning

The UF College of Education is assembling top faculty researchers from multiple fields to seek solutions in two critical areas of 21st century education – personalizing online math instruction and adapting educational technology for students with visual impairments.

The studies are funded by two grants, worth more than $10 million combined, from the Institute of Education Sciences, the research arm of the U.S. Department of Education.

Massive data mining for personalized learning

Nearly $9 million of the grant money supports a new project called Precision Education: Virtual Learning Lab, which bring together top experts in informatics, math education and professional development for teachers. Their charge is to advance a new approach for exploring massive sets of student data to update and personalize virtual instruction for math students.

Carole Beal

Carole Beal

“With the increased use of computers in education, the large-scale mining of existing education data represents a big new opportunity for computers to help teachers adapt their practice for today’s digltal world and help their students to improve their virtual learning,” said UF education technology Professor Carole R. Beal, the principal investigator of both studies.

The new Virtual Learning Lab comprises faculty researchers at UF and the University of Notre Dame, and experts from Study Edge, a Gainesville-based online tutoring company.

Over the next five years, the researchers will conduct studies in the emerging discipline known as precision education, which uses education data from prior students—such as standardized test scores, personal traits, teaching methods used and school administrative records—to personalize the learning experience for future students.

No more one-size-fits-all lesson plans geared to some “statistically average” student profile.

The researchers will focus on online or virtual learners, relying on the hot, new education technology of “big data” learning analysis. Their approach has them using powerful “supercomputers” to rapidly scrutinize the massive education data, plus figures from students’ use of interactive or group learning tools.

“Our grand challenge is to improve the achievement of struggling online students,” said Beal, who was recruited from the University of Arizona in 2014 to head the new UF Online Learning Institute. “We will design new teacher development programs on the use of learning analytics and personalizing instruction, and how to track student progress when every student is doing something unique.”

Researchers at the Virtual Learning Lab will develop and test their personalized model of precision education on a popular online tutoring tool called Algebra Nation, which the UF Lastinger Center for Learning launched in 2013 in tandem with Study Edge. Algebra Nation has since been used by more than 3,000 teachers and 200,000 math students from all 67 Florida school districts—mostly ninth graders gearing up for the mandatory end-of-course exam in algebra 1.

The researchers delight at the wealth of revealing learning data the Algebra Nation students and program are generating. Near the end of the study, researchers will compare test results of students using the updated and personalized version of Algebra Nation with the scores of students who used the regular version.

Beal said the Virtual Learning Lab also will serve as a national hub for researchers nationwide—forming a network for sharing findings and collaborating on new efforts to advance the fledgling field of virtual precision education and personalized learning.

“Our findings in the Virtual Learning Lab project will serve as a national model for a new approach to developing online learning systems,” she said.

The project’s co-principal investigator is Walter Leite, UF professor of research and evaluation methodologies (REM) with expertise in big-data mining and learning analysis. Other College of Education faculty researchers involved are: Corrine Huggins-Manley (REM), and Don Pemberton and Philip Poekert from the college’s Lastinger Center for Learning.

Two other participating UF faculty scholars are: George Michailidis, director of the UF Informatics Institute; and Juan Gilbert, chairman of computer and information sciences and engineering, and a pioneer in the field of human-centered computing.

Other key team members are psychology and computer science professor Sidney D’Mello of the University of Notre Dame and online tutoring specialist Ethan Fieldman of Study Edge. 

Helping students with sight impairments solve online math problems with graphics

The theme of personalized online learning carries over to Beal’s second federal grant, a three-year, $1.4 million project to help solve the unique challenges that blind and visually impaired students must overcome in learning online.

Think about it: How can students who can’t see the images on their computer screen solve algebra or geometry problems filled with line, bar and circle graphs, figures, geometric shapes and maps?

Beal sought solutions to help these students for several years while at Arizona, and she is expanding her studies now with her new UF colleagues. She said one of her ongoing research interests is to explore how technology can make online learning more accessible to students with special needs.

“In my investigations, I have found that students who appear disengaged in the traditional classroom are often among the most active learners in the online learning setting,” she said.

N.-Gage

Nicholas Gage

Beal has assembled a research team with colleagues from both Arizona and Florida to explore how technology can make online learning more accessible to students with special needs. They are Nicholas Gage from UF’s special education program as co-principal investigator, and, from Arizona, Sunggye Hong and L. Penny Rosenblum, both education researchers in disability and psycho-educational studies.

The researchers will develop and test an iPad-based instructional system to train students with visual impairments to locate and decipher targeted information in math graphics problems. The system includes audio, print and braille cues in accompanying books to point users to targeted graphics and word problems.

Beal said they plan to recruit up to 150 middle and high school students with visual impairments for the project from regular schools and specialized residential programs in Florida, Arizona and other states.

“Some of our students will be from regular schools and receiving special education services, while others attend specialized residential programs such as the Florida School for the Deaf and Blind in St. Augustine,” Beal said.

Dean Glenn Good of the UF College of Education called the federal grants awarded to Beal’s research teams “a major accomplishment in light of how extremely competitive it is to win major awards in education research.”

“The big winners from these projects,” Good said, “will be the struggling students who will benefit from the enhanced learning tools and teaching strategies that will help them succeed in their technology-based learning activities.”


SOURCE: Carole R. Beal, 352-273-4178; crbeal@coe.ufl.edu
WRITER
: Larry Lansford, communications director, UF College of Education; 352-273-4137;
llansford@coe.ufl.edu

 

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20 states join UF’s sweeping reform effort to boost teaching of students with disabilities

Mary Brownell

Mary Brownell

The recent addition of five new states rounds out a 20-state roster for a federally funded effort, led by the University of Florida, to help states vastly improve the effectiveness of teachers and public school principals who serve students with disabilities.

Supported by $25 million from the U.S. Department of Education, the UF College of Education has created a national center that is in the midst of a five-year, project to lead major reforms in policy and educator preparation. Their mission: to help states increase academic success for students with disabilities by improving the training and practices of their teachers and school leaders.

A team of faculty scholars from UF’s nationally ranked special education program heads the CEEDAR Center, based at the College of Education. CEEDAR is short for Collaboration for Effective Educator Development, Accountability and Reform.

Guidelines to meet needs of all students

The UF CEEDAR Center’s reach and scope extends beyond its 20 member states. Center leaders hope teaching strategies and standards proven successful in its federally supported project will be considered for adoption by all states.

Last year, the CEEDAR team joined forces with the Council of Chief State School Officers to distribute a nationwide report on “clear policy actions” and guidelines that education department leaders in every state can take to meet the needs of all their students, especially those with disabilities.

The CEEDAR Center was charged to partner with education leaders, groups and agencies, and university teacher prep programs from five states each year, from 2013 through 2016.

The latest and final five states to join—the “class of 2016”—are Kentucky, Mississippi, Colorado, Nevada and Rhode Island.

“We are thrilled to be part of the cutting-edge CEEDAR consortium and the technical assistance it offers,” said Ann Elisabeth Larson, dean of education and human development at the University of Kentucky. “Thls is an opportunity for the state of Kentucky to ensure that our teachers and school leaders are well prepared to provide the highest-quality instruction for all learners.”

Florida, the CEEDAR Center’s home state, was one of the first five states to join in the first-year cycle, along with California, Connecticut, Illinois and South Dakota. Year Two in 2014 saw Georgia, Montana, New Hampsire, Ohio and Utah come in. Last year, Arizona, Michigan, Missouri, Oregon and Tennessee were added.

“It is our intention that the 20 partnering state teams will benefit from the successes and lessons learned from each of the five-state cohorts before them,” said CEEDAR Center Director Mary Brownell, a UF special education professor. “The state teams will strengthen and initiate reform efforts to  significantly improve the preparation, licensing and evaluation of teachers and administrators who educate students with disabilities, from kindergarten through high school.”

Brownell said between 60 to 80 percent of students with disabilities spend time in general education classrooms, underlying the need to improve teaching and leadership in all schools.

The CEEDAR leadership team (clockwise from bottom left), : Erica McCray, Mary Brownell, Paul Sindelar, Meg Kamman (center coordinator)

The CEEDAR leadership team (clockwise from bottom left): Erica McCray, Mary Brownell, Paul Sindelar, Meg Kamman (center coordinator)

Brownell’s co-directors of CEEDAR are fellow UF special education professors Paul Sindelar and Erica McCray.

Each state CEEDAR team comprises general and special education faculty experts and administrators from state universities and teacher prep programs, and state education agency leaders and regulatory officials. The teams each have a designated leader and facilitator chosen from one of four participating national groups—the UF CEEDAR Center, the American Institutes for Research, the Council of Chief State School Officers, and the University of Kansas.

CEEDAR faculty and staff used a comprehensive vetting process to select the 20 partnering states, based on their needs and goals, level of commitment and engagement, collaborative spirit, level of support from state education officials, and other factors.

“Each state has their unique needs and solutions for raising the standard of teacher and principal preparation to advance inclusive education for students with disabilities,” Brownell said. “Connections and communication among the network of states and with the CEEDAR team are crucial to developing an effective, comprehensive course of action for each state.”

She said the CEEDAR strategy places heightened emphasis on exposing all students to high-quality instruction in reading, writing and mathematics. Instruction is based on two teaching frameworks that provide increasing levels of academic and behavioral support to any students who need it.

Brownell said educators in the 20 CEEDAR states gain access to a host of resources, including the consulting services of the CEEDAR faculty and staff and the center’s partnering support organizations. Those include the American Association of Colleges for Teacher Education, the Council for Exceptional Children, the Council for the Accreditation for Educator Preparation, the National Association of State Directors of Special Education and the Association for Persons with Severe Handicaps.

CEEDAR also stages webinars and workshops and has created a website with a Facebook-style “wall” for member-networking and sharing ideas. The site also offers numerous multi-media resources to help state teams bolster their knowledge of best teaching practices, teacher prep regulations, program licensure requirements, and other pertinent topics.

Brownell said many states are already developing detailed action plans, strengthening collaborations between state education interests, expanding professional development programs for teachers, redesigning their teacher prep programs, and enacting new standards so all teachers and principals can work successfully with students with special needs.

With 20 states enrolling five at a time at one-year intervals, she said their progress varies from state to state, but “we’re seeing very encouraging results.”

 


CONTACTS
   SOURCE: Mary Brownell, UF College of Education; 352-273-4261
   WRITER: Larry Lansford, communications director, UF College of Education; 352-273-4137

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Acclaimed scholars to participate in UF’s first International Teacher Leadership Conference

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Globally recognized speakers and researchers are beginning to line up to participate in the University of Florida College of Education’s first international academic conference to explore the crucial role a new generation of “teacher leaders” can have in improving public schools and student achievement.

The International Teacher Leadership Conference, scheduled March 2-3 in Miami, is designed to bring together scholars and practitioners from across Florida, the country and the world to examine the emerging field of teacher leadership.

The conference is being organized by the Lastinger Center for Learning, the College of Education’s R&D arm that spearheads professional development programs to improve teaching and learning in schools and districts across Florida and beyond.

Conference organizers have already begun receiving proposals for research papers and presentations, and they hope to get hundreds by the June 30 submission deadline. They also have confirmed keynote speakers who are widely known for their methods of teaching and scholarship to improve education from the inside out.

Registration for the conference opens Sept. 1. The registration fee is $250. There are 150 scholarships available for teachers who will make presentations at the conference. Scholarships will cover registration fee and lodging.

The formal title of the conference is “Co-constructing a New Vision for Teacher Leadership: A Conversation Among Scholars and Practitioners About Teacher Leadership.”

Among other things, conference goers will discuss what educators mean by teacher leadership, which in the broadest terms refers teachers who lead school improvements in and outside of their classrooms.

“The field still lacks a common conception of the meaning of teacher leaders,” said Philip Poekert, assistant director of the Lastinger Center. “Our hope is the conference will create a framework for conversations and research about effective teacher leadership.”

Many educators increasingly view teacher leadership as a way to drive school improvement and enhance educational outcomes. For many years, scholars have been examining teacher leadership and have explored aspects such as the influence teacher leaders can have and how they can spark student achievement.

“Teacher leadership has become a central part of school reform efforts across the world,” said Tom Dana, associate dean of the UF College of Education. “This is an ideal time to create an exchange of ideas among scholars and practitioners to better understand teacher leadership and to advance the theory and practice in the field.”

The upcoming conference is the latest element of a new UF College of Education program to develop leadership skills among kindergarten-to-high school teachers. In February, the Lastinger Center selected 40 teachers for a new Florida Teacher Leader Fellows program to build a statewide teacher leadership network, improve the quality of classroom teaching and enhance outcomes for students.

The 18-month professional development program will conclude at the Miami conference, where these practicing teacher leaders will interact with education scholars from around the world. Below are confirmed speakers for the conference.

  • Gloria Ladson-Billings’ research examines the practices of teachers who are successful in multicultural classrooms. She is the author of critically acclaimed books, including “The Dreamkeepers: Successful Teachers of African American Children.” She holds the Kellner Family Distinguished Chair in Urban Education at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. She also is past president of American Educational Research Association.
  • Nancy Fichtman Dana is a best-selling author and expert in the study of practitioner inquiry. She serves as a professor of education in the School of Teaching and Learning at UF’s College of Education. Author of 10 books and over 60 articles, she has coached numerous teachers across the country and abroad in the study of their own teaching and leadership practice.
  • John MacBeath is professor emeritus at the University of Cambridge and has authored or co-authored 20 books on education. He serves as director of Leadership for Learning at the Cambridge Network and projects director for the Centre for Commonwealth Education. His research focuses on educational leadership, and he also has worked with schools, education authorities and national governments on school self-evaluation.

See the conference website to learn more about the event, submission guidelines, and other details.


Writer: Charles Boisseau, 352-273-4449
Media Liaison: Larry Lansford, director of News and Communications, 352-273-4137

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Q & A with Kara Dawson on closing the ‘digital divide’

Kara Dawson

Kara Dawson is the College of Education’s newest Irving and Rose Fien Professor.

It was in 1990 when Kara Dawson gained an insight that was to become the central focus of her research career as a professor of educational technology.

Back then she was teaching 5th, 6th and 7th graders in Virginia Beach, Virginia, at a time when personal computers were just catching on and the invention of the first internet browser was three years away. Dawson attended a workshop on authoring software and began experimenting with using technology in her classroom as a way to engage struggling students.

Fien Professorship boosts Dawson’s research and teaching

Kara Dawson received the College of Education’s Irving and Rose Fien Professorship for 2015-2018.

The professorship provides:

  • $15,000 annual research fund
  • A half-time research assistant
  • $15,000 annual salary supplement

The grant is helping to advance Dawson’s research to promote technology use for all students, including:

  • Creating a network of teacher fellows to engage in a study of technology practices in classrooms.
  • Coordinating an annual interactive lecture series on the topic to connect a community of interested individuals.
  • Supporting doctoral students interested in this area through travel funds and other opportunities.

She soon came to see that educational technologies could improve the learning outcomes for virtually all students. She became her school’s technology integration specialist and in 1994 she returned to college to earn a doctorate in the emerging field of instructional technology from the University of Virginia.

In 1999, she came to the University of Florida’s College of Education and has served as coordinator for the educational technology program and co-developed five advanced degree programs, both online and for the classroom. Her many research projects have included:

  • Evaluating the effectiveness of multimedia and mobile apps for dyslexic schoolchildren
  • Studying how students with different cognitive profiles learn in multimedia environments
  • Investigating a growing “digital divide” whereby middle-school students’ socioeconomic status, gender and ethnic background affect their computer savvy

Last year, the College of Education’s Research Advisory Committee selected Dawson as its Irving and Rose Fien Professor. The three-year post supports veteran faculty members with a track record of successful research aimed at helping at-risk learners in kindergarten-through-high school, mainly at high-poverty schools.

Recently, Dawson took time to discuss her research and the ways incorporating technology and digital tools into traditional classrooms can help all types of learners to flourish. Below are excerpts.

Q: Can technology help students who struggle in traditional schools?

A: Yes, particularly if they are bored, not engaged or struggling to learn content. In schools, we are very limited in how we think about success and the way that students can access content and show what they know. We are also limited in the ways we think about how we teach. These limitations are very real and exist for many reasons often outside the direct control of individual teachers and administrators. But we should keep thinking about how to make school better for all students. Technology is not going to be the end-all-be-all solution, but it can help a lot more than it is helping.

Q: These multimedia tools may get them more engaged?

A: Yes, but we need to figure out how to match technologies to students. And how to match students to technologies. More importantly, students have to be empowered to think about what works for them and to seek alternatives to support their learning now and in the future.

Q: Can you provide examples of how technology can be useful in a classroom?

A: Well, there are a lot of ways technology can be useful in the classroom. I have done quite a bit of work with whole class projects that help students become digital communicators, creators and collaborators. But these uses are different from thinking about how technology can meet individual needs. Two simple, readily available tools are: text-to-speech and speech-to-text apps.

Q: With speech-to-text, you mean there is a web page or a textbook that is enabled to read the text to a student?

A: Yes. For example, for a student struggling to get through a 40-page chapter on U.S. history, text-to-speech could be the difference between accessing the content or not. For another student listening to the chapter may simply be a preference rather than a necessity. But, the types and quality of the technologies available to these students as well as the mindset of their teachers determine whether they can use this feature. Unfortunately, many digital resources created for K-12 education are poorly designed (especially some digital textbooks) and some educators still view reading as the only way to access content. So, the apps may be simple but the context in which they need to be used is quite complex.

Two other examples are speech-to-text and word prediction. I once taught a student who was very articulate but with horrible handwriting. Why not let him communicate his ideas through speech-to-text apps? Why not teach students who struggle with spelling (or really all students) how to use word prediction? Once again, these are simple apps, but the challenge is how do you bring them to the complex world of K-12 education.

Q: Let me take a devil’s advocate position. How do you respond to those who say kids need to learn how to spell, that we shouldn’t have a tool to do it for them?

A: Don’t get me wrong, it’s important that students to learn to spell. But not everyone is going to be good at it and this shouldn’t deter students from being able to communicate their ideas. It shouldn’t continually hinder them from succeeding in school, especially when the goal of a particular learning task may not be focused on spelling.

“There needs to be some empathy and understanding that being smart is not equivalent to being able to read and write. Imagine if we gauged how smart you were based on whether you could communicate through song. Technology can level the playing field.”

Q: Is this a big debate in education, one with parents and others, that there is work to do to get this message out?

A: There needs to be some empathy and understanding that being smart is not equivalent to being able to read and write. Think about it, students who struggle with reading, writing and spelling are essentially doomed in a school environment if learning every subject is predicated on these three skills.

Imagine if we gauged how smart you were based whether you could communicate through song. And so everyone who had a good voice and was gifted in that way would shine. Or what if we communicated everything through drawing? So it’s just a very limited way we think about things.

If a student cannot read well (or quickly) and all content is provided through a textbook then she will struggle to learn science and history even if she has innate strengths in other areas, such as the visuospatial strengths needed to succeed in science. Technology can level the playing field for these students.

Q: As far as the Fien Professorship, what do you hope to accomplish over these three years?

A: I really hope to make progress on the ways we can use technology to support the needs of all learners.

I am involved with two studies about how nontraditional college students learn in multimedia environments. We hope to find out how multimedia and online environments can be modified to meet the needs of different kinds of learners and extend our work to K-12 students. One of the most exciting things is that these studies require interdisciplinary collaboration. We need the expertise of special educators, psychologists, computer scientists and neuroscientists. And, I get to work with closely the exceptionally smart colleagues in my own program as well — Albert Ritzhaupt, Pasha Antonenko, Carole Beal and Swapna Kumar.

I also want to make an impact people’s awareness about how technology can meet the needs of all learners. In particular, I plan to work with and learn from teachers who are trying to figure out how to use technology to help their students and with preservice teachers. They have the chance to be leaders in their schools after graduation.

And I’m working with a grassroots group of parents led by Blake Beckett (from P.K. Yonge, the College of Education’s developmental research school) to find ways parents can use technology to support their children.

There are several potential funding sources to further this work and I’m looking forward to see where these ideas and conversations go.

Q: Does it feel daunting with such a big subject? There seems so much to learn.

A: I know I’m not going to solve it; there are so many folks from so many areas trying to make a difference for students. I want to do what I can do and try to make things better and connect with other people who are doing interesting work. I don’t consider it daunting because I’m not naïve enough to think it’s going to ever be completely solved but I want to make progress and be part of the solution.


Source: Kara Dawson, 352-273-4177
Writer: Charles Boisseau, 352-273-4449

 

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Dissertation proposal on police in schools earns Noble UF fellowship

Kenneth Noble

Kenneth Noble

The bottom line: To move forward, we must look back.

That’s the foundation for UF College of Education doctoral candidate Kenneth Noble’s award-winning dissertation proposal. The UF Center for Humanities and Public Sphere, which promotes and funds research programs of UF humanities scholars, recently awarded Noble the Rothman Doctoral Fellowship based on his dissertation topic choice.

His proposal revolves around the idea that to address modern-day concerns with police presence in urban public schools, educators and society must first understand the history behind officers’ integration into school systems.

The $2,000 monetary award, which comes with the honor, will go toward Noble’s research expenses.

Noble, 33, who plans to graduate in the fall of 2017 with his doctorate in curriculum and instruction, said he is encouraged that other scholars in the field find his dissertation topic significant.

“Understanding how, when and why police began partnering with schools provides an historical context to what many perceive as a critical concern in public education today,” he said.

Noble will have the opportunity to present his findings to the UF Center for Humanities and Public Sphere this fall.


    SOURCEKenneth Noble, 352-392-0762
    WRITERKatelin Mariner, news and communications intern, UF College of Education
    MEDIA LIAISON: Larry Lansford, news and communications director, UF College of Education

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4 P.K. Yonge teachers named among Florida’s best ‘high impact teachers’

Cody Miller, Kate Yurko, Bill Steffens and George Pringle are K-12 "teachers of high impact."

Cody Miller, Kate Yurko, Bill Steffens and George Pringle are among Florida’s  “teachers of high impact.”

About VAM

The Florida Department of Education says “high impact teachers” receive the highest valued-added model (VAM) ratings because their students ranked higher than the “reasonable expected score” of similar students in other teachers’ classrooms.

Teachers’ VAM ratings are based on state assessment test scores and a mix of other variables, such as size of classes and whether students are gifted, disabled or learning the English language. Read more about the Florida’s teacher evaluation system.

Four teachers at the University of Florida’s developmental research school are among Florida instructors rated as having the highest impact on the academic growth of their students during the past three years.

The teachers at P.K. Yonge Developmental Research School are Cody Miller, a ninth-grade English teacher; George Pringle, seventh-grade math; Bill Steffens, sixth-grade math; and Kate Yurko, 10th-grade English.

The Florida Department of Education recognized them as “teachers of high impact” based on a statewide ranking of Florida’s middle and high school English and mathematics instructors during the past three academic years. FDOE says less than 10 percent of eligible public school teachers receive the high-impact rating, which is derived from detailed measures and equations, called a valued-added model (VAM), and serves as a key factor schools use to evaluate the performance of teachers.

In honor of National Teacher Appreciation Week, we asked these highly ranked teachers why they are succeeding.

Cody Miller, at age 27 the youngest of the four, says he doesn’t “teach to the test,” a reference to the growing controversy of standardized student testing, which is among the ways the state determines teachers’ VAM rating. With the increased emphasis on tests such as the Florida Standards Assessment exam, teachers are feeling so much pressure to get students ready for the exams that they may neglect to teach skills that go beyond the tests.

“For me, when kids are discussing critically the world around them, that’s a success,” Miller says. “It’s important for students to see how their personal experiences have shaped their views, and to look at someone else and see how their experiences shaped their views.”

Miller has taught for four years, including three years at P.K. Yonge. He considers the high-impact rating as a validation to continue his teaching methods. These include setting a high bar and having students write numerous papers, complete projects, and read and critique eight books each year – ranging from Shakespeare to contemporary memoirs from authors around the world, and graphic novels.

When it comes to taking the standardized tests, Miller says: “My hope is that the test is relatively easy because of all the work I’ve asked them to do. It’s just one item to check off the list. I tell students before they take a test, ‘just knock it out.’”

George Pringle, a seventh-grade math teacher, says he starts each school year with the mindset of improving his teaching practice.

“I’ve gotten better and I’ve learned every year.”

A native of Jamaica, Pringle has taught for 16 years, including eight at P.K. Yonge.

“What I do for one student I do for all students. That is, I treat all students as individuals. My philosophy is for my students to show a willingness to succeed at math.

“Growth is measured differently for all students. State measures are only one way to measure growth. There are many others, such as participating in interactions that take place in the classroom. It’s not just whether they can put numbers on a paper.”

He hopes at the end of each school year “each student can say that was a good experience.”

Bill Steffens, a sixth-grade math teacher, is the most experienced of the four. He has taught for 36 years, including 24 years at P.K. Yonge.

Yet despite his veteran status, he says each school year brings new students and new challenges to solve.

Teachers should try to learn about each student and what methods best motivate them to do their best work, no matter if they are struggling learners or high achievers. It’s one of the puzzles of teaching, but there are many factors that make a teacher a success, he says.

“It’s the way you talk to students, how they respond and work for you. And how to get after them if they don’t. It’s like being a parent. It’s everything.”

He and the other teachers say they had very little understanding of how the complicated VAM scores are determined. But Steffens says he is particularly pleased that the rating shows a consistent high level of teaching impact because it covers a three-year period.

Kate Yurko, a 10th grade English teacher, says she doesn’t rely on standardized tests to gauge her success.

“I’ve thought a lot about how and what I teach. If I focus on the classroom environment I don’t have to worry about the standardized testing. It’s one test on one day.

“I measure students’ success in a different way. Do they enjoying reading? Are they thinking critically? Are they reading books? Helping kids fall in love with words and reading and ideas – that is what’s special.”

After nine years of teaching, including five at P.K. Yonge, she says she has become a better teacher because she is more relaxed and better able to respond to students in real-time instead of always strictly adhering to her curriculum. And it helps having matured and not having a one-dimensional life completely centered on her classroom.

“As you grow in your teaching you get more intuitive. It’s like you get special powers.”

Being at P.K. Yonge, where she says teacher inquiry and research are encouraged, provides a nurturing place to be creative and explore ways to improve her practice.

“We emphasize good teaching, and good teaching brings results.”


Writer: Charles Boisseau, 352-273-4449
Media Liaison: Julie Henderson, 352-392-1554

 

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Anita Zucker Center co-director honored for leadership, impact on behavioral disorders

Maureen Conroy

Maureen Conroy

Maureen Conroy, co-director of the University of Florida Anita Zucker Center for Excellence in Early Childhood Studies, has received the 2016 Outstanding Leadership Award from the Council for Children with Behavioral Disorders.

CCBD, a division of the Council for Exceptional Children, presents the award to an individual who has made significant contributions to the field of behavioral disorders in the areas of research, leadership, teacher education and policy. Conroy was recognized April 14 at the CEC’s annual conference in St. Louis.

Conroy, the Anita Zucker Professor in Early Childhood Studies, has advanced research and practice in the field of behavioral disorders through her work in early identification, prevention and intervention. For 35 years, she garnered more than $15 million in research and training grants, produced 90 peer-reviewed publications and trained the next generation of leaders. A member of CCBD since 1981, Conroy has served in a number of leadership roles, including co-editor of its flagship journal, Behavioral Disorders.

Brian Boyd, who received a doctoral degree at UF under Conroy’s mentorship, nominated her for the award, citing her years of research, practice and teaching.

“I can attest to the importance she feels in ensuring her students acquire the ability to conduct sound research that contributes to the field, and importantly, educators, families and children,” said Boyd, now an associate professor at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Boyd, also recognized at the conference, received the CEC’s 2016 Distinguished Early Career Research Award. The honor recognizes scholars who have made outstanding scientific contributions in basic or applied research in special education within 10 years after receiving their doctoral degree.

Independent of her award selection, Conroy was invited by the Institute of Education Sciences to present her research at the conference. She and her colleague, Professor Kevin Sutherland of Virginia Commonwealth University, shared findings from their recent investigation of an early childhood classroom-based intervention. Developed to support early childhood teachers’ use of effective practices, the intervention is designed to improve the social, emotional and behavioral competence of young children at risk for behavioral disorders. Their large-scale, four-year study was funded by the institute, which is the research arm of the U.S. Department of Education.

The CEC is an international professional association of educators dedicated to advancing the success of children with exceptionalities through advocacy, standards and professional development. The mission of the CCBD is to improve the educational practices and outcomes for children and youth with emotional and behavior disorders.


Source: Maureen Conroy, 352-273-4382
Writer: Linda Homewood, 352-273-4284

 

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PKY instructor cited nationally as outstanding teacher-researcher

Ross Van Boven

Ross Van Boven

Practitioner Scholars

Ross Van Boven received his doctorate in curriculum and instruction, a program designed to prepare practitioner scholars.

What is a practitioner scholar? A professional who brings theoretical, pedagogical and research expertise to help identify, frame and study educational problems as a way to continually improve the learning conditions in their schools and districts.

Middle school teacher Ross Van Boven has received a prestigious national award presented by the American Education Research Association for outstanding research by examining what he does every school day.

Van Boven specializes in working with sixth and seventh graders at P.K. Yonge Developmental Research School who are on the margins — whether because they are struggling or high-achieving. His study at the public school affiliated with the University of Florida’s College of Education examined his experience in teaching a gifted sixth-grade student during the 2014-2015 school year.

The Teacher as Researcher Award recognizes a pre-kindergarten to 12th-grade teacher for research conducted in their schools. Van Boven received the award at the association’s annual meeting, held this year in Washington, D.C., April 8-12. AERA says its teacher-as-researcher special interest group is the only one like it: dedicated to recognizing high quality research done in schools by preK-12 instructors on their own practice.

Van Boven is a “learning community leader” at P.K. Yonge, which is UF’s special school district created to develop innovative solutions to educational challenges.

His training and experience is notable for his teaching as well as his scholarship. He has earned three degrees from UF’s College of Education: a bachelor’s (’06) and master’s (‘07) in elementary education and, in December, a doctorate in curriculum and instruction.

Van Boven’s doctorate was in a program tailor-made by faculty in the Curriculum, Teaching, and Teacher Education program area to focus on the unique needs of practitioners who wish to become scholars of practice, leading change and improvement from within their local districts, schools and classrooms, said Nancy Fichtman Dana, a UF education professor and a leading international authority and researcher on teacher professional development and school improvement. Dana served as the chair of Van Boven’s dissertation committee.

Van Boven in his classroom.

Van Boven’s award-winning project, the capstone for his dissertation, took a close look at how best to teach gifted and talented students.

VanBoven-600

Ross Van Boven teaches his students at UF’s P.K. Yonge Developmental Research School.

Van Boven’s award-winning project, the capstone for his dissertation, took a close look at how best to teach gifted and talented students at a time P.K. Yonge is transforming its approach to a “push-in” teaching model from a “pull-out.” In the push-in approach, general education and special education teachers work within the regular classrooms to serve all learners; in the pull-out approach, teachers work with these students in separate classrooms.

“It’s a real challenge to provide the time and services to all the students in the program,” Van Boven says. With a caseload of 41 students, he bounces from classroom to classroom to help learners in subjects ranging from math to social studies. Not only does he have to know the content, he must collaborate closely with the content-area teachers, which sometimes is problematic because of contrasting styles and time schedules. He also closely consults with parents to better understand their child’s needs and to personalizes lessons.

Van Boven tracked his experience of teaching one of his students by using a variety of tools, including his cell phone’s voice-to-text feature to capture episodes in near real time and digital recording of interviews so he could transcribe them later for analysis.

He says his research helped to improve his teaching in a variety of ways, such as more closely working with content-area teachers to rework the timing of his push-in to classrooms and planning periods with other teachers. “This allowed for ongoing collaboration and hopefully continues to remove some of the pressures teachers felt for planning to meet student enrichment needs,” he wrote in a report of the study.

He has shared his P.K. Yonge findings with the school’s administration and teachers, including the school’s five other learning community leaders. The study informed their perennial challenge: How best to provide in-classroom lessons to gifted students without disrupting the heterogeneity of classrooms.

Dana says Van Boven’s research “provided a rich accounting of how one middle school child was experiencing the program, and these insights led to specific actions Ross and his colleagues took to improve this new model.”

The school has launched a pilot program to cluster some gifted-and-talented students in the same classes to help learning community leaders and core teachers improve efficiency and coordination.

Despite the challenges, Van Boven says the collaboration required in the push-in model is helping teachers – including him – grow in their own practice. The award highlights the power of practitioner research to improve education for students – and provides Van Boven an opportunity to broaden his impact by sharing his experiences with other teachers.

“I am hopeful that my advocacy for students and collaboration with content-area teachers will result in sustained opportunities to provide content enrichment for students on my caseload,” Van Boven wrote.


Source: Ross Van Boven, P.K. Yonge Developmental Research School; 352-392-1554
Media Relations: Julie Henderson, P.K. Yonge DRS; 352-392-1554
Writer: Charles Boisseau, UF College of Education, news and communications office

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COE well represented at world’s largest education research meeting

Some 55 University of Florida College of Education faculty and graduate students were among the 14,000 scholars from around the world who converged on Washington, D.C., April 8-12 for the 2016 Centennial Annual Meeting of the American Educational Research Association to examine critical issues of education research and public policy.

Pasha Antonenko

Pasha Antonenko

The AERA meeting, featuring some 2,600 sessions, is the largest gathering of international scholars in the field of education research. More UF education faculty and graduate students, from multiple disciplines, attend AERA’s annual meeting than any other professional gathering. This year’s UF contingent included 25 faculty members and 30 graduate students in education.

The massive AERA gathering is a showcase for groundbreaking, innovative studies in a diverse array of education issues and trends. This year’s conference theme is “Public Scholarship to Educate Diverse Democracies.”

UF presentations included pertinent topics such as:

  • Corrine Huggins-Manley

    Corrine Huggins-Manley

    Educating the captive audience: inmates in state correctional facilities

  • Studying the digital divide in Florida schools
  • Exploring the outcomes of persistently disciplined students assigned to alternative schools
  • How elementary principals relate teacher appraisals to student achievement
  • Measuring charter schools’ effect on student achievement
  • Self-regulatory intervention for middle schoolers with emotional and behavioral disorders
  • Struggles facing novice black female teacher educators
  • Aha! Exploring problem-solving insight using electroencephalography?
  • Adding technology to help students with visual impairments
  • Using instructional coaching to boost preservice teacher development
  • How online resources for mathematics support student learning
  • Principals as instructional leadership coaches
Albert Ritzhaupt

Albert Ritzhaupt

The busiest COE faculty attendees were Pasha Antonenko (education technology), Corinne Huggins-Manley (research and evaluation methods) and Albert Ritzhaupt (ed tech) with each involved in five research presentations. Among doctoral student participants, Zachary Collier (REM) was involved in four presentations, and Stephanie Schroeder (curriculum, teaching, and teacher education) in three.

complete listing of participating UF education faculty and advanced-degree students, along with their respective presentation topics, is available on the COE website.


HOW LISTING WAS COMPILED: Data was retrieved directly from AERA’s online annual conference schedule and organized alphabetically by participants’ names. Listing does not distinguish between presenters and non-presenting participants and co-investigators. AERA’s complete listing and schedule of conference presentations and participants’ roles is available at www.aera.net. Click on “Events & Meetings” and navigate to the 2016 annual meeting portals.


WRITER: Larry Lansford, director, News & Communications, UF College of Education; 352-273-4137

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Education professor wins $1.2 million grant to lead UF team on 3-D paleontology technology project

Pasha Antonenko

Pasha Antonenko secures fifth NSF grant

University of Florida educational technology researcher Pasha Antonenko is leading a team of UF scientists from multiple disciplines to create a novel curriculum for the middle and high school grades and assist paleontologists working on projects worldwide.

The three-year, $1.2 million project will help students develop their skills in real-world science technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM), Antonenko said. It is a collaboration with teachers and students in 10 public schools in California and Florida. Among the participating schools is UF’s P.K. Yonge Development Research School. The other schools are yet to be determined.

Workshop participants visit the University of Florida's Fab Lab to print a model of a fossil horse tooth.

Workshop participants visit the University of Florida’s Fab Lab to print a model of a fossil horse tooth.

A comparison of the fossil tooth (top) with the scaled printed version (center).The printed 3D model was enlarged to twice the size of the original fossil to demonstrate how scan data can be manipulated to facilitate specific lesson plans. In this case, the differences in the teeth of two fossil horses (another shown at bottom) of very different sizes could be compared after scaling the small horse to the size of the larger horse, potentially serving as a lesson in critical observation skills.

A comparison of the fossil tooth (top) with the scaled printed version (center).The printed 3D model was enlarged to twice the size of the original fossil to demonstrate how scan data can be manipulated to facilitate specific lesson plans. In this case, the differences in the teeth of two fossil horses (another shown at bottom) of very different sizes could be compared after scaling the small horse to the size of the larger horse, potentially serving as a lesson in critical observation skills.

The NSF grant is one of five that the Ukraine-born Antonenko has won in recent months.

Called “iDigFossils,” the project will allow middle- and high-school students who are studying bones to scan them in three dimensions and upload them to virtual collections that paleontologists and others can access worldwide and reproduce using 3-D printers.

Antonenko is an associate professor of educational technology in UF’s College of Education.

He said the team is seeking to address an ongoing problem in 21st century education: how to integrate STEM lessons across multiple disciplines. For example, how do you take what lessons students are learning in math classes and apply them to other fields of study, such as biology?

“The problem that we are addressing is to integrate STEM in the classroom in effective ways without overloading the mathematics teacher or the science teacher,” he said.

More specifically the project will use 3-D scanning and printing activities in the context of paleontology as an integrative STEM discipline, he said. “It will provide a good way to integrate STEM in K-12 education. It’s a very meaningful way to also contribute to actual science, that’s the other angle of it.”

About $100,000 of the funding will pay for 3-D scanning and printing carts and five laptops for each of 10 participating school districts.

Antonenko is serving as principal investigator on the project. Co-principal investigators are: Bruce McFadden, curator and professor at UF’s Florida Museum of Natural History; Aaron Wood, research assistant at the museum; and Corey Toler-Franklin, an assistant professor in UF’s Computer & Information Science & Engineering Department and director of its Graphics, Imaging & Light Measurement Laboratory.

More information can be found on the NSF website: http://www.nsf.gov/awardsearch/showAward?AWD_ID=1510410&HistoricalAwards=false.


Source: Pasha Antonenko, (352) 273-4176
Writer: Charles Boisseau, (352) 273-4449
Media Liaison: Larry Lansford, (352) 273-4137

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Study explores impact of ‘active learning classroom’ design

PKY--Steelcase active classrm study (1)Inspired by the early impact of P.K. Yonge Developmental Research School’s new, state-of-the-art elementary wing, faculty researchers from PKY and the University of Florida are teaming up on pioneering studies into how school building design can influence and improve schooling for both teachers and students.

P.K. Yonge faculty researchers, led by school Director Lynda Hayes, are partnering with UF’s College of Design, Construction and Planning on a two-year study funded by Steelcase, Inc., the world’s largest office furniture manufacturer. The team also includes UF education technology Professor Kara Dawson.

Steelcase has refurbished and furnished a designated “active learning classroom” in the school’s older high school building with up to $50,000 worth of furniture and integrated technology and is training school instructors in the use of the active-learning tools.

“This project will provide a better understanding of how learning best takes place and how smarter, active learning spaces can help,” Hayes said. “Our intent is to create the most effective, engaging and inspiring learning environments to meet the evolving needs of students and teachers in the 21st century.”

P.K. Yonge has been the UF College of Education’s laboratory school since 1934, serving as a center of innovative educational program development and dissemination for kindergarten-through-high-school students throughout Florida and beyond.


SOURCE: Lynda Hayes, P.K. Yonge Developmental Research School, lhayes@pky.ufl.edu, 352-392-1554, ext. 223
MEDIA RELATIONS: Julie Henderson, communications coordinator, P.K. Yonge Developmental Research School, jhenderson@pky.ufl.edu352-392-1554
WRITER: Larry Lansford, communications director, UF College of Education,llansford@coe.ufl.edu, 352-273-4137

 

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UF researchers find high teacher attrition rates at charter schools

Teacher Attrition

UF College of Education researchers found that the in-year rate of teacher attrition is substantially higher at Florida charter schools than traditional public schools.

Line chart showing teacher attrition at charter and traditional schools.

Teachers at state charter schools have more than twice the within-year attrition rate of those at traditional public schools, which could have a negative impact on student academic achievement, a new University of Florida College of Education study finds.

Florida charter schools on average lost roughly 10 percent of their teachers each school year from 2011-2012 to 2014-2015, the study shows. In contrast, the teacher turnover rate at traditional public schools was about 4 percent during the same period.

“We think that over the long-term high attrition rates negatively impact student learning at the charter schools,” said M. David Miller, director of the college’s Collaborative Assessment and Program Evaluation Services. CAPES is a unit of the COE that provides consulting services and collaborates with researchers across UF’s campus and outside organizations on projects with an educational component.

College of Education Professor M. David Miller led the research team.

College of Education Professor M. David Miller leads the research team. 

Charter school principals and administrators interviewed as part of the study cited teacher turnover as among their biggest challenges. High teacher within-year attrition – meaning during the school year – typically results in the hiring of less experienced teachers, which can negatively impede student academic achievement. Also, recruiting and hiring replacements costs valuable academic time and money.

Specifically, the state’s charter schools lost 3,406 teachers between 2011-12 and 2014-2015. There were 9,409 teachers at charter schools in the most recent school year studied. In contrast, traditional public schools lost a total of 24,581 teachers during the same period out of the far larger pool of roughly 150,000 teachers.

The UF researchers found that school administrators commonly cited three likely contributing factors for the high turnover rates at charter schools:

  • Salaries of teachers are almost always lower than their counterparts at traditional schools.
  • Charter-school teachers typically do not have access to the state teacher retirement system.
  • The vast majority of charter schools have no formal teacher mentoring programs to support new teachers.

The scholars said more research is necessary to determine definitive reasons for the high attrition rates.

In addition to Miller, the UF research project team includes Tom Dana, associate dean for the college; educational leadership researcher and project manager Nancy Thornqvist; and research methods graduate student Wei Xu. Miller also directs the college’s School of Human Development and Organizational Studies in Education.

State education officials said the report’s findings raise concerns.

“The high attrition is worrisome to me as a teacher educator,” said Chris Muire, education policy director at the Florida Department of Education. He said state education officials are reviewing the report.

The scholars’ findings are included in a semi-annual report to the Florida Department of Education, which contracted with UF to assess the effect charter schools have on student achievement as part of a federal grant.

This ongoing research project is the first independent look at Florida’s charter schools since the U.S. Department of Education awarded the state a five-year, $104 million grant in 2011 to support the creation of charter schools, especially in high-need neighborhoods and rural and low-income school districts.

In recent years, the number of charter schools statewide has more than doubled from roughly 300 to about 700, Muire said. The UF study showed 582 in 2014-2015, up 33 percent from 436 at the start of the 2011-2012 school year. Charter schools are publicly funded and privately run schools created through agreements or “charters” with local district school boards. They are designed to increase parental options and provide schools more freedom to create innovative learning opportunities.

For the evaluation, the UF researchers studied a number of variables, including: data on charter and traditional schools collected by the state, a comparison of academic achievements at comparable charter and traditional schools, and surveys of hundreds of teachers, administrators, school board members and parents. Plus, Thornqvist conducted 25 visits each year to charter schools across the state and interviewed administrators.

The study comes at a time of increased scrutiny of Florida charter schools, which some observers have criticized for siphoning off precious state funds and high-demand teachers. A recent analysis by the Associated Press of Florida Department of Education records found that charter schools in 30 districts have closed after receiving as much as $70 million in state funding since 2000.

The numbers in the UF study excluded teacher attrition caused by the closing of schools, whether charter or traditional, Thornqvist said.

In terms of academics, UF researchers found generally only small differences in the achievement of students at a sample of comparable traditional schools vs. charter schools, though there was a slight drop in reading achievement among students at charter schools in grades 6.

For this part of the study, the scholars compared the statewide reading and math assessment scores of students in grades 3-8 and in high schools at 10 charter schools and 10 comparable traditional schools, Thornqvist said.

While the differences in assessment scores are small they run counter to annual Florida Department of Education reports that show students who attend charter schools generally outpace their traditional public school counterparts on state assessments.

Importantly, UF researchers looked at schools with similar socioeconomic characteristics, for example ones with similar percentages of students by ethnicities and those qualifying for the federal free- and reduced-price lunch program.

Previous state surveys did not account for these differences, which could affect overall results, Thornqvist said.

See the full study.


 

Sources: Dr. M David Miller, (352) 273-4306; Dr. Nancy Thornqvist, (352) 273-4352
Writer: Charles Boisseau, (352) 273-4449 (office), (512) 431-2269 (mobile)

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Ed. technology researcher lands record five NSF grants

Jan. 26 Update: NSF announces fifth grant, $1.2 million, for Dr. Pasha Antonenko to lead UF team on 3-D paleontology technology project.

Pasha Antonenko

Dr. Pasha Antonenko in his Norman Hall office.

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Pasha Antonenko, an associate professor of educational technology, has set a new standard at the University of Florida College of Education, scoring five research grants from the National Science Foundation — all in the same 2015 funding cycle.

“You don’t expect all of them to hit,” Antonenko said. “You are lucky if one grant proposal is funded because acceptance rates are so low.”

Thomasenia Adams, associate dean of educational research, said five NSF awards sets a single season record for grants awarded to a College of Education faculty researcher.

“Dr. Antonenko has blazed the trail we have not seen before,” Adams said.

The National Science Foundation is an independent federal agency, created by Congress in 1950, that funds nearly one-fourth of all basic research conducted by America’s colleges and universities. It’s the only federal agency that supports all fields of fundamental science and engineering, except for the medical sciences.

Even more impressive than the number of NSF grants Antonenko received may be the variety and importance of the topics to be addressed in the resulting studies.

Antonenko’s five NSF awards total $4.1 million and will fund novel research projects using a wide-range of technologies in learning applications, including 3-D scanners and printers to study prehistoric bones, drones to study construction projects, and computerized simulations to study the human body’s reactions to a wide-range of stimuli.

He specializes in exploring the promise and problems of educational technology, including human-computer interaction and the design of learning environments.

The Ukrainian-born scholar will work with dozens of collaborators across the country, including researchers from fields as varied as construction engineering and paleontology and from institutions from Arizona to Massachusetts, as well as the University of Florida.

Antonenko is principal investigator on three of the NSF grants and co-principal investigator on two, one of which is led by UF’s David Julian, associate professor of biology, and the other by Emily Sessa, UF assistant professor of biology.

Below is a rundown of the NSF projects Antonenko will be working on.

Creating an evolutionary history of earth’s oldest plants: a $1.8 million, four-year project. With Sessa as principal investigator, the research team is developing a history of the evolution of flagellate plants — the oldest known land-based fauna to ever have existed, such as ferns. Other co-principal investigators are UF biology scholars Gordon Burleigh, Stuart McDaniel and Christine Davis. Antonenko’s role is to lead the development of an online application, named Voyager, to allow university students to explore a massive database in classrooms and promote evidence-based teaching practices. Antonenko will measure the effectiveness of the learning by conducting tests, including using electroencephalograms (EEGs), which measure the electrical activity in the brain of students to determine how well they are learning.

• STEM teaching using 3-D scanners and printersThis three-year, $1.2 million project will allow middle- and high-school students to study and scan bones in three dimensions, and upload them to virtual collections that scientists can access worldwide and reproduce using 3-D printers. Antonenko said the team is seeking to address an ongoing problem in 21st century education: how to integrate STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) lessons across multiple disciplines.

• How community college students learn using multimedia: a three-year,$765,000 effort. The use of multimedia resources in STEM education has undergone remarkable growth in recent years. The problem: Most all research on the effectiveness of these tools has been performed on high-achieving students at elite universities. This study will look at how effective these tools are among more diverse community college students, which now constitute nearly 50 percent of the population of higher education students. Co-principal investigators from UF are education technology faculty researchers Carole Beal (who also heads UF’s new Online Learning Institute) and Kara Dawson, and Andreas Keil, associate professor of psychology.

Creating an application to teach human physiology: a two-year, $247,129 project. Pre-med and other university students studying human physiology will use a new computer-based tool, called HumMod, to find out how a particular variable will affect a person’s health. For example, if a 50-year-old man were exposed to a certain level of carbon monoxide, how would that affect his cardiovascular, respiratory, neural and other processes? This study, led by UF’s Julian, allows for research of more than 6,000 variables to predict physiological responses.

• Using drones to study construction and engineering projects: This one-year, $58,148, pilot trial will use drones equipped with video cameras so students can view structures that are under construction. It seeks to address the problem in construction engineering and management courses of how to show students the myriad ways to build increasingly complex projects in a variety of scenarios, such as on all manner of construction sites. It’s not practical for students to take field trips to see these projects. “Cyber-Eye” will allow them to view drone-shot videos and establish a case library to see how to tackle real-world construction issues.

With this, as with as all his projects, Antonenko is looking to solve problems by using new ways of teaching and learning.

“In essence, all of the projects are about my core research, which really is understanding learning from different perspectives,” he said.


CONTACTS
     SOURCE: Pasha Antonenko, UF College of Education; 352-273-4176; p.antonenko@coe.ufl.edu
     WRITER: Charles Boisseau, UF College of Education; 352-273-4449; cboisseau@coe.ufl.edu
     MEDIA LIAISON: Larry Lansford, communications director, UF College of Education; 352-273-4137; llansford@coe.ufl.edu

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UF precollegiate center keeps teachers up to date on bioscience technologies

Quotable

“It is the best thing that ever happened to me as a teacher.”

— Kathy Savage
Oviedo High bioscience teacher

MOST OF THE TIME they are the teachers.

Not this time.

Dozens of high school teachers from across Florida returned to the classroom as part of an innovative University of Florida program to teach teachers the latest biomedical science and technologies, and to spark interest in bioscience careers among high schoolers.

Kathy Savage participates in a laboratory exercise during the summer program with Houda Darwiche, a post doctoral fellow with the Center for Precollegiate Education and Training.

Kathy Savage participates in a laboratory exercise during the summer program with Houda Darwiche, a post doctoral fellow with the Center for Precollegiate Education and Training.

Secondary science teachers Wendy Vidor and Carlene Rogers get first-hand training in UF laboratories that they can pass on to their students

Secondary science teachers Wendy Vidor and Carlene Rogers get first-hand training in UF laboratories. Vidor, a UF doctoral student in horticulture science, teaches agricultural biotechnology and marine science at Matanzas High in Palm Coast; Rogers teaches AP biology and honors anatomy and physiology at Wekiva High in Apopka.

More than 100 high school teachers have participated in the program since it was launched in 2010.

More than 100 high school teachers have participated in the program since it was launched in 2010.

The idea: You can’t teach what you don’t know, and you know best when you learn firsthand.

“It is the best thing that ever happened to me as a teacher,” said Kathy Savage, a bioscience teacher at Oviedo High School in Oviedo who created a bioscience curriculum working with researchers on UF’s campus.

CPET is the University of Florida’s “umbrella” program and conduit for the transfer of science and technology to public school and community college teachers, students and the public-at-large.

“Our ultimate goal is to improve the teachers’ content knowledge,” said Julie Bokor, assistant director of CPET and a doctoral candidate in curriculum and instruction at UF’s College of Education.

Key Elements

Known as Biomedical Explorations: Bench to Bedside, the program includes four key elements.

  • First, the high school teachers spend two weeks during the summer on UF’s campus where they conduct experiments and learn all manner of lab techniques and tools, such as applying technology to make copies of DNA, a method of diagnosing diseases, and identifying bacteria and viruses.
  • Next, they develop lesson plans and incorporate these into their teaching during the school year.
  • At year-end, they report their findings and disseminate the lessons so other teachers can use and help refine them.
  • Finally, selected research fellows return to campus in subsequent summers and scatter across UF’s campus to work closely with professors in labs to more fully develop curricula.

To sum it up: UF professors transfer research and techniques to secondary teachers and these teachers translate this knowledge into lessons that students can best understand.

“It’s a professional learning cycle,” said Kent Crippen, an associate professor of STEM education in COE’s School of Teaching and Learning.

Applying Lessons Learned

Importantly, participating teachers aren’t set adrift after the initial summer camp: They receive continued support from CPET staff and professors.

A good example is Savage, who had taught chemistry for 17 years when she was tapped to create a bioscience program at her school. She was a fish out of water.

“The equipment and procedures and lab techniques weren’t around when I was in school,” Savage said. “It’s a little intimidating doing those kinds of experiments yourself when you have to teach your students.”

After participating in the inaugural cohort in 2010, she has since returned to campus for three weeks every summer to work closely with UF professors and post-doctorate scholars in UF labs. They have helped her design lesson plans, taught her to use science equipment that had been gathering dust at her school, corresponded to answer her questions via email and even visited her classroom to help conduct experiments.

“You never feel afraid to try something new and jump in because you know someone has your back,” she said.

Another example: Orlando Edgewater High biology teacher Jessica Mahoney and fellow CPET alumna Jennifer Broo worked with UF Associate Professor of Entomology Daniel Hahn to create lessons on the interrelated concepts of climate change and evolution.

Students conducted experiments on live fruit flies provided by the university’s Department of Entomology to determine which strains were most vulnerable to climate change based on their recovery from a chill-induced coma.

In previous summers, these teachers teamed to develop two other curricula: one involving the cell cycle and cancer and another exploring the evolution of horses.

All told, 105 high school teachers who have participated in the program are now bringing their new skills to their own classrooms, including 22 in the 2015-2016 school year as part of a second phase of the program.

Second Phase

The UF Bench to Bedside program recently received a two-year $522,698 follow-up grant from the National Institutes of Health to expand the dissemination of the new high school science curricula.

Crippen, a co-principal investigator of this phase-two project, is helping to widely circulate the lessons by training teachers to use a powerful open-source portal funded by National Science Foundation. This online repository is part of the NSF Digital Library and allows instructors to submit, download, collaborate, and manage the copyright of lesson plans and other teaching resources they have created for the program.

CPET, which is housed in the Office of the Provost, has a long history of close collaboration with the College of Education. Education Associate Dean Tom Dana initiated a course offering for the Bench to Bedside program so teachers completing the work receive three hours of graduate credit. In another program, CPET is supporting Rose Pringle, associate professor of science education, and P.K. Yonge Developmental Research School Director Lynda Hayes on a $5 million National Science Foundation grant known as U-FUTuRES (University of Florida Unites Teachers to Reform Education in Science) to train middle school science teacher-leaders to transform science teaching and learning. CPET Director Mary Jo Koroly is co-principal investigator on the project to facilitate science enrichment activities on campus.

Sharing lessons – and the lessons learned – is a key element of all this professional development work.

“Ultimately, what we want is for our teachers to get regional, state and even national recognition so they can develop professionally,” Bokor said. “By moving to the next level they get to share this great research.”


Contacts
    SourceJulie Bokor, CPET, 352-392-2310
    SourceKent Crippen, College of Education associate professor of STEM Education, 352-273-4222
    WriterCharles Boisseau, UF COE News & Communications, 352-392-4449

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College of Education scholars named Global Fellows

Walter Leite Brian Reichow
Walter Leite Brian Reichow

Two College of Education scholars are among 10 University of Florida faculty members selected for a new program designed to enhance the university’s international research excellence.

Associate professors Walter Leite and Brian Reichow were recently named Global Fellows by UF’s International Center.

Each fellow will receive $4,000 for travel and expenses to collaborate with researchers abroad on an international research project. They also will work with a faculty mentor who will receive a $1,000 honoria to provide guidance and feedback, and participate in a series of workshops hosted by the Office for Global Research Engagement about working internationally.

The International Center created the Global Fellows program to increase the number of faculty who participate in global activities, promote faculty investigators’ international research and build a cohort of scholars to serve as campus leaders in international activities.

Leite’s specialty is working with extremely large data sets with lots of variables to find the evidence of whether educational programs are effective.

He is an associate professor in the college’s research and evaluation methodology program. A native of Brazil, Leite intends to use the Global Fellows resources to create a National Science Foundation grant proposal and collaborate with scholars at Brazil’s National Institute of Educational Research to create a method of analyzing student achievement data on samples from Brazil and the United States.

“My medium- to long-term goal is to engage in multiple projects with educational statisticians in Brazil that will involve research grants as well as exchange of scholars and doctoral students between the University of Florida and Brazilian universities,” Leite said.

Reichow, who joined the Anita Zucker Center for Excellence in Early Childhood Studies last year through UF’s state-backed preeminence initiative, has extensive experience on international projects. An associate professor of special education and early childhood studies, he serves as a technical advisor for the World Health Organization. He has worked with WHO colleagues around the world to develop guidelines and training materials to assist children with developmental disabilities and their families, with an emphasis on helping children and families in low-resource settings.

Reichow intends to use the support of the Global Fellows Program to expand his work at the WHO.

“The parent skills training program I have been developing with the WHO continues to expand. Recently, we began training across eight provinces in China,” said Reichow, “and, early next year, we are launching pilot trials in other countries across Africa and Asia.”


Contacts

  • Writers: Charles Boisseau, News & Communications, 352-274-4449; and Linda Homewood, Anita Zucker Center for Excellence in Early Childhood Studies, 352-273-4284
  • Media Liasion: Larry Lansford, Director, News & Communications, UF College of Education, 352-273-4137

 

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UF study: Majority of Florida school districts lack social media policies for teachers

Jesse Gates

Jesse Gates

More than half of Florida’s school districts have no policy on the use of social media by teachers and other employees, increasing the potential for misuse and inappropriate teacher-student relationships online, according to an analysis conducted by a University of Florida educational leadership scholar.

Doctoral candidate Jesse Gates found that only 32 of the state’s 68 school districts had a dedicated social media policy, and none of the policies were comprehensive enough to adequately address all the key elements of Florida’s case law concerning public school employees’ use of social media. Gates’ research covered the primary school districts in all of Florida’s 67 counties, plus the Florida Virtual School, the state’s Internet-based public school.

The findings come at a time of a growing awareness of social media “misdeeds” by teachers, Gates writes in his dissertation research report, as evidenced by a rising trend of teacher firings and suspensions due to inappropriate communications on Facebook and other social media outlets.

Teachers have been punished for posting inappropriate photos, engaging in unprofessional online interactions with students and inflammatory blogs about supervisors and fellow teachers. In 2013, a South Florida high school teacher was arrested on charges of using Facebook to solicit sex from students ages 15 to 17.

Yet school districts have been slow to establish guidelines on what teachers can and can’t do on social networking sites.

While a social media policy isn’t an ironclad way to stop misdeeds, it would provide employees protection and a more focused idea of what behavior is allowed on social media, Gates said.

“Realistically, in extreme cases, it’s doubtful that a clear and concise social networking policy would have made a difference,” Gates said. “Many of the issues we read about in the papers really aren’t violations of a social media policy, per se, they are usually violations of the code of ethics. Social networking just makes it easier for a teacher to prey on students.”

Gates makes several recommendations to improve district policies, including clarifying key terminology, explaining freedom of speech limitations for public employees, specifying enforcement of the policy and relating the policy to the teacher code of conduct.

UF educational administration & policy Professor Craig Wood, Gates’ dissertation chair, said his work includes a sample social media policy based on current state statutes that could serve as a template for school districts’ development or improvement of their policies.

“In terms of public policy analysis and improving practices at the school board level it’s a valid piece of work,” Wood said.

Gates said courts have generally given public schools the responsibility to decide the line in balancing a public employee’s right to freedom of speech with their responsibilities as a public servant.

“This is a huge responsibility,” Gates said. “Social networking has made this conflict more prevalent.”

Currently, Gates is an assistant principal at an elementary school in St. Johns County. Last month he successfully defended his 145-page dissertation – “A Public Policy Analysis of Social Networking in Florida Public Schools” – and he will graduate in December with a doctorate in leadership in educational administration.

One of Gates’ specialties is the use of technology in instruction. In 2007, he was a finalist for teacher of the year in Georgia in part because of his use of a classroom website and an online grade book to communicate with parents.

Despite the challenges, Gates stops far short of advocating a ban on the use of social media. Studies have indicated that Facebook and other social media outlets can increase student engagement and improve cross-cultural collaboration and community building.

“When it comes to social networking and texting policies, I really do hate to see a complete ban on their use because studies have shown they can be beneficial to learning and engagement,” Gates said.

While his research didn’t include the use of texting, Gates said “clearly the potential for misdeeds with texts is similar to that of social networking.

“On the flip side, if used correctly and responsibly, texting parents and students homework assignments, reminder notes, and other classroom related news is a smart and effective way to communicate with the digital natives.”


CONTACTS
   SOURCE: Jesse Gates, UF College of Education doctoral candidate, 678-925-5783; jgates@ufl.edu
   WRITER: Charles Boisseau, UF College of Education; 352-273-4449; cboisseau@coe.ufl.edu
   MEDIA LIAISON: Larry Lansford, communications director, UF College of Education; 352-273-4137; llansford@coe.ufl.edu

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UF early childhood intervention aims to help elementary teachers, students succeed

Maureen Conroy

Maureen Conroy

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Kindergarten teachers prepare their students for future school success, yet researchers say nearly 30 percent of children who enter school display problem behaviors, which put them at risk for fewer learning opportunities and poorer academic outcomes.

To help these students and their families start the educational journey on sure footing, University of Florida Professor Maureen Conroy is working with researchers at Virginia Commonwealth University to retool a social and behavioral intervention they originally developed in 2008 for preschoolers, called BEST in CLASS.

“The early years of school are critical for future success,” said Conroy, the Anita Zucker Professor in Early Childhood Studies at UF. “BEST in CLASS is about helping teachers gain the knowledge, tools and supports needed to build positive early learning experiences for their students, including improving teacher-student relationships that promote positive engagement in learning opportunities.”

Conroy, is a professor of special education and early childhood studies in the UF College of Education. A co-principal investigator in the study, she once again is teaming with her colleague, Professor Kevin Sutherland of VCU, who was awarded nearly $1.5 million by the National Center for Education Research at the Institute of Education Sciences to lead the project.

Their recently completed efficacy trial of BEST in CLASS for 3- and 4-year-olds in early childhood programs in Florida and Virginia demonstrated positive outcomes for nearly 200 teachers and 500 children and their families. The findings will help guide the researchers’ adaptation to meet the needs of children advancing from preschool into early elementary grades and their families.

The new study will be extended to about 60 teachers and 80 students in kindergarten through second grade in an inner city school district near Richmond, Va. The students’ families, who are also a part of the study, will participate through a family involvement component and ongoing home-school partnerships with participating teachers.

Over the first year, researchers will develop BEST in CLASS-Elementary training and coaching materials for supporting teachers’ use of evidence-based instructional practices addressing students’ social and behavioral needs in their classrooms. Feedback from teachers and families also will aid the researchers in refining BEST in CLASS for this next age group.

After training and coaching materials are developed, a pilot program in the second year will test the materials with 30 teachers who will work with students identified as having social and behavioral difficulties in their classrooms. Based on year-two results, the model will be refined and further tested in the third year with participation from another group of teachers, students and their families.

The study findings will allow researchers to measure and evaluate the effects of BEST in CLASS-Elementary teachers’ use of effective instructional practices with targeted students, and how well they are partnering with families.

Researchers also will gain a comparison of how well their intervention addresses the social, behavioral and academic skills for the targeted students in their classrooms.

“Our ultimate goal is to improve teacher-student interactions and relationships in these classrooms, both of which are linked to improved student outcomes,” Sutherland said. “We’re thrilled that we have an opportunity to take what we’ve learned about implementing this promising program in early childhood settings and adapt it for use in elementary school settings.”


 

   SOURCE: Professor Maureen Conroy, College of Education, 352-273-4382, mconroy@coe.ufl.edu
   WRITER: Linda Homewood, UF College of Education, 352-273-4284, homewood@ufl.edu

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UF Research Foundation recognizes education scholar with elite professorship

LEITE, Walter

Scholar Walter Leite is the College of Education’s newest winner of a UF Research Foundation Professorship.

One way Walter Leite explains the complex statistical methods he uses to measure the effectiveness of educational programs is with the old analogy of comparing apples to apples.

The associate professor in UF’s Research and Evaluation Methods program works with massive amounts of information (so-called “big data”) to analyze the effectiveness of teaching tools and educational programs, using measures such as standardized scores, end-of-courses assessments, surveys and observation protocols.

“I try to get around the selection-bias problem, the fact that there are apples and oranges,” when analyzing datasets with upwards of 1 million or more variables, he said while explaining one of the sophisticated tools he uses – “propensity score analysis” – to analyze massive amounts of data.

“My niche is extremely large data sets with lots of variables and I try to find the evidence for program effectiveness based on that data,” the Brazilian-born scholar said.

Leite sat down for an interview recently after being awarded a prestigious University of Florida Research Foundation (UFRF) Professorship, which provides three-year awards to tenured faculty for outstanding research and to provide incentives for continued excellence.

The award recognizes the growing importance of Leite’s work at a time of increasing government mandates related to school accountability, such as the 2002 No Child Left Behind Act.

Leite’s research has been in collaboration with the UF’s Lastinger Center for Learning, where his work has helped evaluate large projects such as Algebra Nation and the Teacher Leadership for School Improvement (TLSI) program.

Last year, Leite and a research assistant received the Florida Educational Research Association’s Distinguished Paper Award for evaluating the TLSI degree program by using statistical models to follow 78 third- through fifth-grade teachers over a decade. Their study showed that students exposed to these teachers had improved their Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test (FCAT) math and reading scores, and reduced their school absences.

More recently, Leite and his team received a $1.6 million grant from the Florida Department of Education’s Office of Early Learning to evaluate the effectiveness of a statewide pilot project to provide pre-K teachers special training and coaching as a way to improve the learning of children getting ready to enter kindergarten.

David Miller, former coordinator of REM and now director of the School of Human Development and Organizational Studies in Education, said Leite’s UFRF professorship is well deserved — and increasingly important because of government requirements, such as tying school funding to student assessment scores. These mandates are proving controversial public policy, and a lot is riding on whether these accountability standards are really improving schools, teaching and learning.

“We need folks like Walter working on that,” Miller said. “It’s very complex, but the implications are very important to measure the effectiveness of social science and educational programs.”

Leite’s work is supported by a half-dozen grants, enough work to keep him so busy as to not allow time to teach. But Leite is an enthusiastic teacher. His structural equation modeling course this semester has attracted two dozen grad students from across the university, from the fields of criminology, forestry, psychology, immunology and more, who need to learn how to analyze big data.


 

Contacts
    Source: Walter Leite, College of Education, walter.leite@coe.ufl.edu; phone 352-273-4302
    Writer: Charles Boisseau, College of Education Office of News and Communications; cboisseau@coe.ufl.edu; phone 352-273-3449

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UF center partners with states’ school system chiefs to boost teaching of students with disabilities

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Stronger licensure standards for teachers and principals, identification of skills educators need from their first day in the classroom, and more rigorous preparation programs for teachers and school leaders are among the steps state education chiefs can take to meet the needs of all students, especially those with disabilities, according to a new report issued jointly by a center for educator preparation reform at the University of Florida and the Council of Chief State School Officers.

Mary Brownell

Mary Brownell

The recommendations are the result of a partnership between UF’s Collaboration for Effective Educator Development, Accountability and Reform, or CEEDAR Center, and the private, nonprofit professional organization that serves leaders of every state’s department of elementary and secondary education.

The two groups recently convened an advisory group of state education agency leaders, higher education faculty, national professional organizations and teachers to develop the guidelines, released in a report “Promises to Keep: Transforming Educator Preparation to Better Serve a Diverse Range of Learners.”

The Council of Chief State School Officers is distributing the report to all state education department leaders and national organizations that serve individuals and organizations invested in teacher and principal preparation.

Other recommendations outlined in the report include:

·        Making personalized learning and student achievement and outcomes, including those for students with disabilities, an integral part of preparation and evaluation programs for teachers and school leaders in training

·       Designing preparation programs that promote collaboration and teamwork among all educators for all of their students

·       Maintaining effective monitoring and evaluation systems that hold teacher preparation programs accountable and providing the programs with adequate feedback for continued improvement in how they prepare teacher and administrator candidates to support diverse learners in the classroom

The report, which outlines a comprehensive set of clear policy actions state agencies can take, is the first of its kind, said CEEDAR Center director Mary Brownell.

“Students with disabilities can make remarkable progress when their teachers have the knowledge and skills needed to serve them effectively,” said Brownell, a special education professor at UF’s College of Education. “Improving preparation of all future teachers and school leaders is one way to ensure they have the knowledge and skills needed to help a diverse range of students.”

The report builds on a well-publicized policy document the Council of Chief State School Officers published in 2012 that included recommendations for transforming teacher and leader preparation policies.

“State education chiefs want effective teachers in the classroom on Day 1,” said Chris Minnich, the council’s executive director. “It is essential that schools continually seek the most effective ways to reach their most diverse learners.”

UF’s CEEDAR Center, with assistance from a federal grant, is partnering with the council to implement many of the guidelines in 15 states. The hope is that state education departments, colleges of education and school districts will work together to incorporate the recommendations into efforts already underway to improve teacher quality and leader preparation, Brownell said.

CEEDAR Center is in the midst of a five-year, $25 million technical assistance project to help the 15 participating states strengthen their standards and methods for preparing, licensing and evaluating teachers and school leaders. Funded by the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Special Education Programs, the center began its work in Florida and four other states – California, Connecticut, Illinois and South Dakota – in 2013. Five additional states are expected to join the project in 2016, with the “Promises to Keep” report guiding much of the work in these states.

The report is available at http://ceedar.education.ufl.edu/portfolio/promises-to-keep/ or www.ccsso.org.


Sources:
Mary Brownell, project director, UF CEEDAR Center; 352-273-4529; mbrownell@coe.ufl.edu
   Larry Lansford, UF College of Education News & Communications, 352-273-4449; skindland@coe.ufl.edu
   University of Florida News Center http://www.news.ufl.edu |  News@ufl.edu |  352-846-3903

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The University of Florida is one of the nation’s largest public universities. A member of the Association of American Universities, UF posted research expenditures totaling $696 million in 2013. Through its research and other activities, UF contributes more than $8.76 billion a year to Florida’s economy and has a total employment impact of more than 100,000 jobs statewide. Find us at www.ufl.edu, on YouTube at www.youtube.com/UniversityofFlorida, and learn about UF’s plan to become one of the nation’s top public research universities at ufpreeminence.org.

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5 more states join UF’s $25M effort to improve teaching of students with disabilities

Five states have been added to the list of 10 already taking part in a $25 million UF College of Education project aimed at improving the effectiveness of teachers and public school leaders who serve students with disabilities.

Images taken by Kristen Bartlett Grace Copyright the UF News Bureau College of Education October 1, 2007 D-1319

Mary Brownell

Arizona, Michigan, Missouri, Oregon and Tennessee are the latest additions to the five-year program being implemented by the college’s CEEDAR Center through a record-setting grant from the U.S. Department of Education. CEEDAR is an acronym for Collaboration for Effective Educator Development, Accountability and Reform.

Center director Mary Brownell, a UF special education professor, said the center and its state partners are engaged in work that could have a “dramatic impact” on improving education for students with disabilities and other struggling learners.

“If we can prepare teachers and leaders to implement the best evidence we have about effective instruction and classroom management, then we can help to improve student achievement and proficiency levels,” Brownell said.

The $25 million project represents the largest single grant ever awarded to the UF College of Education, and the figure could increase by another $10 million if the U.S. DOE exercises two optional years.

Five more states are expected to be added before the project completes its fourth-year cycle in 2016, bringing to 20 the total number of states – including Florida – whose school districts will have revised standards and significantly improved methods for preparing, licensing and evaluating teachers and administrators who educate students with disabilities in K through 12 schools.

The center is working with the American Institutes for Research, the University of Kansas, the Council of Chief State School Officers and several other national organizations to reach its objectives, including the American Association of Colleges for Teacher Education, the Council for Exceptional Children, the Council for the Accreditation for Educator Preparation, the National Association of State Directors of Special Education and the Association for Persons with Severe Handicaps.

The five states initially taking part in the CEEDAR center project were Florida, California, Connecticut, Illinois, South Dakota. Five others — Georgia, Montana, New Hampshire, Ohio and Utah – were added in 2014.

Contacts
Liaison: Larry Lansford, director, College of Education Office of News and Communications; llansford@coe.ufl.edu; phone 352-273-4137.
Writer: Stephen Kindland, College of Education Office of News and Communications; skindland@coe.ufl.edu; phone 352-273-3449.

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Conroy named as first Zucker Professor in Early Childhood Studies

Maureen Conroy, Ph.D., an early childhood expert and professor in the University of Florida College of Education, has been named the Anita Zucker Professor in Early Childhood Studies.

Maureen Conroy1

Maureen Conroy

Conroy, who co-directs the Anita Zucker Center for Excellence in Early Childhood Studies at UF, is working with other center researchers to transform science, policy and practices in early childhood learning, intervention and healthy development. Their efforts are gaining national and worldwide attention.

“Ninety percent of a child’s brain development happens before he or she turns 5,” Conroy said. “Our research mission is to provide science-based approaches for supporting young children’s development and learning during this critical time.”

A primary focus of the center is supporting young children who are most vulnerable, their families, and their early childhood providers to create nurturing and supportive early learning environments to help them succeed.

Through the Anita Zucker Center, Conroy and her collaborators partner with colleagues from a number of colleges at UF as well as other community, state, national and international stakeholders.

Zucker, a 1972 UF education graduate and a UF Board of Trustees member, has long been interested in early childhood studies. In 2011, the Charleston, South Carolina native contributed $1 million to the College of Education to establish the endowed professorship that Conroy now occupies. Last year, Zucker gave another $5 million to expand the center’s efforts and UF’s Preeminence initiative in early childhood studies.

“Anita Zucker understands the importance of investing in young children’s growth, development and education,” Conroy said. “Her generous gifts are a game-changer that ensures our work will reach children and families in our community, state and across the nation and world.”

A graduate of Keene State College in New Hampshire and a two-time graduate of Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Conroy’s 38-year career has revolved around conducting research and training future researchers as well as those working directly with young children and their families.

Patricia Snyder, director of the Anita Zucker Center who also serves as the David Lawrence Jr. Endowed Chair in Early Childhood Studies, said the appointment of Maureen Conroy as the inaugural Anita Zucker Professor in Early Childhood Studies will advance the College of Education’s national and international visibility and impact.

“Having the Zucker Professor and Lawrence Chair working side-by-side demonstrates UF’s commitment to achieving preeminence in early childhood studies,” Snyder said.

Zucker, who taught elementary school for 10 years and has a master’s degree in educational administration and supervision from the University of North Florida, agreed.

“Early childhood education really is the key to unlocking doors for later learning and success in life,” she said. “Transforming our children’s lives through education is important in so many ways.”

Contacts
Liaison: Larry Lansford, director, College of Education Office of News and Communications; llansford@coe.ufl.edu; phone 352-273-4137.
Writer: Linda Homewood, Anita Zucker Center for Excellence in Early Childhood Studies, homewood@coe.ufl.edu; phone 352-273-4284.

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NSF fellowship is just the latest achievement for UFTeach alum Xavier Monroe

Monroe Xavier3Xavier J. Monroe, a 2013 UF graduate, belongs on a UFTeach student recruitment poster.

And that’s even before he was awarded a prestigious Graduate Research Fellowship in STEM education and learning research recently from the National Science Foundation.

While Monroe was still a UF undergraduate double-majoring in civil engineering and history, and also minoring in African Studies, the College of Education in 2011 enrolled him in yet another degree program–its new UFTeach mathematics education minor.

For someone with Monroe’s drive, what’s one more degree program, right?

The UFTeach minor degree programs in math or science education together are one of the pillars of the college’s STEM education reform strategy. The goal of UFTeach is to enlist top science, technology, engineering and math majors and prepare them to teach effectively in one of those vital STEM disciplines at the middle or high school grade levels.

Monroe personifies what UFTeach is all about. After simultaneously earning all four UF degrees—the two majors and both minors, the east Gainesville native and former Florida Academic Scholar went on to obtain his master’s in educational leadership and policy a year later from the University of Michigan.

He’s now poised to start his second year of Ph.D. studies in educational policy at Stanford University, coinciding with his selection as an NSF Graduate Research Fellow.

After Monroe completes his doctorate, he said he’d like to become a college professor and conduct education research in areas such as school transformation, policies and practices that will improve student achievement, the role of family and community partnerships with public schools, and issues of equity and access in STEM education, particular for underrepresented minorities.

Monroe said he’s grateful for the impact that UFTeach has had on his education philosophy and career path.

Monroe poses with a group of kids he met in Kano, Nigeria, where he conducted research as a UF undergraduate.

Monroe poses with a group of kids he met in Kano, Nigeria, where he conducted research as a UF undergraduate.

“The level of training and guidance from UFTeach equipped me with tools to succeed in the classroom as a pre-service teacher and in my local community work as an after-school instructor,” Monroe said. “This was also the beginning of my transition to the education field.”

“Education requires a great sense of humility, passion and the ability to partner with families and communities to best meet the needs of students, particularly our most vulnerable students,” he added.

Monroe said he vividly remembers something that UF STEM education instructor Kent Crippen said one night in class: “Students do not need your sympathy, they need you to teach them in ways that help to address the issues they face.”

Monroe’s fellowship was one of only 16 awarded by NSF in STEM education and learning research. The fellowship will support his study of the influence of teachers relating teaching content to the cultural backgrounds of their students.

Associate professor Crippen said Xavier’s fellowship award “is a significant accomplishment for a UFTeach alumnus and demonstrates the scope and broader impact of the program.”


CONTACTS
SOURCE: Xavier Monroe, monroexj@stanford.edu
SOURCE: Kent Crippen, UF College of Education; 352-273-4222; kcrippen@coe.ufl.edu
WRITER: Larry Lansford, communications director, UF College of Education; 352-273-4137; llansford@coe.ufl.edu;

 

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Students, faculty team up on AERA’s ‘best’ research paper

When two UF College of Education professors recently teamed up with three graduate students, the multidisciplinary quintet developed a compelling research paper that can be referred to officially as “the best.”

HUGGINS, Anne (Aug 2012)_2 2

Corinne Huggins-Manley

Assistant professor of research and evaluation methodology Corinne Huggins-Manley and Albert Ritzhaupt, an associate professor of educational technology, along with three students — Krista Ruggles and Mathew Wilson (both in education technology) and Savannah Madley (research and evaluation methodology)— were chosen to receive the American Education Research Association’s 2015 Best Paper Award.

Their article was selected for the category of one of AERA’s special interest groups, “Technology as an Agent of Change in Teaching and Learning.” The authors will be recognized at the AERA annual meeting April 16-20 in Chicago.

Albert Ritzhaupt

Albert Ritzhaupt

Their winning paper, “Validation of the Survey of Preservice Teachers’ Knowledge of Teaching and Technology: A multi-institutional sample,” explores the accuracy of a measurement tool assessing Technological Pedagogical Content Knowledge (TPACK).

Research in this field is ongoing due to difficulties defining the boundaries of different TPACK knowledge areas.

“We hope the paper contributes to the advancement and refinement of TPACK theory to better mirror practice and how we measure it,” Huggins-Manley said.

Rizthaupt attributes the paper’s strength to its blending of expertise borrowed from several disciplines at the College of Education. His expertise lies in education technology, Huggins-Manley steered the research methods and the graduate students provided support in the research, analysis and writing of the winning paper.

“The college certainly nurtures research and collaboration,” Ritzhaupt said, “It’s this synergy that keeps people working and achieving.”


CONTACTS
   SOURCE: Corinne Huggins-Manley, amanley@coe.ufl.edu and Albert Ritzhaupt, aritzhaupt@coe.ufl.edu
   WRITER: Candice Wynter, communications intern, UF College of Education; cwynter@ufl.edu
   MEDIA CONTACT: Larry Lansford, communications director, UF College of Education; llansford@coe.ufl.edu; 352-273-4137

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COE scholars make strong showing at massive AERA meeting

AERA ad (2015)

More than 70 University of Florida College of Education faculty and graduate students were among the 14,000 scholars from around the world who converged on Chicago April 16-20 for the 2015 annual meeting of the American Educational Research Association to examine critical issues of education research and public policy.

The AERA annual meeting, featuring 2,600 sessions, is the largest gathering of international scholars in the field of education research. More UF education faculty and graduate students, from multiple disciplines, attend AERA’s annual meeting than any other professional gathering. The UF contingent included 41 COE faculty members and 31 graduate and postdoctoral students in education.

The massive AERA event is a hotbed of innovative, research-based ideas about teaching and education issues and trends. This year’s conference theme was “Toward Justice,” examining how culture, language and heritage in education praxis, research and policy can change the world—toward more justice.

UF presentations included pertinent topics such as:

  • The promise of black studies in teacher education
  • Bullying and disability status
  • Women’s scientist identity formation: an undergraduate research mentoring program
  • Does athletic success increase campus crime?
  • “The Parents are Locked Out”: Barriers to successful teacher-family engagement
  • Developing social-emotional vocabulary through storybook reading
  • Teaching English language learners: from teacher prep to teaching practice
  • Social interaction in computer-supported, collaborative problem solving
  • Minority administrators at community college in Florida

The busiest COE faculty attendees were Walter Leite (research and evaluation methodology), Ester de Jong (ESOL/bilingual education), Bernard Oliver (educational leadership), and Albert Ritzhaupt (education technology)—each participating in five presentations. Doctoral student Olivia Soutullo (school psychology) is involved in four presentations.

For a complete listing of all presentations by UF education faculty and advanced-degree students, visit http://bit.ly/1DXa57D.

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UF researchers call for immediate end to corporal punishment in all Florida schools

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — A team of University of Florida researchers is calling for an immediate end to paddling students in all state public schools, citing its new study of classroom disciplinary trends that depicts corporal punishment as violent and outdated, and a source of complications such as increased dropout rates and lawsuits.

CP Dashboard

In a monograph sponsored by the Southern Poverty Law Center, UF doctoral student Sungur Gurel (left) and College of Education faculty researchers Brianna Kennedy-Lewis and Joseph Gagnon call for abolishment of corporal punishment in Florida schools.

The team’s 33-page research report shows corporal punishment persists in nearly half of Florida school districts, mostly in the state’s rural northern counties, and “it’s the youngest, most impressionable children – elementary school students – who most often are subjected” to paddling.

“Paddling is archaic,” said Joseph Gagnon, a UF College of Education associate professor of special education and one of the report’s three authors. “We need to spread awareness that scientific evidence increasingly justifies abolishing corporal punishment in favor of more effective, positive ways to manage classroom behavior.”

Gagnon said most current research shows paddling has little or no positive long-term effect on students, can lower their self-esteem, and instill hostility and rage without curbing the undesired behavior, “yet there are still pockets of Florida and other states where corporal punishment continues to be used.”

Paddling in schools has been banned in 31 states, and the UF report cites 16 national expert organizations that have categorically opposed and discredited corporal punishment. They include the National Education Association, American Bar Association, American Psychological Association, American Medical Association, and national associations for both elementary and secondary school principals. The study report also lists nearly 100 published research citations and references.

The UF study was funded by the Southern Poverty Law Center, an internationally known civil rights and social justice activist organization based in Montgomery, Ala. The SPLC is pushing for the elimination of corporal punishment in school systems in Florida and across the nation.

Tania Galloni, an attorney with the SPLC’s Miami office, said the emotional and psychological damage done to a child who has been paddled is reason enough to end corporal punishment.

“(Paddling) is a tightly controlled form of school-sponsored violence, and it undermines the notion that a school is supposed to be a place where children feel safe,” Galloni said.

In Florida during the 2012-2013 school year, 28 of 67 school districts administered corporal punishment, according to the Florida Department of Education.

The UF report shows the Suwannee County district, with a student population of nearly 6,000 at the time of the survey, led the state with 359 paddling instances. Holmes County, with more than 3,300 students enrolled, was next with 306 instances.

Madison and Holmes counties also had the highest percentage of students experiencing corporal punishment during the 2010-2011 school year, according to the UF study. Each showed nearly 10 percent of its students being paddled. Washington County was third on the list with almost 9 percent of 3,485 students being paddled. The remaining 25 school districts using corporal punishment, on average, paddled less than 2 percent of their students, with eight districts reporting rates below 1 percent.

Gagnon and co-author Brianna L. Kennedy-Lewis, an assistant professor of curriculum, teaching and teacher education, have presented their research findings to Florida legislators and are working with the SPLC to target other education leaders, policymakers and the general public to raise awareness for the need to end paddling.

Gagnon, Kennedy-Lewis and Sungur Gurel, a doctoral student and statistician, spent eight months researching and writing their findings and recommendations. Gagnon evaluated public data on Florida schools’ use of corporal punishment and similar approaches to discipline. He also surveyed Florida principals to identify the use of preventive strategies and other non-violent, research-proven approaches to student behavior management.

Kennedy-Lewis interviewed 36 school administrators representing 27 Florida school districts that allowed corporal punishment.

“We were trying to find out what drives the whole punitive approach,” Kennedy-Lewis said. “As it turns out, many school administrators would just as soon do away with this type of punishment.”

The researchers made six recommendations, including abolishing corporal punishment at the federal, state and local levels, and closely scrutinizing the disproportionate punishment of males, African American students, those with disabilities and other vulnerable student groups.

They also urged schools to implement or broaden proactive, research-proven strategies for handling discipline without punitive paddling, such as Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports (PBIS). The PBIS approach involves tailored interventions for individuals and specific student groups that, in addition to social and emotional skills training, can include counseling programs and peer tutoring.


CONTACTS
   UF SOURCE: Joseph Gagnon, associate professor, UF College of Education; jgagnon@coe.ufl.edu; 352-273-4262
   UF SOURCE: Brianna L. Kennedy-Lewis, assistant professor, UF College of Education; bkennedy@coe.ufl.edu; 352-273-4041
   SPLC SOURCE: Tania Galloni, attorney, Southern Poverty Law Center; Tania.galloni@splcenter.org; 305-537-0573
   WRITER: Stephen Kindland, staff writer, UF College of Education; skindland@coe.ufl.edu: 352-273-4449
   MEDIA LIAISON: Larry Lansford, communications director, UF College of Education; llansford@coe.ufl.edu; 352-273-4137

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Incentive grant boosts ed. tech professor’s research merging education and neuroscience

Pavlo “Pasha” Antonenko has received the College of Education’s 2014-15 College Research Incentive Fund (CRIF) grant which will help the education technology faculty member conduct cutting-edge research on the neurological dynamics of individuals during group problem-solving activities.

Pasha EEG1

Pavlo “Pasha” Antonenko and doctoral student Jiahui Wang discuss Wang’s EEG data as it shows up on a computer screen.“Working with others to solve the complex challenges of our global society is an important 21 century skill,” Antonenko said. “Now we’ll be able to obtain important brain-based data on how individuals collaborate within a group, and how that can be applied to teaching techniques.”

“Working with others to solve the complex challenges of our  global society is an important 21st century skill,” Antonenko said. “Now we’ll be able to obtain important brain-based data on how individuals collaborate within a group, and how that can be applied to teaching techniques.”

 The COE gives its annual CRIF grant, worth $40,000, to education faculty members with promising and meaningful research projects that are likely to attract additional funding.

Antonenko, an associate professor, used part of his grant to buy the latest in wireless electroencephalogram (EEG) equipment that will allow him to measure brain-based factors involved in cognitive processing among student “teammates” solving a common problem.

“The fun part will come when they put on the EEG headgear and their brainwaves show up on the computer screen,” Ukraine-born Antonenko said with a laugh.

The EEG data, as well as behavioral measures of learning strategies and performance, will be analyzed to address whether neurodynamics — communication between different parts of the nervous system — align with behavioral measures of team problem-solving performance.

“We’ll also try to see whether it’s possible to devise such neurodynamic models to assess, predict, and improve performance in problem-solving teams,” Antonenko said.

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Alumna makes lead gift for $10M early childhood initiative

Anita Zucker, a passionate advocate of early childhood education, will provide a leadership gift of $5 million to bolster a comprehensive initiative at the University of Florida focused on optimizing early childhood development and learning experiences.

Anita Zucker (BAE '72)

Anita Zucker (BAE ’72)

Zucker’s gift – the largest from an individual to the College of Education – will be combined with another $5 million in Preeminence faculty and program support from the university over the next several years. This $10 million investment will help further position UF as a national and world leader in understanding how young children develop and learn in the context of their families and communities and help create programs that enhance early supports and learning. UF’s Center for Excellence in Early Childhood Studies, housed in the College of Education, will be named for Zucker, a UF education alumna, in recognition of her generosity.

The new funding supports an interdisciplinary team of faculty, fellows, doctoral students, and local, state, national and international partners working to establish an innovative model in early learning. Studies show that nurturing and responsive interactions and quality early learning experiences during a child’s first five years can produce a lifetime of benefits.

Zucker, a former schoolteacher, has long been interested in early childhood. In 2011, she established a professorship in UF’s College of Education dedicated to early childhood. She also sponsored the Anita Zucker Alumni Challenge, in which she matched dollar-for-dollar gifts to UF’s College of Education.

“Education really is the key to unlocking doors for later learning and success in life,” said Zucker, CEO and chair of the Charleston, S.C.-based global manufacturing conglomerate The InterTech Group. “Transforming our children’s lives through education is so important in so many ways. The early childhood years are the most critical time for learning. That’s when they build a foundation that will play a major role in defining later success in learning and life.”

Improving early childhood studies is one of the university’s highest priorities, UF President Bernie Machen said. As part of UF’s Preeminence Plan, the university has invested in four faculty positions in the colleges of Education, Medicine and Public Health & Health Professions to support this interdisciplinary effort.

“Anita’s vision and leadership makes it possible for UF to transform America’s approach to early childhood studies,” Machen said. “Having Anita as a partner in this endeavor brings us that much closer to our goal of helping to ensure that every child has a chance to succeed.”

The newly named Anita Zucker Center for Excellence in Early Childhood Studies is dedicated to advancing knowledge, policy and practices, with a focus on newborns to 5-year-olds and their families. Faculty and students from a number of UF colleges and departments are affiliated with the center, which collaborates with local, state, national and international partners to address family support, health, nutrition, mental health and early learning.

The Anita Zucker Center is one of a number of cutting-edge programs in the College of Education that are improving teaching and learning in Florida and across the nation.

“Early childhood education and research has been the big, missing piece in our education system. For UF’s College of Education to partner with others to address this critical need from an interdisciplinary perspective makes sense,” Dean Glenn Good said. “As Florida’s flagship university and a nationally preeminent institution, we have a responsibility to children everywhere to promote the very best learning opportunities for every stage of their lives.”

Zucker is a lifetime education advocate. She earned a bachelor’s degree in education at UF in 1972, received a master’s degree in educational administration and supervision at the University of North Florida and, for 11 years, taught English and social studies in elementary schools in Florida and South Carolina. In 2008, when her husband, Jerry, passed away, she succeeded him as CEO of the Hudson Bay Company and head of the InterTech Group. Jerry Zucker graduated from UF in 1972 as a triple major in math, chemistry and physics.


CONTACTS
    SOURCE: Patricia Snyder, professor and David Lawrence Jr. Endowed Chair in Early Childhood Studies, and director, UF Anita Zucker Center for Excellence in Early Childhood Studies; 352-273-4291; patriciasnyder@coe.ufl.edu
    SOURCE: Maureen Conroy, professor and co-director, UF Anita Zucker Center for Excellence in Early Childhood Studies; 352-273-4382; mconroy@coe.ufl.edu

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Statistics scholar fills ‘big data’ faculty posts at COE, new UF institute

GAINESVILLE, Fla.—A  Harvard-trained statistical researcher and expert in online network modeling has filled one of the College of Education’s four faculty positions created in support of the University of Florida’s preeminence initiative to become one of the nation’s top 10 public research universities.

THOMAS, AndrewAndrew C. Thomas, a research scientist in statistics at Carnegie Mellon University (CMU), will become an associate professor in the Research and Evaluation Methodology program at UF’s College of Education. His appointment takes effect in January.

Thomas, who received his doctorate in statistics from Harvard in 2009, also will join a campuswide consortium of faculty scientists in landmark “big data” studies at the new UF Informatics Institute, one of UF’s major preeminence initiatives. The institute’s big-data science initiative is one of 28 high-potential areas of science and scholarship targeted by UF for investment of state preeminence funds. 

The Informatics Institute unites a team of educators, engineers, scientists, artists, natural scientists and other UF faculty researchers in an ambitious push to harness the vast amounts of data now generating in the world and apply them to advancing a wide range of vital areas in education and the social sciences.

“Ninety percent of data that exists today was created in the last two years. Collecting and analyzing immense amounts of data has been a challenge up to now,” said UF education dean Glenn Good. “Dr. Thomas’s expertise in online networks and large data management align well with our efforts to harness informatic analysis and apply it to resolve societal issues. At the College of Education, his contributions will help us better understand national education trends and conduct large-scale effectiveness studies of best  teaching practices.”

Thomas, currently an affiliate faculty member of CMU’s Living Analytics Research Center in Pittsburgh, has focused his investigations on the formation and workings of complex online networks and measuring peer influence between members on a social network. At CMU, he worked on collaborative university-industry studies designed to improve the handling and examination of large data sources, including new sources such as education.

“Much of my recent work focuses on network models that give us information about the individuals themselves who belong to the network,” said Thomas, who has worked at CMU since completing his Harvard Ph.D. studies. “The richness of multiple networks in education, through students in classrooms and teachers in schools, makes this an exciting area of development that I will continue to pursue at the University of Florida.”

Thomas said he looks forward to being part of the collaborative effort at the UF Information Institute where “the trick will be developing computational systems that can cope with large volumes of data.”

Thomas has made numerous presentations and published several research reports, including an encyclopedia article on network modeling. He has applied his statistics know-how to a wide range of fields including political science, public policy, demography, environmental engineering and sports. The Canadian native, a huge ice hockey fan, last year co-authored an article in the Annals of Applied Statistics on statistical approaches for measuring individual player contributions in hockey games. 

Thomas brings two large research grants on network modeling with him to UF worth more than $640,000 combined—one from the National Science Foundation and another from the federal Institute of Educational Sciences.

He said he’s also excited about continuing his teaching and mentoring in the evolving field of data science education at UF.

The big data informatics project is one of three College of Education initiatives that UF administrators targeted for investment of preeminence funds, to the tune of $3.8 million. The other two involve optimizing early childhood development and advancing personalized online learning.

The Florida Legislature in 2013 identified UF as the state’s preeminent university and is giving the university $15 million a year for five years to spend on improving areas that would help it become one of the nation’s top 10 public research universities. The Legislature gave UF another $5 million this spring for the push.

UF President Bernie Machen has pledged to match the state money with $75 million in private donations and spend $150 million on recruiting 120 world-class and up-and-coming faculty to strengthen UF’s research and academic missions.


CONTACTS
    SOURCE: Andrew Thomas, PhD, acthomas@stat.cmu.edu, 412-268-3556
    WRITER: Larry Lansford, director, news and communications, UF College of Education; llansford@coe.ufl.edu; 352-273-4137

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Kumar’s online learning article makes ‘journalistic’ history

Swapna Kumar, a clinical assistant professor of educational technology at the College of Education, has added another published article to her CV — but this one comes with a bit of history.

KUMAR, Swapna3Kumar’s “Quality Considerations in the Design and Implementation of an Online Doctoral Program” appeared as the first of eight articles in the inaugural issue of the Journal of Online Doctoral Education, which went online in June. The biannual e-journal features outstanding scholarly contributions in online doctoral education from researchers around the world.

“It’s a ‘Dos and Don’ts’ kind of an article about how to offer a quality online doctoral program,” said Kumar, who coordinates the online doctoral program in the COE’s educational technology program. “If it’s thoughtfully designed, online learning can make a huge difference in the lives of professional adults.

“They tend to work really hard and apply what they learn,” she added. “It’s satisfying to see them grow professionally and make a difference with their research.”  

Journal editor Gregory T. Bradley said Kumar and other leading online education scholars were invited to submit articles for the launch of the Summer 2014 edition.

“Dr. Kumar’s article is of tremendous value to our readers because quality considerations are at the core of accredited online institutions,” Bradley said. “The content has resonated with faculty and administrators who are involved in designing online graduate programs.”

Kumar mentors graduate students and teaches courses on distance learning, blended learning, technology integration and educational technology research. Her article in the Journal of Online Doctoral Education can be found online at http://jode.ncu.edu.

Contacts

    Source: Swapna Kumar; swapnakumar@coe.ufl.edu; 352-273-4175. 

    Media Relations: Larry Lansford, director, College of Education Office of News and Communications; llansford@coe.ufl.edu; 352-273-4137.

    Writer: Stephen Kindland, College of Education Office of News and Communications; skindland@coe.ufl.edu; 352-273-3449.

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Ed. psychology scholar awarded prestigious UF Research Foundation Professorship

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David Therriault, an associate professor of educational psychology in the College of Education, never seems to find enough time to sit down.

UF COE education psychology scholar David Therriault is happier about his research being recognized than he is about any personal accolades that result from his studies.

“Learning about learning is very important to me, so I’m just proud that something I love to do is being highlighted,” Therriault said after recently being awarded a prestigious University of Florida Research Foundation (UFRF) Professorship. “Whatever helps to bolster the usefulness of my study results makes me happy.”

The UFRF professorships are given to tenured UF faculty members who have distinguished records of research as a way to recognize their contributions and provide incentives for continued excellence in research. Thirty-three UF professors were named this year, and each will receive a $5,000 annual salary supplement and a $3,000 grant to support his or her research.

Therriault is an associate professor of educational psychology in the COE’s School of Human Development and Organizational Studies in Education (SHDOSE). His main academic interest always has been the psychology of education, which is why his work at UF has focused on the empirical study of the mental processes that shape the way we learn. Such nuances include the representation of text in memory; comprehending time and space in language; the link between attention and intelligence; the use of perceptual symbols in language; and problem solving in engineering.

“I’m actually kind of a weird fit in the college because some people still don’t know what I do here,” Therriault said with a laugh. “I started taking psychology courses when I first went to college and never stopped. My interests within my field are all over the place.”

SHDOSE director Harry Daniels might disagree.

“There is clear evidence that Dr. Therriault is an active and productive scholar, and that his scholarship informs others who conduct similar types of research,” Daniels wrote in a letter of recommendation for the professorship.

Daniels’ letter also pointed out that Therriault’s published articles in scholarly journals – which total more than 25, including 14 in the past five years — have had a “high impact rating” on their audiences.

“The interdisciplinary nature of Dr. Therriault’s research deserves special recognition,” Daniels wrote, explaining that Therriault has developed relationships with UF College of Engineering faculty to address some of the critical issues of scientific problem solving within the field of engineering.

The objective in working with the College of Engineering is to measure empirically how two seemingly disparate disciplines can benefit each other, according to Therriault, who received $805,000 in grant money to examine how engineering students solve open-ended problems. 

Therriault also received an $83,000 UF research opportunity grant in 2011 that enabled him to develop a kindergarten-level reading disabilities screening battery called the Kindergarten Cognitive and Reading Assessment Tool for iPad (K-CRATI). The assessment tool is being designed to allow educators to effectively catch at-risk students early in their elementary schooling.

“If past performance is truly the best predictor of future behavior, there is every reason to believe that Dr. Therriault will utilize the [research professorship] to further his agenda,” Daniels concluded.

Therriault received his bachelor’s degree at the University of New Hampshire before earning a master’s degree and his Ph.D. – both in cognitive psychology — from the University of Illinois at Chicago. He joined UF’s education psychology faculty in 2004.


Contacts
    Source: David Therriault, UF College of Education; therriault@coe.ufl.edu; phone 352-273-4345.
    Media Relations: Larry Lansford, director, College of Education Office of News and Communications; llansford@coe.ufl.edu; phone 352-273-4137.
    Writer: Stephen Kindland, College of Education Office of News and Communications; skindland@coe.ufl.edu; phone 352-273-3449.

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Teen traffic deaths inspire UF professors to write award-winning article, “A Science That Saves Lives’

Griff Jones, a clinical associate professor of science education in the UF College of Education, knows only too well that the laws of physics apply to everyone.

“I was a high school physics teacher, and I lost a lot of students to car crashes,” said Jones, who spent two decades teaching at UF’s P.K. Yonge Developmental Research School in Gainesville. “Motor vehicle crashes are the No. 1 cause of death among teenagers.”

COE professors Linda and Griff Jones send a hand-made paper test car down a race track Griff Jones designed using sections of a plastic rain gutter.

COE professors Linda and Griff Jones send a hand-made paper test car down a race track Griff Jones designed using sections of a plastic rain gutter.

That’s why Jones and his wife, Linda Jones, a COE associate professor of science and environmental education, co-authored a cover story titled “A Science That Saves Lives” for the January 2013 issue of The Science Teacher, an academic journal sponsored by the National Science Teachers Association.

Their efforts paid off when the Association of American Publishers named their article a finalist in the Distinguished Achievement Award category of the recently held Revere Awards competition. The Revere Awards is the most prestigious recognition program in the learning resource community, according to the Association of Educational Publishers, which once sponsored the awards under a different name.

Receiving accolades for articles isn’t new to the husband-wife research team, but gaining recognition for their story on motor vehicle crashes involving teens meant something special.

“When I worked on my Ph.D. at UF, part of my dissertation was to help the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety write and produce a science education video for students on the understanding of car crashes,” said Griff Jones, who also is director of the COE’s STEM Teacher Induction and Professional Support (STEM TIPS) program. “The number of teen traffic deaths has gone down, but there are still way too many – more than 2,800 a year.”

Together the Joneses not only have kept up with matters related to physical science, but human behavior as well. Their cover story is based on research suggesting that a lack of emotional and cognitive maturity among teenagers increases risky driving practices such as speeding, tailgating and not wearing seat belts. 

Their article outlines a “truly life-saving teaching lesson” for high school science educators by combining Internet research with classroom “crash tests” using paper cars designed and built by students; a 6-meter “race track” made from plastic rain gutter sections; a step ladder; and a concrete block that serves as an abrupt “finish line.”

Raw eggs serve as vehicle occupants, and damage to them is measured and recorded at different speeds made possible by placing the track’s starting line on a higher rung of the ladder. Students are challenged to create cars with front ends weak enough to absorb the energy of a high-speed crash, yet strong enough to remain intact and protect the egg.       

By project’s end, students have learned to apply two physics concepts used in real-world vehicle safety engineering: momentum and impulse. Momentum is the mass of an object multiplied by its velocity, and measures the difficulty of stopping a moving object. Impulse is the net momentum change during a collision and is measured as the product of the average force exerted on an object.

“It really makes students confront themselves with their misconceptions about their chances of surviving a crash,” said Linda Jones, who serves as coordinator of the COE’s science and environmental education program. “They also learn about the vital role seat belts play in surviving a head-on collision.”

The Joneses’ article can be found at www.nsta.org, the National Science Teachers Association website.

CONTACTS:
    Source: Griff Jones, UF College of Education; gjones@coe.ufl.edu;   
    Source: Linda Jones, UF College of Education; ljones@coe.ufl.edu.
    Liaison: Larry Lansford, director, news and communications, UF College of Education; llansford@coe.ufl.edu
    Writer: Stephen Kindland, staff writer, UF College of Education; skindland@coe.ufl.edu

 

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New COE autism scholar will work with early childhood studies center

REICHOW, Brian (jpeg). JPGThe University of Florida College of Education has appointed an emerging scholar of behavioral interventions for young children with autism and developmental disabilities to its faculty.

Brian Reichow, assistant professor of community medicine and health care and research director of the University Center for Excellence in Developmental Disabilities at the University of Connecticut Health Center, will join the UF faculty on July 7 as an associate professor in the college’s School of Special Education, School Psychology and Early Childhood Studies. He also will be affiliated with the UF Center for Excellence in Early Childhood Studies (CEECS), a universitywide program based administratively in the College of Education.

Reichow will join another multi-college effort focused on “optimizing early childhood development and learning experiences”—one of the research focuses of UF’s state-supported “preeminence initiative” to become recognized as one of the nation’s top 10 public research universities.

“I’m excited about joining these interdisciplinary opportunities with colleagues across campus,” said Reichow, who with his current UCHC post also holds an adjunct faculty position at Yale Child Study Center at Yale University. “They will allow me to continue and expand my work with young children who have disabilities to ensure they and their families achieve best outcomes.”

Reichow’s research focuses on advancing evidence-based practices for helping children with autism spectrum disorders and other developmental disabilities of the nervous system and identifying support services to assist these children and their families achieve best outcomes.

He is also collaborating with the World Health Organization to develop identification and intervention programs for young children with neurodevelopmental disorders in lower- and middle-income countries through the WHO Mental Health Gap Action Programme. 

“Dr. Reichow is a well-respected scholar with an impressive record of accomplishments in this field,” said Patricia Snyder, co-director of the UF CEECS and holder of the Lawrence endowed chair in early childhood studies. “His research and teaching will complement our collaborative work with colleagues across the college and university, particularly research that directly connects to practice in early childhood studies.”

Reichow earned his doctorate and master’s degrees in early childhood special education from Peabody College at Vanderbilt University. He has a bachelor’s in elementary education and psychology from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

He came highly recommended for the UF position from Fred Volkmar, an endowed professor and director of the Yale Child Study Center at Yale University, where Reichow was a postdoctoral associate from 2008 to 2010 and was a faculty member from 2010 to 2013.

“In the time I’ve known (Brian), he has become a leader in the field of evidence-based treatments in autism,” Volkmar wrote in a letter of recommendation for Reichow. “For a relatively young investigator, he has been remarkably productive . . . and his work has stimulated the field.”

Reichow has authored some 40 peer-reviewed publications, 15 book chapters and has edited several books. He is the book review editor for the Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders and serves on the editorial board of four scholarly journals in the field.


SOURCE: Brian Reichow, reichow@uchc.edu; breichow@alumni.unc.edu; 203-824-6973

UF SOURCES: Patricia Snyder (patriciasnyder@coe.ufl.edu) and Maureen Conroy (mconroy@coe.ufl.edu); UF College of Education and the UF Center for Excellence in Early Childhood Studies; 352-273-4291

WRITER: Larry Lansford, director, news and communications, UF College of Education; llansford@coe.ufl.edu; 352-273-4137

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New education technology professor to head UF Online Learning Institute

BEAL, Carole

Carole Beal

GAINESVILLE, Fla.—The University of Florida College of Education has hired a leading authority on technology-based learning as a professor of education technology who will also head UF’s new Online Learning Institute, one of UF’s major preeminence initiatives.

UF Education Dean Glenn Good announced May 21 the appointment of Carole R. Beal as a faculty professor in the college’s School of Teaching and Learning. Beal currently is a professor of science, technology and the arts at the University of Arizona’s School of Information. Her UF appointment begins Aug. 16.

Beal’s research focuses on the development and use of advanced online learning techniques—particularly in math and science—that improve access to education for all learners including minorities and students with disabilities. Good said Beal’s expertise “not only strengthens the college’s education technology program, but also aligns with the mission of UF’s Online Learning Institute.”

“We will aggressively pursue cutting-edge research and future-focused technological approaches to e-learning tailored to each individual student,” Good said.

The interdisciplinary, four-college OLI is charged with finding ways to improve student learning by merging the teaching sciences and what is known about the brain with the technology that delivers education at a distance. Collaborating researchers will come from the colleges of Education, Engineering, Journalism and Communications, and Fine Arts. UF’s Digital Worlds Institute and UF Online, one of the nation’s first totally online undergraduate degree programs, also are involved.

Beal, who becomes the OLI’s founding director, has a doctorate in psychology from Stanford University, but she also has held professorships in psychology and computer science at Arizona and the University of Massachusetts-Amherst and in engineering at the University of Southern California. She also was a psychology professor at Dartmouth College.

She worked on one of the early online tutoring systems in mathematics in the 1990s and has garnered continual research funding for the past 15 years from major funding agencies such as the National Science Foundation, the federal Institute of Education Sciences and the U.S. Defense Department.

One of Beal’s projects, called Animal Watch Vi, involves developing a virtual tutoring system in math with accompanying books of braille to make online learning accessible for students with visual impairments. The three-year project is supported by an IES grant worth $1.4 million.

Andrew McCollough, UF associate provost for teaching and technology, said Beal has forged a place “on the cutting edge of research in the learning sciences and the field of personalized e-learning.”

“It is fortuitous that the College of Education attracted a leading scholar like Dr. Beal who also expressed a desire to work with the Online Learning Institute,” McCollough said. “The institute involves four colleges and they all agreed that Carole Beal was the right match for directing the institute.”

The OLI is a key component of UF’s campaign to establish itself as one of the nation‘s top 10 public research universities. Multidisciplinary research of personalized e-learning techniques has been targeted by UF administrators for investment of “preeminence funds” allocated last year by the Florida Legislature to support UF’s top-10 effort.

“I was drawn to the University of Florida by the opportunity to join a group of scholars who will collaborate on research and funding pursuits on a large scale. My experience in integrating the learning and computer sciences seemed a good complement to the existing expertise of my new colleagues at UF,” Beal said.

Much of Beal’s latest research merges education with neuroscience, which dovetails well with the OLI’s plans to collaborate with the university’s McKnight Brain Institute and other UF health science disciplines. She has been working to improve “intelligent” tutoring technology and exploring how technology can make online learning accessible to students with special needs.

“In my investigations, I have found that students who appear disengaged in the traditional classroom are often among the most active learners in the online learning setting,” Beal said.

“The coming decade will be an incredible opportunity to merge education with neuroscience,” she added. “Academic programs that take advantage of this connection will rise in national and international stature and lead the way in making online learning accessible to all students.”


SOURCE: Carole Beal, crbeal@arizona.edu, 520-576-4553
SOURCE: Andrew McCollough, UF associate provost, amccollough@aa.ufl.edu; 352-392-1202
SOURCE: Glenn Good, dean, UF College of Education, ggood@coe.ufl.edu, 352-273-4135
WRITER: Larry Lansford, communications director, UF College of Education; llansford@coe.ufl.edu; 352-273-4137

 

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Study: Solving behavior problems early boosts preschoolers’ chances for success in learning

Maureen Conroy

Maureen Conroy

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Studies show that up to a quarter of all children entering prekindergarten classrooms today have behavior problems that can disrupt learning for them and their peers. What’s more, researchers say that many preschool teachers lack the necessary training to effectively quell this growing trend in behavior problems.

“Many preschool teachers are ill-prepared to work with these children, often impacting the child-teacher relationship and the classroom learning environment. This can lead to problems with learning and result in too many children entering kindergarten unprepared to succeed,” said Maureen Conroy, professor of special education and early childhood studies at the University of Florida College of Education and co-director of UF’s Center for Excellence in Early Childhood Studies.

Conroy is the principal investigator on a team of researchers from UF and Virginia Commonwealth University that is working to reverse this trend. In a study reported this month in the spring issue of the Journal of Positive Behavior Interventions, the researchers teamed up to evaluate the promise of a pilot program that they designed to train teachers how to work with preschoolers who display emerging behavior problems. The program is called BEST in CLASS, short for Behavioral, Emotional and Social Training: Competent Learners Achieving School Success.

Conroy’s VCU co-authors on the report are Kevin Sutherland, Abigail Vo, Staci Carr and Paul Ogston. Their work was funded by a $1.5 million grant from the Institute of Education Sciences, part of the U.S. Department of Education.

The published study involved 10 teachers and 19 high-risk children from state-funded prekindergarten classrooms and Head Start programs.

The teachers attended an introductory group workshop on the BEST in CLASS intervention strategies, and then received 14 successive weeks of individually tailored coaching and feedback on implementing effective instructional strategies for strengthening children’s social, emotional and behavioral competence. Early-childhood specialists on the research team led the professional development activities and also developed coaching and teacher-training manuals for the participants.

Conroy said their BEST in CLASS model emphasizes both individual and classwide interventions to improve interactions between the teacher and children and enhances the overall classroom atmosphere for learning.

“Teachers use classroom rules and routines with children and praise specific positive behavior. For example, some young children need to learn classroom expectations such as sitting and waiting their turn during a sharing circle or game,” she said. “The BEST in CLASS intervention helps teachers learn to use specific strategies in a more targeted way with select children. These strategies aren’t necessarily new to teachers, but we show them how to use the strategies in a more precise and intense way for given children and classroom situations.”

BEST in CLASS also has a home-school component where teachers send home a daily “behavior report card” to parents, stating in a positive manner the social, emotional and behavioral skills their child is learning that day and suggestions for parents to use at home.

“As children learn early how to positively engage with adults in their environment, they become more prepared to succeed as they enter kindergarten,” Conroy said.

The promise of their pilot study has led to a follow-up, large-scale investigation of the Best in Class intervention by the UF-VCU research team, supported by $4 million over four years from the Institute of Education Sciences. The follow-up project involves 120 prekindergarten teachers in both Florida and Virginia.


CONTACTS
    SOURCE: Maureen Conroy, UF College of Education; mconroy@coe.ufl.edu, 352-273-4382
    WRITER: Larry Lansford, director, news and communications, UF College of Education; llansford@coe.ufl.edu; 352-273-4137

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Research and engaged scholarship: innovations in STEM education reform

UF College of Education faculty and their graduate students are aggressively pursuing vital research, crossing multiple disciplines, that is making a dramatic impact on teacher preparation, teacher practice and student learning in the vital STEM disciplines–science, technology, engineering and mathematics. That focus is evident in the volume and quality of our grant-funding research projects and programs devoted to STEM education, with many projects involving collaborations and partnerships with Florida school districts.

Here are our current active STEM education-related grants (announced as of February 2014), with the most recently awarded grants listed first.

Lynda Hayes (PKY)
Technology Transformation for Rural School Districts
Florida Department of Education
10/01/2013 – 06/30/2014
$43,315
 
Kent Crippen (STL)                                               
ChANgE Chem: Transforming Chemistry with Cognitive Apprenticeship for Engineers       
National Science Foundation
09/15/2013—08/31/2015          
$194,617             
 
Philip Poekert (Lastinger Center for Learning)                    
Gates Foundation Algebra Nation
Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation
07/31/2013—06/30/2015          
$250,000
 
Philip Poekert (Lastinger Center for Learning)                    
Palm Beach Count STEM Initiative—PEW
University of Florida Foundation              
05/15/2013—05/30/2014          
$337,959
 
Philip Poekert (Lastinger Center for Learning)                    
Palm Beach Count STEM Initiative—Quantum
University of Florida Foundation              
05/01/2013—06/30/2016          
$905,894
 
Philip Poekert (Lastinger Center for Learning)                    
Palm Beach Count STEM Initiative—Community
University of Florida Foundation              
06/01/2013—05/31/2015          
$661,203
 
Thomas Dana (Dean’s Area, Science Education)
Co-Pi: Dimple Malik Flesner (UFTeach)
Co-Pi: Thomasenia Lott Adams (Dean’s Area, Mathematics Education)
STEM EduGators: UF Noyce Scholars Program
National Science Foundation
September 2012 – August 2017
$1,199,165

T. Griffith Jones (Science Education)
Co-PI: Dimple Malik Flesner (UFTeach)
Co-PI: Thomas Dana (Dean’s Area, Science Education)
Co-PI: Thomasenia Adams (Dean’s Area, Mathematics Education)
The Florida STEM- Teacher Induction and Professional Support Center
Florida Department of Education
July 2012 – June 2014
$1,860,639

Elliot Douglas (College of Engineering, Materials Science and Engineering)
Co-PI: Mirka Koro-Ljungberg (Research and Evaluation Methodology)
Implementing Guided Inquiry in Diverse Institutions
National Science Foundation
January 2012 – December 2014
$92,919
 
Lynda Hayes (PK Yonge)
Co-PI: Rose Pringle (Science Education)
Co-PI: Mary Jo Koroly (Center for Precollegiate Education and Training)
Co-PI: Douglas Levey (College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, Biology)
U-FUTuRES – University of Florida Unites Teachers to Reform Education in Science
National Science Foundation
October 2011 – September 2016
$5,000,000
 
Timothy Jacobbe (Mathematics Education)
LOCUS: Levels of Conceptual Understanding in Statistics
National Science Foundation
September 2011 – August 2015
$2,078,088

STEM education: grant-funded projects recently expired

*Earliest project expiration date is July 2012

Linda Behar-Horenstein (Educational Leadership)
Co-Pi: Lian Niu (Doctoral Candidate in Higher Education Administration)
Choosing a STEM Major in College: Family Socioeconomic Status, Individual and Institutional Factors
Association for Institutional Research
June 2012 – May 2013
$20,000

Elizabeth Bondy (Curriculum, Teaching, & Teacher Education)
OUTBREAK: Opportunities to Use Immersive Technologies to Explore Biotechnology Resources, Career Education, and Knowledge
University of Missouri (Subcontract)
Funded through the National Science Foundation
September 2011 – August 2012
$32,687
 
Cynthia Griffin (Special Education)
Co-PI: Stephen Pape (Mathematics Education)
Co-PI: Nancy Dana (Curriculum and Instruction)
Prime Online: Teacher Pedagogical content Knowledge and Research-based Practice in Inclusive Elementary Mathematics Classrooms
US Department of Education, Institute of Education Sciences
August 2010 – August 2013
$1,457,085
 
Elliot Douglas (College of Engineering, Materials Science and Engineering)
Co-PI: David Therriault (Educational Psychology)
Co-PI: Mirka Koro-Ljungberg (Research and Evaluation Methodology)
Empirical Study on Emerging Research: The Role of Epistemological Beliefs and Cognitive Processing on Engineering Students’ Ability to Solve Ambiguous Problems
National Science Foundation
August 2009 – July 2013
$489,296

Cynthia Griffin (Special Education)
Co-PI: Joseph Gagnon (Special Education)
Co-PI: Stephen Pape (Mathematics Education)
Project COMPUTE
US Department of Education – OSERS/OSEP
August 2008 – August 2012
$788,291

Thomas Dana (Dean’s Area, Science Education)
Co-Pi: Alan Dorsey (College of Liberal Arts & Sciences, Physics)
Florida Teach: Increasing the Quantity & Quality of Mathematics & Science Teachers in Florida
National Math and Science Initiative
November 2007 – July 2012
$2,400,000

Get there fast
Stepping Up in STEM Education 
COE Office of Educational Research

 

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UF education researchers out in force at massive AERA meeting

(Click here for PDF listing of UFCOE presentations)

AERA 2014 banner

For years, the massive annual meeting of the American Educational Research Association has been a hotbed of the latest research and new ideas about teaching-and-learning practices and policies. This year, nearly 70 UF College of Education faculty and advanced-degree students were among the 14,000 international scholars who  converged on Philadelphia April 3-7 for the 2014 annual meeting of the American Educational Research Association to examine critical issues of education research and public policy.

More UF education faculty and students, from multiple disciplines, attend AERA’s massive annual meeting than any other professional gathering. The UF contingent included 31 faculty members and 37 graduate and postdoctoral students in education.

This year’s conference theme was “The Power of Education Research for Innovation in Practice and Policy.” UF presentations included pertinent topics such as:

— Ambitious teaching within standards-based settings: Lost in the translation?

— The influence of family-school involvement on children’s social, emotional and academic development

— Preservice teachers’ personality traits and creative behaviors as predictors of their support for children’s creativity

— Social networks’ influence on first-generation Latino students’ college selection and enrollment

— The role of practitioner research in preparing the next generation of teacher educators

— Black doctoral student perspective on their persistence in a research-intensive education college

— Success in teacher learning through an online coaching course

— School improvement for early childhood teachers

The busiest COE faculty attendees were Walter Leite (research and evaluation methodology) with six presentations, and Anne Huggins (REM) and Nancy Dana (teacher education) with four each. Five other faculty members and three graduate students were involved in three presentations each.


CONTACT:
Writer: Larry Lansford, director, news & communications, UF College of Education | 352-273-4137 | llansford@coe.ufl.edu