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Research Spotlight: Aki Murata

Q & A with Aki Murata, Associate Professor in the School of Teaching and Learning
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What basic questions does your research seek to answer?

The focus of my research investigation is on how teaching and learning interact in elementary school mathematics classrooms. My main research questions include, How do teachers make sense of students’ thinking of mathematics? and How does that new understanding help improve their teaching?  Additionally, given how teachers learn, How can we support teachers in their learning processes to increase learning opportunities for their students of diverse backgrounds?

What makes your work interesting?

My research positions itself in the intersection of theory and practice.  I bring ideas from research and theory to classrooms, and what I learn from teachers and students informs the theory in return.  Also in the process, I get to work with many teachers and students!  Various professional activities in my life, such as teaching, research, writing, and providing professional development, all connect with one another in meaningful ways making my work very interesting.  In addition, I travel to different countries to work with teachers and students through lesson study (teacher professional development approach) as lesson study is adapted and implemented in different cultural contexts.  Moving a cultural activity to a new society reveals a lot about each society, and how it values certain aspects of education while deemphasizing others.  My international and comparative perspective helps to identify these cultural characteristics in order to support schools in different cultures improve their teaching and learning practices.

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What are you currently working on?

This is the final year of the NSF-funded research project (Identifying an Effective and Scalable Model of Lesson Study) investigating how lesson study was implemented in the state of Florida. Florida is the first state to adopt lesson study as a state-wide professional development, and that afforded an interesting research context for us.  My team and I have worked so far to collect various data, and this year we are producing numerous papers.  After the federal Race to The Top (RTTT) funding ended, we are now finding out how some districts stopped using lesson study (expected), while other districts are expanding lesson study (surprise).  For these districts that are continuing with the effort, administrators have been developing new forms of ownership to support teachers creatively, and teachers are continuing to make differences in their classrooms.  I also use lesson study with preservice teachers, and in my work with the UF Unified Elementary ProTeach (UEP) program, I will be expanding that work by coordinating lesson study projects, from undergraduate, to internship, and to early teaching career stages.  Since area schools are familiar with lesson study (due to the RTTT funding), I will be investigating teacher learning and development trajectories through different teacher career levels using lesson study.

UF Office of Research Request Regarding New Research Faculty Hires

In light of recent and ongoing hiring initiatives, the UF Office of Research is asking departments to complete the Compliance Form for an Investigator Transferring to UF located on the Office of Research Forms and Templates webpage each time a new faculty hire is made. This information will facilitate the process of getting new faculty on track with the applicable university, federal, and state requirements so they can get their research up and running as quickly as possible.

In turn, when faculty leave the institution, we are asking for departments to please complete the Notification of Departing PI form so the applicable offices on campus can follow-up to ensure that all necessary actions are taken to transition the exiting faculty member and if necessary their research projects or labs.

Links to the forms are provided below:

Compliance Form for an Investigator Transferring to UF

Notification of Departing PI

Office of Research Forms and Template webpage

Progress Reports with Detailed Budgets: UFIRST

All awards as well as any other progress reports requiring detailed budgets for future year(s) should be entered into UFIRST Proposals and routed through the appropriate units for approval (Proposal type continuation). As these budgets often differ from the original proposal and can include cost shared effort and modifications to the original commitments, they require a full review by the appropriate fiscal approvers of each unit.

If they represent funds originally committed by the Sponsor in the award, they fall under the definition of “life of the award” for the purposes of retaining the originally awarded F&A rate.

NSF Implements Updates to FastLane

The National Science Foundation (NSF) has released updates to FastLane that may impact the way you work. As part of NSF’s efforts to modernize proposal submission and increase competitive fairness in the proposal process, NSF continues to focus on implementing automated proposal compliance checks in FastLane.

Effective September 26, 2016, FastLane will now check to ensure that the combined text of the Project Summary text boxes (or uploaded PDF if the Project Summary contains special characters) does not exceed one page prior to submission, rather than the current check of 4,600 characters.

See the Proposal & Award Policies and Procedures Guide (PAPPG), Chapter II.C.2b for further information.

The compliance checks will trigger an error message in the following circumstances:

  • Project Summary text exceeds the one-page limit
  • Project Summary text is entered and the user also uploads a “Project Summary with Special Characters” supplementary document

Note about Proposal File Update (PFU):

Proposers should be aware that if a proposal was received by NSF prior to September 26, 2016, containing a Project Summary that complies with the previous 4,600-character limit but exceeds the one-page limit, a PFU addressing any section of the proposal will result in the proposal not being accepted if it does not comply with these compliance checks. The checks will be run on all sections of the proposal, regardless of which section was updated during the PFU.

Note about Grants.gov:

Proposers should also be aware that Grants.gov will allow a proposal to be submitted, even if it does not comply with these proposal preparation requirements. Should NSF receive a proposal via Grants.gov that is not compliant, it will be returned without review.

For system-related questions, please contact the NSF Help Desk at 1-800-381-1532 or Rgov@nsf.gov. Policy-related questions should be directed to policy@nsf.gov.

IES What Works Clearinghouse Launches Redesigned Website

The Institute of Education Sciences (IES) has launched a new website for the What Works Clearinghouse (WWC). This site features an enhanced “Find What Works” tool that allows educators and policymakers to find programs and interventions that evidence shows have had a positive impact on student outcomes.

The new WWC site also allows users to download “practice guides” with evidence-based recommendations for improving teaching and learning and search thousands of studies reviewed against the WWC’s rigorous standards.

See the IES website to view a WWC video tour.

IES State Education Reforms Website Updated with New Data

The Institute of Education Sciences (IES) State Education Reforms website, a product of the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES), has been updated with new state-level data on prekindergarten enrollment, standards and teacher qualifications, and initial certification of elementary and secondary school teachers.

The State Education Reforms website compiles data primarily from organizations other than the NCES and disseminates data on state-level education reform efforts in five sections:

  • Accountability
  • Assessment and Standards
  • Staff Qualifications and Development
  • State Support for School Choice and Other Options
  • Student Readiness and Progress Through School

To view the website, please visit State Education Reforms.

IES Guides Help Educators Design, Administer, and Analyze Surveys

Survey data can be an effective way to gather data that informs instruction or programmatic decisions. The Institute of Education Sciences (IES) has released the new three-part Survey Methods for Educators guides. The guides provide clear information on how to develop and adapt surveys (part 1), select a sample of potential respondents and administer surveys (part 2), and analyze and report survey data (part 3).

Part 1 of this series, Collaborative Survey Development, outlines the following steps:

  • Identify topics of interest
  • Identify relevant, existing survey items
  • Draft new survey items and adapt existing survey items
  • Review draft survey items with stakeholders and content experts
  • Refine the draft survey using cognitive interviewing

Part 2 of this series, Sampling Respondents and Survey Administration, outlines the following steps:

  • Define the population
  • Specify the sampling procedure
  • Determine the sample size
  • Select the sample
  • Administer the survey

Part 3 of this series, Analysis and Reporting of Survey Data, outlines the following steps:

  • Review the analysis plan
  • Prepare and check data files
  • Calculate response rates
  • Calculate summary statistics
  • Present the results in tables or figures

Download all three guides at: http://ies.ed.gov/ncee/edlabs/projects/project.asp?projectID=4482

IES Guide Compiles Measurement Instruments for Assessing the Performance of PLCs

The Institute of Education Sciences (IES) has released a compilation of 49 instruments for measuring key performance indicators of teacher professional learning communities (PLCs). The new guide Measurement Instruments for Assessing the Performance of Professional Learning Communities features an annotated bibliography that identifies valid and reliable measures of teacher/principal, PLC team, and student-level indicators that can be used to assess PLCs.

The Regional Educational Laboratory Mid-Atlantic created this tool in partnership with its Professional Learning Research Alliance, which brings together state and district education leaders. The research team employed a rigorous process of searching and screening the scientific literature and other sources for relevant qualitative and quantitative instruments, followed by a careful review and evaluation of each instrument against established standards of measurement quality.

This resource is intended for researchers, practitioners, and education professionals seeking to engage in evidence-based planning, implementation, and evaluation of teacher PLCs. The PLC-related measurement instruments identified in this project include 31 quantitative and 18 qualitative instruments that assess a range of teacher/principal-, team-, and student-level variables.

Visit the IES website to download the complete guide: Measurement Instruments for Assessing the Performance of Professional Learning Communities

OECD Releases Education at a Glance 2016

The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) has released its annual publication Education at a Glance, providing data on topics such as the impact of learning across countries, financial and human resources invested, access, progress of education systems, and the learning environment in the 35 OECD countries, including the U.S., as well as a number of partner countries. These data are important to understand as U.S. students increasingly compete in a global society.

For a summary of the report, view the IES National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) blog posted Sept. 15, Education at a Glance 2016: Situating Education Data in a Global Context

View the full Education at a Glance 2016 to see how the U.S. compares to other countries on important education-related topics.