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Novelist’s $3M gift could mean happy ending for struggling readers

Best-selling author James Patterson’s generous donation backs COE’s ‘Literacy Challenge’ to aid Florida’s youngest readers

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UF scholar doubles up on national honors for advancing learning disabilities field

Prof. Mary Brownell is feted twice for leading reform efforts in Special Education teacher preparation.

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COE co-hosts Social Justice Summit

The UF COE co-hosted its 2nd Social Justice Summit: For the Gator Good on Jan. 26-27 on campus. The summit brought together scholars and experts from multiple disciplines, members and advocates of marginalized groups, and other concerned individuals from the university and community to discuss priorities and set aggressive action strategies for eradicating social and racial injustices and biases in the greater Gainesville area.

UF College of Education online programs ranked best in state, No. 2 in U.S.

The College of Education at the University of Florida continues to stake claim as the state’s best online graduate degree program in education and rates second best in the nation, according to the annual rankings released today (Jan. 9) by U.S. News and World Report magazine.

Algebra Nation Aims To Incorporate Personalized Learning Features

The Virtual Learning Lab, funded by the U.S. Department of Education’s Institute of Education Sciences, is relying on the collaboration of nationally acclaimed researchers to evaluate Algebra Nation and its effects on students’ overall performance in Algebra I.

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States unite to boost teaching of students with disabilities

The UF-led effort to help 20 states across the nation vastly improve teaching and school leadership for students with disabilities has received a $21 million boost to strengthen the program add more states.

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Novelist’s $3M gift for literacy initiatives kick-starts college’s capital campaign

James Patterson, the world’s bestselling author, has donated $3 million to support the college’s transformative literacy initiatives aimed at doubling the number of students in Florida who can read proficiently.

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Counselor Ed. professor doubles up on national laurels

Shon D. Smith, clinical assistant professor in Counselor Education, has recently drawn national attention in his field for two major achievements involving separate divisions of the American Counseling Association (ACA).

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Learning disabilities group honors UF Special Ed grad

UF Special Education alumnus David Allsopp (MEd ’90, Specific Learning Disabilities; PhD, ’95, Special Education), has been named the Sam Kirk Educator of the Year by the Learning Disabilities Association of America (LDA).

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World’s largest education research group honors UF grad school dean

Henry “Hank” Frierson, associate vice president and dean of the Graduate School at the University of Florida with a faculty appointment at the College of Education, has received the Presidential Citation from the American Educational Research Association.

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COE repeats No. 1 ranking in US for online graduate degrees

U.S. News and World Report rated the distance education program at the University of Florida College of Education as America’s best online graduate education degree program for the second consecutive year.

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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

UF teams with education tech firm to develop leadership program for Colorado educators

GAINESVILLE, Fla.  – The University of Florida joined with Promethean, a global education technology company, in announcing their collaboration on a novel, peer-coaching program to provide leadership development training to educators of Priority Improvement/Turnaround schools in Colorado.

Promethean and the UF Lastinger Center for Learning, the teaching and learning innovation incubator at the university’s College of Education, were approved by the Colorado Department of Education as one of six providers in the state as part of the School Turnaround Leaders Development grant program. The grant program addresses the critical need to train qualified education leaders in low-performing schools and districts to dramatically improve student achievement. Participants will learn and practice coaching skills, grapple with challenges to student achievement, and build their capacities to lead in Priority Improvement/Turnaround Schools.

Dr. Mark Quintana, Promethean Senior Education Consultant and advisor, said, “In a turnaround school environment, educators face unique challenges as they work to significantly improve student achievement. Training that results in a successful school or district transformation will address specific practices and strategies that support educators in meeting the needs of their student population.”

Phil Poekert

PHIL POEKERT

Philip Poekert, Assistant Director of the UF Lastinger Center and project manager of the Colorado effort, said the school turnaround program is geared for instructional leaders who serve or aspire to serve as teacher leaders, instructional coaches, school administrators, district administrators, and charter school management staff in low-performing schools.

Participants will attend a four-day summer session as well as two full-day sessions and three half-day sessions throughout the school year, all led by instructors trained by UF and Promethean. Enrolled educators are expected to implement what they have learned, and at the end of the school year will present their findings and improvements to earn a Promethean/UF Turnaround School Leaders Certificate. It is recommended that each participant serve his or her low-performing school for a minimum of two years.

“Our research-based program focuses on the most important thing that happens in schools: the quality of teaching,” Poekert said. “By increasing the capacity of instructional leaders to lead data-driven coaching conversations and integrate technology in more strategic ways, we can make a meaningful difference in outcomes for students and yield greater impact in a shorter amount of time.”

Districts and schools in the state of Colorado interested in learning more about the UF/Promethean program may learn more at http://lastingercenter.com/portfolio/colorado-turnaround-school-leaders-program.

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About Promethean

Promethean is a global education company that improves learning productivity by developing, integrating, and implementing innovative 21st century learning environments that help make everyone more engaged, empowered, and successful. Promethean’s main corporate offices are located in Blackburn, UK, and Atlanta, USA. Promethean is a member of the NetDragon Websoft, Inc. (HKSE: 0777) group of companies.  For more information, please visit www.prometheanworld.com.

About the University of Florida Lastinger Center for Learning

The UF Lastinger Center for Learning is the University of Florida College of Education’s teaching and learning innovation incubator. The center has become internationally recognized for partnering with school districts, philanthropies, governmental entities and the private sector to research, design, build and field-test innovative learning systems that transform teaching, improve student achievement and promote healthy child development. The Lastinger Center’s reach extends to school systems across Florida, in other states and recently in other nations. For more information, please visit http://lastingercenter.com.

Media Contacts
Suzy Swindle, Promethean, 206-661-0757
Larry Lansford, director of communications, University of Florida, College of Education, 352-273-4137

 

 

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Giving Reading a Boost

UF will bring its Winning Reading Boost program to more Florida elementary schools

Student participating in the Winning Reading Boost program makes strides in learning to read.

 

Watch Video

Watch WEDU Quest's story on Winning Reading Boost.See a segment on Winning Reading Boost that recently aired on “Quest,” a program from WEDU-TV in Tampa.

The University of Florida College of Education is extending the reach of an innovative program that uses phonics, rap music and other techniques to help struggling elementary students to learn to read.

In January, UF will bring its Winning Reading Boost program to four more Florida elementary schools and UF educators also are planning to roll out an improved learning-to-read model next summer.

Partnering with the college starting next semester are Rawlings and Alachua elementary schools in Alachua County and Fairmount Park Elementary and Midtown Academy in Pinellas County. They will join Lakewood Elementary in St. Petersburg, which launched the program last fall.

The college’s Lastinger Center for Learning is expanding Winning Reading Boost after it received a $400,000 grant in March 2016 from the Florida Legislature to help third- through fifth-graders who have not yet learned to read. The Lastinger Center serves as the College of Education’s teaching and learning innovation incubator.

Pilot study gets results

A recent UF pilot study showed that every student participating in a 90-day Reading Winning Boost after-school program in St. Petersburg improved their language decoding skills and reading fluency by at least 75 percent.

“The thing I’m most excited about is the program seems designed to fill in the gaps for children who are struggling to read,” said Eva Copeland, principal of Alachua Elementary. The school has targeted about 20 third graders and five fifth graders for the program who are in danger of falling behind because they cannot read.

The importance of learning to read has received increased attention in recent years. Researchers have found that if children fail to develop basic reading skills during the first few years of school they suffer not only academic problems but also economic and social-emotional difficulties. One in six students who cannot read proficiently by the third grade will not graduate from high school.

“The danger is in second grade students are learning to read and once they are in third grade they are reading to learn,” Copeland said. “If they are still struggling to read in third grade it makes the rest so much more difficult.”

Founder of the program

Winning Reading Boost traces its roots to an award-winning schoolteacher, Sue Dickson, who created the curriculum a generation ago at a time educators were abandoning teaching phonics for “sight reading,” or having students memorize words by sight. Dickson stuck with phonics and found success composing songs on the piano as a way of having dyslexic and other slow-to-read students to sound out words. In 2000, she sold the rights to her books and unique 36-step curriculum to an education book publisher. But when the rights lapsed, Dickson, who now lives in Safety Harbor, Florida, reclaimed them and partnered with researchers at the Lastinger Center to expand and improve the program, including updating workbooks with all-new contemporary images.

Shaunté Duggins, an early literacy and teacher development consultant for the Lastinger Center, said an important reason students improve their reading skills through Winning Reading Boost is they remember more information when rap, contemporary, jazz and other types of music are used.

“It makes reading fun, “ she said. “And by getting students engaged using proven learning-to-read methods they can make dramatic progress.”

Watch a segment on Winning Reading Boost that recently aired on “Quest,” a program from WEDU-TV in Tampa: http://video.wedu.org/video/2365857129.


Sources:
Shaunté Duggins, shaunte@coe.ufl.edu, 352-273-3654
Sue Dickson, SDSTTeach@outlook.com, 727-799-9825
Eva Copeland, copelaem@gm.sbac.edu, 386-462-1841

Writer: Charles Boisseau, UF College of Education, 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

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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. volunteers reflect on Orlando Pulse nightclub tragedy

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John Super (center) watches the news with other volunteers in the LGBT Center in Orlando after the Pulse nightclub shooting.


Several months have passed since a gunman killed 49 people and wounded 53 at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando in what was the deadliest mass shooting in U.S. history — a horrific tragedy the likes of which rarely strikes so close to the University of Florida.

While the trauma of the lives lost will long linger in the minds of survivors, family and friends of the victims, the aftermath also has brought the Orlando community together in a cause for hope and unity. Citizens donated blood, stood together on social media and held vigils.

They were supported by sympathizers across Florida and the country, including a contingent of students and faculty members from UF College of Education who personally visited Orlando to assist in the communitywide effort to provide counseling and mental health care to those affected by the deadly shooting.

“This event had a huge impact on me as a counselor, a student and a person,” said Rachel Henesy, a UF doctoral student in counselor education. “On a personal and professional level, I felt a responsibility to help in any way possible.”

About 30 UF volunteers

The UF effort was spearheaded by John Super, a clinical assistant professor of counselor education, who in the days after the tragedy helped recruit and organize about 30 UF counselors and students to travel to Orlando for one-on-one counseling sessions. They helped people coping with intense feelings — such as loss, anger and fear, provided referrals to local licensed therapists and served as an emotional outlet for those experiencing their darkest days.

It has been said that out of deep pain and grief there is hope and opportunity. That is what Super found when he asked his UF students and peers from around the state to contribute to the volunteer counseling efforts.

“In the beginning, there was a moment where I thought I could either volunteer or not,” Super said. “But I knew I had to do something, and at that moment I had no idea the magnitude the tragedy would become.”

Super worked with local volunteer counseling coordinators, including David Baker-Hargrove and Lindsay Kincaide of Two Spirit Health Services in Orlando, to develop a response plan. He also coordinated with Alicia Homrich, a professor of graduate studies in counseling at Rollins College in Winter Park, who provided resources and also recruited Rollins students, Kincaide said.

The Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender Community Center of Central Florida served as the base of operations, with other free counseling locations established throughout the Orlando area, including LGBT-friendly bars. All told, nearly 700 people — ranging from licensed counselors, psychologists, pet therapists, interpreters and social workers — volunteered their time in the days and weeks following the shooting to assist hundreds of people from June 12 to July 4, Kincaide said.

Ties to the LGBT community

Super was well equipped to help with the grassroots counseling efforts. He has master’s in marriage and family therapy and a Ph.D. in counselor education from the University of Central Florida in Orlando, and has ties to Orlando’s LGBT Community Center. He also has Red Cross training in disaster response for mental health care and has conducted research in the identity development of LGBT individuals.

In the days after the tragedy, Super tapped his counseling connections, Orlando ties and experience in crisis intervention counseling to help address the widespread grief and fear of area residents — including a large contingent of the gay and Hispanic communities. He posted information on social media sites and sent emails to UF students and counselors asking for their help. Most not only were willing to volunteer but also shared his message to recruit others.

Though so many felt shock and heartbreak, Super said he witnessed a tremendous amount of goodness, too. He saw graduate students counsel those affected by the tragedy, and he encouraged conversation among the students to share their stories and feelings, and learn from each other’s experiences.

“I experienced such an outpouring from master’s and doctoral students who were willing to give their time and really put themselves out there driving from Gainesville to Orlando every day,” he said. “They put their own feelings and grief aside in order to help those who most needed it.”

Henesy, the UF doctoral student in counselor education, said she was grateful that Super was able to assess what was needed and get UF students and his peers involved.

Another counselor education doctoral student, Philip Daniels, said the College of Education gave him the foundation and confidence to provide the support needed for those processing the event.

“One of the first thoughts that went through my head was competency,” Daniels said. “I asked myself, ‘can I really do this?’ Then, it dawned on me. This is what I am trained for. This was a moment when everything I have learned came together so I could serve others in their time of need.”

Super said LGBT counseling has long been a staple of UF’s counseling education curriculum. Diversity and social justice is weaved into all of the counselor education courses, and LGBT issues are addressed through role-playing and discussions in every foundational class and clinical experience.

“Historically, we were one of the first several counselor education programs in the nation,” Super said. “We’ve always had a strong social justice focus that is supported by the college and our profession.”


Source: John Super, UF College of Education; 352-273-4325; jsuper@coe.ufl.edu
Writer: Kelsie Ozanne, news and communications office, UF College of Education; kozanne@ufl.edu
Media Relations: Larry Lansford, director, news and communications, UF College of Education; 352-273-4173; 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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National survey: UF education students score high marks in voter participation

Register to Vote Oct. 6

The College of Education and the Bob Graham Center for Public Service will co-host a voter registration event at Norman Hall Thursday, Oct. 6, from 12:30 p.m. to 3 p.m.

Students not yet registered are encouraged to participate as we aim to boost student participation higher, not only in the College of Education but across UF’s campus. Can’t make it? Register at https://ufl.turbovote.org.

The University of Florida’s campus report from a national study of college student voting participation follows a national trend: In national elections, a higher percentage of education majors vote than students in any other field of study.

The National Study of Learning, Voting and Engagement (NSLVE), conducted by the Institute for Democracy and Higher Education at Tufts University, involved 783 participating institutions of higher education and 7.4 million college students.

The findings reflected the percentage of each institution’s students who were eligible to vote and who actually voted in the 2012 presidential election and the 2014 midterm elections.

In the 2012 election, 65 percent of UF College of Education students voted – the highest rate among 20 fields of study on campus. That also is 10 points higher than the national average for all education students in the study.

Campuswide, UF’s student body surpassed the national average for college student voter turnout in 2012 with a 61 percent voting rate, well above the national average of 45 percent.

The 2014 national midterm election had a much lower voter turnout across the board, but UF education students maintained their high voter turnout with 38 percent, compared to 24 percent for all UF colleges. The national average was less than 19 percent—not even half the voting rate of UF education students.

UF Student Voter Participation Rates

Source: the NSLVE campus report for the University of Florida, showing voting percentages across all UF students.

 

Adam Gismondi, a program administrator at Tuft’s Institute for Democracy and Higher Education and, coincidentally, a graduate of the UF College of Education master’s program in Student Personnel in Higher Education, said it’s difficult to know why education majors vote at such a high rate.

“One possible explanation is the demographic makeup of the field of education, which leans heavily toward female students,” he said. “Women are more likely to vote than the average. Another explanation may be that the work being done in education majors tends to relate to issues intertwined with civics and politics. The students are likely engaging actively with social and political issues that raise civic awareness and foster a spirit of citizenship.”

NSLVE data above analyzes voting patterns of millions of college students across the country.

 

Elizabeth Washington, a UF Social Studies Education professor and a senior fellow for the Florida Joint Center for Citizenship at UF, had this to say about the strong voting participation of UF education students: “I don’t have data to support my assertions, but my educated guess would be that our students have an immediate concern in public education that gets their attention and that they know it’s always a high-stakes political issue that impacts them personally.”

Nancy Thomas, director of the Tufts Institute for Democracy & Higher Education, remarked on the implications of different voting rates between students in various fields of study: “The fact that education and humanities majors vote at significantly higher rates than their peers in the STEM disciplines has both policy and political implications. We know that young people who engage in civic life early on develop lifelong habits. Regardless of their chosen field, all college and university students should be educated for democracy.”


Writer: Kelsie Ozanne, news and communications office, UF College of Education; kozanne@ufl.edu
Media Relations: Larry Lansford, director, news and communications, UF College of Education; 352-273-4173; llansford@coe.ufl.edu

 

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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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International group installs COE professor as president-elect

 

Ester de JongThe world’s largest organization of educators committed to advancing English language teaching for non-English speaking students has installed a UF College of Education professor and school director as its president-elect.

Ester de Jong, professor of ESOL/bilingual education and director of the college’s School of Teaching and Learning, has assumed the penultimate leadership post for TESOL (Teachers of English to Speakers of Other Languages) International Association and is on track to become the group’s president at the TESOL convention in Seattle in March 2017.

TESOL is a professional community of more than 12,500 members—educators, researchers, administrators and students—representing 156 countries.

“Teaching English to English learners involves many complex issues, with equity and access, technology use and multilingualism playing important roles,” de Jong said. “TESOL is in a unique position to advocate for professionalism in English teaching around the world that is responsive to these global trends.”

De Jong said she values the personal and professional opportunity her leadership role in TESOL offers as a forum for shaping and sharing the group’s important message.

“One of my goals is to raise awareness of the multilingual realities in which English teaching and learning takes place and how it contributes to developing bilingual multilingual competence for speakers from diverse backgrounds,” she said.

In addition to her UF appointment as STL director, de Jong continues to be involved in teaching and research projects related to language policy, bilingual education and mainstream teacher preparation for bilingual learners. In 2013 she received the Award for Excellence in Research on Bilingual Education from the National Association of Two-Way and Dual Language Education. She is widely published in peer-reviewed academic journals on bilingual and language education and policy and has published a book titled “Foundations of Multilingualism in Education: From Principles to Practice,” which focuses on working with multilingual children in K-12 schools.

De Jong also was the lead investigator on a recently completed, seven-year study, funded by the U.S. Department of Education, to assess and advance the teaching of English language learners in Florida’s public schools. She is currently a co-principal investigator on a Florida Department of Education grant involving the creation of a Center of Excellence in Elementary Teacher Preparation at UF’s College of Education.

De Jong has an Ed.D. in literacy, language and cultural studies from Boston University and joined the UF education faculty in 2001.


SOURCE: Ester de Jong, 352-273-4227 ; edejong@coe.ufl.edu
WRITER
: Larry Lansford, communications director, UF College of Education; 352-273-4137;
llansford@coe.ufl.edu

 

 

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UF Foundation selects education professor for research award

Mary Brownell

Mary Brownell

The University of Florida Foundation has selected education professor Mary Brownell to receive one of just two grants given annually to university faculty members to advance their critical research projects.

Brownell, a leading scholar and policy expert in special education and teacher preparation, said the $25,000 UF Foundation Term Professorship Award would allow her to develop ways of improving the practices of new teachers and interns, especially for teaching students with disabilities.

UF created the special three-year award in 2013 to support Florida’s overall goal of becoming a preeminent global university by addressing complex societal issues. It is given annually to two research professors.

Brownell said the award would help her work on two related projects.

First, she and her research assistants will develop a digital assessment tool to allow faculty members to better evaluate the learning opportunities education students have when they work as teaching assistants in K-12 schools.

“The problem is that we assume school-based experiences improve teaching. Yet, we really do not know what it is about these that make them effective,” Brownell said. “If we are going to improve teaching, we need to better understand the aspects that work best.

“With this assessment tool you’ll be able to examine the best practices and link those back to teacher and student performance.”

Secondly, she wants to work with education technology colleagues to tap virtual technology in a fresh way to improve teacher practice. This would involve the use of video and simulations of specific practices of effective teachers.

She said such tools are underused in the education field though they are becoming widespread in training students in other professions, such as medicine, nursing and information sciences.

Brownell said she felt honored to receive the highly competitive award, for which she was recommended by the College of Education’s research advisory committee. But perhaps just importantly her selection shines a light on the College of Education.

“Education sometimes doesn’t get the attention and respect that it deserves, not only nationally but locally,” Brownell said. “Putting a spotlight on the college could be the nicest part of the award.”

Brownell joined the University of Florida faculty in 1990 and has a lengthy list of accomplishments, including publishing more than 100 scholarly works and securing $42 million in federal grants to fund education research. She directs the college’s CEEDAR Center to improve the preparation of teachers and leaders working with students with disabilities. It was launched with a record $25 million grant from the U.S. Department of Education. CEEDAR is short for Collaboration for Effective Educator Development, Accountability and Reform.


Source: Mary Brownell, 352-273-4261
Writer: Charles Boisseau, 352-273-4449

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COE doctoral student honored for ‘teaching tolerance’

Cody Miller and one of his ninth-grade English students.

Cody Miller and one of his ninth-grade English students.

Ninth-grade students at P.K. Yonge Developmental Research School are starting the school year today in the classroom of a language arts teacher who has recently gained state and national attention for his effective instructional methods.

Cody Miller, 27, who is in his fourth year teaching ninth grade English language arts, reaches far and wide for inspiration to teach writing and literature to students — and it is paying off.

Miller was one of five U.S. educators honored for excellence by the Southern Poverty Law Center at a July ceremony in Montgomery, Alabama.  The center’s Teaching Tolerance project says it selects K-12 teachers who excel at reducing prejudice and supporting equitable experiences among students for the $2,500 biennial award.

Miller also was among a select group of Florida instructors ranked by Florida Department of Education for having the highest impact on the academic growth of their students during the past three years.

In addition to teaching high schoolers, Miller is pursuing a doctorate in curriculum and instruction with an emphasis in English education from UF College of Education.

In an interview, Miller talked about his teaching philosophy and the methods he uses to engage students in literature and language arts.

“Helping students become both writers and readers and understanding that literacy and literature is a way for them to gain autonomy and power in society really drives my English language arts curriculum,” Miller says.

He credits Paulo Freire, an influential Brazilian educator and thinker, for being a big influence. Freire emphasized dialogue with students and concern for the oppressed.

Miller says students aren’t empty vessels, that education is a relationship between teacher and students as opposed to a “banking model” in which the educator makes deposits into the mind of the student.

Educator Rudine Sims Bishop, a professor of emeritus at Ohio State University, who pioneered what she called a “windows and mirrors” concept to children’s literature, also has influenced Miller.

“Students should be able to have literature and poetry and narratives that act as mirrors so they can see themselves and windows so they can see other people’s experiences,” Miller says.

He tries to set this foundation from the first day of class when students exchange personal letters with him about their learning experiences and later as they “co-create” the curriculum for the class.

In addition to classics such as “Romeo & Juliet,” Miller assigns texts like “If You Could Be Mine” by Sarah Farizan, an Iranian-American who writes about a teenage lesbian in Tehran, where homosexuality can be punished by death. Such books inevitably become a rich source of dialogue and study among students and often gives them the courage to tell their own stories in and out of the classroom, Miller says.

In a recent video about Miller, several of his teenage students were asked to describe him in one word. Among the responses: “woke” (meaning aware of injustices), “intelligent” and “decolonial.”

Miller co-sponsors the “De-colonizing Club,” a lunchtime discussion group open to all students to explore globalization and how colonialism and the dominant U.S. and Western culture has influenced their identities. He also leads school-wide professional development on creating inclusive spaces and curriculum for LGBTQ students.

After he completes his doctorate degree, expected in 2009, Miller wants transition to a career as a professor of English education. “I would eventually like to work with future teachers and think about how I can broaden my sphere of influence,” he says.


Source: Cody Miller, 352-392-1554
Writer: Charles Boisseau, 352-273-4449

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COE alumna Stacy Ellis named new UF Baby Gator director

COE alum Stacy Ellis (right) succeeds retired director Pam Pallas as Baby Gator director.

COE alumna Stacy Ellis (right) succeeds newly retired Pam Pallas as UF Baby Gator director.

After conducting a national search, the University of Florida has named a College of Education alumna as the new director of Baby Gator Child Development and Research Centers at UF.

Deciding the best candidate was already on staff, the university appointed Stacy Ellis, formerly the associate director for organizational operations at Baby Gator. She is a 2008 education doctoral graduate in curriculum and instruction.

Her promotion became effective June 17. Ellis succeeded Pamela Pallas, who retired after 13 years as Baby Gator director. Pallas also was a clinical associate professor in early childhood studies at the College of Education.

With Pallas at the helm, Baby Gator went through a growth spurt that saw it blossom into a nationally recognized center. Baby Gator is known both for its innovative daycare services and its collaboration with UF faculty researchers in cutting-edge early childhood studies.

In 2010, Baby Gator became the hub of the research activities for the new UF Center for Excellence in Early Childhood Studies, which last year was renamed after COE alumna and major donor Anita Zucker. Ellis replaces Pallas on the center’s leadership team.

Before receiving her doctorate in education, Ellis earned her master’s in family, youth and community services in 2002 and her bachelor’s in human resource development in 1999, all at UF.

Ellis originally joined Baby Gator in 2004 as a teacher in the two-year-olds class and then rejoined in 2008 after completing her graduate degree. She quickly moved up the ranks from teacher, assistant director of educational programming, associate director for organizational operations, and now director.

Ellis says her major focuses as she steps into the new role will be to increase salaries for Baby Gator teachers, introduce new research based practices, and build on Baby Gator’s long-standing relationship with the College of Education and the Anita Zucker Center for Excellence in Early Childhood studies.

“We have a model demonstration program that is nationally recognized,” she said. “My ultimate goal is to expand on that and push Baby Gator towards innovation in the early childhood field.”

Pallas said that Ellis’ knowledge, experience and ideals, from both her College of Education theoretical background and her years of practical experience at Baby Gator, made her the top candidate for the position.

“I know she will help grow, achieve and maintain Baby Gator’s well-deserved recognition under her tenure as director,” Pallas said..

When Pallas arrived in 2003, Baby Gator was enrolling around 80 students and had only one location. Now, Ellis takes over a center that enrolls 333 children across their three centers and maintains a long waiting list.

Ellis will oversee Baby Gator’s continued growth as it strives for preeminence in the field and is working cooperatively with the Anita Zucker Center and community agencies to partner in unique ways.


Writer: Kelsie Ozanne, news and communications office, UF College of Education; kozanne@ufl.edu
Media Relations: Larry Lansford, director, news and communications, UF College of Education; 352-273-4173; llansford@coe.ufl.edu

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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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