WCER Research Highlights Spring 2011 by pabaker55


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									Spring 2011
Vol. 22, No. 3


                                Tangibility for Teaching, Learning and
                                Communicating Mathematics
                                Talk about getting high school students           Nathan himself is a boundary crosser, holding
                                engaged! Let’s give them the tools they need      degrees in psychology, mathematics, history,
                                to build a big catapult to hurl the projectiles   and electrical engineering. He says the most
                                                                                  successful mathematics students are those
                                of their choice across a gym and land on, or
                                                                                  who maintain conceptual cohesion across
                                near, a target.                                   different kinds of modal engagements, from
                                                                                  catapults or circuits to algebra. The key
                                Hurling accurate projectiles, or to put it more
    Wei Lab and Athletics                                                         question is, what concepts will hold across
3   Form Partnership            academically, the science of space and
                                motion, has wide-ranging relevance for what
                                                                                  all these varying modes?
                                children need to learn in school. Just think      Answers to this question should lead to useful
4   When a Student is an
    Unmarried Parent            of the mathematics involved.                      perspectives on the nature of mathematical
                                UW–Madison education professor Mitchell           knowledge for curriculum designers, for
    The Challenge and Promise
6   of Education Partnerships
                                Nathan, psychology Martha Wagner Alibali,
                                and colleagues have long sought to advance
                                                                                  teachers, and for the technical workplace.

                                                                                  Nathan and Alibali, along with colleagues at
                                understanding of learning and teaching            Vanderbilt University and San Diego State
7   FAST Program Recieves
    UN Recognition              mathematics and engineering. Their theory         University, observe how students in high
                                of embodied mathematical cognition (see           school electrical and mechanical engineering
                                sidebar, p. 2) applies to a broad range of        classrooms pursue mathematical symbols
                                people, settings, and activities.                 and science concepts through a variety of

                                                                                                          (continued on next page...)

                            FROM THE DIRECTOR
                           In this issue of Research Highlights you’ll
                           read about education partnerships. Leaders
                           within partnerships are challenged to
                           form and guide an especially complex
                           organization. Partnerships operate in
                           uncharted and unpredictable environments
                           that do not offer established policies and
        Adam Gamoran       structures. WCER researchers Matthew
                           Hora and Susan Millar have published “A
       Guide to Building Education Partnerships: Navigating Diverse
       Cultural Contexts to Turn Challenge into Promise.” The book
       focuses on four interrelated aspects of organizational life:
       cultural models, structure and technology, relationships, and
       routines and procedures.
                                                                             tools, objects, and representations. Projects require
       You’ll also read about the UW-Madison’s “Beyond the Game              students to work with physical models, electrical circuits,
       Initiative,” which confronts the challenge of Black male              Boolean algebra, CAD systems, simulation software and
       student athletes who face the end of their eligibility to play        computer-based geometry applications.
       without identifying viable careers beside professional sports.
                                                                             Nathan’s team of researchers studies how people in
       The Initiative uses curricular, co-curricular, and on-the-field
                                                                             school and workplace settings learn the mathematics
       leadership training to develop and support student athlete’s post-    of space and motion. Their design experiments span
       graduation options. The Initiative results from a collaboration       diverse settings. At Vanderbilt the project involves an
       between WCER’s Wisconsin’s Equity and Inclusion Laboratory            extended summer program for talented high school
       and the UW-Madison athletic department.                               students from racially diverse and/or economically
       Meanwhile, Mitchell Nathan and colleagues are studying                disadvantaged communities. Another component at
       students in high school electrical engineering classrooms and         San Diego State University offers methods courses
       how they pursue mathematical symbols and science concepts             for secondary pre-service mathematics teachers.
       through a variety of tools, objects, and representations. Projects
                                                                             The multi-campus research team includes pre-service
       require students to work with physical models, electrical circuits,
                                                                             high school mathematics teachers, high school students,
       Boolean algebra, and computer-based geometry applications.
                                                                             pre-engineering vocational students, and talented
       Opportunities for college attendance have expanded                    middle and high school youth, in addition to professional
       dramatically in the U.S. over the past several decades, but           mathematicians, graduate students in mathematics, and
       unmarried parents are still among those least likely to attend.       professionals working with mapping and spatial analysis.
       And although completed degrees confer large economic                  The researchers represent a range of disciplines,
       benefits, they may be outweighed by the cost to these students’       including educational and developmental psychology,
       families. Among all undergraduate students, the proportion of         educational technology, teaching and teacher education,
       unmarried parents has nearly doubled over the past 20 years,          literacy, mathematics, and mathematics education.
       from 7 percent to just over 13 percent. Sara Goldrick-Rab says        They bring together expertise from a range of research
                                                                             methodologies, including design-based research,
       more effective support could help unmarried parents to complete
                                                                             interactional analysis, ethnography, experimental design,
       their college degree and certificate programs.
                                                                             qualitative and quantitative discourse analysis methods,
       And, finally, Families and Schools Together (FAST) is a long          gesture studies, protocol analysis, and curriculum design.
       time WCER project. It brings together the student, family,
       home, school and community for 8 weeks to increase children’s
       well-being. An after-school program for children and their
                                                                                  The “Six Views of Embodied Cognition”
       families, FAST strengthens the relationships within and among
       families that protect against stress. The United Nations Office
       on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) has recognized FAST as one
                                                                                  1. Cognition is situated.
       of 24 evidence-based family skills programs.                               2. Cognition is time-pressured.
                                                                                  3. We off-load cognitive work onto the environment.
                                                                                  4. The environment is part of the cognitive system.
                                                                                  5. Cognition is for action.
       Adam Gamoran                                                               6. Off-line cognition is body-based.
       WCER Director
       Professor, Sociology and Educational Policy Studies                           Wilson, M., Six Views of Embodied Cognition.

                                                                                                          RESEARCH highlights

Interpreting student gestures                           Wei Lab and Athletics
One of the areas that specifically interests Nathan
is how students and teachers uses gestures to           Form Partnership
enhance their communication. In a recent afternoon
                                                        College athletes often enjoy successful collegiate careers without
presentation, Nathan projected videos of students
working in three learning situations.                   identifying alternative careers outside of professional sports.

  1. Students in a high school mechanical               But no matter how talented, most student athletes do not go
  engineering class study the principles of             on to play professionally. And even those few who do make
  ballistics and projectile motion. The multi-day       it to the pros ultimately will experience job termination.
  project requires them to construct devices such
  as a catapult and to use physics, engineering         The time to provide career exposure is early in a student’s
  design, machine shop techniques, algebra,             undergraduate career.
  and trigonometry to hurl their favorite projectile.
                                                        In response to this need, the University of Wisconsin-
  Nathan singles out students’ gestures and
                                                        Madison has developed an initiative to strengthen the
  motions as they discuss the task with their
                                                        post-graduation trajectories for Black male student athletes.
  instructor and among themselves; and the
  teacher’s gestures as he tries to remind              The University’s “Beyond the Game Initiative” confronts the
  students how their design must instantiate the        challenge of Black male student athletes who face the end
  mathematical principles and physical laws from a      of their eligibility to play without identifying viable careers
  previous lesson.                                      beside professional sports. The Initiative uses curricular,
                                                        co-curricular, and on-the-field leadership training to develop
  2. Students in a third-year digital electronics       and support student athlete’s post-graduation options.
  class design a security monitoring system for a       This program complements life skills programs and post-
  voting booth, using logic, electronics, computer      graduate counseling programs already in place.
  simulation and Boolean algebra. For one student
  gestures help reveal how the debugging process        The Initiative results from a collaboration between WCER’s
  works when the circuit fails to light up properly     Wisconsin’s Equity and Inclusion Laboratory (Wei Lab)
  under every possible condition.                       and the UW-Madison athletic department. UW-Madison
                                                        education professor Jerlando Jackson directs the Wei Lab
  3. Students in an honors geometry class use           (http://weilab.wceruw.org/). His colleague Mario Morris
  an interactive computer program to inscribe a         coordinates the project from within the Athletic department.
  quadrilateral inside a large circle. They know        They are developing curriculum for roll-out in fall semester.
  that sum of the quadrilateral’s opposing angles       Student athletes will take a four-semester course that
  must equal 360 degrees. They use Geometer’s           teaches leadership and professional development, and
  Sketchpad to alter parameters and record              that is grounded in theory and practice.
  results. Again, Mitchell notes the importance of
                                                        The Wei Lab, established in May 2010, aims to help
  the gestures students and the teacher use as
                                                        policymakers, practitioners, and citizens promote equitable
  they discuss their ideas.
                                                        and inclusive learning and work environments. The Lab also
Nathan explains the importance of student gestures      designs, conducts, and disseminates research to engage
and teacher gestures in students’ learning. This        the most difficult and important equity and inclusion topics
project aligns with his continuing work to build an     confronting the educational system.
empirical basis for recommendations about how           The Wei Lab assisted with the curricular design of
teachers can use gestures effectively. Moreover, the    “Beyond the Game” and manages associated research
study responds to his long-term interest in teacher     and evaluation activities. The program is funded by the
education and teacher professional development, as      Lumina Foundation for Education and the University of
well as his desire to advance basic knowledge of the    Pennsylvania. The Office of the Vice Provost for Diversity
role of gesture in comprehension and learning.          and Climate at UW-Madison provided a planning grant to
                                                        cover efforts during the past academic year.
                                                        More: http://weilab.wceruw.org/

                    Mitchell Nathan                                               Jerlando Jackson


    When a Student is an Unmarried Parent
    Unmarried parents who attend college face obstacles of             Unmarried parents make up 21 percent of Native
    money and time. Parenting young children while also attending      American undergraduates and 16 percent of all Latino
    college creates difficulties that are different from those faced   undergraduates. This compares with 10 percent of
                                                                       white and 9 percent of Asian undergraduates. Overall, 8
    by traditional students. Many public programs offer support
                                                                       percent of male undergraduates and 17 percent of female
    to these students, but the support is neither well coordinated     undergraduates are unmarried parents.
    nor easily accessed.
                                                                       Families compete for time
    UW-Madison professor Sara Goldrick-Rab says deficiencies
                                                                       Unmarried parents attending college find very little time
    in current higher education policy cause unexpected
                                                                       to spend with their children. Because financial aid often
    adverse consequences for families where an unmarried
                                                                       doesn’t make ends meet, many unmarried parents work
    parent is also a student. Goldrick-Rab and graduate student
                                                                       long hours while taking classes. In years past, financial
    Kia Sorensen say that more effective support could help
                                                                       aid enabled students to devote all their time to studying
    these unmarried students complete their college degree and
                                                                       and parenting. But students now commonly study, parent,
    certificate programs.
                                                                       and work.
    Opportunities for college attendance have expanded
                                                                       These students tend to take longer to complete four-year
    dramatically in the U.S. over the past several decades,
                                                                       degrees. Among all students who started college in 1995-
    but unmarried parents are still among those least likely
                                                                       96, 29 percent attained a bachelor’s degree by 2001,
    to attend. And although completed degrees confer large
                                                                       compared with just under 5 percent of unmarried parents.
    economic benefits, they may be outweighed by the cost to
    these students’ families.                                          National data indicate a serious shortage of campus
    Addressing this problem is important now. Among all                child care centers—with existing resources meeting only
    undergraduate students, the proportion of unmarried parents        one-tenth of demand. The shortage is particularly severe
    has nearly doubled over the past 20 years, from 7 percent          when it comes to infant care—only about one-third of
    to just over 13 percent. And unmarried parents make up a           campus child care centers accept infants.
    substantial segment of undergraduates from racial and ethnic
    minority backgrounds: More than one-third (36 percent) of          Benefits of degree completion
    African American female undergraduates nationwide are              Women who pursue additional education following their
    unmarried mothers. Fifteen percent of African American male        child’s birth increase their odds of repartnering with a
    undergraduates are unmarried fathers.                              college-educated man by 62 percent. Attending college

                                                                                                                    RESEARCH highlights

helps unmarried mothers form networks of similarly well-       Dual enrollment programs help move students more
educated friends. These friends help shape their decisions     seamlessly from high school to college by allowing them
about parenting practices and their expectations for their     to earn college credit while still in high school. That
children’s educational success. For example, middle-class      potentially reduces the time and associated costs spent
mothers with more education are more committed to              in college. College students in New York and Florida who
their children’s education. Families with more education       had participated in dual enrollment in high school remained
create more structured activities for their children.          enrolled in college longer, had higher grade point averages,
They emphasize lessons and activities to fully develop         and earned more credits than comparable students who
children’s cognitive and social potential. These parents       had not participated in dual enrollment programs.
also talk to children as if they were adults and reason with
them. Such parenting leads children to gain a sense of         As intermediate goals, Goldrick-Rab says policymakers
confidence that has implications for how they interact with    could focus on increasing rates of full-time attendance
other adults and institutions.                                 among unmarried parents and reducing the time they
                                                               spend working while parenting and in school.
Limits of current policies                                     For more, see “Unmarried Parents in College” in The Future of Children
Financial aid policies intended to make college affordable     vol 20, n 2, Fall 2010, pp. 179-203. http://www.futureofchildren.
include rules that make it difficult for parenting students    org/futureofchildren/publications/journals/journal_details/index.
to access the money they need. Current financial aid           xml?journalid=73
rules reward students who attend college full time without
working, while penalizing those who take fewer classes
and integrate work for pay into their schedules. Policies
that make students with drug convictions ineligible for
financial aid make it much more difficult for unmarried
fathers to participate in post-secondary education.

Policy changes could enhance college participation and
completion among unmarried parents. For example,
simplifying the aid application process substantially
increases a prospective student’s likelihood of attending                                  Sara Goldrick-Rab
college and receiving need-based grant aid.


                                                                      Structures and technologies establish the parameters of
                                                                      what behaviors are possible, permissible, and rewarded.

                                                                      Relationships are the key aspect of cultural life that tie
                                                                      individuals to other people, groups, and organizations.

                                                                      Routines and procedures give meaning and identity to
                                                                      people’s roles within an organization. An organization’s
                                                                      structure creates opportunities and constraints for certain
                                                                      routines and practices, which in turn contribute to the
                                                                      development of a group’s cultural models.
                                                                      Each of these elements characterize cultural life in
                                                                      particular organizations, and they are brought into
                                                                      the “third space” where partnerships form. It is in the
                                                                      third space where leaders must essentially create an
                                                                      entirely new organization in uncharted and unpredictable
                                                                      environments that do not offer established policies and
                                                                      structures. Thus, participants will face new situations and
                                                                      problems, and leaders need “adaptive expertise,” or the
                                                                      ability to apply skills and knowledge to the novel problems
    The Challenge and Promise                                         that arise in partnership work.

    of Education Partnerships                                         Five principles form the basic message of the book
                                                                      that practitioners can use to design and implement
    Improving education means finding solutions to complex and        education partnerships.
    entrenched challenges.
                                                                      Visualize organizations and partnerships in multifaceted
    To solve problems in education policy and practice, many          terms. The organizations within partnerships, and
    people with many different skill sets must learn how to           partnerships themselves, are not monolithic wholes, but
    collaborate. They must work across institutions, authority        are composed of subgroups that differ in important ways.
    lines, and organizational boundaries. These collaborations        Plan and get acquainted.
    sometimes take the form of education partnerships.                In a careful planning stage,
    Education partnerships involve agreements among K-12              all potential partners meet
    school districts, governmental agencies, and universities,        and get acquainted with one
    or even groups of different departmental representatives          another and discuss the
    within a university.                                              proposed work. It’s easy to
                                                                      assume that the way business
    However, partnerships are not easy to design or manage.           is done in other groups is the
    because partnerships bring people together from different         same as in your own, but this
    backgrounds, organizations, and disciplines. This makes           is rarely the case.
    partnership work largely an exercise in bridging different
    cultures, and leading an education partnership requires           Engage in a careful design
    good communication skills and the ability to cross                process. Because newly
    multiple boundaries.                                              initiated partnerships lack
                                                                      structure and procedures,
    A new book focuses on the role of leaders in designing            starting one is like creating
    and managing education partnerships. WCER researchers             an entirely new organization.
    Matthew Hora and Susan Millar have published “A Guide
    to Building Education Partnerships: Navigating Diverse            Find boundary crossers. Partnership personnel will contend
    Cultural Contexts to Turn Challenge into Promise.”                with unpredictable challenges, differences of opinion, and the
    Instead of viewing partnerships, and the organizations            likely need to adapt to changing circumstances.
    that participate in them, as monolithic cultural entities, the
                                                                      Foster new cultural dynamics. Partners will need to create
    authors suggest that four elements of organizational life
                                                                      task environments and foster new structures, relationships,
    more accurately capture what happens in organizations that
                                                                      and practices to generate new ways of thinking.
    is lost when we refer to “the culture of school X or university
    Y.” These elements are cultural models, structure and             A Guide to Building Education Partnerships: Navigating Diverse
    technology, relationships, and routines and procedures.           Cultural Contexts to Turn Challenge into Promise. Matthew T. Hora and
                                                                      Susan B. Millar. Stylus Publishing, Inc., 2011. http://stylus.styluspub.
    A cultural model is a deeply held belief or interpretation        com/Books/BookDetail.aspx?productID=241232
    of the world that is shared among members of a
    particular group.

                                                                                                                     RESEARCH highlights

FAST Program Receives UN Recognition
                                    Families and Schools        The UNODC informs policymakers, program managers,
                                    Together (FAST) is          non-governmental organizations and others about family
                                                                skills training programs that are evidence-based. To help
                                    a long time WCER
                                                                users select the program best suited to their needs, UNODC’s
                                    project. It brings          program guide details each programs’ content, the groups
together the family, home, school and community for 8           targeted, the materials used, and the training implemented.
weeks to increase children’s well-being. An after-school
                                                                FAST originator Lynn McDonald has been helping the
program for children and their families, FAST strengthens       UNODC develop a new training strategy for use in
the relationships within and among families that protect        developing countries. UNODC recently sent McDonald to
against stress.                                                 Kazakhstan, Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan, where she found
                                                                enthusiasm about pilot programs. In each of six schools
Now FAST has become a global phenomenon The                     more than 20 families attended the first session, in two
United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) has            separate hubs per school. The child focus age for this
recognized FAST as one of 24 evidence-based family              global project is age 7.
skills programs. The UNODC list ranks its evidence-based        WCER continues to pursue research on FAST in the U.S.
programs in order of scientific rigor, including the number     The Children, Families, and School project examines the
of randomized controlled trials conducted on each               role of FAST in building social capital within and between
program. Of 150 programs reviewed, FAST is listed as            families, and between families and schools, in San Antonio
number 12 in the world.                                         and Phoenix. Social capital for Latino families is a special
In the FAST program, families come to the school building       focus of the study, which aims to test the relation between
after hours to take part in activities including games,         social capital and child development for young children.
songs, and a family meal. Family groups are led by trained      More: http://www.unodc.org/centralasia/en/news/families-and-schools-
teams of local parents, school staff, and professionals         together.html
specializing in mental health or treatment for drug abuse.
These meetings introduce families whose children are new        More http://www.unodc.org/docs/youthnet/
to the school to the families of their children’s classmates.
The program aims to: (a) strengthen the family and the          More: http://cfsproject.wceruw.org/
parent-child bond; (b) increase the child’s success at          fastProgram.html
school; (c) reduce drug and alcohol abuse in the family;
and (d) reduce family stress and social isolation.
                                                                                          Lynn McDonald


       WCER                                                                                 RESEARCH highlights

          DIRECToR                                               Adam Gamoran
          EDIToR                                                     Paul Baker
          EDITORIAL CONSULTANTS                    Rebecca Holmes & Cathy Loeb
          PRoDUCTIoN          Media Education Resources & Information Technology
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