Vol. 22, No. 3
WISCONSIN CENTER FOR EDUCATION RESEARCH • SCHOOL OF EDUCATION • UNIVERSITY OF WISCONSIN–MADISON • WWW.WCER.WISC.EDU
Tangibility for Teaching, Learning and
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.
Professor, Sociology and Educational Policy Studies Wilson, M., Six Views of Embodied Cognition.
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.
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,
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
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.
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
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.
WCER RESEARCH highlights
DIRECToR Adam Gamoran
EDIToR Paul Baker
EDITORIAL CONSULTANTS Rebecca Holmes & Cathy Loeb
PRoDUCTIoN Media Education Resources & Information Technology
This Newsletter is archived in PDF
WCER Research Highlights is published by the Wisconsin
Center for Education Research, School of Education, University form on WCER's website:
of Wisconsin–Madison. WCER is funded through a variety of
federal, state, and private sources, including the U.S. Depart- www.wcer.wisc.edu/publications
ment of Education, the National Science Foundation, and UW–
Madison. The opinions expressed in this publication do not necessarily
reflect the position, policy, or endorsement of the funding agencies.
WCER Today is a monthly email newsletter
Fourth-class, bulk-rate postage is paid at UW–Madison, Madison,
WI. Send changes of address to WCER, 1025 West Johnson Street, reaching more than 1900 readers at more
Madison, WI 53706 or call (608) 263-4200. Include the address label
from this issue. than 700 organizations. A sample issue and
No copyright is claimed on the contents of WCER Research Highlights. subscription information are available here,
In reproducing articles, please use following credit: "Reprinted with
permission from WCER Research Highlights, published by the www.wcer.wisc.edu/publications/index.php.
Wisconsin Center for Education Research, UW–Madison School of
Education." If you reprint, please send a copy to Research Highlights.
WCER Research Highlights is available on the Web at
ISSN 1073-1822 Vol. 22, No. 3, Spring 2011
Permit No. 658
U.S. POSTAGE 1025 West Johnson Street • Madison, WI 53706
organization School of Education • University of Wisconsin–Madison
Nonprofit Wisconsin Center for Education Research