Media Mentions

Alibali Recognized with Kellett Mid-Career Award

March 30, 2017

From the article:

Eleven members of the UW–Madison faculty have won Kellett Mid-Career Awards.

The Kellett awards recognize outstanding faculty seven to 20 years past their first promotion to a tenured position. A divisional committee appointed by the Office of the Vice Chancellor for Research and Graduate Education chooses winners from professors nominated by departments, Ph.D. major programs and interdepartmental groups.

Supported by the Wisconsin Alumni Research Foundation, the Kellett award provides research funding to faculty members at a critical stage of their careers and is named for William R. Kellett, a former president of the WARF board of trustees and retired president of Kimberly-Clark Corp.

Martha Alibali, professor of psychology, investigates basic processes of cognitive development and mathematics learning, and their implications for instruction. Her work focuses specifically on the roles of perception, action and gesture in thinking and in instructional communication. Alibali is an award-winning teacher and a dedicated research mentor for undergraduate and graduate students.

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Teaching Trump: Should Teachers Share Their Politics?

March 30, 2017

Paula McAvoy, program director at the University of Wisconsin's Center for Ethics and Education, talks about teaching politics in the age of Trump.

From the article:

"There's a general belief in the public that teachers shouldn't be using their classroom as a soapbox but there's a ton of variation on what's allowed and what's not allowed," said Paula McAvoy, program director at the University of Wisconsin's Center for Ethics and Education.

She's seen everything from prohibitions on political statements and buttons to no policies whatsoever. But McAvoy contends shying away from political discussions in the classroom isn't the answer because schools should offer a place for young people to consider differences, challenge assumptions and form their own opinions.

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CIRTL Extends Network to SUNY Buffalo

March 29, 2017

From the story:

CIRTL — the Center for the Integration of Research, Teaching and Learning — is a national network of 43 research universities that aims to improve the teaching skills and increase the diversity of future university faculty in STEM fields. Housed in the Wisconsin Center for Education Research at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, it was established more than a decade ago with support from the National Science Foundation.

UB recently joined the CIRTL network, a move that will be a boon to UB graduate students and postdocs in the STEM fields interested in pursuing careers in academia.

CIRTL@UB, a collaboration between UB’s Graduate School and the Center for Educational Innovation (CEI), is headed by Colón, who serves as institutional leader, and administrative co-leader Xiufeng Liu, director of CEI and professor of learning and instruction. Monica Carter, a CEI staff member, will serve as program administrator. CIRTL@UB will be housed in CEI.

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Jackson, University of Florida Team up to Diversify STEM

March 23, 2017

The University of Florida and the University of Wisconsin–Madison face off in the NCAA tournament Friday, but when it comes to recruiting, the two schools are on the same team.

Juan Gilbert, the Andrew Banks Family Preeminence Endowed Chair at UF’s Herbert Wertheim College of Engineering, and Jerlando F. L. Jackson, Vilas Distinguished Professor of Higher Education at UW–Madison, have created a National Science Foundation pilot program to help recruit and support African-American and Latino graduate students in science, technology, engineering and mathematics.

The Consortium of Minority Doctoral Scholars will analyze three leading organizations’ efforts to recruit, retain and mentor underrepresented students in STEM, identifying ways to diversify both industry and academia. The partnership was one among the first efforts funded through NSF INCLUDES, a nationwide initiative to make the United States more competitive in science and engineering by improving access to STEM careers.

“We live in a globally competitive market,” says Gilbert, the chair of UF's Department of Computer & Information Science & Engineering. “China has a billion people, and the U.S. has 300 million. From a quantity perspective, we’re at a severe disadvantage. But quality counts more than quantity. We need to diversify our workforce to get better ideas.”

The consortium will create a portal that incorporates data from the Southern Regional Education Board’s Doctoral Scholars Program, GEM Fellowships and McKnight Doctoral Fellowships, sharing information never before available outside of those organizations.

“This will be among one of the first opportunities for longitudinal understanding of education and career pathways for African-Americans and Latinos in engineering and computer science,” Jackson says.

For Gilbert and Jackson, the consortium is the latest effort in a 12-year collaboration that has generated up to 75 percent of research published on African-Americans in computing since the 1990s. They also work together on the Institute for African-American Mentoring in Computing Sciences, an NSF-funded project that includes the University of Alabama, Auburn University, Carnegie Mellon University, Rice University and Winston-Salem State University.

Beyond the Skills Gap

March 10, 2017

Matthew Hora was recently featured on the National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE) Journal discussing the skills gap.

From the article:

In recent years, concerns about whether college graduates are being adequately prepared for the world of work has become endemic among politicians, pundits, and higher education professionals. Indeed, career readiness, whether in community colleges or four-year universities, has become perhaps the defining issue for conversations about the future of higher education not just in the United States but around the world. At the core of this angst about college, jobs, and skills is a single question: Are the nation’s colleges and universities providing students with career competencies, or the knowledge, skills, and abilities that are required to excel in the workplace?

For many observers the answer to this question is a clear, unambiguous no.  Consequently, some foresee the “end of college” and the need to disrupt a sector that is widely viewed as resistant to change, innovation, and progress. While these critiques have also been fed by concerns about the rising price-tag of college, advances in instructional technology, and charges that higher education is elitist and out-of-touch, one idea in particular has fueled critiques of higher education and influenced a broad attempt to re-orient the sector to focus on career readiness—the skills gap.

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Brighouse Book Brings Scholars Together to Explore Major Issues in Changing Role of Universities

February 28, 2017

From the article:

What should the aims of a university be? What should students be learning? What are a university’s obligations to the public?

These are just a few of the high-level, complex and pressing questions posed in The Aims of Higher Education: Problems of Morality and Justice, a book co-edited by philosophy professor Harry Brighouse and Michael McPherson, president of the Spencer Foundation.

Earlier this month, the book won the Association of American Colleges and Universities’ Frederic W. Ness Book Award, given annually to a work that best contributes to the understanding and improvement of liberal education. The book features essays by seven philosophers exploring topics ranging from the role of the humanities, autonomy as an intellectual virtue and righting historical injustice. And their accessible approach makes the essays useful tools for professors and administrators, says Brighouse, who offered a few additional insights into the book.

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Jackson Discusses Higher Ed Pay Gaps

February 28, 2017

New evidence suggests some colleges and universities are taking bold steps to even out the playing field when hiring and retaining female faculty and staff.

Jerlando F. L. Jackson, Vilas Distinguished Professor of Higher Education at UW–Madison, was recently quoted in Diverse: Issues in Higher Education on the matter.

From the article:

"Understanding and addressing pay gaps in higher education is a complex matter. Unpacking how these gaps continue to exist, albeit with some progress, requires both a close look a the institutions and individuals involved.

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Researchers and Teachers collaborate on Educational Video Games

January 30, 2017

Ten middle school teachers from across the state spent the day with University of Wisconsin researchers, including David Gagnon, director of Field Day Lab, co-designing video games that will be used in the classroom.

Program participant and Middleton middle school teacher Sarah Sprangers said educational video games would provide another way for teachers to connect with their students.

"Technology is such an integral part of their lives," she said. "It seems only natural and important to include that in the classroom."

The group of teachers is part of a UW fellowship program that is funded by the National Science Foundation, which fosters collaborations between researchers and educators.

Program facilitators said this group of teachers is expected to create games in the next few months that will be played by people across the country.

The archived news feature is available here.

The Skills Gap: Redefining the Problem, Reframing the Narrative, and Reinventing Partnerships

January 10, 2017

The EvoLLLution reviews Beyond the Skills Gap: Preparing College Students for Life and Work, written by WCER's Matthew T. Hora.

From the article:

Emerging from the record-setting 2008 recession, conversations about economic recovery often focused on the apparent disconnect between jobs and workers. As businesses tried to fill key vacancies, they encountered a shortage of applicants with the right qualifications. Likewise, job seekers were stymied by the “jobless recovery” and the number of openings that required skills they did not possess.

Thus, the “skills gap” took hold in our economic vernacular. Despite the prevalence of this term in mass media and political discourse, there has been little consensus on its definition, significance, causes, and possible solutions.

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2017’s Best & Worst Metro Areas for STEM Professionals

January 10, 2017

Matt Hora discusses STEM job prospects with Wallet Hub.

From the article:

STEM workers are in fierce demand and not just in the global epicenter of high tech known as Silicon Valley. According to estimates from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, STEM — science, technology, engineering and math — professions will expand 1.7 times faster than non-STEM occupations between 2010 and 2020. That should be welcome news to job seekers with skills in these areas, half of which do not even require a four-year college degree.

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New UW Video Games Institution Will Get in GEAR Tuesday

January 4, 2017

From the article:

A new group dedicated to video games for learning launches at the University of Wisconsin-Madison Tuesday.

Games Education and Research, or GEAR for short, will be the spiritual successor to the now-defunct Games+Learning+Society group, an institution that pioneered the study of games and their educational properties and made the university a hub of video game scholarship. GLS disintegrated this year after the organization's leaders — education professors Kurt Squire and Constance Steinkuehler — announced they were leaving for new jobs at the University of California-Irvine.

GEAR's director Mike Beall said that while it's going to take time to get the "wheels on the ground," he's confident that the new group has the potential to "blow up" as a learning games institution on its own merits.

"It's not going to be the same thing that Kurt and Constance brought," said Beall. "But we can be a beacon."

GEAR will be distinct from GLS in a number of ways. For one thing, GLS was an unofficial network of academics who collaborated on research and game development. GEAR will be a formalized body within the Wisconsin Center for Education Research, and will operate out of the basement of a School of Education building on Mills Street.

Also unlike with GLS, the brunt of GEAR's work won't involve research. Instead, the focus will be on actually making and distributing games for learning.

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Percy Brown Named One of the 44 Most Influential African Americans in WI

December 19, 2016

Madison 365 named Percy Brown, senior outreach specialist at WCER, one of the 44 Most Influential African Americans in Wisconsin.

From the article:

Percy Brown, Jr. is one of the great leaders to arise from the south side of Madison and a true Madisonian who graduated from West High School. He followed his grandfather's footsteps into a career in education, beginning in his hometown school district before moving on to become Director of Equity and Student Achievement in the Middleton-Cross Plains Area School District. Brown is a difference-maker in the lives of numerous youth and was named a Rising Star, one of five President's Award presented by the Urban League of Greater Madison, at its annual Urban Cabaret at the Monona Terrace. He helped to create the curriculum and also taught a special course on African American History for the Justified Anger Coalition, with about 100 people in attendance. The achievement gaps in Madison are real. Mr. Brown overcame the odds and stayed home to make a difference. From one Madisonian to another … you're inspiring! Or as Jay-Z says, we “love it just to see one of us make it!”

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Hess, McAvoy Book Featured in the Badger Herald

November 11, 2016

 From the article:

In today’s world of heated politics, it can be hard to understand how to talk about controversial issues, but one book seeks to bring open debate and civil discourse to the classroom.

The Political Classroom,” which won the American Educational Research Association’s Outstanding Book Award for 2016, was written by Paula McAvoy and Diana Hess to help teachers show students how to discuss diverse political perspectives.

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New Study: Effect of Act 10 on Teacher Pay in Wisconsin

November 2, 2016

From the article:

The passage of Act 10 in 2011 essentially outlawed public employee unions, and has had a huge impact on teacher salaries in school districts everywhere in Wisconsin. 

But until now, there has been no formal study of how the districts dealt with the issue of teacher compensation after the teachers unions were abolished. 

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Hora on ‘Beyond the Skills Gap” in Insider Higher Ed

October 27, 2016

From the article:

Q: Many books with “skills gap” in the title tend to advocate that higher ed shift to a vocational orientation. Your book is different. How are you trying to redefine the skills gap?

A: We’re not necessarily attempting to redefine the skills gap idea, but instead choose to reject it altogether in favor of a counternarrative focused on a systemic and teaching-centered approach to dealing with the problems facing today’s college students, the higher education sector and society at large. The notion of a skills gap is problematic because it offers an overly narrow and inaccurate diagnosis of what ails the labor market as well as the role that higher education can and should play in society. It pins the blame for employer challenges with hiring (and sluggish economic growth) solely on higher education, especially the arts and humanities.

While some aspects of the skills gap narrative are true -- occupational shortages do exist in fields like nursing and career pathways could be better articulated for many college students -- many of its other premises are simply wrong. Hiring challenges are often due to low wages, the responsibility of employers to provide training is rarely mentioned, and labor economists point to issues with overly stringent hiring criteria and inadequate demand. If the skills gap were merely an academic debate, that would be one thing, but it is informing policy at the state and national levels, where the narrative of a failed higher education system dovetails with an ideologically driven attempt to reform the sector to operate more like private businesses.

Perhaps the biggest problem with the skills gap rhetoric, which unfortunately has become a bipartisan rallying cry, is that it ignores what our research shows is the central issue at hand when it comes to preparing college graduates for the challenges of the 21st century -- that of teaching and learning. The methods educators (and workplace trainers) use to design and teach their courses -- whether face-to-face or online, or in a certificate or bachelor’s program -- play a significant role in determining whether students and employees develop robust technical expertise, cultivate problem-solving and communication skills, transfer abstract knowledge to real-world situations, and foster a lifelong aptitude for self-directed learning. Thus, we aim to reframe the debate to focus on ensuring that all college students have access to experiential, inquiry-based courses that will not only help them get a job, but also expand their minds and foster a critically thinking, well-educated electorate …. So, many pieces of the puzzle are in place in terms of creating a learning-centered higher education, but what is missing is state support and a systems-oriented vision for change that links each of these areas of expertise and programming, celebrates teachers instead of blames them, and places the vocational, intellectual and civic purposes of education on equal footing.

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