Media Mentions

New WEDC Position to Coordinate Statewide Talent Attraction Efforts

October 4, 2017

Matt Hora, director of the Center for Research on College-Workforce Transitions (CCWT), was quoted in the Wisconsin State Journal on a new position being created at the Wisconsin Economic Development Corp.

From the article:

Wisconsin has historically struggled to attract people to the state and to keep college graduates who aren’t from here originally. According to a 2016 UW-Madison report, among bachelor’s degree alumni from the previous decade who were originally from Wisconsin, 78 percent still lived in Wisconsin, while only 9 percent originally from other places remained.

Meanwhile, about 60 percent of UW System graduates participate in internships before graduation, Brukardt said. UW System president Ray Cross has set a goal of 100 percent of graduates participating in internships before graduation, recognizing that early interaction with local businesses could increase the chance that UW graduates stay in the state.

However, the Wisconsin Center for Education Research at UW-Madison recently found the overall design of most internship programs around the world to be haphazard and inconsistent, and that it takes considerable resources to make an internship program effective.

“Trying to knit together some closer relationships is not a bad thing in terms of regional workforce development and boosting local entrepreneurs,” said Matt Hora, director of WCER’s Center for Research on College-Workforce Transitions. “It’s something that should be pursued, just not at the expense of the other educational missions of the colleges and universities in the System.”

Read more.


Big Data Transforms Education Research

October 3, 2017

Martin Nystrand, Professor of Education Emeritus, and collaborators were recently featured in Education Next.

From the article:

“Machine Learning” to Track Student Learning

Enter the machines. What if we didn’t need to have graduate students crouching in the back of classrooms in order to catalog the play-by-play of classroom instruction? What if, instead, we could capture the action with a video camera or, better yet from a privacy perspective, a microphone? And what if we could gather that information not just for an hour or two, but all day, 180 days a year, in a big national sample of schools? And what if we could then use the magic of machine learning to have a computer figure out what the reams of data all mean?

This possibility is much closer than you might imagine, thanks to a group of professors who are teaching computers to capture and code classroom activities. Sidney D’Mello is an associate professor in the departments of psychology and computer science at the University of Notre Dame. He and collaborators Sean Kelly (University of Pittsburgh), Andrew Olney (University of Memphis), and Martin Nystrand (University of Wisconsin-Madison) are interested in helping teachers learn how to ask better questions, as research has long demonstrated that high-quality questioning can lead to better engagement and higher student achievement. They also want to show teachers examples of good and bad questions. But putting live humans in hundreds of classrooms, watching lessons unfold while coding teachers’ questions and students’ responses, would be prohibitively costly in both time and money.

So D’Mello and his team decided to teach a computer how to do the coding itself. They start by capturing high-quality audio with a noise-canceling wireless headset microphone worn by the teacher. Another mike is propped on the teacher’s desk or blackboard, where it records students’ speech, plus ambient noise of the classroom. They take the audio files and run them through several speech-recognition programs, producing a transcript. Then their algorithm goes to work, looking at both the transcript and the audio files (which have markers for intonation, tempo, and more) to match codes provided by human observers.

Read more.


‘No Surprises’ Policies Between School Districts and Universities: The Surprising Reality

October 2, 2017

The Madison Education Partnership (MEP)—a research-practice partnership between the Madison Metropolitan School District (MMSD) and the Wisconsin Center for Education Research at the University of Wisconsin-Madison—was recently featured in Education Week.

From the article:

The Madison Education Partnership has had a busy year. We have put organizational structures in place, taken on new research both internally and through supporting faculty projects, and engaged our two organizations and greater community in a discussion of early childhood options and school readiness. Now, we have reached an exciting time: researchers have findings to release and district staff can't wait to learn more. We have articulated a clear "no surprises" policy and created a process map for dissemination. Should be easy, right?

In my capacity at the school district, I have seen how research dissemination works there. Over the years, I have learned how to get findings from my office, the Research & Program Evaluation Office (RPEO), to district leadership, schools, and the community. I know which decision-makers must see it, how much ownership they need to have (from just wanting an FYI to editing text), and the various checkpoints that must be reached in a particular order to make it to the end. Navigating that process has become second-nature to the RPEO team. As a co-director of the partnership, I figured the process would be that much easier for our MEP team. We have someone on the inside (me), who knows the ins and outs of getting things done in our district. No surprises? No problem — we have this covered.

Read more.


Matthew T. Hora: Opposing UW Cultural Diversity Courses Hurts State’s Workforce Development

September 26, 2017

Matt Hora, director of the Center for Research on College-Workforce Transitions (CCWT), recently published an op-ed in the Captial Times.

From the article:

One of the sticking points in recent deliberations about the 2017-2019 biennial budget was a complaint by several Republican representatives about funding for "diversity, sensitivity, and cultural fluency" courses at University of Wisconsin campuses. Of course, opposition to such courses is nothing new, and is often framed as a waste of taxpayer resources that is advancing a "politically correct agenda of liberal administrators and staff."

But based on my research about the skills employers seek in today's job applicants, it is clear that Republican hostility to these courses is detrimental to Wisconsin's ability to educate and train a competitive workforce. In fact, opposition to multicultural education in the state's public colleges and universities will negatively impact one company in particular: Foxconn.

Read more.


MSAN Featured in Education Week

September 6, 2017

Minority Student Achievement Network (MSAN) was recently featured in the Education Week article, "Moving Beyond Building Practitioner Capacity to Mutual Learning in Research-Practice Partnerships."

From the article:

From Gap Filling to Co-Construction and Learning

Building capacity in a partnership can be framed as filling gaps in practitioners' knowledge and skills. This view calls to mind Paulo Freire's concept of "banking education," where researchers deposit knowledge into practitioners' heads which practitioners passively accept. It privileges a one-way pathway, where researchers produce knowledge that practitioners consume in more or less skilled ways. This view also sometimes brings a deficit orientation towards practitioners, limiting their role as only that of consumers of research and knowledge.

We find partnerships can be rich places for dialogue and co-construction of research and policy solutions. Here, both research and practice expertise is valued. Practitioners are active partners who bring extensive expertise related to content, pedagogy, and how to work within complex educational systems. In partnerships, practitioners are knowledge generators, too. For instance, in the Strategic Education Research Partnership's work with the Minority Student Achievement Network, teacher co-designers played a critical role in designing, testing, and redesigning instructional materials to support Algebra learning.

Further, the learning in a partnership is not one-sided: RPPs also aim to build the capacity of researchers to engage in more practice-relevant work and to impact local policies and programs. They can contribute to researchers learning new research methods to pursue practice questions. For example, in the Seattle-Renton STEM partnership with the University of Washington, researchers learned new social network analysis methods in response to the district's interest in documenting the broader influence of resources beyond those teachers immediately involved in the project. More broadly, though, partnership work can lead to shifts in researchers' understanding of problems in education, in their own research agenda, and in how they orient to research. All involved in a partnership stand to learn from the work together, not only practitioners.

Read more.


Jackson Discusses Whether Men are the New College Minority

August 18, 2017

Jerlando Jackson, the director of Wisconsin’s Equity and Inclusion Laboratory in the Wisconsin Center for Education Research, was recently a guest on Wisconsin Public Radio's Joy Cardin Show to discuss a recent report from Carlow University that showed that women outnumbered men by more than six to one during the Fall 2016 enrollment.

Similarly, the US Department of Education reports that women will makeup more than 56 percent of the nation’s students on campuses this upcoming school year. Dr. Jackson explains why men are enrolling at lower rates, whether this trend will shift and what it will take to bridge the gender gap across America’s higher learning institutions.

Listen to the interview.


Jackson Quoted in Education Dive on Why Prospective College Students Don’t Expect to Graduate

August 8, 2017

Jerlando Jackson, the director of Wisconsin’s Equity and Inclusion Laboratory in the Center for Education Research, quoted in Education Dive.

From the article

A pair of recently released surveys suggests that half of the nation’s high school students feel academically unprepared for college, while half of the students entering their postsecondary education are anxious that they may not graduate, suggesting a variety of stressors could keep them from attaining a diploma.

The concerns incoming students have about their college career can be a significant challenge for higher education institutions in supporting students when they arrive in school and throughout their college career. Dr. Jerlando Jackson, the director of the University of Wisconsin’s Equity and Inclusion Laboratory in the Center for Education Research, said colleges and universities that recognize how important a student’s first year can be can assist students in crises of academic preparation and confidence.

“You see that in places where there are Summer Bridge programs in place, a real orientation where they talk about the key aspects of the transition process, and they have first year student programs and initiatives and support services to recognize the real challenges in place,” he said. “That first year experience is very critical.”

Read more.


Jackson Quoted in the Atlantic on Why Men Are the New College Minority

August 8, 2017

Jerlando Jackson, the director and chief research scientist at Wisconsin’s Equity and Inclusion Laboratory, quoted in The Atlantic.

From the article:

Many boys beyond that point perceive little benefit to college, especially considering its cost, said Jerlando Jackson, the director and chief research scientist at Wisconsin’s Equity and Inclusion Laboratory at the University of Wisconsin, Madison, who has written about this. To them, he said, it means a lot of sacrifice for a vague payoff far in the future.

Low-income boys in places with the most economic inequality, in particular, suffer what one study called the “economic despair” of seeing little hope for financial advancement. “They think, ‘Well, I could just start out working in the mall and in six years make the same as a classmate who goes to college and whose first post-college job pays them less than I’ll be making then,’” Jackson said.

Read more.


Video Game by UW-Madison Group is up for National Award

July 14, 2017

"At Play in the Cosmos" a a game developed by WCER's Gear Learning, in which players are space contractors who research and explore the universe, is a Games for Change Award finalist.

From the Capital Times:

A video game about exploring the cosmos that a University of Wisconsin-Madison institution developed is up for a national award for educational games.

The Games Education and Research group launched in January as the university’s new center for making games for education. It released a beta version of “At Play in the Cosmos” soon after, a game in which players are space contractors who research and explore the universe, using the principles of astronomy to guide them.

On Tuesday, the New York City-based group Games for Change nominated “At Play in the Cosmos” as the “best learning game” of the year. The game is also in the running for the “People’s Choice Award” for title of year.

Read more.


The Value of Mentorship in the Scientific Field

July 13, 2017

Christine Pfund, director of the Center for the Improvement of Mentored Experiences in Research (CIMER), was featured in Lab Manager.

From the article:

The value of effective mentorship in the sciences is increasingly being recognized. Mentoring is tied to many benefits for a mentee (e.g., increased research productivity and career satisfaction), which also benefits the lab overall. Anyone can learn to be an effective mentor with the right training and practice. However, mentoring is not an isolated endeavor, and a team-based approach (e.g., peer-mentoring groups) can provide a holistic support system to ensure an individualized mentoring experience.

Why mentoring in the lab matters

Research shows that the presence of effective mentoring relationships in the lives of early-career scientists is a strong indicator for career success. According to Christine Pfund, an associate scientist in the Wisconsin Center for Education Research at the University of Wisconsin-Madison who has extensively researched mentoring in the sciences, “In short, good mentorship impacts who does science, how productive they are, and how satisfied they are on a science career path.”

While technical skills and scientific theory can be taught in the classroom, Suzanne E. Barbour, professor of biochemistry and molecular biology and dean of the graduate school at the University of Georgia, says that much of what it means to be a professional scientist is just too nuanced to learn in that setting. Thus, a mentor is needed to serve as a role model to show trainees what is expected of a “card-carrying member of the profession.”

Read more.


Effective Mentoring in STEMM: Practice, Research, and Future Directions: Proceedings of a Workshop

June 26, 2017

Christine Pfund, the director of the Center for the Improvement of Mentored Experiences in Research (CIMER) was a member of the planning committee for a workshop hosted by the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 

From the National Academies Press website:

Mentoring has long been understood as a beneficial component of academic and professional development. But investigations of the attributes of effective mentoring interactions in science, technology, engineering, mathematics, and medical (STEMM) education are only now starting to shed light on how exactly these complex and dynamic relationships form, evolve, and impact the lives and careers of the current and next generation of STEMM professionals.

To explore the conversation surrounding this highly interdisciplinary field, the Board on Higher Education and Workforce and the Committee on Women in Science, Engineering, and Medicine, in collaboration with the Board on Science Education and the Teacher Advisory Council, convened a workshop in Washington D.C. on February 9-10, 2017. Educators, scientists, engineers, industry leaders, and scholars from a wide range of career stages focused on identifying successful practices and metrics for mentoring students in STEMM career pathways. Workshop sessions spanned topics across the mentoring field: definitions, theories, practices, perspectives, evidence, research, identity, and reflection, with a particular emphasis on identifying the evidence supporting successful mentoring practices for women and students of color across high school and postsecondary education. This publication briefly summarizes the presentations and discussions from the workshop.

The proceedings from the workshop are available to download.


The Benefits of Research-Practice Partnership Work

June 22, 2017

From Education Week:

This week we are hearing from the Madison Education Partnership (MEP). Today's post is the practitioner perspective on the partnership work introduced in Monday's post: Can Kindergarten for 4-Year-Olds Help Close Equity Gaps?

This post is by Jaymes Pyne, Graduate Researcher, and Beth Vaade, Co-Director for the Madison Education Partnership, who talked with Andrew Statz, Executive Director of Research, Accountability & Data Use for the Madison Metropolitan School District.

A perennial challenge for most research-practice partnerships is maintaining the mutually beneficial part of the equation. For the Madison Education Partnership (MEP) - a research-practice partnership between the University of Wisconsin-Madison's Wisconsin Center for Education Research (WCER) and the Madison Metropolitan School District (MMSD) - this challenge inspires the core functions of the organization.

Read more.


Bailey Smolarek: Skills Gap Doesn’t Account for Poor Jobs Numbers Here

June 20, 2017

Bailey Smolarek from the Center for Research on College to Workforce Transitions published an op-ed in The Capital Times.

From The Capital Times:

Dear Editor: Gov. Walker has pointed to a lack of skilled workers as the reason Wisconsin lost 3,800 manufacturing jobs last year.

While his response may have surprised some, the last year studying education and workforce skills Wisconsin Center for Education Research has shown me that job loss can rarely be explained so easily. Nevertheless, leaders throughout the country continue to use the idea of a “skills gap” — the gap between the skills employers need and the skills workers possess — to explain labor market concerns. Leaders like the governor use this narrative and blame workers for employment issues to keep workforce development conversations at the individual level.

However, the “skills gap” has already been debunked by numerous economists, who instead point to stagnated wages and a lack of quality job openings. Noble Prize-winning economist Paul Krugman even calls the skills gap a “zombie idea” because it is “an idea that should have been killed by evidence, but refuses to die.” Still, this idea continues to be resurrected to deflect attention from the real issues like employers having trouble hiring positions in less-desirable locations or with low wages. Moreover, manufacturing industries have also encountered a great deal of automation and outsourcing, making them quite cyclical and unpredictable.

The reality is that Wisconsinites are seeing limited numbers of well-paying jobs. UW-Milwaukee professor Marc Levine has shown that Wisconsin’s only labor market growth has been in low-wage positions. Furthermore, most economists argue that there is actually a growing number of overskilled workers.

Read more.


Implicit Bias In the Classroom: Can Video Games Help Combat It?

June 20, 2017

From Education Week:

Researchers at University of Wisconsin-Madison are developing a video game that will guide K-12 teachers through the hazards of unconscious attitudes and assumptions that affect the way they see their students, a phenomenon called "implicit bias."

This summer, the researchers will work with staff from two school districts to design the game, which will allow teachers to experience bias in the schoolyard, cafeteria and classroom from a student's perspective.

Christine M. Pribbenow, a senior scientist at the Wisconsin Center for Education Research at the university, says one scenario that could turn up in the game is common enough in real life—a teacher in a majority white school calls a black student by the wrong first name, confusing him for another student of color.

"What do you do about that?" said Pribbenow. "If you are calling students by the wrong name, a very simple strategy is to get to know them as individuals. If you're doing something like that, you're probably grouping kids together, like all the Asian kids together and all the black kids together."

The idea for a video game that teaches educators to recognize implicit bias is not new. Pribbenow had a hand in developing the video game Fair Play, which was the brainchild of University of Wisconsin-Madison professor of medicine Molly Carnes. In the game, university professors and administrators directly experience the discrimination against a black graduate student. Players guide the avatar, named Jamal Davis, as he navigates a university campus, networks with colleagues, picks an advisor and attends conferences. Along the way, the students and professors he runs into make assumptions about him because he's black.

Read more.


Pribbenow, Carnes Receive Baldwin Grant

June 9, 2017

Projects both large and small will help the university contribute knowledge and resources across the state, thanks to grants from the Ira and Ineva Reilly Baldwin Wisconsin Idea Endowment.

The competitive grant program is open to UW–Madison faculty, staff and students. 

One of the grants awarded went to Christine Pribbenow, Director of WCER's LEAD Center and Molly Carnes, from the School of Medicine and Public Health, for the project Do You Play Fair? Addressing Bias in K-12 Educational Settings, as described below:

Significant disparities continue to exist between black and white students in education. Recently, differential treatment of students due to unconscious cognitive processes, “implicit bias” has been identified as a contributor to negative experiences and outcomes for underrepresented minorities. Perspective-taking — or “imagining yourself in someone else’s shoes” — helps to decrease implicit bias and in turn, promotes positive feelings, attitudes and behaviors toward others. The proposed project builds upon the success of the Fair Play game, which was developed to provide players with the opportunity to take the perspective of a Black student who encounters bias incidents on a university campus as well as workshops that are currently being offered at UW–Madison and other postsecondary institutions The project will create a professional development tool that is based in a K-12 school context that will allow teachers and administrators to take the perspective of students with whom they work. Ultimately, this game will be available for use by districts across the state of Wisconsin.

Read more about all the awardees.