Scholars Look for Ways to Restore Respect for Expertise
April 23, 2018
A gathering of United States scholars last week took up the question of how their work can remain relevant in a ‘post-truth’ era, when alternative facts can influence public policy and fake news can be leveraged to try to swing election results.
The scholars also took themselves to task, acknowledging how they may be enabling the assault on their stock-in-trade, evidence and expertise, if only by remaining silent.
"We live in a kind of anti-knowledge era, and I am surprised by how [many] of us sit by passively and watch,” Hyman Bass, a long-time University of Michigan professor, said in one open forum.
At the core of their concern is the presidency of Donald Trump, who has inspired discussion of how the academic community can best respond to what it sees as the devaluation of knowledge and the politicisation of facts, data and research.
Perhaps most unsettling of all is the recent revelation that a company named Cambridge Analytica planted fake news on targeted Facebook accounts in a bid to help Trump win the election. That the ruse may have made a difference aligns with empirical studies showing that most people use research to confirm their prior beliefs.
Several AERA speakers raised that point.
"When people have deeply held values or convictions, no amount of facts" can persuade them otherwise, said University of Wisconsin-Madison Professor Emerita Gloria Ladson-Billings, an AERA honoree this year for her contributions to education research.
The Dawn of the Robot Coach
April 11, 2018
In 2017, Slice, a New York tech company that builds software solutions for independent pizzerias, had a management problem.
The company’s tech staff is based in Macedonia, where high unemployment rates mean most of their new hires have never held a formal job prior to Slice. “We have a lot of first-time managers who need coaching,” said Rick Pereira, chief people officer.
Instead of moving to Macedonia himself, Pereira implemented Butterfly.ai, an artificial intelligence coaching app that provides feedback to managers on their leadership skills. The tools uses anonymous employee survey results and past performance data to rate managers’ performance, then offers tips and training content to help them improve.
Pereira, who is able to review all of the feedback, said it has helped many of his team members become better managers, including their general manager who initially had a gruff communication style. “People loved what he was saying but not how he said it,” Pereira said. Based on consistent feedback about the general manager’s rough approach, the Butterfly coach recommended a series of communication courses and articles. “Now he’s one of our strongest leaders,” Pereira said.
There is a level of subtlety there that is hard to achieve, said David William[son] Shaffer, professor of learning science at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and a game scientist at the Wisconsin Center for Education Research. “It’s difficult for a computer to have enough information about the world to know what a person needs to do or should do in a certain scenario,” he said.
ELLs Count on Language Support in Math
April 6, 2018
At her district's newcomer center, English as a Second Language teacher Barbara Gottschalk would engage parents in a visual exercise: compare a math textbook from 20 years ago to the one in use today. The former, a familiar reproduction of the kind of math newcomers most likely experienced in their home countries, was defined by rows of computation. In the current textbook, however, words abound.
"You could tell just by looking at the two that even a student with a strong background in math will need some language support in a mainstream math class," says Gottschalk, who teaches at Susick Elementary in Troy, Michigan. A student with interrupted or limited schooling, she adds, will need even more language support.
With the Common Core State Standards and, especially, the skills identified in the Standards for Mathematical Practice, mathematics has increasingly emphasized conceptual understanding and reasoning, in addition to procedural know-how. "Language is the entirety of the mathematics classroom," says Megan Rowe, a math teacher at Borah High School in a linguistically diverse district outside Boise, Idaho. "From the language I use when I'm teaching to the language students use when they're reasoning among their peers—I don't know how you could ever teach mathematics now without focusing on language."
For newcomers, Eatmon recommends gradually increasing language demands. "Phrase questions that require them to produce a minimal amount of English at the beginning," she recommends. Choice questions (that require a yes/no, true/false, and ways for them to communicate nonverbally via a word card or hand signals) are a good place to start. As newcomers develop confidence with language skills, stretch expectations for discourse.
"Newcomers need special handling for a while," says Rita MacDonald, researcher at WIDA and the Wisconsin Center for Education Research (WCER). "However, students are newcomers for the short term; they are language learners for a long time."
Madison Workshop Gives Teens of Color a Taste of Video Game Development
April 6, 2018
Ahmed Saeed, an 8th grader who goes to Cherokee Heights Middle School, spent Tuesday filming a one-on-one fight scene between a Lego man in a bomber jacket wielding a double-bladed sword and Lego Batman.
Saeed filmed his 30-second stop-motion animation at a table strewn with Legos and iPads on the third floor of the Madison Central Library branch. Saeed was there for Coding & Gaming Day, an event that aimed to expose teens to the process of creating video games.
The stop-motion animation station was only one stop along a chain of activities at the event, organized as part of My Brother’s Keeper, a city-backed initiative to provide opportunities for boys of color. Each station was manned by developers and designers from tech nonprofits and video game studios in Madison, including DANENet, Acme Nerd Games, Filament Games and Gear Learning.
The fact that a majority of children and teenagers are playing video games like Playerunknown's Battlegrounds, Call of Duty and Fortnite (a new title that Saeed said is one of the most popular among his peers) is one of the hooks of the event, said Mike Beall.
“Now, they’re getting to see that the games that they’re playing, there was a lot of work that went into that,” said Beall, the director of Gear Learning, an educational game studio based at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. “It’s not snap your fingers and there’s a video game.”
Snowflakes, Safe Spaces Mean Nothing when College Students Can’t Eat
April 4, 2018
In 2014, Shabazz Napier, then a University of Connecticut senior and star guard on the school's basketball team told reporters, "There are hungry nights — that I go to bed and I am starving."
Napier is not alone.
A new survey conducted by researchers at Temple University and the Wisconsin HOPE Lab found that 36 percent of university students do not get enough to eat. That number rose to 42 percent when it came to community college students. Factoring in food insecurity, that number increased to 56 percent. Researchers found similarly high numbers for students struggling with housing insecurity.
UW-Madison School of Education Shines in Latest U.S. News ‘Best Graduate Schools’ Rankings
March 28, 2018
Several programs within UW-Madison’s School of Education are once again ranked among the very best in the nation in the 2019 edition of U.S. News & World Report’s “Best Education Graduate Schools” report.
The latest ratings compiled by U.S. News reveal that the School is home to three No. 1-ranked programs in the “education specialties” of Curriculum/Instruction, Educational Psychology and Administration/Supervision. In addition, the School of Education is home to eight different graduate programs that are ranked among the Top 10 in the nation: Counseling/Personnel Services (No. 3); Education Policy (No. 3); Elementary Education (No. 4); Secondary Education (No. 6); and Special Education (No. 10).
Moreover, in U.S. News’ 2019 Best Education Graduate Schools ratings released late Monday night, the UW-Madison School of Education is ranked No. 2 overall. According to this index, the University of California-Los Angeles is No. 1, with UW-Madison and Harvard University tied for second. Stanford University and the University of Pennsylvania are tied for fourth.
This marks the 19th time in the past 20 years that UW-Madison, which was tied for No. 3 last year, has maintained a top-10 ranking among all schools of education. UW-Madison is the only Big Ten Conference institution to crack the top 10 in the U.S. News rankings each year since 2010.
“It is fabulous to again be recognized as one of the leading schools of education in the United States,” says UW-Madison School of Education Dean Diana Hess, the Karen A. Falk Distinguished Chair of Education. “Our excellence is rooted in our very talented, committed and accomplished faculty and staff, outstanding students, engaged alumni and backing from leadership across UW-Madison that provides us the support to do our best work.”
In U.S. News’ education specialty ratings, UW-Madison’s Department of Curriculum and Instruction has been home to the No. 1-ranked Curriculum/Instruction program every year since 2001.
Professor John Rudolph, who chairs the Department of Curriculum and Instruction, says the program’s consistently high ranking is due, in large part, to dedicated faculty members with a long tradition of intellectual creativity that’s made possible due to ongoing institutional support.
“This recognition says a lot about the sustained, high-quality work that goes on in the department,” says Rudolph. “More importantly, it suggests that there’s something unique about UW-Madison, the School of Education, the city of Madison and the state as places that cultivate and support excellence and engaged scholarship. Even as the faculty changes over the years, the department continues to thrive as a result.”
In U.S. News’ Educational Psychology rankings, UW-Madison has now housed the top-ranked program seven times in the past eight years.
Professor Bradford Brown, who chairs the Department of Educational Psychology, explains that this reputation is built on the faculty's skill in conducting sophisticated and meaningful research –- inquiry that has strong theoretical foundations, advanced research designs and practical implications for educational practice.
“We are grateful for and humbled by this recognition,” Brown says of the U.S. News ranking. “The rich intellectual environment and the presence of outstanding colleagues throughout the university inspire Department of Educational Psychology faculty members to tackle the most important educational issues of our day.”
Brown notes that faculty members are involved in a diverse range of research on critical issues in education, including: studies of bullying; the fundamentals of math learning; use of technology to assist in learning and instruction; programs to inspire early reading; elements of successful family-school partnerships in rural areas; instruction for youths with autism; and the adjustment of ethnic minority students to predominantly white college environments. In addition, faculty members are assisted by colleagues who are world renowned for their innovations in test design and quantitative measurement, enhancing the sophistication of the research the department conducts.
U.S. News also ranked UW-Madison’s program in Administration/Supervision, which is housed within the Department of Educational Leadership and Policy Analysis, No. 1.
“We are thrilled with this recognition of the important work our students, faculty and alumni do,” says Professor Julie Mead, the School’s associate dean for education and chair of the Department of Educational Leadership and Policy Analysis (ELPA).
Mead explains that leadership, and the specialty area of Administration/Supervision, is an important aspect of school success. Students and ELPA faculty members, Mead notes, are known for producing high-quality work that examines leadership from a variety of perspectives.
“We have faculty well known for their research on school leadership, organizational theory, education law, school finance, policy, teacher workforce, race, homelessness, and equity -– all with a common goal of working with leaders in the field to construct more equitable schools for all students,” says Mead.
To calculate its overall 2019 Best Graduate School rankings, U.S. News explains that it sent surveys to 385 institutions granting doctoral degrees, with 267 providing data the publication used to calculate rankings based on a series of measures. Some of these measures include: quality assessments based on surveys filled out by education school deans and deans of graduate studies; student selectivity measures, such as GRE scores and acceptance rates; faculty resource measures; and research activity. Ratings of programs were also provided by K-12 superintendents, people who hire graduates and other education experts. (View details about U.S. News' methodology.)
“I am often asked what the U.S. News rankings actually mean,” says Hess. “It’s important to understand that our peers in other schools of education across the United States rank us, as we do them, on a range of factors. But it’s also relevant to note how education leaders outside of universities are asked to weigh in on which schools of education in the nation are of exceptional quality. Although we recognize these rankings are just one measure among many, we are honored to be recognized as one of the leading schools of education in the country for graduate education.”
U.S. News explains that the program specialty rankings are “based solely on nominations by education school deans and education school deans of graduate studies from the list of schools surveyed.” Those participating could select up to 10 top programs in each area.
Not all graduate programs are ranked by U.S. News & World Report each year.
For example, the School of Education’s Department of Rehabilitation Psychology and Special Education remains No. 1 in Rehabilitation Counseling, while the School’s Art Department is still home to the top-ranked printmaking program (as voted on by deans and department chairs in the fine arts). But those marks are from past years, as U.S. News did not re-rank those specialty programs this year.
Similarly, in other specialty programs that were not re-ranked by U.S. News this year, the School of Education remains home to the No. 14 Occupational Therapy program (as voted on by program directors and faculty in health disciplines) and the No. 15 Fine Arts program (as voted on by deans and department chairs in the fine arts).
Erika Rosales: Speaker Ryan, as a Dreamer I Cannot ‘Rest Easy’
March 23, 2018
According to a new Marquette University poll, 86 percent of Wisconsin voters believe undocumented immigrants should be able to permanently remain in the country. The overwhelming majority — 71 percent — think the federal government should offer these individuals the chance to become citizens.
That makes sense. Americans are welcoming. The vast majority can recall where their families came from, and most understand undocumented immigrants came to United States to work and to find a better life.
It also makes sense because immigrants, documented and undocumented, benefit the state’s economy. Foreign-born residents pay $675 million in state and local taxes and more than twice that to the federal government. They own homes, cars, and businesses. The state’s 13,300 immigrant entrepreneurs provide nearly 58,000 jobs.
Balancing Politics With Public School
March 21, 2018
"[S]chools and districts that choose to participate in an event like the National Day of Action [do not] have to go about it politically. They could, for example, sponsor a day for students to wear orange, a color that honors victims of gun violence, or organize events addressing tangential issues, bullying and other mental health crises.
"I think the school can support students, but they need to make sure and students need to recognize that their classmates may not agree wholeheartedly with that view and those who don't agree should have the option to opt out of any demonstration, and teachers need to be careful that students who have an alternate point of view aren't silenced," says Paula McAvoy, the program director for the Center for Ethics and Education at the University of Wisconsin-Madison."
What Gets Forgotten in Debates About the Liberal Arts
March 21, 2018
Matthew Hora, director of the Center for Research on College-Workforce Transitions, on blending hard and soft skills.
The future of work is about a blending of hard and soft skills. Students who combine their liberal-arts training with a technical skill make themselves prime candidates for good-paying jobs, according to a recent report from Matthew Sigelman of Burning Glass Technologies and Mark Schneider of the American Institutes for Research.
Of the 3.8 million entry-level job opportunities for holders of bachelor’s degrees in the United States, 1.4 million could go to liberal-arts majors who add a digital or specialized skill, potentially giving those graduates a starting salary comparable to that of a graduate who had pursued a more specialized technical major.
Sigelman and Schneider point out that colleges need to direct students to those opportunities through services like the career center. Unfortunately, career centers often lack the resources and bandwidth to reach most students on their campuses.
Matthew T. Hora, an assistant professor of adult and higher education at the University of Wisconsin at Madison and director of its Center for Research on College-Workforce Transitions, worries that advocates tread into dangerous territory when they say the liberal arts are the primary way to spur the coveted noncognitive skills in students.
Byars-Winston Leads National Consensus Study on the Science of Effective Mentoring in STEMM Fields
March 13, 2018
Following the February 9-10, 2017 National Academy of Sciences Participatory Workshop on Effective Mentoring in STEMM, the National Academy of Sciences is moving forward with a consensus study on STEMM (science, technology, engineering, mathematics, and medical) mentoring programs and practices at the undergraduate and graduate levels.
The study will be conducted under the auspices of the Board of Higher Education and Workforce (BHEW), which provides U.S. government, academic and industry leaders with analyses and recommendations designed to inform action and set strong public policy on issues in higher education and the workforce, and the Committee on Women in Science, Engineering, and Medicine (CWSEM), a standing committee of the National Academy of Sciences that coordinates, monitors, and advocates action to increase the participation of women in science, engineering, and medicine.
The ad hoc committee conducting the study is led by Angela Byars-Winston, PhD, professor of medicine at University of Wisconsin-Madison. Committee members include Christine Pfund, PhD, researcher with the Wisconsin Center for Education Research and Director of the Center for the Improvement of Mentored Experiences in Research (CIMER) at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.
"The depth of scholarship of this committee is remarkable - in the field of STEMM mentorship theory and practice, we truly have an Olympic-level 'dream team' assembled," says Byars-Winston.
What’s Wrong With Required Internships? Plenty
March 6, 2018
Matthew Hora, director of the Center for Research on College-Workforce Transitions, offers suggestions on how to improve mandatory internships.
From the Chronicle of Higher Education:
Given that 65 percent of employers want applicants with industry-specific work experience, and millions of students are struggling to pay for basic needs and the rising price of tuition, anything that would increase a college student’s job prospects is a good thing, right?
Well, no. As a researcher who studies college-workplace transitions, I’ve concluded that a senior administrator at a Wisconsin technical college had it right when she told me that "internships are the Wild West in higher education."
In many colleges, the landscape of internships is best characterized as ambiguous, unregulated, potentially exploitative, and — for many students — inaccessible.
Janesville Science Students Use Puntambekar’s Work
February 19, 2018
Across the Janesville School District, eighth-grade students are engaged in a new way of learning science—one that involves buckets of mud, thinking like a scientist and, perhaps, making their community a better place. The students are a part of a study designed by professor Sadhana Puntambekar of UW-Madison’s Interactive Learning and Design Lab: "Biosphere: Fostering Deep Learning of Complex Biology for Building Our Next Generation’s Scientists."
Over time, humanities majors close pay gap with STEM peers
February 19, 2018
Humanities majors may initially earn less money than STEM majors, but a new study shows they close the gap over time.
The report by the American Academy of Arts and Sciences — "The State of the Humanities 2018: Graduates in the Workforce & Beyond" — found humanities majors typically earn around $10,000 to $30,000 less than STEM and professional majors but still more than workers without a bachelor’s degree.
This gap has closed over time – advanced degree holders in the humanities earned 38 percent higher wages. Despite this, stereotypes about the lack of job opportunities and low wages still exist.
Matthew Hora, a professor in liberal arts and applied studies at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, said part of this perception about humanities majors is rooted in truth.
“It’s not much of a stereotype – it’s just a fact,” he said. “I think the part of the stereotype that’s unfortunate is this notion that if you get a degree in arts and humanities, you’re unemployable.”
Assessment Tool to Measure Mentorship Role in Undergraduate Research
January 30, 2018
January is National Mentor Month and UW-Madison has reason to celebrate. For over two decades, the university has been a nationally recognized leader in evidence-based research mentor and mentee training, and has led the way in providing high-quality undergraduate research experiences. Thanks to the dedicated work of a group of units from across campus, yet another exciting, new advancement is underway.
Members of the Collaborative for Advancing Learning and Teaching (The Collaborative) – Student Learning Assessment and WISCIENCE – are working in partnership with the Center for the Improvement of Mentored Experiences in Research (CIMER) at the Wisconsin Center for Education Research (WCER) and the College of Letters & Science Undergraduate Research Scholars (URS) program on the project.
Madison faculty members have long been committed to including undergraduate students on their research teams and to providing high-quality mentoring. Many have participated in research mentor training offered by WISCIENCE in collaboration with the Delta Program, originally developed by UW-Madison Professor Jo Handelsman and Associate Scientist Christine Pfund.
Board Approves Establishing Committee to Study Teacher Compensation
January 23, 2018
From the Kenosha News:
The Silver Lake-Salem School Board Monday night approved establishing a 10-member committee charged with studying alternate compensation, particularly for the pay structure for teachers.
Alternate compensation options could include supplemental pay for extracurricular activities, expertise, administrative leadership or other duties beyond the normal classroom instruction day, he said.
The district and staff have been begun a cursory review of what other districts have been doing with teacher compensation based on research from the Wisconsin Center for Education Research.