Media Mentions

UW Gets $10 Million Grant to Diversify STEM Faculty

September 11, 2018

From Madison365:

To broaden participation in STEM programs and fields, the National Science Foundation has awarded a five-year, $10 million INCLUDES Alliance grant to be co-led by UW-Madison’s Center for the Integration of Research, Teaching, and Learning (CIRTL) and the Association of Public and Land-grant Universities.

CIRTL is a collaborative network of 39 research universities based in the Wisconsin Center for Education Research (WCER) within UW‒Madison’s School of Education, according to a press release from the university, and funding for this new alliance builds on an earlier NSF INCLUDES pilot project awarded to CIRTL in 2016.

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Can Video Games Change Your Brain? UW Research Suggests Games Can Build Empathy

September 11, 2018


MADISON, Wis. - New research from the University of Wisconsin-Madison shows video games may have the power to help children develop empathy and socially beneficial behaviors such as generosity.

At Gear Learning, the mission is to improve lives, and the studio does so by creating worlds.

“So far, we haven’t had a failure yet, or a content area we couldn’t design,” director Mike Beal said.

Gear Learning is a game development studio that is part of the Wisconsin Institute for Education Research at UW-Madison.

“We now know you can absolutely have fun while learning,” Beal said.

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The Science and Art of Mentoring

September 10, 2018

Christine Pfund, Director of the Center for the Improvement of Mentored Experiences in Research (CIMER), recently published an article in ASCB.

From ASCB:

We often do not seize the numerous opportunities we are afforded to shape the learning experiences of our mentees, let alone influence the environments in which those experiences transpire. We do not frequently enough embrace the art of mentoring.

Stretching beyond Best Practices
Contemplate the scenario of working with a new undergraduate or graduate student. Experienced mentors, using evidence-based practices, understand the importance of helping new mentees develop a research project, establishing and aligning clear expectations for the relationship, and communicating regularly and effectively. Some best practices toward achieving these aims include 1) thoughtful, intentional project design that takes into account the mentee’s background and interests; 2) use of written mentoring compacts (examples can be found at, and 3) regular conversations using active listening strategies. 

Yet even the most skilled mentors can stretch beyond these best practices. They can improve the learning experiences they are shaping by purposely providing opportunities for the mentees to network and engage with others, finding ways for mentees to immerse themselves in the discipline, fostering a sense of belonging within the research team and the department, and creating spaces for mentees to share their ideas.

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Beyond the Skills Gap: Preparing College Students for Life and Work

August 20, 2018

From New Books Network:

How can educators ensure that young people who attain a postsecondary credential are adequately prepared for the future? Matthew T. Hora and his co-authors, Ross Benbow and Amanda Oleson, explain that the answer is not simply that students need more specialized technical training to meet narrowly defined employment opportunities. Beyond the Skills Gap: Preparing College Students for Life and Work (Harvard Education Press, 2016) challenges this conception of the “skills gap,” highlighting instead the value of broader twenty-first-century skills in postsecondary education. They advocate for a system in which employers share responsibility along with the education sector to serve the collective needs of the economy, society, and students.

The study, set in Wisconsin, takes place against the backdrop of heated political debates over the role of public higher education. This thoughtful and nuanced account, enriched by keen observations of postsecondary instructional practice, promises to contribute new insights to the rich literature on workforce development and to provide valuable guidance for postsecondary faculty and administrators.

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Researchers Look to Enhance Relationships Between Madison Teachers and Kindergartners

August 7, 2018

From The Capital Times:

This summer, about 100 Madison families with kids entering kindergarten will get home visits from teachers in an experimental effort to build relationships.

Beth Vaade, a program evaluation specialist with the Madison School District and co-director of the Madison Education Partnership, said the hope is to forge a bond with families so when kids go from 4-year-old kindergarten to 5-year-old classes “on that first day, they’re feeling like this is a safe place, this is a place that cares about me, and a place that I want to be part of.”

The partnership is a research effort between the district, University of Wisconsin-Madison researchers and community members that aims to improve educational outcomes. Also leading the project is Eric Grodsky, a professor of sociology and educational policy studies at UW-Madison.

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UW-Madison: New study finds far fewer middle-skill jobs in US than estimated

July 23, 2018


Significantly fewer “middle-skill” jobs exist in the U.S. than previously estimated, according to new research from the Wisconsin Center for Education Research at UW-Madison.

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Study shows fewer middle-skill jobs in U.S.

July 23, 2018

From the Superior Telegram:

New research by the Wisconsin Center for Education Research at the University of Wisconsin-Madison revealed significantly fewer middle-skill jobs exist in the United States than previously estimated.

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Advancing Equity and Diversity in Student Affairs Media Mention

July 3, 2018

Wei LAB Director Jerlando F.L. Jackson first met Dr. Melvin C. Terrell while a Ph.D. student studying professional growth factors for African American administrators at predominantly White institutions. Terrell called Jackson to talk to him about the importance of the study and offer to help gather participants.

"No one had taken ... interest in me or my work sight unseen before," Jackson says in the 2018 book he co-edited, "Advancing Equity and Diversity in Student Affairs: A Festschrift in Honor of Melvin C. Terrell." "I assumed it was just rhetoric." 

A Festschrift is an academic tradition that recognizes the retirement of an accomplished scholar by other scholars contributing original work to a volume dedicated to the honoree. Terrell was a pioneer in student affairs, serving as vice president for student affairs at Northeastern Illinois University for 20 years. Terrell provided guidance to scholars and practitioners, many of whom contributed to the Festschrift in his honor. 

Jackson is Vilas Distinguished Professor of Higher Education, and the director and chief research scientist of Wisconsin’s Equity and Inclusion Laboratory at WCER. In addition to co-editing "Advancing Equity and Diversity in Student Affairs," he wrote the introduction and co-authored two chapters. DeVon Wilson, Wei LAB research associate and director of the Center for Academic Excellence/Assistant Dean in the College of Letters & Science at University of Wisconsin, also contributed a chapter, as did several former Wei LAB staff members.

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Not Playing Around

June 8, 2018   |   By Jason Busch

In the world of Gear Learning at UW–Madison, the biggest trend in game design is in collaboration between subject matter experts and game designers, says Beall. “Thanks to the foresight of Diana Hess, dean of the School of Education and Bob Mathieu, director of WCER, Gear Learning is positioned to have tremendous impact in the field of games for learning. As part of the UW–Madison campus, I am in regular meetings with some of the world’s foremost experts in areas like astronomy, pharmaceuticals, women’s health, astro-botany, and others. Through games, we bring together amazing people, all of whom seek to leverage the power of games to engage and educate.

“Madison is certainly a hub for game development, and in my experience it is by far the most potent hub across the Midwest,” concurs Beall. “With the University of Wisconsin as a major driving factor, the Greater Madison area is filled with innovative and creative folks. With local organizations fostering [game] making, entrepreneurship, and broader economic development, Madison is stronger than ever.”

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Gamification: Where Work Meets Play

June 6, 2018

From InBusiness:

Michael Beall, the director of Gear Learning at the Wisconsin Center for Education Research, agrees that the term is often misused. “One important distinction is that game design is different from gamification. Gamification can be part of game design, but it’s more specifically the adding of game-like mechanics to non-gaming environments. I happen to be a big fan of gamification, in that it can be leveraged to promote or encourage learning.

“It all comes down to psychology and understanding that meaningful play, like many things in life, is subjective,” Beall adds. “Once we understand models of player types, like Bartle’s taxonomy of game player types, it’s easy to imagine nearly limitless possibilities for gamification.”

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Shaffer Comments on Active Shooter Video Game

June 5, 2018

David Williamson Shaffer, a UW–Madison professor of educational psychology and a game scientist at the Wisconsin Center for Education Research, offered insights on violence in video games in a WTMJ radio interview on May 30, a day after public backlash canceled the release of Active Shooter. The controversial online video game would have let players move through a school fatally shooting police officers and civilians.

Shaffer believes Active Shooter is a very bad idea for a video game, but stresses all video games are not bad. “If I had one big take home from all this, it’s that parents should use discretion about what their kids are doing. You wouldn’t just let them pick up any book, you wouldn’t necessarily just let them go to any movie, you shouldn’t let them just play any video game because they think it might be cool.”

Shaffer is the author of the book, “How Computer Games Help Children Learn,” and has developed educational computer games on topics such as land science, biomedical engineering, ethics, geometry and graphic design.

Latest Research on Madison School District 4K Program to be Shared Thursday

April 24, 2018

From the Wisconsin State Journal:

A free and public presentation of the latest findings on early learning in the Madison School District will be offered Thursday by a new research collaboration studying the district’s 4-year-old kindergarten program.

The Madison Education Partnership, or MEP, is a joint research practice formed about 18 months ago between the district and the Wisconsin Center for Education Research, part of UW-Madison’s School of Education.

Since then, the collaboration has produced several studies about different aspects of the 4K program, with five university researchers Thursday to present results publicly for the first time related to topics including educational equity, family engagement, interpersonal skill development and supporting homeless families.

Event seating is limited; register at It will be held from 4-7:30 p.m. at UW-Madison’s Gordon Center, 770 W. Dayton St.

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Scholars Look for Ways to Restore Respect for Expertise

April 23, 2018

From University World News:

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.

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The Dawn of the Robot Coach

April 11, 2018

From Chief Learning Officer:

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, 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.

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ELLs Count on Language Support in Math

April 6, 2018

From the ASCD Education Update:

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."

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