College of Education > News and Publications > 2015: 07-09 news > Penn State enhances its research-practice partnership with National Taiwan Normal University

Penn State enhances its research-practice partnership with National Taiwan Normal University

Program's goals include innovative science education techniques.
Penn State enhances its research-practice partnership with National Taiwan Normal University

Rachel Wolkenhauer

A partnership between Penn State and National Taiwan Normal University (NTNU) is focusing on the learning sciences that include areas of language acquisition, science education and application of technology.

Rachel Wolkenhauer
Rachel Wolkenhauer
The association between Penn State and National Taiwan Normal University dates from 1950 and is multi-faceted, according to College of Education Dean David H. Monk. It includes a partnership around the Advanced Center for the Study of Learning Sciences and an emerging benchmarking initiative that involves visits going back and forth.

Penn State hosted a delegation of NTNU officials earlier this year that included the university’s president. Additionally, Jackie Edmondson, Penn State’s associate vice president and associate dean for undergraduate education, oversaw a group of NTNU educators who visited University Park to learn more about how Penn State welcomes its first-year students. Plans are under way for additional visits to examine business operations, fundraising and embedded international programs, Monk said.

“The benchmarking endeavor is recent and reflects their interest and high regard for Penn State,’’ Monk said. “They are investing a substantial level of resources into the benchmarking effort.’’

Monk in August presented at the International Workshop on the Advanced Learning Sciences (IWALS) in Tokyo along with Ping Li, a professor from Penn State’s Department of Psychology. They reported on research at Penn State that is part of the Advanced Center for the Study of Learning Sciences. Monk’s presentation included an update on a project by Karen Murphy, a professor of education in educational psychology.

Murphy’s “Quality Talk’’ project is an approach to conducting discussions that promote students’ high-level comprehension of text, where high-level comprehension refers to critical-analytical thinking and epistemic cognition about, around and with text.

The approach is premised on the belief that talk is a tool for thinking and that certain kinds of talk can contribute to high-level comprehension. Findings showed that after participation in Quality Talk discussions, native English speakers evidenced transfer effects via improved persuasive and expository writing as well as increased argument generation in social studies and science classes.

It also revealed that Quality Talk can provide opportunities for Taiwanese students to participate in more engaging discussions in English by teaching them how to ask questions linked to deeper learning and better explain their responses. It can also help enhance Taiwanese students’ English proficiency and comprehension by letting them co-construct meaning with their peers.

Rachel Wolkenhauer visited NTNU in Taipei, Taiwan, in June to continue to develop the research-practice partnership. Wolkenhauer, an assistant professor of education in curriculum and instruction, said she and former C&I instructor Nicole Olcese made visits with pre-service teachers, K-12 teachers and students as well as university faculty who work with these students and those who study technology integration and teacher education.

Several research meetings focused on a collaborative survey study into pre-service and in-service teachers’ uses of technological pedagogical and content knowledge (TPACK) framework, Wolkenhauer said.

“In addition, we met with professors from NTNU Science Education Center who expressed interest in a continued partnership with Penn State,’’ she said.

Wolkenhauer said professors working in NTNU’s Graduate Institute of Science are working on a project “to develop and provide innovative instructional materials and tools for science education.’’

Wolkenhauer and Olcese also translated, adapted and administered a TPACK integration survey that NTNU designed and administered to a cohort of both in-service and pre-service teachers.

“This survey was shared with a group of our science teacher education students and PK-4 Professional Development School interns,’’ Wolkenhauer said.

“The survey asked questions surrounding their pedagogical uses of digital technologies, specifically related to the teaching of science. Conversations about next steps included expanded survey distribution, adapting the survey to include other content areas and expanding the work to include integrated ethnographic and observational accounts of teachers’ actual implementation of their TPACK dispositions within K-12 classrooms.’’

Wolkenhauer said that in an increasingly complex and globalized society, NTNU and the College of Education at Penn State can partner in finding innovative and effective ways of supporting teachers for teaching and learning in the 21st century.

“While we share many common beliefs and practices about education, we find that by having conversations with our NTNU partners, we are able to step outside of ourselves and gain new insights into how we think about education in the United States,’’ Wolkenhauer said.

“The partnerships with NTNU places us in the important position to learn with our friends in Taiwan. The work that NTNU is engaging in is creative and considers the implications for continued content area teacher learning that is supportive of teacher voice and expertise at undergraduate, graduate and in-service teacher professional development levels,’’ she said.

Wolkenhauer noted that work by College of Education personnel complements NTNU’s in its emphasis on creative pedagogical implications for 21st-century teacher and K-12 student learning.

“By looking across contexts, these global partners will strengthen our work, and in turn we hope to impact theirs as well,’’ she said.

Jim Carlson (September 2015)