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The College of Education faculty are actively engaged in numerous externally funded research projects.  Use the drop down menus below to peruse the exciting research projects which are listed  by the faculty member's department, or Center and Institute.

Projects by Department

Dr. Fran Arbaugh

National Science Foundation
Collaborative Research on Early Field Experiences for Prospective STEM Teachers: Scaling the UTE Model

This project will assess the effectiveness of an early field experience model for secondary prospective teachers (PSTs), initially developed and tested at Michigan State University with prior NSF support. The model, called the University Teaching Experience (UTE), involves mathematics teacher educators serving as mentor teachers for PSTs as they teach in an undergraduate gateway mathematics course. This IUSE Development and Implementation for Engaged Student Learning project will have two broad aims. First, the project will involve collaboration across three different teacher preparation institutions to assess the portability of the UTE model to a wider range of university-based teacher preparation institutions. Second, the project will empirically assess the effectiveness of the UTE model in supporting the development of PSTs' understanding of the practices of eliciting and responding to student thinking, both of which are high-leverage teaching practices (NCTM, 2014; Smith & Stein, 2011) and are essential for achieving ambitious learning outcomes.

Dr. Amy Crosson

Institute of Education Sciences
Returning to Our Roots: Development of a Morphology Intervention to Bolster Academic Vocabulary Knowledge for Adolescent English

The purpose of this project for the English Learners program is to develop and document the feasibility and effectiveness of an intervention for teaching academic vocabulary to English Learners (ELs) in middle school. The key innovation on which the program will be based is instruction is lexical morphology, which is teaching word meanings and relationships between words through their Latin roots. The intervention will draw features from our existing intervention for native English speaking adolescents, Robust Academic Vocabulary Encounters (RAVE), specifically, the use of authentic contexts, friendly definitions, and activities to engage active processing. We will incorporate these features to develop an intervention to teach academic vocabulary and lexical morphology.

Institute of Education Sciences
For Argument's Sake: Applying Questioning the Author Techniques to Move from Comprehension to Composition of Written Arguments

This project will develop and document the feasibility and effectiveness of an instructional intervention designed to support middle school students’ text-based argument writing skills aligned with the Common Core State Standards. Our proposed intervention brings together research on powerful instructional strategies for developing higher-level text comprehension and argument writing. The project builds on a previous Goal 2 study in which we developed and tested the discussion-based Questioning the Author intervention, which promotes comprehension through open, meaning-based queries about the text. The proposed intervention, which we call Triple Q, will use formulations Questioning the Author queries to focus students’ attention at three levels—the “gist” of a text, features of argumentation, and an author’s language choices. These three query types will be used to systematically guide students through the process of comprehending and analyzing argument texts and, then planning, drafting, and revising their own text-based, written arguments.

Dr. Kathleen Heid

National Science Foundation
Penn State University Secondary Mathematics Noyce Scholars Program

This program will identify, and prepare as secondary mathematics teachers, undergraduates with interest and ability in mathematics and interest in teaching in high-need rural or urban-centered school districts. Each student who completes the program, a Noyce Scholar, will graduate with a bachelor’s degree in mathematics as well as with a bachelor’s degree in secondary education (mathematics) or a master’s degree in mathematics education. The program experience is technology-intensive and includes tutoring of students from high-need schools in an Upward Bound program or a second-language learning program, experience in designing and teaching sequences of lessons in high-need rural and/or urban schools, participation in seminars that focus on place-based teaching in high-need schools, and student teaching in a high-need Pennsylvania school.

Dr. Scott McDonald

Concord Consortium (Prime: NSF)
GEODE: Geological models for Explorations Of Dynamic Earth

The goal of this project is to design a transformational geodynamic simulation combining surface and subsurface processes in a way that supports learning across multiple representations. We will also study the impact of this tool to support student learning, in particular around the nature of uncertainty in scientific modeling, as well as study the practices developed by teachers to support learning in a curricular context integrating this technology tool.

Dr. Julia Plummer

Astronomical Society of the Pacific (Prime: NSF)
My Sky Tonight: Early Childhood Pathways to Astronomy

Two pairs of studies will be conducted for this project.  The first will examine ISE practitioners' goals and pedagogical knowledge about astronomy education for early childhood.  The second study will focus on children's development of concepts and scientific practices in astronomy.

Harvard University (Prime: NSF)
Thinking Spatially about the Universe: A Physical and Virtual Laboratory for Middle School Science

Penn State will partner with the core research and development team at Harvard University.  The research is designed around implementing modules to support student learning on three astronomical phenomena.

Dr. Carla Zembal-Saul

U.S. Department of Education
Science 20/20: Bringing Language Learners Into Focus Through Community-School-University Partnership

Science 20/20 will develop and implement a professional development model that connects community-school-university partners to foster ambitious and equitable science teaching practices in Hazleton Area School District elementary classrooms that contribute to ELs’ academic success. Using collaborative action research, teachers and administrators will partner with parents and community educators to design instructional materials that leverage the cultural and linguistic resources embedded in students’ homes and community and incorporate evidence-based approaches for engaging ELs in scientific and engineering practices and discourse. Science 20/20 will also support the preparation of preservice teachers of ELs by placing them in participating mentor teachers’ classrooms for student teaching. An online platform that houses the professional development resources and instructional materials emerging from this project will be created to support long-term sustainability and larger-scale impact across the district.

Dr. David Gamson

Spencer Foundation
What Students Knew and Were Able to Do: Two Centuries in Search of American Educational Standards

 

The goal of this project is to undertake an analytic history of how educational leaders in the United States have created educational standards over the past two centuries -- focusing especially on successive efforts to create common, uniform academic learning expectations -- and to illustrate how generations of educators have sought to specify, clarify, and at times intensify, what students were meant to know and be able to do.

Dr. Paul Morgan

National Science Foundation
Vocabulary and Reading Difficulties in Preschool and 1st Grade and their Consequences for Mathematics and Science Achievement in 1st-5th Grade

 

This project will analyze two nationally representative, longitudinal datasets (i.e., the Early Childhood Longitudinal Study-Birth Cohort and Kindergarten Cohort of 2011, or ECLS-B and -K: 2011) to identify risk factors for oral vocabulary difficulties prior to or by kindergarten and  examine to what extent oral vocabulary and reading difficulties during kindergarten and 1st grade increase children's risk for mathematics and science difficulties in 2nd-5th grade.

Dr. Kelly Rosinger

University of Southern California (NSF)
Collaborative Research: IGE: Scaling Faculty Development to Broaden Participation in Graduate Education

 

University of Florida
A Proposal to Analyze the Effects of Variations in Performance-Based Funding Policies on Student Access, Success, and Labor Market Outcomes

 

Laura and John Arnold Foundation  and The Joyce Foundation

Approximately 35 states use performance-based funding (PBF) policies to allocate at least a portion of state appropriations to public colleges and universities in an effort to hold colleges more accountable for their outcomes. Yet although states are taking a wide range of approaches in terms of the percentage of funding tied to outcomes and the types of outcomes being incentivized, prior research on the effects of these approaches relies primarily on binary indicators of whether a state had a PBF system or provided any funding based on institutional performance. This means that states seeking guidance on how to develop effective PBF systems do not receive crucial evidence-based information pertaining to the dosage or percentage of state funds necessary to increase the likelihood of the PBF system being effective. The main reason why researchers have been unable to answer these nuanced, yet crucial, policy questions is that a comprehensive dataset on the details of PBF programs has not existed. Thanks to a grant from the William T. Grant Foundation, we are currently developing the first comprehensive longitudinal dataset of PBF systems that includes the dosage or percentage of state funding tied to institutional performance. We are seeking support from the Arnold Foundation in two main areas. First, we seek support to be able to disseminate and update the PBF dataset through a website that allows for data visualization and communication intended for a general audience. Second, we will analyze the extent to which the dosage of PBF policies and the types of outcomes funded affect students’ access, success, and labor market outcomes. This second phase of our proposed project will focus specifically on whether PBF policies can be used to reduce long-standing student achievement and outcome gaps by race/ethnicity and family income. We will communicate these results to academic audiences through writing research papers, but we will also produce shorter and less-technical policy briefs for state policymakers and intermediary organizations. Our research team’s experience in studying PBF policies, using quasi-experimental research methods, and interacting with policymakers makes us the ideal group to conduct this research.

Dr. Erica Frankenberg

Spencer Foundation
Race-conscious Educational Policies in the Post-Obama Era: Separation of Powers, Federalism, and Civil Society

Dr. Liza Conyers

Pennsylvania Department of Health
Pennsylvania Expanded HIV Testing Initiative (PEHTI)

 

This project serves to provide technical support and capacity development to the PA Department of Health, Division of HIV Disease (Department) and selected sites in order to expand access to HIV testing for disproportionately affected populations through the routinization of opt-out HIV screening in healthcare settings, in accordance with applicable laws, PEHTI protocols and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's (CDC) 2006 Revised Recommendations for HIV Testing of Adults, Adolescents, and Pregnant Women in Health-Care Settings (Guidelines) and; to develop sustainability of this initiative by providing technical support and capacity development to the Department and selected sites on methods to seek third-party reimbursement for HIV testing, where applicable.

Dr. P. Karen Murphy

National Science Foundation
Enhancing Teacher Educators' Professional Vision Regarding Preservice Elementary Teachers' Mathematical Proficiency and Emergent STEM Pedagogy Through Quality Talk

 

Project Summary Overview The proposed work is a five-year Development and Implementation Level II: Engaged Student Learning project. The purposes are to demonstrate how Quality Talk (QT)—a small-group, teacher-facilitated discourse intervention designed to promote student reasoning—can be adapted to: (a) meet school- and university-based teacher educators’ needs regarding undergraduate elementary teacher preparation in mathematics-rich STEM pedagogy; (b) enhance preservice teachers’ mathematical proficiency; and, (c) be disseminated for the broader community’s benefit. The Major Goals (G1-G3) are: (G1) for teacher educators (TEs) to enhance their mathematics-rich STEM professional vision by bolstering their discourse-intensive pedagogical content knowledge and teacher educator efficacy; (G2) for undergraduate preservice teachers (uPSTs) to advance their mathematical proficiency by increasing conceptual understandings and mathematical reasoning through content-rich discourse (QTTE) and developing mathematics-rich STEM pedagogy; and, (G3) for the STEM education community to meet 21st century pedagogical expectations by demonstrating the effectiveness of QTTE to impact TEs’ professional vision and uPSTs’ mathematical proficiency, providing online access to QTTE discourse and content lessons, increasing sustainability of QTTE through propagation to diverse programs and settings, and disseminating findings and products to journals, conferences, and STEM networks. Our adaptation of QT to elementary teacher education will be investigated through a series of four mixed methods studies in Years 1-4, with a focus on broad dissemination of QTTE in Year 5. Intellectual Merit Although preservice teacher preparation in mathematics-rich STEM pedagogy is critically important in uPSTs’ future classroom instruction, the TEs responsible for this preparation possess varying levels of expertise in mathematics, classroom discourse, and teaching and learning. Even TEs with extensive pedagogical and mathematical expertise face significant challenges in providing experiences that will prepare uPSTs to enact effective discourse-intensive, mathematical reasoning pedagogy (e.g., Melhuish, Thanheiser, & Guyot, 2018). Thus, it is essential that TEs receive explicit support in offering undergraduate teacher preparation experiences that intentionally develop uPSTs’ mathematical proficiency and emergent STEM pedagogy. This project aims to address these challenges by adapting QT for use in uPST settings (QTTE), supporting TEs in integrating QTTE and enhancing their professional vision for advancing uPSTs’ discourse-intensive mathematical proficiency and emergent STEM pedagogy. Increasing the utility and effectiveness of pedagogies, like QTTE, that privilege active engagement, critical thinking, shared responsibility, and student interpretive authority through content-focused discourse will provide TEs with the necessary tools for facilitating 21st century learning, while invigorating the mathematical reasoning, knowledge, and empowerment of uPSTs. Broader Impacts The proposed project will have broader impacts through its research and activities. First, by adapting QT, the project builds TEs’ professional vision and prepares them to support other educators in making instructional changes. Second, the proposed work enhances uPSTs’ mathematical proficiency by fundamentally changing mathematics teacher education pedagogies. Third, fostering uPSTs’ mathematical proficiency impacts their emergent STEM pedagogy in potentially transformative ways. Fourth, the project strengthens infrastructure for teacher preparation across all Penn State campuses, many of which serve students underrepresented in STEM fields. Finally, the proposed dissemination plan includes sharing findings and products, including a QTTE Toolbox, with a school-university partnership in which participants will extend their learning beyond this project to other classrooms, schools, and universities. We will further disseminate results to practitioners and researchers through publications, presentations, data sharing, and a dedicated website (http://www.qualitytalk.psu.edu).

 

National Science Foundation
Integrating Quality Talk Professional Development to Enhance Professional Vision and Leadership for STEM Teachers in High-Need Schools

 

Quality Talk (QT) is an innovative, scalable teacher-facilitated discourse model that we hypothesize will enhance pre- and in-service secondary teachers' development of professional vision and leadership skills necessary for 21st century STEM education.  Researchers have argued that meaningful scientific discourse can promote students' conceptual understanding, development of scientific practices, and overall science literacy.  However, such discourse requires advanced pedagogical content knowledge that is often not taught in preparation programs.  By integrating QT, this project will have a transformative effect upon the teachers' professional vision, with subsequent effects upon their students' scientific literacy.

Dr. James Herbert

U.S. Department of Education
Long-Term Training of New Personnel to Work in State Vocational Rehabilitation
 

This grant supports the recruitment, admission, training, and employment of 40 new master's level students to work as State Vocational Rehabilitation (VR) Counselors supported through RSA funds with an additional two rehabilitation counseling master's students supported through Penn State University funds.

Dr. David Lee

Institute of Education Sciences
Supporting Early Adolescent Learning and Social Success across the Middle School Years: Project SEALS

As students transition to middle school they face many new challenges. The goal of this research project is to evaluate a universal intervention program that is aimed at creating classroom instructional contexts and school social communities that promote the adaptation of students during the first year of middle school.

 

U.S. Department of Education
Training in the Professoriate for Special Education (TIPS)

The grave shortage of PhD level persons in special education (SpEd) teacher preparation programs continues. Training in the Professoriate for Special Education (TIPS) is designed to address research identified needs in the infrastructure of doctoral student recruitment and retention.  TIPS’ goal is to graduate eight new professors who are able to generate and communicate evidence-based practices (EBP) to teachers of high-needs learners with disabilities.

Dr. Allison Fleming &  Dr. Wendy Coduti

U.S. Department of Education
Penn State Long Term Training Grant in Rehabilitation Counseling
 

This grant proposal supports the recruitment, admission, training, and employment of 35 new masters’ level rehabilitation counselors to work as State Vocational Rehabilitation (VR) counselors supported through RSA funds. Second year students will be prioritized for this funding, as they have had the chance to clarify their career goals and make a more informed decision on whether they wish to work in State VR. However, first year students will also be considered. Recognizing the continual need for (a) qualified personnel in the state VR program, (b) skills needed to address VR and related needs of persons with disabilities particularly those with severe disabilities seeking services, and (c) capacity to train vocational rehabilitation counselors working in the public sector, as the fourth highest rated Rehabilitation Counseling Program [RCP] in the nation in terms of recognition among peers (U.S. News & World Report, 2019) and scholarship contributions to the rehabilitation counseling literature (Chen, Vaughn, Zanskas & Kuo, 2014), Penn State University has maintained a strong record of preparing qualified persons to work as state VR counselors since its inception in 1956. The curriculum includes both didactic and experiential learning to promote skill development required of entry-level state VR counselors who serve clients from diverse cultural backgrounds. In particular, Rehabilitation Services Administration (RSA) scholars will be provided opportunities to complete supervised practicum (100 hours) within our training clinic, and with individuals with significant disabilities who are transition age youth as part of our post-secondary education program. RSA scholars will also be required to complete a full-time, 600-hour supervised internship in a state VR agency within the United States. Upon successful completion of the internship, all scholars will work as state VR counselors for a period of not less than two years post- graduation. In response to this grant application, we are enhancing our existing curriculum by expanding our offerings in the area of transition, and collaboration with Career and Technical Education (CTE) and Special Education faculty. We will modify our course taught in collaboration with our local VR agency to include additional information on transition from the educational perspective and CTE as an additional option for obtaining marketable work skills. This class will complement our comprehensive skills class regarding employment strategies for persons with disabilities, that specifically addresses RSA priorities related to assistive technology and employment, emerging consumer employment needs and trends within the labor market, and using evidenced-based practices and strategies that facilitate and maintain effective employer relationships. These courses ensure a strong professional preparation of vocational rehabilitation counselors that is responsive to national trends in service delivery. Finally, specific strategies using multiple local, region and national resources to attract qualified applicants from diverse backgrounds (e.g., age, disability, ethnicity/race, national origin, religion, sexual orientation, and veterans) will be implemented as part of our recruitment approach.

Dr. Richard Kubina

Central Reach
The Application of Precision Behavior Analysis to Students with Autism Spectrum Disorder

 

Precision Behavior Analysis (PBA) refers to the integration of applied behavior analysis and precision measurement and decision making. PBA involves the application of a behavioral procedure to a person and the subsequent measurement, data monitoring, analysis, and decision making. PBA has demonstrated through applied settings snd research several immediate and long-term accelerative effects: (1) Pinpointing behavior - using a standard framework for precisely labeling target behaviors - Leads to clearly defined data targets and enhances communication of such data targets; (2) Element-compound analysis - analyzing constituent behavioral elements for a behavioral compound and applying the analysis to existing curricula and other data targets - Uncovers and refines the focus of behaviors necessary for skill building and behavior reduction; (3) Dimensional measurement - applying universal and absolute metrics that quantify behavioral measures - Facilitates standard, clear metrics that convey the precise magnitude of change; (4) Standard visual display - implementing a graphic (i.e., Standard Celeration Chart) that quantifies behavior change, maintains visual consistency from analyst to analyst, reduces interpretative errors, and facilitates pattern recognition - Offers a highly accurate model for present data and a (5) Predictive behavioral model that uses machine learning to supplement and enhance descriptive data and predict the future course of targeted behaviors - Engender high caliber decisions and the best course of action for the client. The present study targets board-certified behavior analysts who serve students with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) in home and clinic settings often lack precision in defining target behaviors, accurately measuring target behaviors, rendering high-quality decisions based on a universal display and informed by advanced algorithms. As a result, students with ASD do not reach their targeted goals in an efficient manner. And in some cases, the outcomes do not turn out favorably with students taking years to attain goals or not making any meaningful progress. The study will employ randomization across a large agency of behavior analysts. One group of behavior analysts will apply PBA while the second group will do treatment as usual.

Dr. Rayne Sperling

North Carolina State University (NSF)
Missions with Monty: A Game-Based Approach to Comprehension Monitoring with Informational Science Text

 

The goal of this Level 2 learning environments EHR Core proposal is to develop a game-based computer program entitled MISSIONS WITH MONTY to improve 5th graders’ comprehension-monitoring skills and science content knowledge using informational texts. The program will take adopt a self-regulated learning focus and include three key curricular units (ecosystems, Earth and human activity, from molecules to organisms) that align with Next Generation Science Standards.

Dr. Brian Belland

National Science Foundation

 

Engaging early grades students with STEM content in an inquiry-oriented manner is challenging. One way in which this can be done is by having students participate with robots in dramatic play and other student-centered approaches to early childhood education. Programming, and, by consequence, debugging, is critical to the ability to control robot movements. And it is unreasonable to expect early grades students to gain these skills without being helped by a teacher who has the ability and self-efficacy to engage in debugging. In this three year, collaborative research project, the project team will prototype and research the effectiveness of strategies to help preservice, early childhood education teachers learn to debug block-based programming. In so doing, the project has the potential to invite members of a population that is overwhelmingly female (early childhood education preservice teachers) to participate in computer science, a field in which women are drastically under-represented. But it also has the potential to positively influence the teaching of computer science in the early grades among students who are from low-SES and ethnic minority backgrounds - a very important goal for both social justice and ensuring the widest possible talent pool for the computer science workforce of the future. This aligns with the goals of NSF's Improving Undergraduate STEM Education Program, in that it seeks to enhance STEM education process and outcomes among preservice, early childhood teachers, who often suffer from weak STEM education preparation. The specific project aims are (a) to determine the nature of the motivational and cognitive challenges that impede successful and efficient debugging among preservice early childhood teachers, and (b) match scaffolding techniques with specific learner characteristics to promote successful and efficient debugging among preservice early childhood teachers. To address these aims, the project team will engage in 5 studies - (1) an exploratory study of cognitive and motivational challenges that impede successful and efficient debugging among pre-service early childhood teachers, (2) meta-synthesis of exploratory studies (including pilot studies prior to this project) and clusters of participants according to challenges, (3) data mining of a scaffolding meta-analysis dataset and prototyping scaffolding strategies, and (4-5) implementation studies of scaffolding prototypes. Furthermore, the project team will disseminate results to (a) university educators through workshops and webinars, and (b) STEM education researchers through publication of peer-reviewed journal articles.

Dr. David McNaughton

U.S. Department of Education
The Penn State AAC Doctoral Leadership Project

 

The Penn State AAC Doctoral Leadership Project responds to the critical nationwide shortage of faculty to conduct research and provide preservice training for speech language pathologists in augmentative and alternative communication (AAC) /assistive technology. The project will prepare a total of 10 new doctoral scholars who will complete a 3-year doctoral program to develop competencies in research, preservice teaching, leadership, and evidence-based practices (EBPs) to prepare them to assume faculty roles to improve services and results for children with severe communication disabilities who require AAC, including those with high needs (e.g., children who are English language learners, live in poverty). The curriculum integrates: coursework in research and EBPs in AAC, child language development /disabilities, and related content; coursework in statistics /research methods and mentored research experiences; coursework in college teaching and mentored teaching experiences; leadership training and a capstone project with a high needs LEA to build AAC capacity. Evaluation will ensure success in improving results for high need children who require AAC; performance measures include quality indicators of doctoral coursework, evaluation of scholar attainment of program milestones, employer surveys of graduates’ job performance, and stakeholder ratings of the relevance, usefulness, and uptake of scholar research and teaching.

 

U.S. Department of Education
The AAC Collaboration Project at Penn State

 

The Penn State AAC Collaboration Project focuses on interdisciplinary training to enhance the quality of services and results for children with high-intensity needs who require augmentative and alternative communication (AAC) assistive technology. Through 2-years of interdisciplinary training in Communication Sciences and Disorders and Special Education, the project is expected to prepare 9 Master’s-level speech language pathologists (M.S.) eligible for ASHA certification and 9 special educators (M.Ed) eligible for PDE certification (18 total scholars). The scholars will develop competencies in evidence-based practices related to instruction, assessment, collaboration, and individualized supports to improve results for children with high-intensity needs who require AAC. Part 2: The Penn State AAC Collaboration Project includes evidence-based interdisciplinary training in focused instruction and intense individualized intervention to improve results for children who require AAC. The training includes 6 shared courses (with each course including collaborative group projects), 3 interdisciplinary practicum experiences in high need LEAs, a weekly colloquium, and AAC research activities. Project evaluation utilizes valid and reliable measurement instruments to collect objective data on project performance from all major stakeholders (e.g., advisory panel, scholars, employers, children who use AAC and their families) through syllabi review, employer surveys, goal attainment data for children served, and parent surveys.

 

U.S. Department of Education
Rehabilitation Engineering Research Center on Augmentative and Alternative Communication (The RERC on AAC)-2

 

There are more than 4 million Americans with complex communication needs (CCN) who cannot rely on speech and/or writing to communicate, including children and adults with developmental, acquired, and degenerative disabilities. Without functional communication, they are severely restricted in all aspects of life. The RERC on AAC responds to the urgent need for scientifically-sound, consumer-driven research, development, training, and dissemination to enhance the communication of individuals with CCN in order to improve their employment, health, community living, and participation outcomes. Our vision is to ensure that all individuals, including those with the most severe disabilities, have access to effective augmentative and alternative communication (AAC) strategies, techniques, and interventions so they can realize their basic human right of communication. The RERC on AAC will meet this challenge through: (a) Rigorous research to build the scientific base for designing effective AAC technologies and interventions; (b) Development and evaluation of innovative AAC engineering solutions driven by consumer needs; and, (c) Comprehensive training and dissemination to build R & D capacity and improve services and results. Our research and development activities are organized around three themes: 1. Improving access to technologies for individuals with CCN who have severe motor impairments by investigating and developing new access techniques (i.e., brain control interfaces and multimodal access); 2. Developing language support technologies to enhance communication for those with significant language/cognitive limitations (e.g., technologies that facilitate the transition to literacy, provide contextually relevant smart prediction, and support video visual scene displays to enhance participation in school, work and community routines); and 3. Improving the AAC human-computer interface to reduce cognitive processing demands and enhance communication. The RERC on AAC will also deliver targeted training and dissemination to build greater capacity and maximize the effective translation of R & D to real world use (e.g., capstone projects for rehab engineering and science students, a comprehensive series of webcasts /MOOC, an AAC hack-a-thon to build industry awareness and crowdsource solutions to AAC problems, and broad-based dissemination via publications, presentations, website, social media and a State of the Science conference). The RERC on AAC brings together an expert team of rehab engineers and scientists with an excellent record of grant completion leading to important research advances, effective engineering solutions, and successful tech transfer to the marketplace. We are fully committed to the active inclusion of individuals with CCN in all RERC activities. Through the RERC on AAC, we will deliver 7 high quality R & D projects that increase scientific knowledge and that result in more than 10 cutting edge AAC products to improve outcomes for individuals with CCN. We will provide intensive multidisciplinary training to more than 150 rehab engineering and science students to build greater R & D capacity in the field. Overall, we will substantially improve AAC technologies, strategies and interventions in order to ensure that individuals with CCN have the communication tools they need to attain their full potential in education, employment, health, and community living.

Dr. Heather Zimmerman

Institute of Museum and Library Services
STEM Pillars: Supporting Rural Communities with Science Stories, Experts, and Inquiry Activities

 

This project aligns with the IMLS learning performance goal for inclusive and accessible learning. The six informal sites (four libraries and two museums) will work together with Penn State learning scientists to develop narrative- and inquiry-based materials for families with elementary aged children (aged 6 to 10 years old) that reflect science relevant to rural communities.


National Science Foundation
Transforming Outdoor Places into Learning Spaces

 

Transforming Outdoor Places into Learning Spaces is a 4-year Innovations in Development project that investigates how rural families learn in outdoor places when engaging in mobile learning experiences. By employing a distributed scaffolding framework, the team conceptualizes an innovative learning technology as a learning tool well-suited to outdoor education to advance design on multidimensional context-sensitive learning. The importance addresses the societal need for transformation of everyday outdoor places visited by rural families into child-centered learning spaces. Rural communities are underserved by indoor museums; however, they are places rich with outdoor trails, parks, and forestlands. We offer an innovative solution: the development of the SPACES (Supporting Place-based Augmented Contexts for Engaging Science) beacon and augmented reality system, which can add content to outdoor spaces' without ruining the aesthetic experience of being in the outdoors. SPACES partners include rural libraries, outdoor learning centers, and university researchers. The objectives are to build knowledge for the informal STEM education field by conducting three iterations of design-based research study investigating how rural families learn about science in their community and to have a strategic impact on outdoor education practice with the contribution of empirically-vetted design conjectures for place-based mobile computing to support participatory family science learning.

Dr. Rebecca Tarlau

National Academy of Education
Spencer Postdoctoral Fellowship:  Teacher Activism Across the Americas:  Union Politics and Educational Change in Brazil, Mexico, and the United States

 

Under what conditions do unions start acting beyond their economic interest and become broader actors for social change? In this study, I answer this question by analyzing instances of “oppositional unionism” within teachers' unions in Brazil, Mexico, and the United States. Oppositional unionism occurs when union members come together to contest the leadership of their union and transform the union’s daily practices, priorities, and demands. By examining the diversity of internal groups and theories of social change within unions, I contest the assumption that teachers’ unions are unitary actors simply “blocking” education reform efforts. Instead, drawing on the labor studies and social movement literature, I argue that unions are complex organizations that reflect their political-institutional contexts, which shape their forms of political engagement. This research is comparative and ethnographic, focusing on the internal politics of teachers’ unions in three countries. Through participant observation, interviews, and archival research, I examine the relationship between teachers’ unions, the state, and political parties; internal union divisions; the moments when teachers organize for broader demands; and how union disputes influence education. This project will shift our understanding of teachers’ unions as simply “self-interested” or “selfless,” to a more nuanced assessment of the role teachers play in politics, the diversity of political groups within unions, and the ways that teachers’ unions in diverse contexts go beyond self-interest and become social movement actors.

Dr. Gabriela Richard

National Academy of Education
Spencer Postdoctoral Fellowship:  Cultivating Inclusive Ecologies of Learning through Making and Gaming: Interrogating Culturally-Sustaining Pedagogical Approaches and Technology-specific Material Affordances for Learning and Diverse Engagement

 

Despite influential theories and designs, research and practice continues to face significant questions around key crucial relationships between the scale of influence of informal or interestdriven technology activities to lifelong pursuits, and the complexities involved in scaffolding culturally-sustaining, equitable and accessible STEM learning in informal making and gaming contexts. For instance, youth-supportive content creation communities, such as Scratch, have become increasing critiqued for agnostic design, while commercial content creation platforms that have traditionally operated from content agnostic positions have become increasingly leveraged for formal and informal education. The proposed research for this project will integrate this collective body of work to interrogate how culturally-situated tools and culturally-responsive practices are (or are not) designed within wide-reaching, informal learning ecologies around making and gaming, how learners respond to those designs, and how we can bring effective applications from more formally-influenced environments to these naturalistic, interest-driven ones. Richard will utilize naturalistic observational techniques, mixed methods and iterative design-based research techniques to (1) better understand the ways that learners integrate playing and making in their naturalistic learning ecologies, by utilizing livestreaming as a participatory learning and teaching tool; (2) interrogate the affordances and limitations for culturally sustaining practices in informal learning, including in naturalistic learning ecologies; and (3) explore alternative models for fostering inclusivity by utilizing and reframing implicit values in digital media and content creation tools. Results will provide groundwork for scalable interventions aimed at designing informal learning environments and systems for socioculturally diverse and prosocially supportive computational participation and STEM pathways.

 

Anti-Defamation League
Belfer Fellows at ADL's Center for Technology and Society

 

Since the last quarter of the 20th century, researchers and educators have explored the influences of digital games on learning and career aspirations. In particular, a long line of research has proposed that digital games have an impact on career trajectories in computing and STEM fields (Cassell & Jenkins, 1998; Kafai, Richard & Tynes, 2016; Kiesler, Sproull & Eccles, 1985). In recent times, in particular, researchers and journalists have underscored the relationship between physical and digital gaming and tech spaces, and pervasive patterns of discrimination against non-dominant groups, particularly women and historically minoritized people (Kafai, Richard & Tynes, 2016; Richard & Gray, 2018). In fact, scholars have continued to find relationships between these patterns of discrimination, and the increase in hateful rhetoric and disinformation online (Richard, 2016; Richard & Gray, 2018). With the rise of social media platforms, such as Twitter, and, increasingly, livestreaming environments, such as Twitch, these communication patterns have become increasingly public and consumable by a wider audience, and evidence shows that youth can even transfer these problematic practices in supposedly “safe” and educational social media environments, such as Scratch and other content creation platforms (Richard & Kafai, 2016). The research plan proposed is part of a larger research project that interrogates how diverse youth and adults participate with and may encounter barriers to engagement with digital play and content creation through the use of contemporary digital and physical tools. Here I focus on how learners, across gender identity, race and dis/ability, utilize popular, yet increasingly complex leisurely and informal technology-based content creation platforms to teach and learn with others. The project itself explores how diverse individuals engage with popular livestreaming and esports platforms where people broadcast not only their digital game play, but also a wide variety of skillsets and interests, including coding, cooking, crafting, drawing and design.

Dr. ChanMin Kim

National Science Foundation
Collaborative Research: Scaffolding Pre-service, Early Childhood Teachers to Debug Block-based Programming

 

Engaging early grades students with STEM content in an inquiry-oriented manner is challenging. One way in which this can be done is by having students participate with robots in dramatic play and other student-centered approaches to early childhood education. Programming, and, by consequence, debugging, is critical to the ability to control robot movements. And it is unreasonable to expect early grades students to gain these skills without being helped by a teacher who has the ability and self-efficacy to engage in debugging. In this three year, collaborative research project, the project team will prototype and research the effectiveness of strategies to help preservice, early childhood education teachers learn to debug block-based programming. In so doing, the project has the potential to invite members of a population that is overwhelmingly female (early childhood education pre-service teachers) to participate in computer science, a field in which women are drastically under-represented. But it also has the potential to positively influence the teaching of computer science in the early grades among students who are from low-SES and ethnic minority backgrounds - a very important goal for both social justice and ensuring the widest possible talent pool for the computer science workforce of the future. This aligns with the goals of NSF's Improving Undergraduate STEM Education Program, in that it seeks to enhance STEM education process and outcomes among preservice, early childhood teachers, who often suffer from weak STEM education preparation. The specific project aims are (a) to determine the nature of the motivational and cognitive challenges that impede successful and efficient debugging among preservice early childhood teachers, and (b) match scaffolding techniques with specific learner characteristics to promote successful and efficient debugging among preservice early childhood teachers. To address these aims, the project team will engage in 5 studies - (1) an exploratory study of cognitive and motivational challenges that impede successful and efficient debugging among pre-service early childhood teachers, (2) meta-synthesis of exploratory studies (including pilot studies prior to this project) and clusters of participants according to challenges, (3) data mining of a scaffolding meta-analysis dataset and prototyping scaffolding strategies, and (4-5) implementation studies of scaffolding prototypes. Furthermore, the project team will disseminate results to (a) university educators through workshops and webinars, and (b) STEM education researchers through publication of peer-reviewed journal articles.

 

National Science Foundation
Using Collective Argumentation to Develop Teaching practices Integrating Coding Within the Science and Math Curriculum (Grades 3-5)

 

Dr. Tanner Vea

Spencer Foundation
Learning to Engage: Politics and Civic Engagement in the Learning Sciences

 

For learning scientists who believe that education should be a practice of freedom, how should we account for and adapt to rapid contemporary changes in politics and political participation? The proposed four-day conference builds on a growing body of scholarship in the learning sciences addressing questions of power and politics as inherent aspects of learning. Bringing together an intergenerational group of scholars for collaboration across three strands -- learning in schools, extra-curricular learning, and learning in social movements -- we will workshop empirical papers contributed by participants, use Open Space Technology (OST) facilitation to identify and develop cross-cutting issues, and collaborate in interest groups to develop an edited volume for an academic audience and web-based multimedia resources aimed at a broader audience. These deliverables will identify (1) core principles that inform how we theorize learning for democracy and justice and (2) areas of distinction between contexts that enable and constrain opportunities to learn and engage. We will contribute to setting a robust research agenda in the learning sciences with the promise to transform relations and learning environments for justice and provide practitioners with a set of tools for designing learning opportunities based in emerging theory about learning through and for democratic engagement.

Dr. Simon Hooper

U.S. Department of Education
Stepping UP with Avenue: Progress Monitoring: A software suite helping teachers improve literacy progress for Deaf/ Hard of Hearing students

 

Increasing students’ literacy using efficient and effective software tools that provide teachers with evidence-based and meaningful data to guide instructional decision-making in the areas of reading and writing. We will identify strategies to implement effectively Avenue: Progress Monitoring (Ave: PM), a suite of evidence-based technology tools developed in OSEP Stepping Stones 1 and 2 that help teachers, parents, and students monitor academic progress. Ave: PM is designed specifically for students with varying degrees of hearing (i.e., students who are Deaf or Hard of Hearing) and/or language differences or delays (i.e., students who are English Language learners with disabilities). The project will validate and develop existing and new software tools, and disseminate Ave: PM and professional development materials. Research data will generate insight into how teachers, parents, and students interact with the materials and will be used to support teachers in their instructional decision making and accelerate students’ development of general reading and writing outcomes. 

Projects by Centers and Institutes

Dr. Kathleen Mitchell Hill

USDA
Authentic Plant Pollinator Landscape Research for Educators (APPL-RED)

This program will provide the necessary framework for secondary school teachers to help their students understand the integrative, transdisciplinary, systems-nature of scientific research, particularly research in the areas of food, agriculture, and natural resources. Best practices for K-12 STEM teachers involve using the approaches of researchers to teach basic concepts in science, but teachers often lack the ability to generate an authentic research environment, where questions and hypotheses are not developed a simple, linear fashion by individual investigators but rather by dynamic, interactive collaborations that integrate multiple perspectives. We will use the challenge area of Food Security, particularly the crucial role of ecosystems services of pollinators on food production, to provide this framework.

 

University of California at Davis (NSF)
Polar: APPLES: Artic Plant Phenology - Learning through Engaged Science

 

The overarching educational goal is to develop and pilot a scalable strategy for engaging middle school, high school, and undergraduate educators in polar research that will also prepare them to engage their students in similar research in the classroom. Plans include engaging K-12 and undergraduate science educators in a long-term and ongoing research project in Greenland, examining changes in the phenology of arctic plants and how this relates to climate change. Participants will consist of approximately 24 middle school, high school, and undergraduate educators from schools across a range of geographical locations and school districts serving underrepresented and underserved students. Hence, the study of arctic plant phenology will be used as a bridge to engage undergraduate-level liberal arts college and K-12 educators in research at a remote arctic site.

 

Google, Inc.
Google Educator PD Grant

 

The GREEN-CS PD will focus on addressing three misconceptions that teachers have about computer science: (a) CS is using computer applications, (b) CS content and practices can only be taught in a dedicated CS class by a certified CS educator, (c) the field of computer science is very narrow and should be taught as an elective, and (d) computer science is too difficult for educators to learn. Teachers will develop a common understanding of CS content and practices specific to programming for multiple purposes, collaboration in CS, and integration of hardware and software. CSATS collaborates with STEM faculty across the university and will introduce teachers to the ways that faculty use CS to support their research endeavors. Teachers will be provided with a series of scaffolded experiences in the form of mini-challenges that address specific principles and build to larger projects. Teachers will share about their successes and challenges in learning and teaching CS during the PD.

 

National Science Foundation
Investigation of the Mechanisms that Drive intraseasonal Arctic Surface Air Temperature Variability During the Winter

 

Overview: The scientific objectives of this proposal are to advance our understanding of the physical mechanisms behind cold-season Arctic surface air temperature (SAT) variability at intra-seasonal time scales. Both observational and modeling evidence show that the Arctic warming trend is stronger during winter than summer. Nevertheless, until recently, the primary research focus in Arctic science has been on warm season processes, in part because the negative trend of sea-ice concentration/area has been notably evident during the warm season. However, recent studies show that even during winter when there is virtually no sunlight over the Arctic, warm moist air intrusion events can warm high Arctic regions, and that these intra-seasonal events occur frequently. In-situ measurements (as well as reanalysis data) show that the SAT associated with these events can often reach the melting point! Moreover, some studies show evidence that winter conditions are linked to the following summer. Therefore, it is important to improve our understanding of cold-season intra-seasonal time scale processes that influence the Arctic. To achieve this goal, the PIs propose to investigate the mechanisms that drive intra-seasonal variability of Arctic SAT. The intra-seasonal SAT patterns will be identified using cluster analysis. The research will also include investigation of the intra-seasonal time-scale SAT patterns that are associated with interannual and longer term variability. The data sets to be used include atmospheric and oceanic reanalysis products, Arctic in-situ data, precipitation data, and outgoing longwave radiation data. Diagnoses will include surface energy budget analysis, moist static energy (MSE) analysis, wave activity flux, and backward trajectory calculations. The insight gained from the diagnostic analyses will be tested using the dynamical core of a global climate model.

 

USDA National Institute of food and Agriculture
Expanding YIE(3)LD in AG: Youth Involvement in Exploring Exciting EmpLoyment Directions

To feed the projected increase in world population of 9.1 billion people by the year 2050 would require a 70% increase in overall food production (FAO, 2009). There is an enormous challenge given the more recent climate changes impacting Agricultural crop production in the 21st century. To address the challenge, youth - the future of our agriculture, should be trained in state-of-art technology to the satisfy the needs of agriculture and food industry. The overarching challenge addressed by the proposed Expanding Youth Involvement in Exploring Exciting EmpLoyment Directions in Agriculture (Expanding YIE3LD in Ag) is to increase the number and diversity of students interested in pursuing agriculture-related careers by training K-14 teachers. Expanding YIE3LD in Ag professional development (PD) program addresses the AFRI Challenge Area of "Resilient Agroecosystems in a Changing Climate Challenge Area" by involving middle and high school teachers, who serve underrepresented student populations, in a rigorous seven day workshop focused on food production and safety. The program will integrate the following elements: a. PD activities emphasizing science and engineering concepts and practices in agriculture: (1) alternative growth systems and (2) efficient use of water and nutrient uptake b. Visits to organic farm and food processing industry to create career awareness covering all areas of “farm to plate” c. Establishment of professional learning community (PLC) to ensure the sustainability of the initiative and d. Student competition to impart hands on education and prepare students with modern agricultural practices and technologies for enlightening their agricultural experiences

 

Dr. Matthew Johnson

National Science Foundation
RFE: Practices of Engineers in Rural Schools Involving Students and Teachers (PERSIST) in Engineering

The PERSIST projects aims to affect change in the ways rural teachers learn and teach engineering in elementary classes. Students from rural areas are underrepresented in engineering fields, in part because the current system fails to help them make connections between engineering as a profession and the engineering-related activities they often engage in as they play outside, tinker on the farm, or design solutions with their mother or grandfather. Using a theoretical framework borrowing from engineering studies, sociomaterialism, professional vision, and funds of knowledge, faculty and a graduate student from the Center for Science and the Schools at Penn State University will investigate the ways that rural elementary teachers learn about engineering through professional development workshops and how this learning is translated into their teaching practice and ultimately student learning and interest development. We will follow three 4th grade teachers as case studies (CST) as they attend two workshops intended to help them learn about engineering practices and to prepare them to teach two units of the Engineering is Elementary curriculum. In addition, we will study the CSTs’ students and the other teachers that attend the workshops. Our approach will use established quantitative instruments to: 1) measure science and engineering learning in biological and environmental engineering design projects; 2) measure growth in interest and attitudes of students after participating in engineering projects. We will use qualitative methods to: 3) determine how and to what extent rural teachers learn engineering habits of mind and how that translates into the ways they support their students in engineering design projects. We will synthesize these findings to: 4) develop specific recommendations about professional development aimed at helping rural teachers learn about and support engineering in the classroom.

Reform documents in STEM education emphasize the integration of disciplinary content with participation in the practices or habits of mind that are used to create knowledge. This presents significant challenges to teachers unfamiliar with engineering work, so many curricula are being developed and professional development workshops offered to help these teachers, but so far few studies have investigated precollege teachers’ learning of the engineering practices. Using interactional ethnography, we will be able to look closely at students and teachers doing engineering. By comparing between and within cases, we will be able to make claims related to the ways teachers learn and how their professional learning experiences affect their teaching practice. The findings of this study will benefit those interested in precollege engineering curriculum and instruction, particularly in guiding the development of teacher workshops and in helping rural teachers identify locally relevant examples to help their students make connections.

The PERSIST in Engineering program is aimed at two of the goals for broader impacts, broadening participation and improving STEM education at all levels. Students and their teachers from a rural, underserved district will gain access and training for high-quality engineering curriculum. The teachers will teach these units for several years, affecting hundreds of students. In addition, we will open the professional development workshops to 42 additional rural teachers to support their learning of engineering in the elementary classroom and help them promote student learning through participation in the practices of engineering. Funds are allocated to support the participation of these additional teachers, as well as materials to support their use of the curriculum in their classrooms. The potential impact on students in schools that serve high percentages of students from low socioeconomic backgrounds and potential first generation college students is significant. Dissemination of the findings of this study will support both teachers and teacher educators in better understanding how to support rural elementary students in engineering by engaging the students in the practices and by using locally relevant knowledge to support their learning and making engineering relatable as a field.

Mr. Michael McCarty

PA Department of Education (PDE) - Bureau of Postsecondary and Adult Education
Management Information System Support

This project will provide technical support and professional development to PDE ABLE staff and its statewide network of adult and family literacy providers in order to: 1) build the capacity of adult educators to collect and enter data accurately, and 2) use those data to inform efforts to improve the quality of adult education instruction.  Project staff also will work cooperatively with other state leadership initiatives (e.g., Regional Professional Development Facilitation and Consultation Services) and Bureau staff to maximize the impact of professional development and related support to that end.

 

Ms. KayLynn Hamilton

PA Department of Education (PDE) - Bureau of Postsecondary and Adult Education
Workforce Development System Liaison

 

This project will provide workforce development and workforce education support and assistance to the ABLE Director and staff.  It will support the collaboration and coordination of ABLE with workforce development partners at the national, state, and local level.  Additionally, this project will provide training and technical assistance opportunities to ABLE administrators, case managers, teachers, tutors, and support staff in ABLE-designated Workforce Investment Areas (WIAs) targeted for focused career pathways programming.  Project staff will also coordinate and collaborate with the ABLE Professional Development System (PDS) team, the Distance Learning Project, and other ABLE initiatives to create and maintain a transparent PDS capable of providing the agility and flexibility of programming that will maximize the impact of professional development training and technical assistance to help adult learners reach their goals.

 

Mr. Michael Vail

PA Department of Education (PDE) - Bureau of Postsecondary and Adult Education
Adult Basic Education Direct Service(Federal and State Award)

 

Based on research that indicates that students learn better when instruction connects to authentic work situations and problems, this program will provide students with an integrated curriculum that will prepare them for further education, job training, employment, and careers.  Career exploration or specific industry sectors, careers, and occupations will provide the context for instruction, so students can prepare for employment and careers while acquiring the knowledge and skills necessary to pursue postsecondary education and/or training.  Learning objectives and instructional strategies will combine academic and vocational content, which will strengthen the acquisition of basic skills in the context of work.  The integrated curriculum will enable students to prepare not just for their next job, but also for further education that can help them advance in a career.

Family Literacy Direct Service

This funding supports ISAL's Family Pathways programs in Lycoming and Center County affording 25 families the opportunities to access the 4 components (Adult Education, Parenting Education, Interactive Literacy, and Early Childhood Education) of the PDE Division of Adult Education funded Family Literacy program outlines.

 

Dr. Carol Clymer

William F. Goodling Institute for Research in Family Literacy

U.S. Department of Education

 

The Goodling Institute provides national leadership that promotes the value of Family Literacy and supports program improvement through research and its application to practice and professional development.

 

William Penn Foundation

 

The Goodling Institute for Research in Family Literacy at Penn State University will conduct an independent, three-year formative evaluation of 5 family literacy programs that have been funded through the William Penn Foundation (WPF) Family Literacy Initiative. This evaluation will assist WPF in refining the Initiative’s theory of change, provide ongoing evidence to strengthen program implementation, assess the impact of these programs, and inform the Foundation’s future grant making efforts. Qualitative and quantitative data will be collected and analyzed to provide feedback to the WPF and grantees to add to the growing body of evidence about effective family literacy practices. The Goodling Institute will also provide technical assistance to funded programs to ensure that grantees are implementing high-quality programs based on current research and that information from the evaluation is used for continuous improvement.

Dr. Cynthia Pellock

Pennsylvania Bureau of Career and Technological Education
Professional Personnel Development Center for Career & Technical Education

 

The on-going successful partnership between the Department of Education's Bureau of Career and Technical Education and the universities charged with responsibility for preparing career and technical teachers through establishment of the Professional Personnel Development Centers (PPDC). The Penn State PPDC was established, and continues to function, as an integral component of the university's CTE teacher preparation units rather than as a separate entity. Penn State is committed to the operation of an effective, efficient, comprehensive program of professional development for CTE. That commitment is fulfilled throught the delivery of services that produce knowledgeable, skilled, engaged, and flexible CTE educators who are engaged in preparing Pennsylvania's workforce with the knowledge and skills needed by business and industry.

 

Dr. Mark Threeton

Pennsylvania Department of Corrections
Field-Based Certification of Vocational Instructors at the PA Department of Corrections

 

An educational program of studies for State Correctional Vocational Instructors will be provided that will meet the requirements for Vocational Level I and Level II Certification and enable the State Correctional Vocational Instructors to fulfill the requirements for receiving an endorsement for Vocational Instructional Level I and Level II certificates.

Education Outreach Projects

Dr. Leila Bradaschia

Humphrey Fellowship Program Office
The Hubert H. Humphrey Fellowship Program

 

The Humphrey Fellowship Program is a one-year non-degree program of combined academic and professional development opportunities. It brings accomplished mid-career professionals from designated countries of Africa, Asia, Latin America, the Caribbean, and the Middle East to selected universities in the United States for public service, advanced study, professional training, and work-related experiences.