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Recently posted in Curriculum and Instruction

LewisOBrien.jpgThis past fall, Dr. Elizabeth Moje, Arthur F. Thurnau Professor of Education at the University of Michigan, and Dr. Patricia Enciso, Professor of Teaching and Learning at The Ohio State University discussed their work with PhD students in two Curriculum and Instruction seminars on Sociocultural Theory, Education, and Literacy (taught by Cynthia Lewis) and Research in Reading (taught by David O'Brien).

Enciso and Moje discussed their partnerships with schools in Columbus and Detroit to enhance the literacy learning of immigrant and racially minoritized youth through storytelling and other arts-based pedagogies as well as through supporting the complex navigations youth accomplish as they move across home, community, and school spaces. Enciso, Moje, and Lewis are collaborating on a second book focused on critical sociocultural theory and literacy research.

Their visits were arranged by Cynthia Lewis, Professor of Literacy Education. and sponsored by the Emma Birkmaier Speaker Series in Critical Literacy and Urban Education. To learn more about the Speaker Series, please see the description on the C&I News and Events page.

LewisGradingRubric.jpgOn November 22, Cynthia Lewis, Emma Birkmaier Professor in Educational Leadership, participated in a teaching with writing panel, "Grading Rubrics: The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly," as part of the Engaging Controversies Series sponsored by the Center for Writing.

Lewis drew on her research to caution against the use of grading rubrics, arguing that they make false assumptions about learning. Grading rubrics position learning as outcome driven rather than problem driven, thus reducing the richness and learning potential of the problem space and deterring students from taking the kind of risks that deepen learning for fear of receiving a lower score.

Visit Cynthia Lewis' profile to learn more about her research.

C&I at LRA Annual Conference

December 10, 2013

Last week, the Department of Curriculum and Instruction faculty and graduate students visited Dallas, TX to attend and participate in the Literacy Research Association's (LRA) 2013 Annual Conference. The theme of the 2013 Conference, "Transformative Literacy: Theory Research, and Reform" considered how researchers are examining and critiquing the ways in which culture, knowledge, language, and power intersect literacy access, equity, and social justice in an age of reform.

Richard Beach, C&I professor emeritus, serves as the current president of the LRA, and Professor Cynthia Lewis is on the LRA Board of Directors. Associate Professor Mark Vagle and Professor Lori Helman are Area Chairs for the research conference paper selection process.

C&I faculty and graduate students gave a combined 23 presentations and served as proposal reviewers and discussants for many other presentations and round table sessions.

Presentations covered a range of topics including:

• Are Two Heads Better Than One? A Case Study of First Grade Team's Collaborative Planning for English Learners in Literacy Instruction
• Preparing Preservice Teachers in the Use of Technology to Support the Teaching of Literacy
• Transformation in the Literacy Transaction: Relationships between "Trauma Texts and Traumatic Histories"
• Animating Critical Literacy with the Body: Creating Countertexts through Scene-Making and Dramatic Play
• Reading the World through Story: An Argument for the Inclusion of Culturally Diverse Literature in Critical Literacy Curricula

For a full list of presentations, please see the Literacy Program page on the C&I website.

AllenK2013.jpgCurriculum and Instruction Ph.D. student Kathryn Allen received a grant for research presented at The International Society for the Scholarship of Teaching & Learning (ISSOTL) conference in October. ISSOTL serves faculty members, staff, and students who care about teaching and learning as serious intellectual work. The goal of the Society is to foster inquiry and disseminate findings about what improves and articulates post-secondary learning and teaching. ISSOTL is unique in its efforts to form a global community in the interest of post-secondary teaching and learning.

In the poster presentation on Cultural-Historical Activity Theory, Allen explored professional development from a perspective that supports educators beyond traditional modes. During her master's program at UT, Allen, along with 2 other students and a faculty member were each involved in independent projects beyond the scope of the program and decided to support each other through bi-weekly meetings. This model of professional development is the subject of the study. She hopes to continue using this theory to explore professional development for teachers in the specific area of technology integration. Effective use of technology for teaching and learning is a common professional development theme crossing national borders and demands an international forum.

Of the conference, Allen said, "This year's conference title, 'Critical Transitions in Teaching and Learning' particularly resonated with me during my work with pre-service teachers. In what ways does teacher preparation need to transform in order to fit them for the classrooms they will enter? What transitions can I make in my teaching that will serve my students? How does my research support the preparation of teachers in a world that is transforming with mind-boggling speed? This year's ISSOTL conference explored all of these questions through scholarly work and conversation."

To learn more about the Department of Curriculum and Instruction's Literacy Education track, please visit the Literacy Education Ph.D. page on our website.

tpt.jpgOn Nov. 21, the Learning Technologies Media Lab (LTML) and Twin Cities Public Television (tpt) co-hosted a discussion around tpt's program Is School Enough?, which is the second in a series of programs about youth, digital media, and education. Is School Enough? focuses on how project-based learning and digital tools can help inform and transform education.

Over 100 educators attended the event, including young people representing community-based organizations from across the Twin Cities. Stephen Brown, the producer of Is School Enough?, hosted and moderated the national panel, and Cassie Scharber, LTML co-director, moderated the local panel.

Community conversations with attendees followed the panel discussions, with LT and Literacy graduate students and staff from the Department of Curriculum and Instruction assisting in backchannel conversations as well as table talk about technology-infused engaged learning.

The event was filmed for inclusion in an event toolkit that will be shared online as a complement to the program. The toolkit can be used by other PBS stations, community groups, schools, etc., to host similar conversations around the county. Educational and additional resources will also be included in the toolkit.

The full episode of Is School Enough?: Engaged Learning in the 21st Century Classroom and Beyond can be viewed online at TPT's website. Supplemental video clips and resources are available through Edutopia .

Please visit the Learning Technologies Media Lab and or the Learning Technologies Ph.D. program page to learn more.

Can providing teachers with information about the neurobiology of learning improve K-12 teaching and student learning? Yes, according to University of Minnesota researchers, who recently published their findings in the journal Educational Researcher. Those findings were also selected as an "Editor's Choice" in Science magazine.

By studying attendees of BrainU, a professional development workshop that teaches neuroscience principles of learning to in-service teachers, neuroscience professor Janet Dubinsky, RoehrigG-2004.jpgcurriculum and instruction associate professor Gillian Roehrig (left), and educational psychology associate professor Sashank Varma discovered that understanding of and engagement in neuroscience concepts improved for attending teachers and their students. Teaching the concept of "plasticity," as designed by the Society for Neuroscience, provided a model for understanding student learning in response to teacher instruction, which was a key concept taught in the BrainU workshop.

VarmaS-2011.jpg"Our empirical evaluation of BrainU finds that it improved teacher understanding of neuroscience and confidence in teaching neuroscience," said Varma (right). "This understanding translated to improved classroom instruction compared to control teachers. There was more evidence of inquiry-based learning on the part of teachers and of students engaging in higher-order thinking, displaying greater depth of knowledge, making deeper connections to the world, and engaging in more substantive conversations with teachers."

The researchers conclude their journal article with advice for integrating neuroscience principles of learning into the training of pre-service teachers.

Read the article "Infusing Neuroscience Into Teacher Professional Development," in Educational Researcher.

Also see "When Neuroscience Guides Education" in Science magazine.

YangL.jpgWe recently got a chance to catch up with Ph.D. student and the Department of Curriculum and Instruction Diversity and Excellence Scholar, Lesley Yang. Read her story below to find out where she comes from and what brought her to Curriculum and Instruction.

Tell us a little bit about yourself.
I was born in Yuba City, California, but my story does not begin with my birth; my story begins with my parents who fled Laos after the Vietnam War. As a child, I did not realize that the average American family was not like mine. My parents were strawberry farmers who, during the harvest season, were often gone before I woke up and did not get home until late in the evenings. My siblings and I were not involved in any extracurricular activities; instead we came straight home after school and played games like niam tais, yawm txiv until my parents got home from the field. At the age of eight, my family uprooted from California to Boise, Idaho, a place that my parents hoped would provide us with better economic opportunities.

My educational experience in Idaho was drastically different than my experience in California. I went from attending a school that provided in-class support for Hmong students and a community that offered free summer school for underprivileged kids, to a school that had no support for immigrant students and a community that had no idea the struggles immigrant families face. Not only was I the only Hmong person, but I was also one of very few students of color at my school. My peers and teachers canonized me as the Asian "model minority" student. This imposed identity allowed me to navigate predominately white schools without being placed into remedial courses like ESL when English was not my first language.

My feelings of being isolated continued as I went onto college and rarely saw another Asian American student or faculty. I initially majored in business with the intent of obtaining a stable corporate job after I graduated. However, my career plans took a stark turn when I started working for the Multicultural Student Service Center on campus. I began exploring my identity as Hmong American woman, reading academic literature on race and started diving into social justice work. At the same time I was going through a personal change in my life, I was admitted into the McNair Scholars Program. I eventually changed my major to sociology and economics because I wanted to pursue graduate work that was more meaningful to me.

As a first generation college student, graduate school did not seem like it was within in my purview of realistic goals--in fact graduate school was never even a thought. I am grateful for the opportunities the McNair Scholars Program has provided me because without the program I know that I, along with many other students of color, would not be in graduate school pursuing a Ph.D. Most importantly, the program demystified the image that I think a lot of other first generation students have about graduate school as being a place of prestige and elitism where only those who are considered "highly intellectual" are admitted. I was also fortunate to have many great individuals who supported my growth as scholar and to them I will always be grateful.

What drew you to the University of Minnesota?
What initially drew me to the University of Minnesota was Associate Professor Bic Ngo's scholarship on immigrant education, particularly her work with Hmong American students. After visiting the Department of Curriculum and Instruction, it was apparent to me that many of the faculty members and graduate students are actively engaged with the community in their research. As a scholar who is interested in breaking down the walls of the "ivory tower," I value the department's commitment to community engagement. The Culture and Teaching track in particular was attractive to me because of its commitment to social justice.

I strongly believe that to engage in education is to engage in a political act, and people cannot remain neutral in their position as educators. Consequently, I appreciate the dedication of the faculty and students in the Culture and Teaching track to social justice education. It was also important for me to find a space where I could further explore my identity as a Hmong American woman. Graduate school for me is not just about nurturing my growth as a scholar but also my growth as an individual, and I truly believe I chose the right place.

How did you get into education?
I have always been interested in studying how education as an institution reproduces oppressions, but what really solidified my passion to pursue a Ph.D. in education was my experience at Pennsylvania State University. I was selected to conduct research as a part of an intensive summer research program for undergraduates and had the opportunity to work closely with faculty in the sociology department. My research explored the model minority myth through examining the academic achievement in math and reading scores among first grade Asian ethnic groups. Through the work I did, I realized that there was a lack of research being done on Southeast Asian American students and that the dominant discourse of Asians as the model minority masks the problems faced by many Asian immigrant students.

What motivates/inspires you?
I am motivated by the possibilities of transforming our world through research and curriculum. Scholars who have dedicated their lives and their academic work to social justice inspire me and I hope to use my scholarship to create change as well.

Are there books that inspire you? What would you recommend?
I think that my idea of leisure reading may not be what most people consider be to leisure reading, but several books that inspire me and I have enjoyed are: Racism without Racists by Eduardo Bonilla-Silva, killing rage: Ending Racism by bell hooks and Decolonizing Methodologies: Research and Indigenous Peoples by Linda Tuhiwai Smith. Although I do not read many fictional books, I love and want to read more stories like A Passage to India by E.M. Foster and I Love Dollars: And Other Stories of China by Zhu Wen.

For more information about Lesley's program, please visit our Culture and Teaching Ph.D. page and Associate Professor Bic Ngo's profile page.

Avenuedhh.jpgC&I Associate Professor Charles Miller and Educational Psychology Associate Professor Susan Rose were recently featured in the article, "Ed Profs Designing Online Literacy Assessment Software," in THE Journal, a magazine dedicated to informing and educating K-12 senior-level district and school administrators, technologists, and tech-savvy educators to improve and advance the learning process through the use of technology.

Along with Penn State Education professor, Simon Hooper, Miller and Rose are developing an online learning analytics system to help improve assessment, feedback and progress-monitoring of literacy education for students in 1st through 8th grade.

From the article:
"The system, named AvenueDHH (Audio-Visual Educational Environments for Deaf or Hard of Hearing) was originally designed to monitor the literacy performance of deaf or hard of hearing students over time for the purpose of personalizing instruction. Currently, the system can handle only a few users, but the researchers have received funding for a nation-wide implementation that could support hundreds or thousands of concurrent users. Usability testing of the system has begun, and the researchers are considering how to generalize the system for a mainstream student population."

To learn more about AvenueDHH or Charles Miller's other projects, visit the LT Media Lab's projects page.

C&I Shines at MCTLC

November 8, 2013

MontgomeryMcFadden2.jpgThe Department of Curriculum and Instruction was well-represented this year at the Minnesota Council on the Teaching of Languages and Cultures (MCTLC) annual conference on October 17 and 18. One of our post-baccalaureate students from last year, Meghan McFadden, won the Outstanding Student Teacher Award. And, PhD student and teacher supervisor, Mary Lynn Montgomery received one of five STAR Awards.

This year's conference theme, the 21st Century Classroom, highlighted innovation happening across classrooms and their platforms, from fully face-to-face to fully virtual. Workshops and sessions will support three areas in which language educators excel and explore: communication, collaboration, and technology.

Congratulations to Meghan and Mary Lynn.

Please visit our program pages for more information on the initial licensure program or the PhD program in Second Languages and Cultures.

SLC in StarTrib 11-4.jpgThis month, C&I Faculty in Second Languages and Cultures have been tapped for their expertise in English language learning in Minnesota Public Schools. Last week, the Star Tribune ran the story, "Minnesota students learning English face an uphill battle, but innovations are helping."

In the article, Professor Kendall King suggests, "Many students come to school multilingual, with these rich oral traditions. Yet many don't have formal schooling, and may not be proficient in English or in academic language. It's a huge challenge."

Lecturer Susan Ranney offered additional insights, saying, "People can get fooled by conversational fluency. Academic language is much more complex and takes more time to learn. And it's much more crucial to pick up." Additionally, Ranney explains that the Minnesota Comprehensive Assessment (MCA) exams paint an incomplete picture of what is really happening in schools. Often, only struggling students are counted as English language learners; progress and success not represented in those test scores.

To read the full article, please visit the Star Tribune's website. For additional information on Second Languages and Cultures, please visit the Second Languages and Cultures program area page.

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