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Sashank VarmaAssociate Professor Sashank Varma presented at the Association for the Advancement of Artificial Intelligence (AAAI) Fall 2013 Symposium on Integrated Cognition. This symposium brought together leading researchers in artificial intelligence, cognitive science, linguistics, and allied disciplines to share new progress in understanding the architecture of cognition.

Dr. Varma presented new experimental and computational modeling work on text comprehension, as part of a session on language that included Dr. John Hale at Cornell, Dr. Richard Lewis at Michigan, Dr. Chung-chieh Shan at Indiana, and Dr. David Reitter at Penn State.

DanBaker_1.jpgDan Baker, Ph.D., '93, Associate Professor of Pediatrics with The Boggs Center at Rutgers Robert Wood Johnson Medical School (RWJMS), recently co-authored the book Mental Health and Wellness Supports for Youth with IDD. The book, one of the first to tackle the issue of youth with intellectual and development disabilities also addresses a wide variety of different concerns regarding improving mental wellness and treating mental health disorders among youth with IDD. Chapters include topics on psychotherapy to psychopharmacology from recognized experts, while maintaining a strong focus on healthy psychological development.

Dr. Baker, who also serves as the Director of Community Positive Behavior Support, Transition, and Supported Employment Projects at RWJMS, has been published in both edited books and literary journals. Most of his published work addresses strategies for teaching direct care staff to work with persons who present challenges. His contributions earned him the 2010 Clinical Practice Award from NADD, an international professional association dedicated to advancing mental wellness for persons with Intellectual or Developmental Disabilities.

Learn more about his publications here.

Topic2NotesImage1.jpgDepartment of Educational Psychology lecturer Kevin McGrew recently saw his chapter entitled "Individual differences in the ability to process information" published as part of the textbook, Handbook of Educational Theories. McGrew's chapter presents the integration of individual differences cognitive ability constructs (as per the Cattell-Horn-Carroll theory of intelligence), and cognitive information processing models, in an attempt to integrate these two approaches to understanding cognitive performance.

Learn more about Kevin McGrew's research here.

Joe ReichleAs part of his research in behavioral and developmental disabilities in children, Professor Joe Reichle of the Department of Educational Psychology also studies children with variances of Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD). His work in the area lead to his involvement as a Co-Principal investigator on a study initiated by the University of Minnesota's College of Education and Human Development (CEHD) to learn more about the prevalence of ASD in White and Somali children living in Minneapolis.

Learn more about the study here.

Also see media coverage of the findings in the The New York Times, Washington Post/Associated Press, Star Tribune, Minnesota Public Radio, and WCCO-TV, among many other news outlets.

Frances Lawrenz U of M associate vice president for research and professor in the Department of Educational Psychology Frances P. Lawrenz, Ph.D., received word this week that she was selected as the recipient of the 2014 National Association for Research in Science Teaching (NARST) Distinguished Contributions to Science Education through Research Award. The award is given to 'recognize an individual who, through research over an extended period of time, has made outstanding and continuing contributions, provided notable leadership, and made a substantial impact in the area of science education'.

When word of the award came to Professor Lawrenz, she stated, "I truly appreciate (my colleagues) faith in my accomplishments and persistence in helping me receive this."

Professor Lawrenz's research focuses on science and mathematics program evaluation. Her evaluations utilize a variety of techniques to best fit the needs of a given situation and usually involve mixing methods in a variety of ways. Along with her teaching duties, she is currently involved in the evaluation of several national science and mathematics programs.

The award will be presented to Professor Lawrenz at the NARST Awards Luncheon on April 1, 2014 during the NARST Conference in Pittsburgh, PA.

To learn more about NARST, please visit their website at

The Power of 1.jpg
Three students from the Counseling and Student Personnel Psychology (CSPP) program within the Department of Educational Psychology led the anti-bullying charge at Richfield Middle School in Richfield, Minnesota. The students, Nicole Byrnes, Jessica Jacobson, and Amy Kubat, worked closely with staff and students to promote the anti-bullying month.

As part of movement, t-shirts were made reading "The Power of 1" on the front and a Robert Frost poem on the back. "The Power of 1" derives from the idea that it takes one person to stand up to a bully. The more of us that put forth our "power," the less bullying that will occur.

To give this a little more creativity, staff members, including these creative interns, dressed up in superhero gear and took pictures to be posted throughout the school for students to see.

Read more about the initiative here.

McConnellS-2009.jpgScott McConnell, professor of educational psychology and the Center for Early Education and Development's director of community engagement, and Ann Bettenburg, student services director for Moundsview schools, traveled to Ulaanbaatar Mongolia November 4-8 to better understand the current policy, practices, and infrastructure that support services for young children with disabilities throughout the country.

Working with the Mongolia Open Society Forum and Soros Open Society Foundations, McConnell and Bettenburg will be using information gained during this visit to prepare for and coordinate a study tour for policymakers, program directors, and advocates in Minnesota early in 2014.

Professor and Director of Graduate Studies in the Department of Educational Psychology Ernest C. Davenport received the Best Paper award for his paper entitled "Number of Courses, Content of Coursework, and Prior Achievement as Related to Ethnic Achievement Gaps in Mathematics' at the International Conference on Education (ICE) in Chicago last June. The paper was a result of combined research between Davenport, fellow Ed Psych colleague Mark Davison, research associates Yi-Chen Wu and Alicia Ayodele from the University of Minnesota, along with Se-Kang Kim - Fordham University, Haijiang Kuang - NCS Pearson, Inc., Nohoon Kwak - California State University and Chi-Keung Chan - Hong Kong Shue Yan University. The paper was subsequently accepted for publication in the Linwood University's Journal of Educational Leadership in Action.

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.

Scott McConnell, José Palma and Michael Rodriguez of Educational Psychology were joined by Alisha Wackerle-Hollman and Tracy Bradfield of the Center for Early Education and Development (CEED) to present their poster Creating growth scales for second-generation Individual Growth and Development Indicators in October at the Division of Early Childhood, Council on Exceptional Children in San Francisco, California.

The international conference brings together top researchers, leading policymakers, practitioners and families to share evidence-based innovative approaches that demonstrate meaningful, effective and sustainable collaborations across research, policy and practice.

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