College of Education and Human Development faculty, staff, alumni, and school-based colleagues will be in Havana, Cuba, January 25 to February 4, to meet with Cuban educators and present research papers at the Pedagogía 2017 International Conference for the “Unity of Educators.” The delegation, the largest U.S. academic group to date to travel to Cuba and present at a conference, includes 17 experts in reading and literacy, second languages and culture, dual language and immersion, bilingual education, special education, access and inclusion, multicultural education, immigrant youth, and pathways to diversifying the teaching force.
Goals for the visit include sharing research and practical knowledge, and engaging with colleagues on Cuban initiatives presented by local advocates, educators, and policy makers; presenting research at the conference; and making visits to educational spaces such as the National Literacy Museum.
“When we return, we will be sharing our insights from this trip with educators across Minnesota,” said Deborah Dillon, delegation leader and associate dean for graduate and professional programs in the college.
The impetus for the trip came from State Senator Patricia Torres Ray, who contacted CEHD dean Jean Quam and Dillon requesting that they secure a group of diverse scholars and practitioners from the college and community for the trip. Senator Torres Ray planned to join the delegation but was unable to leave her work at the statehouse to travel during the legislative session.
Professor Hee Yun Lee, School of Social Work, is principal investigator for a $450,000 Special Interest Project Research grant from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
The grant will fund a mobile application intervention for low-income Hmong adolescents to facilitate completion of the HPV (human papillomavirus) vaccine series. The research team includes community co-principal investigator Kathleen Culhane-Pera, M.D., medical director of the Westside Community Health Services, and co-investigator Jay Desai, Ph.D., research investigator at HealthPartners.
The team will use community based participatory action research to design an app tailored culturally and cognitively to low-income Hmong adolescents aged 11-17 years and their parents. HPV causes several types of cancers, but vaccines can prevent infection with the most common types of HPV. The vaccine is given in three shots over seven to eight months.
The app will be highly interactive, with multiple levels of participation. The researchers will also test the app’s effectiveness and establish a protocol to aid health care providers in identifying and engaging Hmong adolescents and their parents in its use.
Faculty in the College of Education and Human Development are engaged in diverse areas of research, teaching, and service in the community. As they look ahead, many of them are expressing insights and creating communities of discussion to improve all lives in this country and around the world.
Here is a sampling of some of their viewpoints that have been published:
Global sporting goods manufacturer Wilson Sporting Goods Company introduced a new line of high-technology performance tennis rackets that were field-tested in the School of Kinesiology’s Human Sensorimotor Control Laboratory (HSCL) directed by Jürgen Konczak, Ph.D.The participants were experts recruited from the U of M varsity tennis men’s and women’s teams, and testing took place at the U of M Tennis Center.
In tennis, the ball hitting the racket during tennis strokes induces a vibration of the racket frame, which transfers to the arm of the players. High vibration transfer may cause discomfort, induce earlier onset of fatigue and, with repeated exposure, increases injury risk. A racket design that can effectively reduce vibration transfer from the racket to the player’s arm should mitigate these negative vibration effects and aid to stabilize or improve a player’s performance.
Thus Wilson used Countervail technology, a one-of-a-kind layered carbon fiber that was originally designed for the aerospace industry to dissipate vibrational energy in airplanes. Strategic amounts of this material were incorporated into their new Blade performance tennis racket. HSCL measured the vibration in the rackets and determined how much these vibrations transferred to the arm, then compared the vibration behavior of this new design to another commercially available racket. In addition, the electrical signals from several arm muscles were recorded during the play to obtain electrophysiological markers of muscle fatigue.
A main finding of the study is that the new Countervail technology effectively reduces the vibration at the racket, which potentially can help players play longer while maintaining the precision of their strokes.
J.B. Mayo, associate professor in the Department of Curriculum and Instruction, received the Josie R. Johnson Human Rights and Social Justice Award at the University of Minnesota Equity and Diversity Breakfast on Nov. 17.
The Josie R. Johnson Award was established in honor of Dr. Josie R. Johnson in recognition of her lifelong contributions to human rights and social justice, which guided her work with the civil rights movement, years of community service, and tenure at the University. The award honors University faculty, staff, and students who, through their principles and practices, exemplify Dr. Johnson’s standard of excellence in creating respectful and inclusive living, learning, and working environments.
CEHD researchers Jason Wolff and Jed Elison are detecting objective differences in the brains of children who have autism spectrum disorders as early as six months old. And their work is contributing to a national effort to understand this complex array of developmental disorders.
Read more about the work of several U of M researchers who bring a spectrum of expertise to their autism research, including prevalence studies led by Amy Hewitt, director of CEHD’s Research and Training Center on Community Living in the Institute on Community Integration.
When I taught reading and writing to sixth grade students at the California School for the Deaf in Fremont, CA, I began to notice a pattern that supported research I had previously read. My students who had parents who were deaf or hearing parents who signed fluently in American Sign Language (ASL) typically read on or above grade level, while those whose families had not signed with them from birth typically lagged behind. This observation made me want to investigate how we might better improve literacy development in young deaf children. Both my research and classroom experience supports an increasing body of research that indicates we can improve outcomes in deaf education through a visual-learning based approach. Read the full article.
African American women, as a demographic group, have serious health issues, according to Barr-Anderson. “Over 80 percent of us are overweight,” she said. “African American women have high rates of diabetes and 40 percent of African American women are hypertensive.”
Barr-Anderson, a certified yoga instructor, is introducing more African American women to yoga because of its potential to improve health outcomes, and she is studying the results.
This three-month study took several baseline measures of health in 59 African American women and divided them into an intervention group of 30 and control group of 29. The intervention group attended multiple yoga classes each week for three months; the control group did not.
The data is still being analyzed, but Barr-Anderson is “confident that we will see that yoga helped our participants enact some very powerful changes in their physical and mental health.” She noted that some of the most committed participants showed significant changes, including weight loss and improved blood pressure.
Researchers at the University of Minnesota (UMN) and the University of North Carolina (UNC) have been awarded a $4 million grant from the National Institutes of Health to launch the Baby Connectome Project (BCP).
The BCP aims to provide scientists with unprecedented information about how the human brain develops from birth through early childhood and will uncover factors contributing to healthy brain development.
“The UMN/UNC team is uniquely suited to perform this challenging, but critical task, and we expect the data collected and results that come from the BCP to have broad implications for understanding the most dynamic period of human brain development,” said Jed Elison, Ph.D., a co-principal investigator of the BCP and UMN assistant professor in the College of Education and Human Development’s Institute of Child Development (ICD). Elison, a McKnight Land-Grant Professor, and Kamil Ugurbil, a McKnight Presidential Endowed Chair Professor, are leading the effort together at UMN.
The BCP is a four-year research initiative of NIH, supported by Wyeth Nutrition through a gift to the Foundation for the National Institutes of Health (FNIH).
The project will characterize human brain connectivity and map patterns of structural and functional connectivity to important behavioral skills from infancy to early childhood. Additional biological (e.g., genetic markers) and environmental measures (e.g., family demographics) will also be collected and examined to provide a more comprehensive picture of the factors that affect brain development. Findings from this study will provide other scientists with a definitive foundation to inform new questions about typical and atypical brain and behavioral development. Additionally, this study promises to inform policy decisions that could directly or indirectly affect healthy brain development during early childhood.
“This is an unprecedented effort to map the development of brain circuitries during a stage when our brains undergo highly dynamic changes that have life-long impacts on cognitive development. We are thrilled to have the opportunity to carry out this exciting project,” said Weili Lin, Ph.D., Dixie Soo Distinguished Professor in Neurological Medicine, director of BRIC, and co-principal investigator of the BCP.
“Wyeth Nutrition is excited to support research at UMN and UNC through our partnership with the FNIH,” said CEO of Wyeth Nutrition Mike Russomano. “This innovative research — led by two institutions at the forefront of studying brain development in children — will add to a better understanding of what is needed to support the brain development and overall health of infants and children in the critical first years of life.”
The project will include longitudinal groups, where children will be scanned four to six times at different ages, and cross-sectional groups, where children will be scanned once at distinct points in their development. In addition to the imaging data collected, researchers will also obtain parent reports and direct assessment cognitive and behavioral development in the participating children. All of the collected information will inform a more comprehensive picture of how emerging patterns of brain connectivity shape behavioral development in children under the age of 5.
UMN and UNC will leverage technological innovations developed through the original Human Connectome Project (HCP), a scientific endeavor funded by the NIH to create a map of the circuitry within the human brain, to investigate the structural and functional changes that occur during typical development. This project will be part of the Lifespan Human Connectome Project (LHCP), which aims to extend the HCP to map connectivity in the developing, adult, and aging human brain. (See the UMN role in the LHCP.) It is funded by the NIH Blueprint for Neuroscience Research, a collaborative framework through which 15 NIH Institutes, Centers and Offices jointly support neuroscience-related research, with the aim of accelerating discoveries and reducing the burden of nervous system disorders.
The National Center for Montessori in the Public Sector (NCMPS) in Washington, D.C., and Reflection Sciences, a Minnesota start-up educational technology company started by two CEHD professors, has announced a new partnership to measure Executive Function in Montessori and developmentally based education.
Executive Function (EF) capabilities are key developments in the preschool years. Sometimes called the “air traffic controller of your brain,” EF is the set of neurocognitive functions that help the brain organize and act on information. These functions enable us to pay attention, control behavior, and think flexibly — essentially, the tools that are necessary to succeed in kindergarten and beyond.
In this new program, NCMPS will work with Reflection Sciences to offer training and tools to measure these essential skills using the Minnesota Executive Function Scale (MEFS). The MEFS is a valid and reliable measure of EF that is based on the latest neuroscience, delivered on touch-screen tablet, and takes less than five minutes.
How important is Executive Function? Recent studies have shown these skills are more predictive of academic success than IQ. And like many skills, EF develops through practice. That is why it is crucial to nurture these skills at an early age.
“The MEFS gives us a simple, reliable, non-intrusive way to prove something we’ve suspected in Montessori for decades — that Montessori prepared environments, trained teachers, and learning materials support optimal child development,” said Jacqueline Cossentino, research director of NCMPS. “Now we can measure and compare Montessori’s effectiveness.”
Stephanie Carlson, child development professor and co-founder and CEO of Reflection Sciences, agrees with the Montessori approach. “We are so impressed with what Montessori does to promote Executive Function. By cultivating reflection though nearly everything they do in the classroom, the Montessori approach embodies best practices for building EF skills,” she said. “This is such an important part of early childhood education and they are embracing it. This is likely to have lasting positive impacts for their children, and now they will be able to measure these results.”
NCMPS is introducing the new program at eight training locations, beginning in October 2016. They will offer the MEFS to their partner schools, while Reflection Sciences will facilitate the onboarding of new schools to its cloud-based web portal and continue to offer support and additional services, such as professional development about EF and assistance with data analysis.
“With this new partnership, our educators will be more intentional in nurturing Executive Function skills, so that our students are better prepared to learn, socialize, and handle any situation that may develop in elementary school,” added Cossentino.
Founded by Carlson and professor Phil Zelazo in CEHD’s Institute of Child Development in 2014, Reflection Sciences provides professional development, training, and tools for assessing and improving Executive Function skills. Their Minnesota Executive Function Scale is the first objective, scientifically-based, and normed direct assessment of executive function for ages 2 years and up.
Digital Education and Innovation (DEI) was recognized at the 2016 Minnesota eLearning Summit Excellence Awards. Melissa Falldin, Thomas Nechodomu, and Treden Wagoner were awarded in the collaboration category for their work on the Collaborative Online International Learning (COIL) Pilot. The collaboration award is given to organizations or individuals who demonstrate exceptional collaboration within a course, department, institution, or system.
The DEI team worked with CEHD’s International Initiatives and the University’s Global Strategies and Program Alliance and Center for Education Innovation to develop the two-year pilot. The pilot is an opportunity for CEHD instructors to integrate a new teaching model that gives their students international experience. The pilot also seeks to establish and document best practices for course development using the COIL model and related faculty development. DEI has developed a COIL workbook for faculty partners and is available for anyone interested in COIL.
Using open textbooks can save students hundreds of dollars per semester. Making faculty aware that they are an option, though, remains a challenge, which is why the University of Minnesota is hosting a meeting of its Open Textbook Network (OTN), Aug. 9-12.
The OTN, an alliance of nearly 250 colleges and universities across the country, will convene on the Twin Cities campus to develop strategies for advancing open textbook programs on their campuses. Participants will also gain expertise in helping faculty understand the negative impact high textbook costs can have on students’ academic performance. Over the last year, the OTN has grown by nearly 175 members.
Published under a Creative Commons license, open textbooks are available to students for free. Faculty can custom edit the textbooks to meet their needs. By using open textbooks, students can save thousands of dollars over a college career. The OTN has already saved students an estimated total of $3.1 million in textbook costs.
“Open textbooks eliminate the cost barrier between students and their learning,” said David Ernst, director of the Center for Open Education and executive director of the OTN. “The institutions in the Open Textbook Network are all committed to improving student success through the use of these textbooks.”
The Open Textbook Network also hosts the Open Textbook Library, the first searchable online catalog of open textbooks, many of which are reviewed by faculty at OTN institutions. Currently, more than 260 textbook titles are available for use.
The SciGirls Code project, led by co-principal investigator Cassie Scharber, kicked off with a session and advisory board meeting at the Computer Science Teachers Association conference in San Diego, July 11-14. The project, funded by the National Science Foundation’s STEM + Computing Partnerships (STEM + C) program, is a two-year project that uses the principles of connected learning with STEM outreach partners to provide 160+ girls and their educators with computational thinking and coding skills.
Scharber, associate professor in the Department of Curriculum and Instruction, leads development of curricula centering on three tracks—e-textiles and wearable tech, robotics, and mobile geospatial technologies; role model training for female technology professionals; professional development for STEM educators; and a research component that investigates the ways computational learning experiences impact the development of computational thinking as well as interest and attitudes toward computer science.
For more information, visit the SciGirls website, produced by Twin Cities Public Television.
The study, led by Ph.D. graduate Sabine Doebel and associate professor Melissa Koenig of the University of Minnesota’s Institute of Child Development, found that children as young as 4 years old can detect logical inconsistency if the claims they are evaluating are presented in verbal context that encourages children to think about speakers’ reliability as information sources. In addition, the research indicated that “executive function,” or the ability to override habits or impulses, helped 4- and 5-year-olds detect inconsistencies in adult speakers.
Previous research had suggested that children younger than 6 years of age cannot detect logical inconsistency. This new research, however, provides new insights about when and how foundational logical skill first emerges in children and what role it plays in supporting early social learning.
“This research gives us a more accurate sense of when children can detect logical inconsistencies and what skills seem to support it, which in turn provides new ideas about how this key ability might continue to develop into adulthood,” said Doebel. “The study also provides new evidence of social influences on reasoning. If we want children and adults to reason well, it may be beneficial to provide information in social contexts that support and motivate reasoning, rather than presenting information in abstraction.”
In one of the study’s experiments, 3- to 5-year-olds were presented with two speakers who expressed claims that were logically consistent and inconsistent. For example, one speaker said, “This box is full of toys and it has a ball in it,” while the other speaker said, “This box is full of toys and it is empty.” The 4- and 5-year-olds correctly identified the inconsistent speaker as not making sense.
In a second experiment, children were given the opportunity to detect logical inconsistencies either spoken or read from books by adults. Four-year-olds only detected logical inconsistencies when they were expressed by speakers; 5-year-olds detected them in both contexts.
In both experiments, children remembered when speakers were inconsistent and avoided learning new information from them. The second experiment also found that executive function, when controlled for verbal knowledge and working memory in the children, predicted inconsistency detection over and above the control variables.
“Executive function plays a role in many early emerging skills, and others have suggested it might be important for other logical concepts,” said Doebel. “More research is needed to understand exactly how this might work. Interventions to train executive function have shown a lot of promise, and it would be great if such training could promote logical skills.”
Compared with routinely implemented preschool, Child-Parent Center (CPC) participation was linked to greater school readiness skills and parental involvement, according to a study by a research team at the University of Minnesota’s Human Capital Research Collaborative (HCRC) and Institute of Child Development. The research also demonstrated that CPC expansion to new schools and diverse populations is both feasible and effective.
The CPC program is an early childhood intervention model that provides comprehensive educational and family-support services to children starting at ages 3 to 4 in high-poverty neighborhoods, with continuing services up to third grade. Under an Investing in Innovation Grant from the U.S. Department of Education, HCRC co-director Arthur Reynolds and the University team began an expansion of the CPC program in 2012 in four school districts, including St. Paul; Chicago; Evanston, Illinois; and Normal, Illinois.
This is the first study on the Midwest expansion of CPCs and is featured in the July issue of Pediatrics. The research, led by Reynolds, director of the CPC expansion project and professor at the Institute of Child Development, studied full- and part-day preschool programs from a large cohort of low-income children who were enrolled in Midwest CPCs or alternative preschools in the fall of 2012 in 30 Chicago schools. Co-authors were Momoko Hayakawa, Midwest CPC expansion manager, and HCRC researchers Brandt Richardson, Michelle Englund, and Suh-Ruu Ou.
“Our findings show that a strongly evidence-based program, which sets CPCs apart from many early education programs, can be effectively scaled in a contemporary context and within a preschool to third grade system of continuity,” Reynolds said.
The study involved end-of-preschool follow-up of a matched-group cohort of 2,630 predominantly low-income, ethnic minority children. The study, which assessed the preschool component, included 1,724 3-year-olds and 4-year-olds enrolled in 16 CPC programs. The comparison group included 906 children of the same age who participated in the usual school-based preschool services in 14 matched schools.
Compared with the children enrolled in the usual state pre-kindergarten and Head Start services, CPC participants had higher mean scores on all performance-based assessments of literacy, socio-emotional development, and physical health. Seventy percent of CPC participants were at or above the national average on six domains of learning, compared with 52 percent for the comparison group. Additionally, the scores were equivalent to more than a half-year gain in proficiency skills and a 33 percent increase over the comparison group in meeting the national norm.
Seventy-five percent of CPC full-day preschool participants met national performance norms compared to sixty-eight percent for CPC part-day participants, but both groups showed significantly greater performance than the comparison group. Compared to the CPC part-day group, full-day participants had significantly lower rates of chronic absence.
CPC participants also had higher ratings of parental involvement as 59 percent of the program group exhibited high involvement in school compared to 20 percent for the comparison group. For example, as described by one CPC parent, “I came to the workshops [at the center], and movie day, or game night. Stuff like that has helped me be more involved with my son, and learn how to create different activities for him to do.” Another parent reported “being able to see what he was doing in the classroom, I could relate to school more. I felt like this was a tool for me at home as a parent to make it a more seamless transition.”
Because of their demonstrated impact on well-being, early childhood programs are at the forefront of prevention for improving educational success and health. Life-course studies indicate that participation in high-quality, center-based programs at ages 3 and 4 links to higher levels of school readiness and achievement, higher rates of educational attainment and socioeconomic status as adults, and lower rates of crime, substance use, and mental health problems.
The study provides support for increasing access to effective preschool as a strategy for closing the achievement gap and addressing health disparities. It demonstrates that preschool appears to be a particularly effective approach for strengthening school readiness, and it supports the positive effects of full-day preschool over part-day as key factor in increasing access to early childhood programs.
Although publicly-funded preschool programs such as Head Start and state prekindergarten serve an estimated 42 percent of U.S. 4-year-olds, most provide only part-day services and only 15 percent of 3-year-olds are enrolled. These rates, plus differences in quality, intensity, and comprehensiveness, may account for the finding that only about half of entering kindergartners have mastered the cognitive skills needed for school success.
Federal initiatives such as Healthy People 2020 and the President Obama’s Preschool for All plan prioritize improving children’s school readiness skills. The results of this study show that gains are possible with effective programs that provide comprehensive services.
The study noted that “because CPC provides more intensive and comprehensive services than most other programs, larger and more sustained effects have been found on educational, economic, and social well-being.” In CPC, class sizes are small, family services are extensive, and curriculum is focused on child engagement in all aspects of learning.
“Closing the achievement gap requires not only highly effective early education, but a strong system of continuity into the elementary grades,” Reynolds said. “A major reason why CPC has sustained effects leading to high economic returns is that it is high in quality but also includes comprehensive services over many years.”
A description of the CPC program and manual is available here.
Research on Improving Systems of Education (RISE) — a new initiative aimed at conducting high-quality research to build evidence to enhance children’s learning throughout the world — announced today that it will begin work in Vietnam. University of Minnesota and CEHD researchers are leading this effort.
The £4.2 million, six-year undertaking will seek to understand how Vietnam “got it right” in creating an education system that has led its students to achieve learning levels exceeding those of their peers in far wealthier nations.
The project in Vietnam is one of four research endeavors being launched in countries throughout the world to shed light on ways to address a global learning crisis. Countries around the world have been remarkably successful in making progress toward universal primary (elementary) schooling, but in many places, learning levels are poor, or have declined. As a result, even when children finish many years of schooling, they still lack basic math and literacy skills. The RISE agenda emphasizes the need to make changes that can provide children with the education they need to be successful adults in their local, national, and global communities.
Research about the experiences of Vietnam offers the potential to inform policies that can help other countries enhance students’ education.
“Vietnam’s success raises key questions about how it reached such levels of learning, and whether its achievements can provide insights that help other nations,” said Paul Glewwe, one of the research team’s principal investigators (PIs). He has been engaged in research in Vietnam for 25 years and is a Distinguished McKnight University Professor in the Department of Applied Economics at the University of Minnesota. “The project is very ambitious in scope, and it takes advantage of an incredible success story in education in developing countries.”
Co-PI Joan DeJaeghere, associate professor in CEHD’s Department of Organizational Leadership, Policy, and Development, is part of a team of nine experts from institutions within and outside of Vietnam that will undertake a systematic evaluation of Vietnam’s education system by analyzing the status and impacts of past, current, and upcoming educational reforms. The aim is to understand how policy levers made Vietnam’s exceptional achievements possible, and whether and how new reforms are able to build on its achievements. DeJaeghere is a Fulbright Scholar and Fulbright Specialist to Vietnam, having worked on education projects there for over 10 years.
Jed Elison, assistant professor in the Institute of Child Development, was featured on Fox 9 for groundbreaking research that is using infant brain scans to establish early identification and intervention strategies for the emergence of maladaptive behaviors in children, including autism spectrum disorder. The goal is to chart brain development in children between 3 and 24 months, an age when the foundation is laid for subsequent social and cognitive development.
“We have evidence that the brain starts to change long before the behavior starts to manifest,” Elison said in the story.
The National Institutes of Health has awarded the first-ever grant dedicated to laying the policy groundwork needed to translate genomic medicine into clinical application. The project – LawSeq – will convene legal, ethics, and scientific experts from across the country to analyze what the state of genomic law is and create much-needed guidance on what it should be.
The principal investigators leading the grant are Susan M. Wolf, J.D., U of M chair of the Consortium on Law and Values in Health, Environment & the Life Sciences; Ellen Wright Clayton, M.D., J.D. (Vanderbilt University); and Frances Lawrenz, Ph.D., U of M associate vice president for research and professor of educational psychology. Lawrenz is an expert in qualitative and quantitative research methods who has successfully led multiple National Science Foundation grants and has directed qualitative research on managing incidental findings and return of genomic results.
The leading investigators will be joined by a group of 22 top experts – from academia, industry, and clinical care – who will collaborate over the course of this three-year project to clarify current law, address gaps, and generate the forward-looking recommendations needed to create the legal foundation for successfully translating genomics into clinical care.
The College of Education and Human Development was recently recognized for its leadership in the innovative use of technology to support learning of pre-service teachers by the U.S. Department of Education and ASCD at the Teacher Preparation Innovation Summit in Washington, D.C.
“America’s pre-service teachers must be prepared to use technology effectively in the classroom,” he said. “We are excited by the innovations we’re seeing at CEHD to ensure their pre-service teachers have opportunities to actively use technology to support learning and teaching through creation, collaboration, and problem solving.”
The summit brought together researchers, schools of education, district leaders, accreditors, and support organizations to advance four goals for educational technology in teacher preparation programs outlined in the 2016 National Education Technology Plan, Future Ready Learning: Reimagining the Role of Technology in Education.
“We are excited about the future of educational technology as a tool to enhance student success in a variety of teaching and learning environments,” said Quam. “It’s part of our core mission in CEHD to prepare all of our graduates to develop and use new technologies.”
The summit cosponsor, ASCD, is a global community of 125,000 members— including superintendents, principals, teachers, and advocates from more than 128 countries—dedicated to excellence in learning, teaching, and leading.
“We are looking for brain-based biomarkers that precede the manifestation of behaviors that indicate a child is going to develop autism with the ultimate hope of being able to implement some type of interventions before the child is actually showing signs of this disorder,” said Elison in the story.