C&I Ph.D. candidate wins competitive P.E.O. Scholar Award

Jeanna Wieselmann, a Ph.D. candidate in STEM Education in the Department of Curriculum and Instruction, received the highly competitive P.E.O. Scholar Award for the 2018-2019 academic year. Wieselmann was one of 100 winners selected from 741 applicants to receive the $15,000 award based on her scholarship, academic achievement, and career goals. P.E.O. is a philanthropic organization where women celebrate the advancement of women. The P.E.O. Scholar award is specifically for women within two years of completing a doctoral level degree.

Wieselmann is studying gender equity in STEM Education and has been the recipient of a National Science Foundation graduate research fellowship, as well as a WPLC graduate award.

Learn more about the STEM Education Ph.D. program and research in STEM Education in the Department of Curriculum and Instruction.

One of the longstanding challenges of mental health interventions has been the difficulty in tailoring programs to the needs of individual people. New technology has made it possible to customize the type and amount of support we give an individual based on the state of that person.

As part of the Institute for Translational Research’s colloquium series, we are excited to host Harvard University researcher Walter Dempsey to discuss his work on “just-in-time” adaptive interventions aimed at providing the right type/amount of support, at the right time, by adapting to the changing state of the individual. He’ll also discuss the stratified micro-randomized trial (sMRT).

Dr. Dempsey is a postdoctoral researcher in the Department of Statistics at Harvard University interested in developing and analyzing methods for joint modeling of longitudinal and time-to-event data.

WHEN: Friday, April 20 | Noon to 1:30 p.m.
WHERE: ITR Offices, 1100 S Washington Avenue, Suite 102 (map)
WHO: Dr. Walter Dempsey, Harvard University
RSVP: z.umn.edu/dempsey

Free parking is available and light refreshments will be served.

Full abstract: A just-in-time adaptive intervention (JITAI) is an intervention design aimed at providing the right type/amount of support, at the right time, by adapting to the changing state of the individual. In the first half of this talk, we discuss the scientific motivation of JITAIs and define their key components. We present several mobile health trials in substance use and mental health that generate data that can then be used to inform the construction of JITAIs.

A critical question in the development of JITAIs is, when and in which contexts, is it most useful to push intervention content to the user. This question concerns time-varying dynamic moderation by the context on the effectiveness of in-the-moment interventions on user behavior. In the second half of this talk, we discuss the stratified micro-randomized trial (sMRT) design and present a smoking cessation sMRT designed to assess nested effects of momentary interventions.

ICI film on “Normalization” of people with disabilities screened at Walker Art Center

DVD cover of the film "Valuing Lives: Wolf Wolfensberger and the Principle of Normalization."
DVD cover of the film “Valuing Lives: Wolf Wolfensberger and the Principle of Normalization.”

Valuing Lives: Wolf Wolfensberger and the Principle of Normalization screened to an audience of over 300 at the Walker Art Center in Minneapolis on March 1. The film, directed by Jerry Smith of the Institute on Community Integration (ICI), explores a concept developed in the 1960s that provided a framework for moving people from large institutions into their home communities. This had a dramatic influence on services and supports for people with intellectual disabilities and fundamentally changed the way many professionals understood their roles in supporting people. Dr. Colleen Wieck set the stage historically with a presentation on the impact of Normalization in Minnesota. A panel discussion following the film examined the need to revisit Wolfensberger’s ideas, at a time when many communities are building new, segregated facilities for people with disabilities. The evening at the Walker concluded with a tribute to ICI’s Angelo Amado, who is retiring in March. Valuing Lives is available for purchase at rtcmedia.vhx.tv.

LT Media Lab teams up with Weisman Art Museum for “Vanishing Ice” exhibit

changing earth
C&I’s Aaron Doering leads LTML team members Jeni Henrickson and Chris Ripken across the Arctic to document climate change.

The upcoming Weisman Art museum exhibit Vanishing Ice opens Saturday, January 27 and features contributions from the Learning Technologies Media Lab (LTML), a research center in the Department of Curriculum and Instruction (C&I). The exhibit showcases the “beauty, significance, and vulnerability of Earth’s frozen lands, and visualizes the environmental and social impact that climate change has had on alpine and polar regions,” according to the Weisman website.

The LTML team created an interactive platform for the exhibit where visitors at the museum and around the world can share their thoughts on climate change and the Arctic to create a participatory forum on the effects of global warming.

In addition, on February 23 C&I Professor and Co-Director of LTML Aaron Doering will present the documentary “The Changing Earth: Crossing the Arctic” that follows Doering and team members Jeni Henrickson and Chris Ripken as they use live technology to introduce viewers to the challenges of the Arctic and the impact of climate change on its indigenous people.

Visitors can get a sneak preview of the exhibit on Friday, January 26 from 7:00-10:00 p.m. at the Vanishing Ice preview party where the LTML team will be on hand to answer questions about their work to document climate change in the Arctic and let visitors interact with gear from their Arctic expeditions.

For those that can’t make it to the preview party, the LTML team will be back to talk with visitors, answer questions, and exhibit their gear on Weisman’s community day on April 7.

The exhibit runs through May 13. Admission is free.

Learn more about LTML’s research and academic degrees and certificate programs in Learning Technologies in the Department of Curriculum and Instruction.

 

 

Colloquium: ​Trauma in Autism Spectrum Disorder

While the path from trauma exposure, to effect, to treatment is relatively well understood for typically developing children, we know much less about this path for children with Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD).

As part of ITR’s colloquium series, we are excited to host researchers Dr. Adriana Herrera and Dr. John Hoch to discuss their recent work on identifying trauma exposure and traumatic stress among children with ASD.

WHEN: Monday, February 26 | Noon to 1:30 p.m.
WHERE: ITR Offices, 1100 S Washington Avenue, Suite 102 (map)
WHO: Dr. Adriana Herrera, ITR, and Dr. John Hoch, Fraser
RSVP: Register through Eventbright

Free parking is available and light refreshments will be served.

Drs. Herrera and Koch looked at currently identified prevalence and risk factors for trauma
exposure in ASD in order to understand the prevalence of trauma reporting among a clinical population.

The project aimed to improve detection of trauma exposure and traumatic stress reactions in children with ASD and to better understand their risk factors and behavioral expression of trauma. The results of the research will inform treatment of trauma among children with ASD.

The research was funded by ITR’s seed grant program, which seeks to kickstart innovative ideas that have a likely chance of becoming larger, sustained research projects with external funding to improve mental health outcomes among Minnesota’s children. Learn more about ITR’s seed grant program

Institute on Community Integration welcomes visit by Russian partners on Peer-to-Peer Project

Anna Chistokhina (left) and Zoya Berdnikova (center) from the Social Innovation Fund in Krasnoyarsk, Siberia, traveled to ICI in January for a scouting trip as part of the U.S.-Russia Peer-to-Peer Project, a collaborative project with ICI’s Global Resource Center on Inclusive Education (GRC). The project, funded by the U.S. Embassy in Moscow, is developing systems to support the community inclusion and employment of young adults with disabilities.

Chistokhina and Berdinkova, along with GRC co-directors Renáta Tichá (far right) and Brian Abery, visited sites focused on transition from secondary school to community living and employment by young adults with disabilities, and discussed similarities and differences between service and support approaches in the U.S. and the Russian Federation. Among the sites were the Success Beyond program in St. Paul (pictured), Lionsgate Academy, and The Arc of Minnesota; they also shadowed professionals who support young adults with disabilities in community-based settings. This was part of the preparation and planning for a larger Russian delegation coming to ICI in April.

The Peer-to-Peer project is a continuation of a long-standing partnership between Krasnoyarsk State University and ICI. “What I really enjoy about this continued collaboration between Krasnoyarsk and Minnesota is how sincere and dedicated our Russian partners are to making a difference in the lives of children and young adults with disabilities back home,” says Tichá.

Learning Technologies Media Lab collaborates with Weisman Art Museum on interactive videos for Prince exhibit

Prince Minneapolis exhibitThe Learning Technologies (LT) Media Lab has teamed up with the Weisman Art Museum to give visitors the chance to record and share their favorite Prince moments as part of the exhibit, “Prince from Minneapolis” running through June 17, 2018.

“You don’t have to be at the exhibit to contribute,” says LT creative director Jeni Henrickson about the interactive software that lets the visitors record and share their memories of the performer. “Visitors can view the recordings and make their own from their homes. People around the world can go to this site and add a Prince moment,” she adds.

Visitors can pin themselves on an interactive map and view stories on the video wall, either at the touch screen monitor in the museum or from their home computers equipped with video cameras. The entire interactive wall was custom-developed by the LT team.

The LT Media Lab has a track record of leveraging their technological skills to allow the public to share their stories around educational topics. In the past, they used video documentation and online learning environments to allow students to follow their expeditions into the arctic to evaluate climate change as part of the Changing Earth project and, most recently, into South America to capture stories about the science and future of agriculture as part of the AgCultures project led by Professor Aaron Doering.

The Weisman and the LT Media lab will continue their collaboration on the upcoming exhibit, “Vanishing Ice” which opens January 27, 2018 and offers a glimpse into the rich cultural legacy of the planet’s frozen frontiers.

Learn more about the LT Media Lab and the academic programs offered in Learning Technologies in the Department of Curriculum and Instruction.

 

Minnesota DHS renews Positive Supports contract with RTC-CL

The Minnesota Department of Human Services (DHS) has renewed its contract with the Research and Training Center on Community Living (RTC-CL), at the Institute on Community Integration, for continuation of training and technical assistance to build capacity for implementing positive support practices across the state. The $1.2 million contract extends the current work begun in 2012 by RTC-CL’s  Minnesota DHS Systems Change and Capacity Building Through Research, Training, and Technical Assistance Projects, work that enhances Minnesota’s capacity to support community living for individuals with disabilities and/or mental illness. Minnesota DHS has made a new five-year commitment to working with RTC-CL, beginning with a two-year agreement for Fiscal Years 2018 and 2019. The project directors at RTC-CL are Amy Hewitt and Rachel Freeman. “This DHS contract provides an important vehicle for building the capacity for person-centered practices and positive supports across the state of Minnesota and to improve the lives of people with intellectual and developmental disabilities using large-scale systems change,” says Freeman.

The new contract’s primary areas of focus include expanding implementation of statewide person-centered practices and positive behavior support through regional training and technical assistance; building service professional capacity using DirectCourse, the online competency-based training system operated by a partnership of the RTC-CL and Elsevier; facilitation, coordination, and implementation support for Minnesota’s statewide plan for building effective systems for implementing positive practices and supports; technical assistance and training for organizational change to promote the use of person-centered practices within Minnesota DHS; building and sustaining in-state training capacity for person-centered thinking and person-centered planning; development of Web-based resources on best practices in implementing person-centered and positive behavior supports; and coordination of communities of practice for person centered practices and positive behavior supports.

ICI supports cross-cultural identification, screening, and intervention for autism

Hall-Lande at CDC headquarters in Atlanta where she trained in 2016.

Two weeks ago, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) renewed the appointment of ICI’s Jennifer Hall-Lande as the Minnesota Act Early Ambassador, extending it through October 2018 to spread the CDC’s “Learn the Signs, Act Early” message throughout the state.

CDC trained her to develop and expand on ICI’s Act Early work of promoting early identification, screening, and intervention for autism and related neurodevelopmental disabilities in culturally- and linguistically-diverse communities across Minnesota. That work expanded this fall when the Association of University Centers on Disabilities (AUCD), through a subcontract from CDC, awarded her $137,000 for a new nine-month project, “Learn the Signs, Act Early” Formative Research Evaluation of Developmental Books. ”

This project helps the Minnesota Act Early team to evaluate the effectiveness of our materials in promoting parent-led developmental monitoring, and it’s also a great opportunity for building a strong professional partnership with the AUCD team and UCEDDs in New York and Indiana,” she says. UCEDDs (University Centers for Excellence in Developmental Disabilities) are a federally-designated network of programs similar to ICI that are housed in major universities and teaching hospitals across the country to promote a nation in which all Americans, including Americans with disabilities, participate fully in their communities.

“This grant adds to ICI’s growing portfolio of ‘Learn the Signs, Act Early’ projects, including our Outreach Work and State Systems Grant: Minnesota Act Early,” says Hall-Lande. Also, in September, ICI’s Minnesota Act Early team partnered with Minnesota Help Me Grow to train another group of cultural delegates to conduct Learn the Signs outreach in their communities. The newly-trained delegates join the ranks of an existing “Minnesota Learn the Signs, Act Early” statewide network of approximately 100 trained delegates who use the Act Early materials and resources to help parents monitor child development. In this way, delegates connect with families in their communities to support early identification.

Colloquium: High-risk drinking among adolescents and young adults

The Institute for Translational Research in Children’s Mental Health (ITR) is excited to host Dr. Megan E. Patrick, Ph.D., from the University of Michigan to discuss her research on high-risk drinking among young people. Her talk, “High-risk drinking among adolescents and young adults: Motivations, expectancies, and opportunities for intervention” will highlight implications for prevention and intervention.

The colloquium will take place on Tuesday, November 21 at 9 a.m. at ITR’s offices (1100 S Washington Ave).  Refreshments will be provided. To RSVP, e-mail bornx040@umn.edu. 

Dr. Patrick’s work focuses on the development and consequences of adolescent and young adult risk behaviors, including alcohol use, drug use, and risky sexual behaviors. Her interests include motivation and decision-making, the prevention of health risk behaviors, statistical methods for modeling behavior and behavior change, and web-based survey methodology.

Abstract:
High-risk drinking among adolescents and young adults: Motivations, expectancies, and
opportunities for intervention

Alcohol is the most commonly used substance of abuse among youth. Drinking often begins during adolescence and then escalates in frequency and quantity into early young adulthood. Research has typically focused on binge drinking (i.e., having 5 or more drinks in a row), but recent studies have highlighted that drinking also often far exceeds that quantity threshold. In this talk, Dr. Patrick will present an overview of her research on “high-intensity drinking” (i.e., having 10 or more drinks in a row) among adolescents and young adults, the extent to which motivations for drinking and expectancies of drinking consequences are associated with later alcohol use and problems, and implications for prevention and intervention.

The colloquium will take place on Tuesday, November 21 at 9 a.m. at ITR’s offices (1100 S Washington Ave).  Refreshments will be provided. To RSVP, e-mail bornx040@umn.edu.

ICI promoting community inclusion for young Russians and Americans with disabilities

Renáta Tichá and Brian Abery in Moscow in 2015.

On October 1, the College’s Institute on Community Integration (ICI) received a one-year, $100,000 grant from the U.S. Embassy in Moscow to create virtual and in-person platforms for dialogues between professionals and parents who support young Russians and Americans with disabilities. The goal is to develop opportunities and strategies for inclusive community living and employment (independent or semi-independent housing and community participation) for young adults with disabilities in both countries. Specifically, the grant will support 16- to 21-year-olds in the Twin Cities and in the Siberian city of Krasnoyarsk. Known as the U.S.–Russia Peer-to-Peer Project: Developing Systems to Support the Employment and Community Inclusion of Young Adults with Disabilities, the collaboration will include electronic exchanges on inclusive community living and employment. There will be dual person-to-person exchanges between Russia and the U.S. (including conferences in each country) and dialogues about how culture affects community inclusion in both countries. The exchanges will feature seven adults in each country, including professionals, family members, and at least one person with a disability representing each country. The project will form learning communities to serve as resources for successful transition approaches and strategies, author a guide outlining key practical steps for inclusive employment and community living, and create online modules in these areas available in both countries.

The Russian collaborator on the project is the Social Innovation Fund in Krasnoyarsk. Project director Renáta Tichá and colleague Brian Abery (pictured together in Moscow in 2015) have worked on various projects with people in Krasnoyarsk, including staff from Krasnoyarsk State Pedagogical University, and look forward to expanding those relationships. “This project is an important continuation of our work with professionals in Krasnoyarsk who support children and youth with disabilities. This new opportunity provides a venue for collaboration with our colleagues on transition issues for young adults with disabilities from school to community,” says Tichá. U.S.–Russia Peer-to-Peer is a project of ICI’s Global Resource Center for Inclusive Education, of which Tichá is also director.

Peterson and Scharber Publish About Student Technology Teams

Lana Peterson, doctoral candidate in LT and LT Media Lab’s community engagement coordinator, and Cassie Scharber, associate professor and LTML’s co-director, recently published an article in the International Journal of Information and Learning Technology. Their article is part of a special issue focused on research trends in instructional technology.
ABSTRACT
Purpose
The purpose of this paper is to describe the practice of using student technology teams (STTs) offered at a high school within a 1:1 district.
Design/methodology/approach
This qualitative case study (Merriam, 1998, 2009) documents how an STT program functioned in 2015-2016 academic year.
Findings
Findings show the STT provided a rich and authentic learning opportunity for students interested in information technology. The district benefits greatly through both cost savings and personnel support related to its 1:1 initiative.
Originality/value
As there is no current research on K-12 STTs, this study serves as a foundation for a practice that is growing within schools.
CITATION
Peterson, L., & Scharber, C. (2017). Supporting a 1:1 program with a student technology team. International Journal of Information and Learning Technology, Special Issue: Research Trends in Instructional Technology, 34(5), 396-408. doi: https://doi.org/10.1108/IJILT-06-2017-0049

Barbara Foorman’s presentation: Implementing Effective Reading Interventions in Schools

On Sep. 29, 2017, Dr. Barbara Foorman presented on Implementing Effective Reading Interventions in Schools: Alignment of Tier 1 and Tier 2 Interventions  at the 5th annual Distinguished Scholar Symposium.

See Dr. Foorman’s presentation here (PDF).

Barbara Foorman is the Frances Eppes Professor of Education, Director Emeritus of the Florida Center for Reading Research, and Director of the Regional Educational Laboratory Southeast at Florida State University. Dr. Foorman is an internationally known expert in reading. She has over 150 publications and was co-editor of the Journal of Research on Educational Effectiveness. Her research has included studies of Pre-K-12 reading assessments and interventions, and literacy development in Spanish-speaking students. Her full biographical statement can be accessed here.

 

 

C&I receives several STEM and technology research grants

The Department of Curriculum and Instruction, known nationally and internationally for cutting-edge research in education, received grant awards for several research projects this summer in the fields of STEM education and Learning Technologies.

Associate professor in the Learning Technologies program, Bodong Chen, received $169,041 grant from the National Science Foundation (NSF) to continue his work over the next two years on “Cyberlearning: Connecting Web Annotations and Progressive Online Discourse in Science Classrooms.”

Julie Brown, an assistant professor in C&I’s STEM Education Program, received $1,022,146 from NSF over three years for her work with Keisha Varma on “ESPRIT: fostering Equitable Science through Parental Involvement and Technology.”

C&I’s Gillian Roehrig, a professor in the STEM education program, was awarded $103,172 by NSF for “Teacher Network Retention in Noyce Communities of Practice, State University of New York at Stony Brook.”

Kathleen Cramer’s GopherMath Project earned $50,000 over nine months from Greater Twin Cities United Way. Cramer is a C&I professor who specializes in mathematics education for children in grades 4-8.

Cassandra Scharber, a professor in the Learning Technologies program and co-director of the Learning Technologies Media Lab, received multiple grants for her project SciGirls Code LRNG Playlists. Grant organizations included Twin Cities Public Television, the University of California – Irvine, and the MacArthur Foundation.

STEM education professor, Lesa Covington Clarkson, was awarded $95,767 from the Minnesota Office of Higher Education over 14 months for “e3Algebra: Engineering Engaging in Eighth Grade Algebra in Urban Classrooms.”

Learn more about the Department of Curriculum and Instruction’s research projects, centers, and areas of faculty expertise.

Gewirtz’s ADAPT program in the news

Abigail Gewirtz, Lindahl Leadership Professor, Dept. of Family Social Science, and Institute for Translational Research in Child Development.

 

Abigail Gewirtz, Lindahl Leadership professor in the Department of Family Social Science and the Institute for Translational Research, was interviewed by WCCO-TV and KSTP-TV about her research program, ADAPT, that supports military families reintegrating following deployment. The unique program provides tools and resources to support positive parenting. A U.S. Department of Defense grant is underwriting  an online version of  ADAPT to serve more military families.

C&I STEM educators present to STEM scholars in Japan

Solidifying the ongoing partnership with STEM education scholars in Japan, former and current members of the Department of Curriculum and Instruction presented at the Japanese Society of Science Education (JSSE) annual meeting in Takamatsu, Japan. JSSE has expanded its research in recent years to address the lack of interest in STEM fields among students in a world transitioning to a technology-based culture.

Professor Gillian Roerhig was invited to present on approaches to improving STEM education, policy, and professional development. In addition, Ph.D. in STEM education candidate Jeanna Wieselmann and alumnus Emily Dare ’17, now an assistant professor at Michigan Technical Institute, presented on gender equity in STEM education.

The group will continue to forge a partnership with colleagues in Japan to advance STEM engagement and equity for all learners.

Learn more about the Ph.D. program in STEM education in the Department of Curriculum and Instruction.

See departmental research expertise in STEM education.

Poetz to receive National Leadership Award from AUCD

Photograph of Cliff Poetz, self-advocate for people with disabilities, at the Minnesota State Capitol.
Cliff Poetz, self-advocate for people with disabilities, at the Minnesota State Capitol.

Cliff Poetz of the College’s Institute on Community Integration will receive the Leadership in Advocacy Award from the Association of University Centers on Disabilities (AUCD) during the AUCD 2017 conference in Washington, DC on November 5-8. The award is presented to an outstanding individual or family member who has exhibited exceptional leadership and self-advocacy skills in the area of developmental disabilities.

Poetz’s self-advocacy began in 1970. Like many people with developmental disabilities at the time, he lived in a large institution and was labeled “retarded.” But his institution was in Minneapolis and “the city was alive with talk of social change and civil rights,” he recalls. Poetz protested the discrimination, people listened, and the media took notice. He has influenced social change and legislation every since. An active and effective advocate, he helped launch Advocating Change Together in the late 1970s and People First Minnesota in the 1980s. He went on to serve as a board member of numerous organizations and has had advisory roles with a number of foundations and academic centers.

“I only wish my parents could have seen how my life has turned out,” he reflects. “They would not believe how I live on my own, how I travel all over the country, how people with impressive titles and jobs know me and listen to me. Self-advocacy has given me wonderful opportunities. I see my involvement in continuing to organize self-advocacy groups as one way that I can help other people have wonderful opportunities of their own.”

NCEO receives $10 million to establish new center to support inclusive practices for students with significant cognitive disabilities

Sheryl Lazarus, principal investigator.
Kristin Liu, co-principal investigator.

The National Center on Educational Outcomes (NCEO) at the college’s Institute on Community Integration (ICI) has been awarded a $10 million grant from the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Special Education Programs to establish a National Technical Assistance Center on Inclusive Practices and Policies. The new center will be called The TIES Center: Increasing Time, Instructional Effectiveness, Engagement, and State Support for Inclusive Practices for Students with Significant Cognitive Disabilities. Sheryl Lazarus will be the principal investigator and Kristin Liu the co-principal investigator.

The purpose of the TIES Center is to create sustainable changes in school and district educational systems so that students with significant cognitive disabilities can fully engage in the same instructional and non-instructional activities as their general education peers while being instructed in a way that meets individual learning needs.

The TIES Center will be funded for five years, $2 million per year. Subcontractors for the TIES Center identified by NCEO are University of North Carolina Charlotte, University of North Carolina Greensboro, University of Cincinnati, CAST, University of Kentucky and the Arizona Department of Education.

“This is wonderful opportunity for NCEO and its partners to do important and exciting work on the inclusion of students with significant cognitive disabilities,” says Lazarus. Future project activities will support increased student engagement and improved learning outcomes for students with significant cognitive disabilities.

What the TIES Center Will Do

The primary outcome of the TIES Center is to improve the quality of instruction for students with significant cognitive disabilities in inclusive environments through the use of existing curriculum and instructional materials. The new center will also provide models and coaching to both general education and special education teachers to create more inclusive opportunities. In addition the TIES Center will support changes to inclusive practices and policies within partner state and local education agencies.

The TIES Center has identified five goals to support its outcomes:

  1. Develop professional learning communities in partner state and local education agencie
  2. Develop coaching models for implementation of resources, inclusive practices and communicative competence.
  3. Improve the efficiency and effectiveness of existing resources.
  4. Support parents to become partners in the practice of inclusion for students with significant cognitive disabilities.
  5. Support systems change within the leadership of state and local education agencies for implementation of inclusive practices.

Established in 1990, NCEO is a federally-funded technical-assistance center that supports states and districts on issues related to inclusive assessments, particularly for students with disabilities, English learners (ELs) and ELs with disabilities.

Ph.D. student in STEM Education travels to Japan to research STEM equity

STEM equity researcher, National Science Foundation fellowship recipient, Ph.D. candidate, and sushi connoisseur Jeanna Wieselmann shares her research agenda as she spends the semester in Japan partnering with Shizuoka University.

What is your degree program?

I am in the STEM Education Ph.D. program within the Department of Curriculum and Instruction.  I plan to graduate in May of 2019.

What drove you to enroll in the STEM Education Ph.D. program?

I completed my undergraduate and master’s degrees from the University of Minnesota and spent several years teaching for a STEM non-profit.  As a STEM teacher, I observed students who are traditionally underrepresented in STEM fields excelling.  I wanted to learn more about how to make quality STEM education accessible to all students, through quality curricular materials and support for teachers.  The University of Minnesota has amazing faculty and an integrated STEM program that perfectly matched my research interests.

What is your current research focus?

I am currently interested in gender equity in STEM and am looking at the factors that influence whether girls are interested in pursuing STEM careers.  Girls already tend to have less interest in STEM by the time they reach middle and high school, so I’m focusing primarily on the elementary grade levels in the hopes that quality elementary STEM experiences can help foster continued STEM interest.

You are in Japan this semester working on STEM education. Tell me about your goals for the semester and how the project came about.

I am interested in international perspectives on STEM, and I decided to visit Japan because my adviser, Dr. Gillian Roehrig, has cultivated a strong relationship with Dr. Yoshisuke Kumano from Shizuoka University. I was able to study through my National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship. This semester, I am working on two research projects.  The first project investigates middle school students’ perceptions of STEM and interest in STEM careers after participating in STEM activities through various programs.  The second project involves helping with teacher professional development focused on STEM and supporting these teachers as they implement STEM activities in their elementary classrooms for the first time.

What have you found surprising/challenging as an educator and researcher working across international borders?

This certainly hasn’t been a surprise, but the language barrier is a major challenge to conducting research across international borders.  I’m fortunate to be surrounded by Japanese colleagues who are willing to help me, but my ability to understand what is happening in a classroom is limited.  As a researcher, I’m also very aware of my positionality and am cautious about entering a new culture and pushing my beliefs and values on people. I’m working in collaborative groups with Japanese researchers to help ensure that the Japanese perspective is fairly portrayed in the research I conduct.

Which resources have you found through the department to help with your research?

The biggest resource that has helped with my research is the faculty within the department.  I learned a lot through my coursework, and I also have wonderful mentors who are willing to give advice and feedback on my work.  Every time I talk to another professor about my research, I leave with new ideas and new resources to explore. In addition, my fellow graduate students are irreplaceable for the support they provide.

And the key question: have you eaten the most delicious food in Japan?

The food in Japan is absolutely amazing!  There’s great, affordable sushi available everywhere, including the grocery store that’s a block away from my apartment.  One of my favorite meals was Okonomiyaki, a regional specialty of Hiroshima that features a savory pancake topped with cabbage and other veggies, noodles, meat, and a delicious special sauce.

Learn more about the Ph.D. in STEM Education in the Department of Curriculum and Instruction.