During the “Small Talk” led by Think Small president and CEO, Barbara Yates, McConnell defined the word gap. He shared that research around the word gap began in the early 90s with a study by Betty Hart and Todd Risley. The two University of Kansas researchers wanted to find out why students from low-income families continued to lag behind students from wealthy families later in school despite best efforts to make preschool more accessible for all children. Hart and Risley, McConnell explained, found a significant difference in the total number of words spoken to children of rich and poor families by the age of three. In fact by age four, children in professional families had heard almost 45 million words on average, while children in families who were on welfare had heard an average of only 13 million words.
McConnell went on to discuss how Hart and Risley’s work is continuing through new technologies. He described one technology he is helping implement and evaluate—LENA Start, a parent education program for parents and family child care providers in the Twin Cities. Families using the LENA system, have their children wear vests which, according to McConnell, act as “word pedometers.” These vests automatically monitor the quantity of words and conversations in a young children’s language environment. Parents and childcare providers regularly review the vests’ measurements, encouraging parents to talk to their children more.
Think Small panelists, Dianne Haulcy, senior vice president for family engagement, and Gerri Fisher, parent engagement coordinator, shared Think Small’s focus on helping childcare providers increase parent engagement which led them to work with McConnell and LENA Start. Finally, both women shared their positive experiences using the LENA system to work with parents and students and close the word gap.
On June 8, 2017 counselors working in both rural and urban areas across Minnesota attended a half-day workshop, where they were presented with current data that support the need for greater attention to college and career readiness. Drs. Carolyn Berger and Jennifer Kunze provided examples of programs and resources for doing this valuable work.
Another highlight of the workshop was for attendees to participate in the group dialogue to learn how Minnesota schools are promoting college and career readiness.
Survey data collected from workshop participants indicated that counselors are not finding high quality learning opportunities in their regions related to this topic and thus the department will strive to take the lead for future workshops in this area.
On June 20 and 21, roughly 500 of Minnesota’s education leaders, researchers, policy makers, and nonprofit organizations gathered at Educational Equity in Action II. This was the second convening hosted by the University of Minnesota. Its focus: improving educational equity by “Working across schools and communities to enhance social emotional learning.”
Dr. Martin Brokenleg, Co-author of the book Reclaiming Youth at Risk: Our Hope for the Future and co-developer of the Circle of Courage model,explained that trauma from oppression, like that experienced by the American Indian community, can span generations.
“Our culture is plagued by intergenerational trauma,” said Brokenleg, whose mother’s family was among those imprisoned at Fort Snelling. He cited the incredibly high suicide rate among Native people, especially in the 18-30 age group, and among people in Ireland and Scotland after generations of oppression by the British, whose methods not coincidentally were adopted by the U.S. Bureau of Indian Affairs. “We’ve had a normal human reaction to an abnormal history.”
Brokenleg described his Circle of Courage model which supports character building or “teaching the heart” through generosity, belonging, independence, and mastery. Brokenleg finished his talk with practical strategies from Circle of Courage attendees could take back to their schools and communities to help young people—especially those suffering from intergenerational trauma—learn and grow.
Dr. Michael Rodriguez, professor of educational psychology at the University of Minnesota, Jim and Carmen Campbell Leadership Chair in Education and Human Development, and co-director of the Educational Equity Resource Center and the covening, led a plenary discussion on the results of the Minnesota Student Survey (MSS).
Rodriguez explained, although at a high-level the MSS tells a positive story about the developmental skills and supports of Minnesota youth, a closer look at the data demonstrates the reality of the inequities some students experience in Minnesota’s education system. This is particularly apparent for students identifying as lesbian, gay, or bisexual (LGB); students who skip school; students who receive disciplinary action in school; and students who have experienced trauma.
“Ninety-nine percent of our youth say their goal is to graduate from high school—and 65 to 85 percent across demographic groups also want to go to college,” said Rodriguez. “That’s a lot higher than our state’s high school graduation goal for them, which is now about 90 percent by 2020!”
He emphasized that students’ own goals are higher than those we’ve set as a state.
Following the plenary, students in Rodriguez’s Minnesota Youth Development Research Group (MYDRG) led detailed discussions on the MSS results for some of these groups, including: American Indian students, Hmong students, students in special education, LGB students, and students experiencing trauma.
Throughout the convening, participants selected from 28 smaller group breakout sessions on social-emotional learning led by University of Minnesota researchers, youth engagement groups, school districts, the Minneapolis Department of Education, and more. Several sessions included youth as presenters and/or focused on youth participatory action research projects.
Small group discussions
Before the final keynote, attendees participated in a process called TRIZ. They met in small groups—dividing themselves up based on the different developmental skills and supports students need to be successful (identified in Rodriguez’s work). Participants started with the unusual task of listing actions communities might take to destroy the skill being discussed in youth. Then, they shared opportunities they had to remove some of these destructive activities and developed action plans for their schools, communities, and organizations.
Dr. Muhammad Khalifa, associate professor in Organizational Leadership, Policy, and Development, closed out the convening by challenging the group to practice culturally responsive school leadership (CRSL). He asked that school leaders promote schooling that addresses the specific cultural and learning needs of students by focusing on the perspectives of parents, students, and community members.
“Change in schools can be promoted and fostered by ‘leaders,’ but culturally responsive school leadership is practiced by all stakeholders,” said Khalifa. “Community-based based knowledge informs good leadership practice.”
In this statement, Khalifa connected his keynote to Rodriguez’ and Brokenleg’s work. Each of the speakers stressed the importance of listening to all members of our community to improve educational equity.
Khalifa ended his talk by sharing strategies to help attendees to achieve CRSL in their own schools, organizations, and communities.
The Diversity in Psychology Program is designed for individuals who are historically under-represented in psychology graduate programs and who are interested in learning about graduate training in psychology, child psychology, and educational/school psychology at the University of Minnesota.
The program will feature a coordinated set of formal and informal experiences designed to familiarize participants with strategies for constructing successful graduate school applications, and to provide them with the opportunity to learn more about the experience of graduate education in UMN psychology departments.
To be eligible to apply, individuals must:
be enrolled in a college or university as a junior or senior, or who have graduated within the last two years (i.e., 2015 or thereafter). Individuals currently enrolled in a terminal masters-level graduate program in psychology are also eligible.
identify as a member of groups underrepresented in graduate training in psychology, including ethnic and racial minority groups, low-income backgrounds, persons with disability, LGBTQ+, military veterans, and first-generation college students or graduates.
Individuals must also meet one of the following criteria:
be committed to pursuing doctoral training in either child psychology or educational/school psychology. OR
be committed to pursuing doctoral training in psychology in one of the following programs of research offered by the Department of Psychology: clinical science and psychopathology; counseling psychology; cognitive and brain sciences; industrial/organizational psychology; personality, individual differences, and behavior genetics; quantitative psychology/psychometric methods; or social psychology.
On May 9th, CSPP held a networking event for students, alumni, and supervisors at Shamrocks in St. Paul. Over 70 people joined to meet one another and build relationships with fellow members of the CSPP program. Alumni from across the metro area, with careers in the counseling field as mental health therapists, school counselors, and higher education counselors, were in attendance. It presented students with the opportunity to make meaningful connections with supervisors and alumni. Dr. Marguerite Ohrtman hosted the event.
On May 10th, CSPP held their annual end of the year picnic for students, graduates, families, and friends. Over 125 people were in attendance this year at Minneahaha Falls Park in Minneapolis. Families from Florida, Washington, and across the country gathered to show their support.
Buuck was selected from graduate students across the state for having the most potential as a school counselor. For three years in a row, students from the CSPP program have been selected for this award.
Marguerite Ohrtman, director of school counseling, presented the award to Buuck at the MSCA Conference this May.
Winners of the Potential School Counselor of the Year Award receive a $500 scholarship. Applicants are required to submit their resume, transcripts, statement of professional goals, and a letter of recommendation, in addition to the application form.
Julie Koch, 2008 alumna of the Department of Educational Psychology’s counseling and student personnel psychology (CSPP) Ph.D. program, is one of this year’s recipients of the College of Education and Human Development (CEHD) Rising Star Award.
Since graduation, Julie has been a faculty member at Oklahoma State University. Today, she is an associate professor and interim head of the School of Applied Health and Educational Psychology, a newly formed department that includes counseling, counseling psychology, health education, and public health. Her research interests include: microaffirmation, faculty multicultural competence, counselor development and training, issues related to diverse populations, and prevention in school settings.
The Rising Alumni award goes to CEHD alumni who have achieved early distinction in their career (15 years or less since graduation), demonstrated outstanding leadership, or shown exceptional volunteer services in their community.
“Julie is definitely a Rising Star,” says Thomas Skovohlt, professor in the Department of Educational Psychology’s CSPP program. “She is unusually gifted at management and administration, and it is easy to see her as a university president in the years ahead.”
“Jennifer is highly deserving of the award,” says Department of Educational Psychology chair, Geoffrey Maruyama. “She has worked over the past decade in Minneapolis Public Schools, first in North Minneapolis, then with Anishinabe Academy, and recently, she added tele-health research to connect with rural communities,” says Maruyama. “These and other projects reflect her deep commitment to engaged research and to doing work that makes a difference in people’s lives.”
Please join us in congratulating Professor McComas on this tremendous accomplishment!
Michael Rask, first year M.A. student in the counseling and student personnel psychology (CSPP) program was stopped on the street in Dinkytown on Valentine’s Day by Steve Patterson, an anchor from Twin Cities Live (TCL) on Channel 5, and challenged to go on a date with a fellow University of Minnesota student (also walking in Dinkytown), Kristina. The two went out for coffee, and Michael sent an email to TCL with a photo of him and Kristina on their date. He challenged TCL back to donate to support him in a Polar Plunge he was participating in with fellow CSPP classmates and faculty. Participants in the Polar Plunge jump into freezing water to raise money for Special Olympics events in Minnesota.
Thanks to Michael’s promotion of the event on TCL, he was able to successfully surpass his goal of raising $1,500, bringing in $1,788 in total according to his Polar Plunge page.
Other faculty and student participants from CSPP included Marguerite Ohrtman, Addison Novak, Brandon Forcier, Melissa Derby, Megan Anderson, Drew Wanschneider, Emily Cranberg, and Rikki Hemstad. The team raised the most of any of the University of Minnesota teams. The Polar Plunge event raised $860,441 for Special Olympics Minnesota.
Congratulations and great work to all of our CSPP Polar Plunge participants!
“Our college continues to reach new heights of excellence in graduate teaching, research, and outreach,” said Dean Jean K. Quam. “We are focused on improving the lives of students across Minnesota, the nation, and the world.”
Rankings methodology: U.S. News surveyed 379 schools granting education doctoral degrees. It calculates rankings based on quality assessments from peer institutions and school superintendents nationwide, student selectivity, and faculty research and resources, which includes student/faculty ratio and faculty awards as well as support for research.
Kelli Howard took an interest in psychology at an early age. “I was always fascinated by people and relationships—why we do what we do or how we become what we become. I figured I’d go into psychology of some kind.”
Howard was a tennis player in college, and it was her coach, a professor of physical education, who first inspired her to think about pursuing her doctorate. “Getting a Ph.D. was not a path many women in my life had taken. I loved her enthusiasm and passion for working with the group she had chosen to help. I began to consider how my undergraduate degree in psychology might provide opportunities for me to find my place helping others as well.”
Initially interested in studying forensic psychology, Howard went to work for a jury consulting firm after completing her undergraduate degree. “The more work I did in forensics,” she says, “the more I realized I didn’t want to focus my work on such a tiny percentage of the population. I became more excited about helping people with their every day concerns—grief, trauma, loss and things that are more common.”
Howard began to carve out a path for herself, working in a number of different “helper” jobs, including: career counselor and coach, crisis counselor, and counselor for survivors of human trafficking. At the same time, she completed her M.E.d in postsecondary administration and student affairs and, later, began pursuing her Ph.D. in counseling psychology and conducting research on topics related to schools and mental health.
“At the time it all felt hodgepodge,” she says, “but it was all kind of leading me here—just in a circuitous route.”
Howard recently graduated with her Ph.D. in counseling psychology through the College of Liberal Arts. She did her dissertation on designing and evaluating online counseling programs for college students without access to such tools.
“Anxiety and depression are common ailments for college students. However, they often don’t get the counseling they need for a number of reasons: the perceived time it takes, lack of convenient options, and increasingly long wait times to see someone,” she explains. “We delivered an intervention in the classroom and tested how it impacted students’ emotions and academic performance.”
Last fall, Howard began teaching master’s students in our counseling and student personnel psychology program, starting with the Introductory Skills and Theories and Practicum Supervision courses. This spring, she’s once again teaching the Practicum Supervision course as well as Clients in Crisis and Assessment and Counseling Clients with Psychological Disorders.
When asked what she likes most about her new role. Howard says, “I love it all. I’m helping students pursue something that’s meaningful for them and does a service for the world.” She continues, “Helping students find their place and developing their careers is such a privilege.”
Dr. Blaine Fowers, a 1983 alumnus of the Department of Educational Psychology’s Counseling & Student Personnel Psychology (CSPP) M.A. program was recently awarded the Joseph B. Gittler Award, a premier award from the American Psychological Foundation. The annual award, which includes a $7,500 honorarium, honors theoretical psychologists who question the basic assumptions most psychologists take for granted.
“The Gittler award is an honor to receive because it is the premier award given to recognize work on the philosophical foundations of psychology in North America,” said Fowers. “The importance of the award was indicated by its first two awardees, Jerome Bruner and Daniel Kahneman (who also won a Nobel Prize), two giants in psychology.”
Fowers’ work helps to illuminate fundamental assumptions underlying psychological thinking. Currently, he teaches as a tenured professor at the University of Miami. Learn more.
The University of Minnesota and College of Education and Human Development, with leadership from Scott McConnell, professor in the Department of Educational Psychology’s special education program, were recognized recently by Minneapolis Mayor Betsy Hodges and Kara Dukakis from Too Small to Fail for contributions to the launch and evaluation of LENA Start, a promising intervention to promote parent-child interaction and early language development—and, as a result, reduce disparities—for families of young children. Part of this work will help support Mayor Hodges’s Talking is Teaching campaign.
Counseling and student personnel psychology (CSPP) students, Sarah Cronin, Thomas Allen, Opal Cook, Drew Benson, and Meredith Martyr, presented alongside professor Thomas Skovholt, and instructor Caroline Burke at the American Psychological Association (APA) National Conference in August.
The conference focused on therapists’ self-care, and the presenters shared their research on what therapists do every day to manage their personal and professional boundaries. Topics included: therapist self-care development and the intentional decisions therapists make to avoid clients.
Sarah Cronin, counseling and student personnel psychology doctoral student presented with counseling and student personnel psychology alumnus, Emily Colton, at the Minnesota Education Association (MEA) Conference this October. In their presentation titled, “My students need more than I can give: Supporting student socio-emotional health,” Cronin and Colton shared practical ideas for Minnesota teachers to use in their classrooms. They also provided information on how teachers can advocate for school counseling in Minnesota by describing how school counselors can benefit the school community.
The Institute of Education Sciences (IES) has awarded the Individual Growth and Development Indicators (IGDILab) three $1.4 million, four-year grants to expand research in assessment of early language and literacy development of children ages three to five. Three researchers from the Department of Educational Psychology— Alisha Wackerle-Hollman (school psychology), Scott McConnell (special education), and Michael Rodriguez (quantitative methods in education)— will lead the IGDILab grants. Colleagues (and College of Education and Human Development alumni) from the Universities of Oregon, Washington, and Nebraska and Lehigh University will help conduct the research.
In a joint statement on the three grants Dr. McConnell and Dr. Wackerle-Hollman wrote, “We are excited to expand our work on IGDIs, and to continue the long line of research and application of General Outcome Measures— a line of work that Stan Deno and colleagues initiated almost 40 years ago. While the methods are slightly different, the overall aim remains the same: Produce psychometrically rigorous measures that are easy to use, so that teachers and others can have a better sense of their students’ current development and possible need for additional supports.”
Progress Monitoring Individual Growth and Development Indicators (PM-IGDIs) will develop a set of tools to assess young children’s language and literacy skills at frequent intervals and depict performance trajectories over time to aid in identifying children in need of intervention. Specifically, PM-IGDIs will examine four-and five-year-olds’ phonological awareness, oral language, alphabet knowledge and comprehension. Read the abstract.
Progress Monitoring – Spanish – Individual Growth and Development Indicators (PM – S – IGDIs) will use procedures and analyses similar to PM-IGDIs to develop a set of tools to frequently measure Spanish early language and literacy performance of young Spanish-English Dual Language Learners. PM-S-IGDIs will examine four and five-year-olds’ Spanish phonological awareness, oral language and alphabet knowledge. Read the abstract.
“Nearly one in four children in the United States is Latino and more than one in five comes from a home where a language other than English is spoken,” says Dr. Wackerle-Hollman. “But within that group, research tells us up to 85% are not proficient readers by fourth grade. It is clear that we must improve how we support our SE-DLL students, and we’re excited to contribute to that work with new, empirically sound and conceptually strong measurement tools.”
An extension of the existing Individual Growth and Development Indicators (IGDIs) measurement system, IGDIs – PK3 will assess the language and literacy development of three-year-olds. These measures will lead to improvements in school readiness for preschool children by providing an age appropriate assessment from age three to kindergarten entry. Read the abstract.
“As early childhood services continue to expand in Minnesota and throughout the nation, we’ll need better ways to assess and support age-appropriate progress for younger and younger children,” says Dr. McConnell. “This project extends our reach, exploring new ways to extend General Outcome Measurement to even younger children.”
The IGDILab researches, develops, validates, and applies IGDIs to support data-based decision making by teachers, early childhood professionals, parents, and others to help improve early childhood outcomes. To date, the lab’s work includes the assessment of English and Spanish language and early literacy development for children three, four, and five years of age. In the future, research, data, and learned methods from the IGDILab plan to be applied to other languages, domains of development, and new settings, including communities.
The article defines the “word gap” as the “30 million word-exposure gulf that exists between children born into low-income families and their more affluent peers by the age of three.” It goes on to explain how one new early childhood education class at Northstar Mona Moede Early Childhood Center in North Minneapolis is attempting to lessen this gap, using a recording device and course materials that are part of a program called LENA StartTM. Parents participating in the program record a day’s worth of their child’s speech patterns, and a coach analyzes the results and offers advice.
Dr. McConnell, who is working to help implement and evaluate the LENA Start program in the Twin Cities, told MinnPost, “It’s really common for families to say, ‘I had no idea I was a teacher.’ Our experience with LENA so far is that parents are overwhelmed, in a positive way, by seeing their own data.”
Nora Durkin, a doctoral candidate in the Department of Educational Psychology’s counseling and student personnel psychology program, was recently featured in the University of Minnesota’s Graduate School newsletter, Synthesist, for her work to improve understanding about the causes and consequences of eating disorders and to inform better treatment programs for the broad range of people who suffer from them.
“There is compelling evidence that eating disorder behaviors are used to help regulate strong negative emotions,” Durkin told the Synthesist. “For example, if an individual is feeling ashamed or sad, binge eating might help to reduce such feelings temporarily. This helps to explain why someone might continue to binge eat over time despite many consequences, including weight gain.”
Durkin is this year’s recipient of the Emily Program Fellowship which is given to Ph.D. students in the College of Education and Human Development with a preference for studying eating disorders.