Additional Innovation highlights from across the School of Education

Innovation Roundup

Mellon Foundation bolsters support for The Discussion Project

A project launched by the School of Education during the 2017 fall semester as an effort to create welcoming, engaging, and academically rigorous classroom environments is about to expand and undergo an in-depth study thanks to a grant from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation worth $1 million.

The Discussion Project (TDP) is a professional development opportunity for instructors from across the UW– Madison campus. The idea behind the program is that an engaging classroom discussion can be both a vital part of the learning process and a microcosm of the way we hope democracy functions. Yet a high-quality discussion doesn’t just happen — it takes structure, planning, practice, and skill to make it effective.

The Discussion ProjectThe project offers instructors tools to design and facilitate high-quality classroom discussions to prepare their students to participate in them. The pilot program began with funding from the Chancellor’s office, and it has just completed five cohorts of a design-based research process.

Now, thanks to the Mellon Foundation, TDP will scale up dramatically to include 12 new cohorts at UW–Madison, including graduate students.

“We’re excited to be able to include teaching assistants,” says Carrie Welsh, TDP’s program director.

The Mellon grant will also allow the program to grow beyond UW–Madison and undergo an in-depth study. The study will examine how TDP affects instructors’ abilities to create and facilitate high-quality classroom discussions and how their students experience and learn from discussions. Similarly, researchers will attempt to tease out the best mechanisms for scaling and expanding TDP — including to a historically black college or university, and to a Hispanic-serving institution.

The researchers will collect quantitative and qualitative data, and include 144 instructors and up to 11,500 students across three different campuses.

“Rigorous discussion that includes all students is a pillar of liberal arts education,” says School of Education Dean Diana Hess, who developed The Discussion Project in collaboration with UW–Madison alumna Paula McAvoy, now an assistant professor at North Carolina State University. “Higher education can be a powerful way for students to learn with people who are different from each other. But facilitating high-quality discussions, sometimes involving controversial is- sues, requires that instructors know how to create and execute effective lessons that can engage students with the content and one another’s ideas.”

Adds Hess: “We want to see if our carefully designed and thoroughly evaluated professional development program will improve instructors’ skills to use discussion effectively and enable more students to experience the bene- fits of discussion.”


Graue part of team advancing in Alliance for the American Dream contest

Five proposals from across the country, including one that’s utilizing the expertise of UW–Madison’s Elizabeth Graue, are advancing to the final round of the Alliance for the American Dream competition, where they will vie for potential investment.

Beth Graue
In January, members of the Alliance for the American Dream convened in Phoenix for a pitch competition that included 12 teams from four universities — Arizona State, Ohio State, the University of Utah, and UW–Madison. A panel of experts selected five teams to advance in the competition.

Graue and her colleagues are part of the “We Care for Dane Kids” initiative, which utilizes a multi-pronged approach to transform the early child- hood and after school care sectors. The proposal would supplement in- come for workers and child care costs, reduce expenses for facilities, and create a child care benefit program.

“The collaboration around a very real problem has made this competition so exciting,” says Graue, the Sorenson Professor with the Department of Curriculum and Instruction, and the director of the Center for Research on Early Childhood Education. “Finding ways to address the broken child- care system has reinforced for us that even though it’s complex, there are ways to solve if it if you think outside the box and push past barriers.”

Partners on this project include the Wisconsin Early Childhood Association, Reach Dane, Satellite Family Child Care Systems, the UW–Madison School of Social Work, the City of Madison, Madison Out-of-School Time, and TASC.

Finalists will compete for funding this summer to implement their ideas. The Alliance, known locally as DreamUp WI, is sponsored by Schmidt Futures. DreamUp WI is a partnership between UW–Madison and the community, and is tasked with generating ideas to increase the net income of 10,000 Dane County families by 10 percent by 2020.

School introduces new health promotion and health equity
degree program

The University of Wisconsin System’s Board of Regents voted Feb. 8 to approve a new undergraduate degree program at UW–Madison in health promotion and health equity.

The program responds to student interest and employer demand for health-related expertise and health education careers.

The bachelor of science in health promotion and health equity (HPHE) is housed in the School of Education’s Department of Kinesiology. The pro- gram will be run in collaboration with two other units within the School, the Department of Counseling Psychology, and the Department of Rehabilitation Psychology and Special Education.

“Our collaboration with the departments of Counseling Psychology, and Rehabilitation Psychology and Special Education will allow us to offer students a holistic exposure to health education,” says Professor Gary Diffee, who chairs the Department of Kinesiology.

This new major launches in September and the coursework will help prepare students for emerging career opportunities as health educators within non-profit community health organizations, insurance companies, hospitals, mental health centers, senior care centers, home visitation programs, and governmental health offices.

Making education ‘relevant’ to marginalized youth

Nancy Kendall is part of a research team that received a $1 million Lyle Spencer Award from the Spencer Foundation for a mixed-method study designed to examine the practices, consequences, and relevancy of secondary education around the world.

With co-principal investigators from Michigan State and Claremont Graduate University, the researchers will examine what factors make secondary education “relevant” to marginalized youth. They will conduct surveys and ethno-
graphic fieldwork in Colombia, India, and Malawi, with the goal of better grasping the experiences, needs, and aspirations of this population in secondary school.

Kendall, who chairs the Department of Educational Policy Studies, explains that the team’s aim is to produce findings that can help restructure global policy- making and practice to respond to marginalized youth’s experiences, needs, and hopes for secondary school.

Kaplan exploring how to make most of NAEP data

David Kaplan received a federal grant for a new project that’s designed to examine better ways to utilize standardized testing data to forecast educational trends across the United States.

The award is from the U.S. Department of Education’s National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) Research and Development Program. The project is titled, “Utilizing State NAEP Data for Probabilistic Prediction and Forecasting: A Bayesian Approach.”

Kaplan is the Patricia Busk Professor of Quantitative Methods with the Department of Educational Psychology. This project looks at the problem of monitoring of trends in education outcomes over time.

The purpose of this project is to develop a “proof-of-concept” so that state NAEP assessments can be used as panel data to specify cross-state growth regressions, and to develop projection models that can be used to forecast trends across states in important educational outcomes — such as gender and race/ethnicity equity in educational achievement.

“Large-scale assessments such as NAEP are not being sufficiently exploited for the purposes for which they were created — namely, monitoring population trends,” says Kaplan. “My hope is that the advancements developed in this proposal will demonstrate the richness of policy information that can be obtained when using Bayesian prediction models to study educational trends at the population level.”

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