Give the gift of literacy to a child in need this holiday season. Students, faculty and staff in the College of Education are teaming up for a holiday book drive to benefit Neighbor’s House reading and tutoring program, a non-profit organization that serves DeKalb County. Children’s books (preferably for grades K-8) that are new or like new condition are needed. Please drop off your donations to Graham Hall 225 any time through Wednesday, Dec. 2. This effort is being sponsored by NIU’s KDP International Honor Society in Education. Please direct any questions to Beth Wilkins (firstname.lastname@example.org) or Christina Poe (email@example.com). Collectively, our college can make literacy come alive for children! We hope you’ll be part of that effort!
Fox 32 Chicago interviewed Lindsay Harris, assistant professor in the Department of Leadership, Educational Psychology and Foundations (LEPF), on Aug. 25 about getting kids back into learning after summer break.
The College of Education’s Joseph Flynn, associate professor in the Department of Leadership, Educational Psychology and Foundations (LEPF), has a new book out which he co-edited with his colleague Michelle Tenam-Zemach, a professor at Nova Southeastern University’s Abraham Fischler School of Education in Ft. Lauderdale, Fla.
Their book, “Rubric Nation: Critical Inquiries on the Impact of Rubrics in Education,” examines the impact rubrics* have on professionals and students across the educational spectrum as well as on modern society and culture.
The idea for the book came up a few years ago at an American Association for Teaching and Curriculum (AATC) conference when Flynn and Tenam-Zemach were talking about how ubiquitous rubrics have become.
“Reflecting on our own teacher preparation experience, Michelle and I realized that we did not use rubrics in college, so the question became when did rubrics start appearing everywhere in teacher education?” Flynn recalled.
“Rubrics are not good or bad in and of themselves,” he said. “On one hand effectively designed rubrics can be very useful for educators in structuring assignments and conveying expectations; yet on the other hand rubrics can also have unintended consequences. For example, rubrics can ultimately minimize students’ willingness to take risks in their learning because they become so focused on what they need to do to get an A.”
Flynn added that their research also found that students using rubrics might be less willing to engage in productive conversations with peers or teachers about their assignments.
Rubrics have also become an issue for practicing teachers as well, according to Flynn. “The use of rubrics in high stakes teacher assessment is also seeing some problems,” he said. “Many states and districts are adopting rubrics for assessing teachers, but they are using them improperly. Rubrics like the Charlotte Danielson rubric were designed to encourage discussions between teachers and administrators, not evaluations that could cause a teacher to lose her job.” These trends encouraged Flynn and Tenam-Zemach to seek out research and scholarship critically examining rubrics.
Flynn said the conversations he had at AATC were key in the development of the manuscript, and — because rubrics are used for almost everything in education from high-stakes testing to tenure promotion and teacher evaluations — he hopes that more research will be done on rubrics in the future.
“We think it is really important that more research is dedicated to critically examining rubrics. Rubrics may have noble intentions, but that does not necessarily mean that they do not have negative consequences.”
* A rubric is a tool used by teachers to define how a particular assignment or activity will be graded; rubrics describe, in writing, not only what a student needs to include in the assignment, it also describes the quality of each of the inputs. If one of the criteria for grading an essay is spelling, for example, then the rubric might state that to receive an “Excellent” the essay must contain no spelling errors; to receive a “Good” it can contain up to two spelling errors. Three or more misspelled words would result in a “Needs Improvement” in the spelling criteria.
Since the term was coined in 2008, MOOCs, or Massive Open Online Courses, have been talked about as a potentially significant democratizing force in higher education. With open enrollment, virtually no limit to class size, and often free, MOOCs seem to offer a cost-effective, convenient and available path to college-level learning to almost anyone with access to the Internet.
Today, MOOCs are offered on just about every topic imaginable and are taught by expert faculty from some of the world’s top universities. Some MOOCs offer certificates of completion and a few even offer academic credit toward degrees. And many institutions of higher learning are using MOOCs with the expectation of expanding their reach to underserved populations and into new geographic regions.
But are MOOCs living up to their democratic promise? Are people who otherwise would not have access to higher education even taking them? That’s what two professors from NIU’s College of Education — along with a dozen of their students — are trying to find out through a large-scale, mixed-methods research project.
According to Amy Stich, assistant professor in the Department of Leadership, Educational Psychology and Foundations (LEPF), who designed the study along with Todd Reeves, assistant professor in the Department of Educational Technology, Research and Assessment (ETRA), what little research done on MOOCs to date suggests that these kinds of courses might not yet be living up to their initial billing.
“Research done at one institution showed that the majority of those who take MOOCs have already accessed higher education,” she explained. “We wanted to revisit that finding within the context of a wide variety of MOOCs from a wide variety of institutions using a mixed-methods approach, which included survey data from 15,000 MOOC students and in-depth, focused interviews.”
“In particular, we were interested in learning who is taking MOOCs, why, and what benefits they perceive to be receiving from their participation,” Reeves added.
The study also examines how MOOC course design interacts with learner characteristics. “So we can see what works in large-enrollment online courses for whom and under what conditions,” Reeves said.
As part of the research process, Stich and Reeves formed the MOOC Research Group in fall of 2014 as an opportunity for interested NIU students and alumni to gain real-world research experience. Twelve participants were involved in various aspects of the research process from the initial systematic literature review to the data cleaning and analysis. The participants, all from diverse academic and biographical backgrounds, included undergraduates, graduates, international students, as well as NIU alumni.
“We believe that opportunities to engage systematically with data and research are essential for student success in both academic and professional realms,” Stich said.
Reeves explained that the students had the option of receiving course credit for their work and others received funding through an internal Chair’s Grant awarded to Stich through LEPF.
“Students will be availed the dataset to address research questions of their own interest,” Reeves said.
Some of the preliminary findings of Reeves and Stich’s study indicate:
- that Black/African Americans and Hispanic/Latinos are underrepresented among U.S. MOOC participants relative to their proportions in the population;
- most participants already have a bachelor’s degree or equivalent; and
- many participants already have professional degrees.
Reeves and Stich are currently finishing the analyses for their study. They believe the larger implications of the study will point to whether MOOCs are the democratizing force that many claim them to be as well as important information about effective design of online courses for diverse learner populations.
Courses put teachers on path to becoming leaders and administrators in their schools
The State Educator Preparation and Licensure Board recently approved the program, which is dedicated to helping build leadership capacity in classrooms, schools and districts. Developed collaboratively with Kaneland Community School District 302, the new program serves as a pathway for teachers who seek to serve as school leaders in a capacity other than principal. (The College’s Department of Leadership, Educational Psychology and Foundations (LEPF) already offers the Principal Preparation Program for teachers who want to prepare to be school principals).
The TLE program purposely blends courses in educational administration with courses in curriculum. Course work in administrative leadership gives students access to principles of effective leadership, school organization, supervisory behavior, and community relations. Course work in curriculum leadership provides students with information to develop competence in curriculum theory and practice, cooperative planning for improvement of instruction, professional development, evaluation of curricular programs, and delivery of induction/mentoring programs for new teachers.
Students can choose to earn the Teacher Leader Endorsement as part of a 33-credit-hour M.S. Ed program in curriculum and instruction or — for those teachers who already possess a master’s degree in education — as a 24-credit-hour, stand-alone endorsement program.
For information on how to apply, contact David Snow at firstname.lastname@example.org or (815) 753-1465.