Tag: research

Funding available for research, innovative ideas, partnerships

grants-2Grants to help advance College of Education research, instructional innovation and partnerships are available again this year.

Financial support in research and innovation enables faculty and staff to prepare and improve submissions for external research funding or to design programs that enhance the college’s curriculum and instruction.

Money for partnerships, meanwhile, is offered to build or strengthen collaborations with P-12 schools that augment experiences for College of Education students.

Proposal submissions, including itemized budgets, are taken online.

All grant recipients are required to submit three-page reports that document their study findings; some or all might be asked to present their work to the COE Research Committee or at a Partnership Brown Bag during the 2018-19 school year.

Dean’s Research Grants

  • Four grants of up to $2,500 each are available to help faculty and staff complete pilot projects or small-scale studies in preparation of applications for external funding.
  • The deadline for online applications is 4:30 p.m. Friday, Oct. 20.
  • Recipients will be contacted by Dec. 1 with further instructions.
  • Grant funds must be spent by June 30, 2018.
  • Apply online!

lightbulbDean’s Instructional Innovation Grants

  • Two grants of up to $2,500 each are available to help faculty and staff improve teaching, curriculum and student academic success.
  • Dollars can assist in the design of innovative teaching strategies, including technology integration, curriculum development and/or other activities or programs that enhance those goals.
  • The deadline for online applications is 4:30 p.m. Friday, Oct. 20.
  • Recipients will be contacted by Dec. 1 with further instructions.
  • Grant funds must be spent by June 30, 2018.
  • Apply online!

Dean’s Grants for Partnership

  • Multiple grants of varying levels of financial support are available throughout the year.
  • Grants will not exceed $2,500.
  • The dollars should help faculty and staff connect and work with partnership districts and schools through professional development, research or value-added enrichment experiences for College of Education students.
  • Apply online!

For more information on the research and innovation grants, contact Bill Pitney, associate dean of Research, Resources and Innovation, at wpitney@niu.edu. For more information on the partnership grants, contact Portia Downey, coordinator of professional development, at pdowney@niu.edu.



And the hits keep on coming …

Eui-Kyung Shin and Thomas Smith

Eui-Kyung Shin and Thomas Smith

The spring awards season goes on for the NIU College of Education.

Eui-Kyung Shin, professor in the Department of Curriculum and Instruction, and Tom Smith, Presidential Teaching Professor in the Department of Educational Technology, Research and Assessment, join former colleague Andrew Milson of the University of Texas at Arlington, in an award from the National Council for Geographic Education.

For more than 100 years, the NCGE has worked to enhance the status and quality of geography teaching and learning at all levels of instruction. Through its awards program, NCGE recognizes excellence in geography teaching, mentoring, research, instructional design and service.

ncge“Each year, we are impressed by the level of innovation, quality and creativity of all our award nominees,” said Zachary R. Dulli, chief executive officer. “Understanding our world is critical to a high-quality education, and these award winners represent the best of the best in providing that to our students.”

Shin, Smith and Milson were honored “Future Teachers’ Spatial Thinking Skills and Attitudes,” which earned top honors as Best College/University Article in the Journal of Geography Awards category. Milson taught in the NIU College of Education from 1999 to 2001.

Recipients of NCGE recognition will receive their awards at a special ceremony held during the 2017 National Conference on Geography Education, scheduled from July 27 to July 30 in Albuquerque, N.M.



Laura Ruth Johnson to study civic engagement, advocacy of young parents in Humboldt Park

Laura Ruth Johnson

Laura Ruth Johnson

Laura Ruth Johnson has spent two decades observing the lives, struggles and triumphs of young parents in Chicago.

Throughout those years, the associate professor in the Department of Educational Technology, Research and Assessment has seen many young parents thrive in spite of a lack of programs that could help them.

“Some of them are missing school to work, but not because they don’t value education,” Johnson says. “It’s because they’re extremely responsible. Some are working an extra job to provide for their children or help their parents pay the rent.”

Johnson will turn her attention this summer to how young parents in Humboldt Park engage with their community – and if that civic engagement can inform and enhance their advocacy skills, for themselves and their children, as well as for other young parents.

Findings from a Youth Participatory Action Research study, funded by a summer Research and Artistry grant, hope to “inform services, programs and policy aimed at young parents, and challenge pejorative stereotypes of young parents as having ‘ruined’ their lives with little hope of academic or professional success because of their ‘bad’ choices.”

Instead, Johnson strives to show that young parents can be deeply involved in their communities and academically successful, if provided with the appropriate supports and resources.

Humboldt Park

Humboldt Park

Data will come from interviews, focus groups, observations and written assignments completed by young parents. Over the summer, a small group of young parents will work with Johnson to collect and analyze data, in the process gaining valuable research skills.

Research will take place at Dr. Pedro Albizu Campos High School, an alternative high school that currently serves about 190 students pushed out of the public school system, through its embedded program the Lolita Lebron Family Learning Center, which serves the needs of young parents attending Albizu Campos, which make up about 20 percent of the student body.

Many students there are familiar with Johnson’s topic: Parents attend a class, co-taught by Johnson, called “Social History of Parenting,” which helps them develop advocacy skills and involves them in creating campaigns that confront pejorative stereotypes about young parents.

But the need lies beyond Albizu Campos High School and the Family Learning Center.

“Having young parents involved in community and civic engagement is important, but their voices are largely absent,” she says. “So much policy is made for them, but they’re not included as a part of the conversation – and they need to be. They’re the ones these programs are aimed at.”

Quality mentorship offers a start, says Johnson, who has implemented such programs in Chicago for the last four years.

campos-2One goal of her upcoming project is to gather solid data on the impact of efforts like hers.

Whereas much of the civic engagement literature has focused on more traditional sorts of activities, such as voting, this study aspires to document how students’ involvement in community-based projects and grassroots activism that address issues that are meaningful to them can help them to develop leadership skills.

Among her questions: How do young parents view their communities? What issues are important to them? In what ways are local projects involving and engaging young parents? What skills do they gain from participating? How does their involvement shape their identities as active citizens? What role will it play in their postsecondary pursuits?

“Very few programs are aimed at young parents,” Johnson says, “and it’s harder for them to become involved. Most work. They have to take care of their own expenses. They have a child. And, as a result, they’re rendered invisible.”

Compounding the problem, she says, is that many programs focused on young parents are designed merely to prevent teens from becoming parents in the first place. Only a few mentor teens who already are young parents, she says.

Unfortunately, she adds, not many high schools offer child care.

Nonetheless, young parents can and do defy the odds. Four recent valedictorians at Campos High School have been teen parents, she says.

Laura Ruth Johnson

Laura Ruth Johnson

“Young parents right now see education as more important than ever,” Johnson says, “but for teen parents, it’s a challenge. They have to take care of a child and go to school. It’s a challenge of having support, of having child care or of having transportation. I know some young parents who walk, with their children, to school in the cold because they have no money for the bus.”

In the Puerto Rican community where Johnson conducts her advocacy and research, she witnesses some attitudes of fatalism among youth.

What difference can we possibly make outside of our neighborhood? How can these projects really change the way things are? Why don’t politicians actually care about us? They say what they think we want to hear, but they don’t know what we go through or actually listen when we tell them.

Even external forces are contributing, she says, pointing to a recent teen pregnancy advertisement that featured pop singer Carly Rae Jepsen and the message, “You’re supposed to be changing the world … not changing diapers.”

“As if mothers can’t be activists and be involved!” Johnson says. “We’re really trying to change that narrative and paradigm.”

She finds signs of optimism in Humboldt Park, where teen parents are thinking about greater social issues and historical events in relationships to their neighborhood – where they can act locally.

veggies-2Others are connecting the dots, she says.

“They’re invested even more when they have a child because they want to have a better future for their child, and they see that they can link all of the issues,” Johnson says. “Now they have a child to think of. Having safe parks. Having access to fresh fruits and vegetables.”

Healthy food, for example, offers lessons of urban agriculture, such as community gardens and greenhouses. It reinforces the importance of healthy food for growing children. Politically, it illustrates the social problem of “food deserts” or the public health crisis of diabetes.

Projects that Johnson has worked on with students include public service announcements filmed and posted on YouTube, social media postings and participation in hashtag campaigns such as #noteenshame and #teenparentpride.

Other young parents are podcasting.

“They’re interviewing one another and creating podcasts on their lives, collecting and editing their own stories,” she says. “I see that as a method of civic engagement because it’s having them participate in larger conversations, something that will help other young parents find resources that are of assistance to them.”

Johnson (right) with young parents, mentors and teachers in San Antonio.

Johnson (right) took young parents, mentors and teachers to the annual meeting
of the American Educational Research Association in San Antonio, Texas

She also hopes to host community events where she – and the teens – present their findings.

A few of those involved in an intergenerational mentorship project for current and former young mothers recently took a national stage, presenting their work and research at the annual meeting of the American Educational Research Association in San Antonio, Texas. Johnson received funds from the NIU College of Education and the Youth Connection Charter School to bring young parents, mentors and teachers to the event.

“I know some who really found that through their participation in a project, it expanded their view of their ability to make a change in the world, and they’ve taken that to their families,” she says. “Most of the students are really excited to become involved, and they have a lot of great ideas.”



April 21, 25 offer two great ways to back College of Ed students

Two upcoming events will provide great opportunities for NIU College of Education faculty and staff to show their support of students.

CoE Student Research Symposium

researchStudents, faculty and staff are encouraged to attend the second annual CoE Student Research Symposium, scheduled from 12:30 to 4:30 p.m. Friday, April 21, in the Learning Center of Gabel Hall.

As students learn about the process of research and academic inquiry, they can share outcomes of their research, creative works, scholarly activity and research ideas. They also can display their work during the poster session, explore research methods related to their own interests and learn how to become involved with faculty research.

Participants can present ideas at a Table Talk Session and obtain valuable advice on how to accomplish their research goals.

For more information, email Pat Weilert at pweilert@niu.edu or Bill Pitney at wpitney@niu.edu.

Student Appreciation Day

Student Appreciation Day 2016

Student Appreciation Day 2016

To celebrate CoE students, College of Education Student Services will once again host Student Appreciation Day from 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. Tuesday, April 25, at the main entrance of Gabel Hall and the second-floor south lobby of Anderson Hall.

Students will feast on free hot dogs, chips and beverages. They also can sign up for the annual raffle with prizes donated by local businesses.

Help is needed to make this a truly special day. Student Services invites faculty and staff to support this effort by handing out food and beverages and mingling with students.

To volunteer, email Brittany Hall at bhall12@niu.edu to provide your availability, contact information and preferred location.

Name:
Department:
Phone:
Preferred location: Gabel Hall or Anderson Hall
Times you are available (please select one or more):

  • 11:30 a.m. to noon
  • Noon to 12:30 p.m.
  • 12:30 to 1 p.m.

For more information, contact Hall at (815) 753-8352 or bhall12@niu.edu.



Woof! ETRA prof Tom Smith barks up the global media tree

Tom Smith and Rex

Tom Smith and Rex

For Tom Smith, the days before the winter break proved crazy-busy hectic.

And it had nothing to do with the holidays.

It was head-spinning, to tell you the truth,” says Smith, a co-author on a study that scored international headlines for its information on whether stress can make dogs go gray.

“I actually had a news alert set up on Google, and it kept popping up on there – CBS News, Huffington Post, Yahoo!, Scientific American, People magazine, Wired.com, CNN, hundreds of news outlets in the U.S., U.K, Europe, Asia, Africa, the Middle East,” he adds. “The news anchors even talked about it on ‘Good Morning America,’ and BBC-TV contacted us.”

The professor in the Department of Educational Technology, Research and Assessment, who gave numerous interviews with reporters in December, became involved in the project thanks to College of Education alumna Camille King (Ed.D. in adult education, 2011). She’s a nurse and animal behaviorist.

“Camille was a student of mine, and I was on her dissertation committee, too. She did her dissertation research on therapy dogs under Gene Roth’s guidance,” Smith says. “Camille had moved to Colorado, and then she contacted me to ask if I would help her on research she was planning to do on pressure wraps – also known as Thundershirts® – and how they affect anxiety and heart rates in dogs. Temple Grandin was involved, too. I said, yeah, I’d be interested.”

King, Smith and Grandin eventually published that study in a top veterinary journal, Smith says. That validation prompted his former student to begin the latest project on whether anxiety and impulsiveness in dogs is related to graying of their muzzles, and to again seek her professor’s help with the methodological, statistical and data analysis components.

puppiesNow, as much of the world knows, the answer is yes: Young dogs that are anxious or given to impulsivity tend to develop gray muzzles.

Smith admits he was surprised by the finding, quickly adding that King was not.

“I was a little skeptical that stress would be related to the gray muzzle in dogs, and young dogs especially,” he says. “I didn’t express that to Camille at the time, but that’s sort of how I felt. However, when we analyzed the data, the results actually were striking. Both anxiety and impulsivity were clearly and markedly related to gray muzzles.”

Global interest in that revelation, however, came as no shock.

“People love dogs,” he says, “and we’re hoping that the study draws some attention to dog welfare. Dog anxiety can be a real issue. It can cause health problems and shorter life spans, and it can affect quality of life. We’re hoping people will learn to recognize it and say, ‘Maybe my dog is anxious. Maybe I should talk to a vet about this.’ ”

Rex – one of Smith’s two dogs – fits the description. He’s a young Pomeranian/Chihuahua mix sporting a premature gray muzzle, likely due, at least in part, to the stress of being chased around and bitten on the leg by Smith’s other dog.

mission“Before I knew about this, I would have said that I didn’t think Rex is stressed, but that I also didn’t know why he developed a gray muzzle. I thought my dogs were just playing, but when I described their behavior, Camille told me that my other dog is bullying him,” Smith says. “Rex was under quite a bit of stress!”

With the media spotlight faded, Smith is now able to call the experience with King, Grandin and animal behaviorist Peter Borchelt a “fun” one.

“My background is not at all in dog research. I don’t have a biology background. That being said, I did learn a lot about dogs and animal behavior,” Smith says. “I was also really fortunate to get to work with people like this. They’re really creative thinkers as well as excellent, first-rate researchers. We’ve already planned several additional dog-related research projects, so we’ll be busy!”



Funding available for research, innovation, partnerships

Grants to help advance College of Education research, instructional innovation and partnerships are available again this year.

Financial support in research and innovation enables faculty and staff to prepare and improve submissions for external research funding or to design programs that enhance the college’s curriculum and instruction.

Money for partnerships, meanwhile, is offered to build or strengthen collaborations with P-12 schools that augment experiences for College of Education students.

Proposal submissions, including itemized budgets, are taken online.

All grant recipients are required to submit three-page reports that document their study findings; some or all might be asked to present their work to the COE Research Committee or at a Partnership Brown Bag during the 2017-18 school year.

Dean’s Research Grants

  • Four grants of up to $2,500 each are available to help faculty and staff complete pilot projects or small-scale studies in preparation of applications for external funding.
  • The deadline for online applications is 4:30 p.m. Tuesday, Nov. 1.
  • Recipients will be contacted by Dec. 1 with further instructions.
  • Grant funds must be spent by June 30, 2017.
  • Apply online!

Dean’s Instructional Innovation Grants

  • Two grants of up to $2,500 each are available to help faculty and staff improve teaching, curriculum and student academic success.
  • Dollars can assist in the design of innovative teaching strategies, including technology integration, curriculum development and/or other activities or programs that enhance those goals.
  • The deadline for online applications is 4:30 p.m. Tuesday, Nov. 1.
  • Recipients will be contacted by Dec. 1 with further instructions.
  • Grant funds must be spent by June 30, 2017.
  • Apply online!

Dean’s Grants for Partnership

  • Multiple grants of varying levels of financial support are available throughout the year.
  • Grants will not exceed $2,500.
  • The dollars should help faculty and staff connect and work with partnership districts and schools through professional development, research or value-added enrichment experiences for College of Education students.
  • Apply online!

For more information on the research and innovation grants, contact Bill Pitney, associate dean of Research, Resources and Innovation, at wpitney@niu.edu. For more information on the partnership grants, contact Portia Downey, coordinator of professional development, at pdowney@niu.edu.



URAD and CES registration is now open

Student research poster copyNIU’s Office of Student Engagement and Experiential Learning will host the seventh annual Undergraduate Research and Artistry Day (URAD) and the third annual Community Engagement Showcase from 9 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. on Tuesday, April 19, 2016, in the Duke Ellington Ballroom of the Holmes Student Center.

Any undergraduate student who has participated in a faculty-mentored research or artistry project is eligible to showcase his/her work at this year’s Undergraduate Research and Artistry Day.  This includes independent study, capstone projects, SEFEURAUSOARSROPResearch Rookies or any other related research/artistry projects. Students have the option to present their work in a poster, exhibit, and digital media display, or 15-minute oral presentation session.  Space is limited so interested students should apply early.  For more information about URAD and how to register, please visit the URAD website.

Undergraduate students currently enrolled at NIU who have participated in community-based project, including work completed during a service-learning course, internship, or with student organizations, are encouraged to showcase their work at the Community Engagement Showcase. Last year, students from various organizations, including Huskie Alternative Breaks, Huskie Service Scholars, NIU Service Leaders, Sophomores in Service, Lambda Sigma, and CAUSE, showcased their work at the CES. For more information about CES and how to register, please visit the CES website.

Summer Research Opportunities Program Application Open Now

The application for this year’s Summer Research Opportunities Program is available now online. The Summer Research Opportunities Program (SROP) gives NIU undergraduates the opportunity to conduct paid, faculty-mentored research during the summer months.  Students of diverse backgrounds, including underrepresented minority students, students from economically disadvantaged or underserved backgrounds and students with disabilities, are encouraged to apply.  The deadline to apply is Feb. 26, 2016.



Are MOOCs democratizing higher education?

Amy Stich and Todd Reeves

Amy Stich and Todd Reeves

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.