IES Blog

Institute of Education Sciences

Lasting Lessons from my IES Predoctoral Interdisciplinary Research Training Fellowship

The Predoctoral Interdisciplinary Research Training Program in the Education Sciences was established by IES to increase the number of well-trained PhD students who are prepared to conduct rigorous and relevant education research. In honor of the IES 20th Anniversary, we asked Dr. Shayne Piasta, our first IES Outstanding Predoctoral Award Winner, to discuss the impact of her IES fellowship on her career as a reading researcher.

 

The IES predoctoral fellowship supported me and my research career in so many ways. One profound influence stemmed from its interdisciplinary nature. My training program focused on reading and operated at the intersection of psychology and education, with mentors and research experiences spanning these and other disciplines. I am still realizing how fortunate I was to benefit from this program and how it has influenced my scholarly career.

In taking education, policy, and psychology courses, I witnessed different approaches and research methods—sometimes overlapping or complementary and sometimes contradictory. As an undergraduate psychology major, I initially took issue with the non-causal methods in a program and policy evaluation course and did not fully understand the contribution of assorted qualitative approaches featured in many education courses. Yet being exposed to these different ways of thinking and researching made me a better scholar. It forced me to wrestle with foundational issues in education research, identify my own position as a researcher, and—with help from training program mentors—realize the benefits and limitations of various research methods.

The ability to communicate with an array of education scholars and stakeholders has proved invaluable. My fellow trainees included former teachers and principals seeking reading education and educational leadership doctorates as well as those pursuing clinical, development, and cognitive psychology degrees. Many of the psychology trainees had worked with children in schools, summer camps, or clinical settings. Talking with these peers, along with program faculty, broadened my perspectives on educational topics and enhanced my understanding of the complexity of education systems. Sharing perspectives and experiences also helped me understand the different communication styles—and vocabulary—various stakeholders use. As a result, I learned to connect with all those invested in improving reading outcomes for children and to write for multiple audiences. This also led to my first partnership with a local Tallahassee school and my very first (very small) grant.

I attribute my faculty position at The Ohio State University (OSU) to the interdisciplinary mindset that my training instilled. Back when I was initially applying to graduate school, I had noted the multiple disciplines contributing to reading scholarship. Some of the researchers I admired and hoped to work with were clinical, cognitive, educational, or school psychologists. Others were in educational leadership, communication/speech-language pathology, elementary/reading education, or special education.

Both the IES training program and subsequent position at OSU supported network building and ensuing collaborative research projects. Travel funding as a graduate student allowed me to attend various conferences, where program faculty generously introduced me and my cohort to the multidisciplinary “who’s who” of reading scholarship. I was awestruck being in the same room as prominent senior scholars, never mind interacting with them. As a faculty member in a Department of Teaching and Learning, I continue to interact with colleagues and students from a variety of education-related backgrounds and perspectives. It is through contributing to this department and guiding preservice teachers and budding education scholars that I believe I am achieving my impact.

In addition to interacting with senior scholars, these opportunities also allowed me to network with graduate and postgraduate students, who are now my colleagues, peers, collaborators, and friends. Together, we have implemented interdisciplinary grants and written manuscripts. We have put together conference symposia and established a multidisciplinary organization for supporting women- and non-binary-identifying education scholars across disciplines (POWER; Providing Opportunities for Women in Education Research). We have formed writing and accountability groups and helped each other navigate our careers. These relationships—along with others built during my time at OSU—continue to support and sustain me, and my scholarly trajectory would likely have been very different without them.

Through these varied experiences, I learned how to administer assessments to children and follow them over time, develop family and teacher surveys, conduct and reliably code classroom observations, manage and analyze longitudinal and multilevel data, and conduct and write grants to fund research projects that answered different questions using different designs. I am proud that to date I have collaborated on exploration, development, efficacy, replication, effectiveness, and measurement research projects. In working across projects, I also witnessed the different ways that faculty engage in leadership, mentoring, and lab/project management. This provided the foundation for the culture, structure, and processes of my own Early Literacy and Learning Lab (EL3).

As I progress in my career, I am cognizant of these and many other affordances of my training. A continuing goal of mine is to try to recreate these opportunities for students and early career scholars. Our EL3 team is multidisciplinary—investigators, staff, students, and postdoctoral scholars have backgrounds in elementary and early childhood education, psychology, measurement and statistics, speech-hearing sciences, special education, policy, and more. We engage in interdisciplinary research projects that engage internal and external colleagues from similarly varied backgrounds, involve partnerships with local early childhood organizations and elementary schools, and employ an array of quantitative, mixed, and multiple methods approaches.

As a lab, we work to create a positive, collaborative community in which varied perspectives and disagreement are welcome and viewed as discussion opportunities. This is epitomized in one current project, in which we jokingly but proudly announced “I dissent!” when offering alternative viewpoints (and whose team members will soon be receiving t-shirts with this phrase).

Through my research, teaching, and service, I strive to continually improve in supporting students as they learn of different research methods, experience on different research projects, and write for different audiences. I lean on my OSU colleagues and professional network to assist students seeking out multiple mentors. I hope I am as generous as my own mentors were in facilitating conference networking and other opportunities. In these ways, I hope that I can pay forward all that I gained through my IES fellowship to the next generation of educational researchers.


Dr. Shayne Piasta was an IES predoctoral fellow in the Florida State University Predoctoral Interdisciplinary Research Training program. She is currently professor of reading and literacy in early and middle childhood within the College of Education and Human Ecology at The Ohio State University. She is also a faculty associate for the Crane Center for Early Childhood Research and Policy. Her research focuses on early literacy development and how it is best supported during preschool and elementary years.

In addition to receiving the Outstanding Predoctoral Fellow award from IES, Dr. Piasta has received the Presidential Early Career Award for Scientists and Engineers and the Dina Feitelson Research Award from the International Reading Association.

This blog was produced training program officer Katina Stapleton (Katina.Stapleton@ed.gov) and is part of a larger series on the IES research training programs.

Inspiring and Teaching Girls to Code with Time Tails

The Department of Education’s Small Business Innovation Research Program (SBIR), which IES administers, funds the research, development, and evaluation of new, commercially viable education technology products. Time Tails is an online game intended to prepare middle and high school students for success in postsecondary education and career pathways in computer science. The game, which introduces students to coding within the context of computer game design, was developed as part of the SBIR project Coding Bridge: Bridging Computer Science for Girls. In this interview blog, game developers Grace Collins and Carrie Linden of Liminal eSports (now called Snowbright Studio) discuss Time Tails and the importance of inspiring female-identifying students to code.   

 

 

What is Time Tails?

Carrie:

Time Tails is a series of digital games funded by the U.S. Department of Education and the Tides Foundation to help provide learners of all ages with an entry point into learning game design. Each episode transports you to a different point in history, where you help Ari and Zoe (two rad cartoon cats from the 1980s) fix glitches in history while also learning and practicing 3D game development and game design skills. The games are packed full of 80s’ puns, humor, references to salmon (it is a game about cats, after all), and story, while also encouraging players to learn about some amazing folx that sometimes get left out of history class textbooks.

Grace:

For me, Time Tails is a tool. It’s that missing bridge. Imagine you have a student who is interested in design who has been playing around in Scratch for years. When you show them Unity or Unreal game engines (popular game architectures), they may balk at the complexity of them. Time Tails breaks down those complex interfaces into digestible components that gives students the confidence and interest in making the jump across the gap. We’re continuing to release new Time Tails episodes every six months or so, adding new historical periods and new technical concepts. 

Thanks to our partnership with Unity, we’ve also been able to create an entire year’s curriculum for AP Computer Science Principles aligned to College Board’s standards and the International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE) standards.

What inspired you to create Time Tails?

Grace:

I was teaching computer science at an all-girls school in Cleveland, and the lack of resources for my students was just painfully obvious. There are a lot of generic coding resources, but when I went looking for something that could creatively inspire them and also lay the foundation for a career in game development or real-time 3D development, I was always coming up short.

Some of the first iterations of Time Tails were done right there in my classroom as I asked my students what they cared about (underrepresented female and LGBTQ+ figures in history), what they liked (cats), and even how different colors make them more or less likely to engage with learning content. When learning software pops up and it’s all steel gray and black, my students would look at it and say, “That looks like it’s for my brother.” They knew, and we know too, who the audience is for some of these tools out there. Time Tails tries to do all of that differently.

Carrie:

When you look at data on who is currently working in the computer science and game development industries, you will find that men are overwhelmingly the ones with active roles in the field. When we looked at where these drop off points were for girls in computer science career pathways, we found some interesting things. Girls were often leaving coding and computer science before they made it to high school, and most schools offered little in computer science and coding instruction during that gap between entry level software (like Scratch) and full game development platforms (like Unity). There was clearly a need for something to bridge that gap between tools used by younger kids and professional developers. There was also a need for those tools to be welcoming to female identifying and gender diverse youth as they are the ones falling out of the career.

What elements of Time Tails are uniquely tailored to female-identifying students? 

Carrie:

We decided to build Time Tails around narrative. As you progress, you get pulled into the written story and learn more about our feline heroes Ari and Zoe along with the people that they are helping. 

Humor, color, and charm also all tested well with our target audience compared to the typically dry YouTube tutorials and guides that you see out there that covers similar material. We packed our game full of ’80s puns and silly jokes, seasonal allergies (relatable), and made sure that each level was filled with colorful art and adorable characters. More often than not, these characters are strong women from history whose stories don't frequently make it into the textbooks. Our leading cats are female identifying and nonbinary, making Time Tails the first ever learning game featuring a canonically nonbinary character.

Grace:

It can be hard sometimes reading interpretations of our work. Adults will come in saying that the game looks too young or too childish. They want it to be more mature. They want darker colors and a more serious take. We can’t speak for everyone, but when we tested this game, that’s just not what teen girls wanted. They already had a lot of anxiety about getting into computer science in the first place. They’re VERY aware that it’s a masculine dominated field. They need that entry point that says it’s okay to be silly. They need to see others like themselves throughout history making waves. It’s been really heart-warming to see teens playing it, and even more so when their parent sits down with them to explain all of the 80s’ references. Those have been great moments as we’ve been out there testing this game.

What advice can you give other game developers who focus on female-identifying students?

Carrie:

Representation matters. If you can showcase the work that female-identifying folx are doing in the games industry, then you really should. Too often we see the tech and games industry primarily focusing on the women working (super important!) community management roles, but we also need to see highlights of the work done by female identifying developers, writers, quality assurance staff, producers, and more. Highlight all the roles and not just the ones that the industry has already decided are a “good fit” for women in tech and games. 

Grace:

My main advice to any developer is to involve your audience early and often. Have teens give you feedback on art, characters, concepts, everything. And don’t be afraid to see that those teens don’t agree. Be bold and brave in serving the students that you are trying to reach. Stay true to your vision and your audience.

What are the next steps for Time Tails and Snowbright Studio?

Carrie:

Time Tails is currently available on Steam. One purchase gets you access to all current episodes along with additional episodes releasing every six months or so. We are working with our partner, FableVision, to publish a version that allows for classroom licensing on their FableVision Games platform as well.

Grace:

Snowbright is also very active in the tabletop game industry, publishing cozy mystery role-playing games (RPGs) as well as card and board games. Our most recent Cozy Companion magazine actually took Ari and Zoe on a brand-new adventure to 1966 West Virginia as they learned about pollinators and cryptids in a mini-tabletop RPG.


Grace Collins (they/them) is the Founder/CEO of Snowbright Studio, a Cleveland-based LGBTBE certified game studio dedicated to publishing heartwarming games and experiences. Grace previously led games and education policy at the US Department of Education and later coordinated federal game policy across the executive branch. Prior to serving at the Department, they managed and developed educational game projects at the Smithsonian Institution. Grace has taught computer science and game design at multiple levels and was profiled by the Associated Press for founding the first esports team in the nation at an all-girls’ high school.

Carrie Linden (she/they) is the Communications Manager at Snowbright Studio, handling social media, websites, and the creation of official copy for the organization. Carrie has a Master’s in Education and seven years of experience teaching in LGBTQ+ friendly public-school programs and has her Certificate of Esports Management from UC Irvine. Carrie is an active member in the gaming and content creation community.

This blog is part of a 3-part Inside IES Research blog series on sexual orientation and gender identity in education research in observance of Pride month. The other posts discuss the feedback from the IES LGBTQI+ Listening and Learning session and encourage researchers to submit FY 2024 applications focused on the educational experiences and outcomes of LGBTQI+ identifying students.

This blog was produced by Katina Stapleton (Katina.Stapleton@ed.gov), NCER program officer and co-chair of the IES Diversity Council.

Adult Ed Grantee Spotlight: Aydin Durgunoglu and Research for Adult English Learners

As part of the IES 20th Anniversary, NCER is reflecting on the past, present, and future of adult education research. In this blog, Dr. Aydin Durgunoglu, Distinguished Global Professor Emeritus at the University of  Minnesota-Duluth, reflects on how her life and training have influenced her work. Dr. Durgunoglu is the principal investigator on Content-Integrated Language Instruction for Adults with Technology Support, one of the six research projects that comprise the CREATE Adult Skills Research Network.  As part of this network, Dr. Durgunoglu and her team are focusing on the needs of adult English learners and on U.S. history and civics education, such as what might be taught as part of Integrated English Literacy and Civics Education programs. Hers is the first grant NCER has funded that is focusing on this area for this population.

Please describe your IES project.

My colleagues and I are developing a curriculum called CILIA-T (Content-Integrated Language Instruction for Adults with Technology Support). We are embedding English instruction into U.S. History and Civics content and providing technology supports for both students and teachers as part of the curriculum. Our goal is to provide a complete and integrated resource that can be used by teachers with varying levels of experience in English as a Second Language (ESL), civics/U.S. history and citizenship classes.

What motivates you to do this work?

Two of my motivations are my background as an English learner and immigrant and my training as a cognitive psychologist.

I started learning English when I was 12 in an immersion-based approach. I recall some of the struggles I had such as misunderstanding that “you may sit down” was a full sentence in English because, in Turkish, the single word oturun has a similar meaning to the English sentence. This realization along with both Turkish and American experiences helped me to see the importance of culture, language, and instruction.

As a cognitive psychologist by training, I am interested in learning, memory, knowledge acquisition, and—most of all—language. One of my research areas has been how literacy develops across different languages—how it may progress differently in Spanish, Turkish, English, Hmong, etc. and whether it involves general cognitive processes that are language independent.

These experiences and interests have long influenced my work. For example, my colleagues and I collaborated on literacy projects for Mother Child Education Foundation (MOCEF) based in Turkey that have evolved and currently include a focus on women’s citizenship and empowerment. This work was based on my theoretical work on literacy development in Turkish. In the United States, I have conducted studies with adults and children on how what they know in their home languages can help them learn English (cross-language transfer). All of these experiences led me to our work as the CILIA-T team.

How are you leveraging your experiences to build CILIA-T?

In addition to my theoretical and applied experiences in adult education, this project is benefiting from the contributions of a group of dedicated adult educators. These colleagues are teaching ESL, citizenship, history, and civics classes. We are collaborating on writing a curriculum that teachers like themselves would like to use. Based on our experiences and findings from the field, we have identified the components that we feel are key for CILIA-T. Three of these main components include

  1. Multimodal input:  Contrary to how I started learning English, providing linguistic input in several different modalities is helpful. Technology provides many opportunities to realize this goal. Learners can interact with and produce content in many forms. For example, they can create and share academic vocabulary sets and review them like a game. Technology can also facilitate deep conceptual understanding of academic topics. For example, learners can share and discuss not only texts but also audios and videos for a deeper analysis and application of civics and history topics.
  2. Build on first languages (L1): Adults already have a well-developed language system or systems, if they know multiple languages. They use the clues from their L1 to understand how English operates. Therefore, we can provide opportunities to bring that existing linguistic knowledge to the forefront and to compare and contrast explicitly. One clear way to leverage L1 is to integrate oral language and help bridge what the adults can do orally with what they aim to do in reading and writing.
  3. Academic vocabulary: Individuals with limited or interrupted schooling tend to have lower levels of academic vocabulary in their first language, and thus, likely lower levels in English. A language learner may be quite fluent in using English in their everyday interactions, but that does not mean they have a strong academic vocabulary across different domains, such as health, math, science, civics, and finance. CILIA-T covers academic and discipline-specific vocabulary in a purposeful way. Academic vocabulary is closely related to the conceptual understanding of a phenomenon. Therefore, just learning word definitions is not enough. The vocabulary has to be contextualized with a conceptual understanding. For example, executive branch does not mean much by itself unless it is situated within an understanding of an overall governmental system. Similarly, the definition of the word mortgage may be forgotten quickly if the learner is not familiar with the loan and repayment system in the United States. Luckily, adults have a lot of background knowledge to facilitate such conceptual scaffolding, but that is for another blog.

What value do you hope CILIA-T might bring to the students, teachers, and communities?

We believe that when all individuals, but especially the newcomers, understand the systems, practices, historical contexts, and the language(s) of their society, they can become more active participants in their communities and can work towards accomplishing their life goals more effectively. We hope that CILIA-T provides the adult learners and the educators and programs that support them with a tool to facilitate this growth.


This blog was produced by Dr. Meredith Larson (Meredith.Larson@ed.gov), research analyst and program officer at NCER.

Public State and Local Education Job Openings, Hires, and Separations for January 2023

As the primary statistical agency of the U.S. Department of Education, the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) is mandated to report complete statistics on the condition of American education. While the condition of an education system is often assessed through indicators of achievement and attainment, NCES is also mandated to report on the conditions of the education workplace.

As such, NCES has reported timely information from schools. For example, this past December, NCES released data that indicated that public schools have experienced difficulty filling positions throughout the COVID-19 pandemic.1 In order to understand the broader labor situation, NCES is utilizing the Job Openings and Labor Turnover Survey to describe the tightness of the job market.

JOLTS Design

The Job Openings and Labor Turnover Survey (JOLTS), conducted by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), provides monthly estimates of job openings, hires, and total separations. The purpose of JOLTS data is to serve as demand-side indicators of labor shortages at the national level.2

The JOLTS program reports labor demand and turnover estimates by industry, including education.3 As such, this analysis focuses on the public state and local education industry (“state and local government education” as referred to by JOLTS),4 which includes all persons employed by public elementary and secondary school systems and postsecondary institutions.

The JOLTS program does not produce estimates by Standard Occupational Classification.5 When reviewing these findings, please note occupations6 within the public state and local education industry vary7 (e.g., teachers and instructional aides, administrators, cafeteria workers, transportation workers). Furthermore, as the JOLTS data are tabulated at the industry level, the estimates are inclusive of the elementary, secondary, and postsecondary education levels.

Analysis

In this blog post, we present selected estimates on the number and rate of job openings, hires, and total separations (quits, layoffs and discharges, and other separations). The job openings rate is computed by dividing the number of job openings by the sum of employment and job openings. All other metric rates (hires, total separations, quits, layoffs and discharges, and other separations) are defined by taking the number of each metric and dividing it by employment. Fill rate is defined as the ratio of the number of hires to the number of job openings, and the churn rate is defined as the sum of the rate of hires and the rate of total separations.8


Table 1. Number of job openings, hires, and separations and net change in employment in public state and local education, in thousands: January 2020 through January 2023

*Significantly different from January 2023 (p < .05).
1 Net employment changes are calculated by taking the difference between the number of hires and the number of separations. When the number of hires exceeds the number of separations, employment rises—even if the number of hires is steady or declining. Conversely, when the number of hires is less than the number of separations, employment declines—even if the number of hires is steady or rising.
NOTE: Data are not seasonally adjusted. Detail may not sum to totals because of rounding.
SOURCE: U.S. Department of Labor, Bureau of Labor Statistics, Job Openings and Labor Turnover Survey (JOLTS), 2020–2023, based on data downloaded April 5, 2023, from https://data.bls.gov/cgi-bin/dsrv?jt.


Table 2. Rate of job openings, hires, and separations in public state and local education and fill and churn rates: January 2020 through January 2023

*Significantly different from January 2023 (p < .05).
NOTE: Data are not seasonally adjusted. Detail may not sum to totals because of rounding.
SOURCE: U.S. Department of Labor, Bureau of Labor Statistics, Job Openings and Labor Turnover Survey (JOLTS), 2020–2023, based on data downloaded April 5, 2023, from https://data.bls.gov/cgi-bin/dsrv?jt.


Overview of January 2023 Estimates

The number of job openings in public state and local education was 303,000 on the last business day of January 2023, which was higher than in January 2020 (239,000) (table 1). In percentage terms, 2.8 percent of jobs had openings in January 2023, which was higher than in January 2020 (2.2 percent) (table 2). The number of hires in public state and local education was 218,000 in January 2023, which was higher than in January 2020 (177,000) (table 1). This suggests there was a greater demand for public state and local education employees in January 2023 than before the pandemic (January 2020), and there were more people hired in January 2023 than before the pandemic (January 2020). The number of job openings at the end of January 2023 (303,000) was nearly 1.4 times the number of staff hired that month (218,000). In addition, the fill rate for that month was less than 1, which suggests a need for public state and local government education employees that was not being filled completely by January 2023.

The number of total separations in the state and local government education industry in January 2023 was not measurably different from the number of separations observed in January 2020 or January 2022. However, there was a higher number of total separations in January 2023 (127,000) than in January 2021 (57,000), which was nearly a year into the pandemic. In January 2023, the number of quits (76,000) was higher than the number of layoffs and discharges (36,000). Layoffs and discharges accounted for 28 percent of total separations in January 2023 (which was not measurably different from the percentage of layoffs and discharges out of total separations in January 2021), while quits accounted for 60 percent of total separations (which was not measurably different from the percentage of quits out of total separations in January 2021). These data suggest that there were similar distributions in the reasons behind the separations within the state and local government education industry between 2021 and 2023 in the month of January.

 

By Josue DeLaRosa, NCES

 


[1] U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics. Forty-Five Percent of Public Schools Operating Without a Full Teaching Staff in October, New NCES Data Show. Retrieved March 28, 2023, from https://nces.ed.gov/whatsnew/press_releases/12_6_2022.asp.
 

[2] U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Job Openings and Labor Turnover Survey. Retrieved March 28, 2023, from https://www.bls.gov/jlt/jltover.htm.

[3] For more information about these estimates, see https://www.bls.gov/news.release/jolts.tn.htm.

[4] JOLTS refers to this industry as state and local government education, which is designated as ID 92.

[5] For more information on the reliability of JOLTS estimates, see https://www.bls.gov/jlt/jltreliability.htm.

[6] North American Industry Classification System (NAICS) is a system for classifying establishments (individual business locations) by type of economic activity. The Standard Occupational Classification (SOC) classifies all occupations for which work is performed for pay or profit. To learn more on the differences between NAICS and SOC, see https://www.census.gov/topics/employment/industry-occupation/about/faq.html.

[7] JOLTS data are establishment based, and there is no distinction between occupations within an industry. If a teacher and a school nurse were hired by an establishment coded as state and local government education, both would fall under that industry. (From email communication with JOLTS staff, April 7, 2023.)

[8] Skopovi, S., Calhoun, P., and Akinyooye, L. Job Openings and Labor Turnover Trends for States in 2020. Beyond the Numbers: Employment & Unemployment, 10(14). Retrieved March 28, 2023, from https://www.bls.gov/opub/btn/volume-10/jolts-2020-state-estimates.htm.

A Conversation about the Learning Sciences and Human-AI Interaction with Outstanding Predoctoral Fellow Ken Holstein

Each year, the Institute of Education Sciences (IES) recognizes an outstanding fellow from its Predoctoral Interdisciplinary Research Training Programs in the Education Sciences for academic accomplishments and contributions to education research. The 2020 awardee, Ken Holstein, completed his PhD at Carnegie Mellon University and is currently an assistant professor in the Human-Computer Interaction Institute at Carnegie Mellon University, where he directs a research lab focused on human-AI interaction.

Recently, we caught up with Dr. Holstein and asked him to discuss his research on human-computer interaction (HCI) and his experiences as a scholar.

 

How did you become interested in human-computer interaction and learning sciences research?

I have long been fascinated with human learning and expertise. As an undergraduate, I worked on research in computational cognitive science, with a focus on understanding how humans are often able to learn so much about the world from so little information (relative to state-of-the-art machine learning systems). Originally, I had planned on a career conducting basic research to better understand some of our most remarkable and mysterious cognitive capabilities. However, as I neared graduation, I became increasingly interested in pursuing research with more immediate potential for positive real-world impact. The fields of HCI and the learning sciences were a perfect fit to my interests. These areas provided opportunities to study how to support and enhance human learning and expertise in real-world settings, using a bricolage of research methods from a wide range of disciplines. 

Much of your lab’s research focuses on how humans and AI systems can augment each other’s abilities and learn from each other. What are the most promising applications of these ideas for education research and vice versa? 

I see a lot of potential for AI systems to augment the abilities of human teachers and tutors. In my PhD research, I worked with middle and high school teachers to understand their experiences working with AI-based tutoring software in their classrooms, and to co-design and prototype new possibilities together. Overall, teachers saw many opportunities to redesign AI tutoring software with the aim of augmenting and amplifying their own abilities as teachers, beyond simply automating instructional interactions with students. My research explored a small subset of these design directions, but there is a very rich design space that has yet to be explored.

In general, I believe that to design technologies that can effectively augment the abilities of human workers, such as teachers, it is critical to first understand what unique expertise and abilities they bring to the table as humans, which complement the capabilities of AI systems. This understanding can then inform the design of AI systems that explicitly support and draw upon the strengths of human workers (co-augmentation), and that can both learn from workers’ knowledge and support their professional learning (co-learning).

While I’ve described so far about ways the concepts of co-augmentation and co-learning can be applied to education research, I am also very excited about the opposite direction. I think that research on human-AI complementarity, AI-augmented work, and AI-assisted decision-making can benefit greatly by drawing upon ideas from education and the learning sciences. A lot of the research that we’re currently working on in my group involves bringing theories and approaches from the learning sciences to bear on open challenges in this space. To give just one example: there is a body of research that aims to design systems that support human-AI complementarity—configurations of humans and AI systems that yield better outcomes than working alone. So far, this research tends to focus on human ability as if it were static, rather than centering human learning. I believe this is a major missed opportunity, given that the human ability to learn and adapt based on incredibly scarce data is at the core of many of our most impressive capabilities relative to modern AI systems.

What advice would you give to emerging scholars that are pursuing a career in human-computer interaction? 

The field of human-computer interaction brings together a wide range of different topics, disciplines, research methods, and ways of knowing. As a junior scholar, this breadth can be both exciting and overwhelming. To navigate the overwhelm, I think it can be helpful to think about the forms of impact you would like your work to have. For example, are you interested in changing the way a research community thinks about a given topic? Are you interested in creating new technologies that can empower a particular group of people to do something that they could not have (easily) done otherwise? Are you interested in informing public policy with your research? Or are you interested in some combination of all of the above? Oftentimes, I have seen junior scholars in HCI start from a specific project idea, without having a clear sense of what impacts on the world their project might have if it is successful. Working “backwards” by considering and discussing desired impacts of research earlier on in the process can help to productively guide choices of research questions, methods, and lenses.


This blog was produced by IES training program officer Katina Stapleton (Katina.Stapleton@ed.gov). It is part of an Inside IES Research blog series showcasing a diverse group of IES-funded education fellows that are making significant contributions to education research, policy, and practice.