IES Blog

Institute of Education Sciences

IES Celebrates National STEM Day

November 8th, 2018 is National STEM Day! Today is a great day to talk to learners of all ages and abilities about Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM). The Institute of Education Sciences (IES) has some great resources for exploring STEM learning - visit our new STEM Topic page to learn more. Through research grants from the National Center for Education Research (NCER) and the National Center for Special Education Research (NCSER), and innovations developed as part of the Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) program, IES has supported the development and testing of many programs, practices, and policies to improve student outcomes in STEM. 

Below, we provide links to a few projects and activities for instructors and learners to explore on National STEM Day, but remember, STEM Day can be every day!

  • NumberShire is a mobile and desktop game-based mathematics intervention funded with several grants from NCSER and SBIR that  builds understanding of whole number concepts among early elementary students with or at risk for learning disabilities (video demonstration).
  • Improving Children's Understanding of Equivalence (ICUE) supplements teachers’ existing mathematics instruction and helps students develop understanding of mathematical equivalence. Developed with support from NCER, ICUE is currently being evaluated in second grade classrooms. ICUE includes teacher manuals, student workbooks, manipulatives, assessment items, and a 2-hour professional development workshop to provide teachers with information about how to implement the intervention (video demonstration).
  • Two innovative education technology products developed with funding from the SBIR program are intended to transform chemistry instruction and learning. Happy Atoms is a physical hand-held magnetic molecular modeling set with a companion digital app that can recognize student created models and provide feedback and information to enrich learning.  HoloLab Champions uses an immersive virtual reality (VR) game environment within which high school students perform chemistry experiments.
  • Combined Cognitive and Motivational Supports for STEM Learning is a supplemental Blackboard module for postsecondary introductory biology courses developed with support from NCER. This module leverages short cognitive and motivational interventions that show promise for engaging students and improving outcomes, and is available from IDEALS.

Christina Chhin is the program officer for the Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) Education research topic within the National Center for Education Research, Sarah Braisel is the program officer for the Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) Education research topic within the National Center for Special Education Research, and Ed Metz is the program officer for both our Small Business Innovation Research program as well as our Education Technology research topic within the National Center for Education Research.

Celebrating the Launch of the Registry of Efficacy and Effectiveness Studies (REES)

The Registry of Efficacy and Effectiveness Studies (REES) is now ready for use! REES is a registry of causal impact studies in education developed with a grant from the National Center for Education Research (NCER). REES will increase transparency, improve the replicability of studies, and provide easy access to information about completed and ongoing studies.

The release of REES aligns with recent IES efforts to promote study registration. In the FY 2019 Requests for Applications (RFAs) for the Education Research and Special Education Research Grants Programs, IES recommended that applicants describe a plan for pre-registering their studies in both the project narrative (as part of the research) as well as the data management plan. IES is also developing the Standards for Excellence in Education Research (SEER) and has identified study registration as an important dimension of high value education research.

We asked the REES team to tell us more about how the registry works.

How can researchers access REES? REES can be accessed through the SREE website at www.sreereg.org. Over the next year, REES will transition to a permanent home at the Inter-university Consortium for Political and Social Research (ICPSR) at the University of Michigan, but it will still be accessible through the SREE link.

Screenshot of REESWhat kinds of studies can be registered? REES is a registry of causal impact studies. It accommodates a range of study designs including randomized controlled trials, quasi-experimental designs, regression discontinuity designs, and single case designs.

What information should be included in a study entry? A REES entry includes basic study information and a pre-analysis plan. The checklist of required information for a registry entry provides detailed information for each of the different design options. All of the information for a REES entry should be easily found in a grant application.

How long does it take to register a study? For a study with a complete grant application, completing a REES entry should be straightforward and take approximately one hour.

What if a study entry needs to be changed? Principal investigators (PI) or other authorized research team members should update a REES entry as changes occur. All updates to an entry will be time-stamped. Original entries and updated entries will be publically available.

Are registered studies searchable by the public? Yes! When a PI or authorized research team member is ready to make the study available in the public domain, they click on the publish option. This will time stamp the entry and make it publically available. REES entries that are published are available on the search page. A pdf of individual entries can be downloaded from the search page or an Excel file of multiple entries can be exported.

What will happen to studies that were entered in the pilot phase of REES? A REES entry that was started and/or completed during the pilot phase is a part of the REES database. To make the study publically available and a part of the searchable database, the PI or other authorized research team member needs to click on the publish option for the entry.

Over the next two years, the REES team will be working to ensure the sustainability and visibility of REES with a grant from the National Center for Special Education Research (NCSER). To do this, the team will transfer REES to its permanent location on the ICPSR website and disseminate information about REES within the education research community, as well as with funders, publishers, and users of education research, through meetings, conferences, websites, social media, and targeted outreach.

So, what are you waiting for? Go check it out!

If you have questions about REES, please email contact@sreereg.org.

 

 

Recognizing Our Outstanding IES Predoctoral Fellows

Each year, the Institute of Education Sciences (IES) recognizes an outstanding fellow from our Predoctoral Interdisciplinary Research Training Programs in the Education Sciences for academic accomplishments and contributions to education research. This year, IES has selected joint recipients for the 2017 award: Rachel Abenavoli and Callie Little. They will receive their awards and present their research at the annual IES Principal Investigators meeting in Washington, D.C. in January 2019.

Dr. Abenavoli received her doctorate in Human Development and Family Studies from Pennsylvania State University (Penn State). She is currently a postdoctoral research scientist at New York University’s Steinhardt’s Institute of Human Development and Social Change, and is working in the area of early learning and social-emotional development.  Dr. Little received her doctorate in Developmental Psychology from Florida State University (FSU). She is currently a research fellow in the School of Behavioural, Cognitive and Social Sciences at the University of New England in Australia, where she specializes in understanding the development of cognitive and academic skills for individuals from early childhood through college.

We asked our Outstanding Fellows how participating in an IES-funded predoctoral training program helped their development as researchers.

Rachel Abenavoli

The IES-funded predoctoral training program at Penn State provided me with the resources, opportunities, and skills needed to begin building my own program of education research. I began my graduate program with broad interests in young childrenRachel Abenavoli’s social-emotional functioning. The fellowship helped me shape and narrow the focus of my research. By participating in regular seminars, attending talks, and meeting with external invited speakers, I began applying my developmental lens and focus on early social-emotional skills to the study of educational contexts and educationally-relevant outcomes. With generous fellowship funding that gave me the freedom and flexibility to pursue my own research questions, I was able to focus my work in graduate school on the interplay between children’s social-emotional and academic skills as they make the transition to school.

The IES fellowship also provided me with opportunities to learn, practice, and hone my methodological skills. Courses and seminars in program evaluation, causal inference, and multilevel modeling were particularly critical in building my capacity for conducting rigorous school-based research. Invited speakers complemented these core learning experiences by highlighting best practices and innovative approaches in education science. I came away from this training equipped with a range of analytic and methodological tools that are necessary to address the diversity and complexity of education research questions, settings, and designs.

Being an IES fellow has also connected me to a network of established and early career education researchers. Regular meetings with faculty mentors and other IES fellows from different home departments provided a space to discuss new ideas, experiences in the field, and possible collaborations. Conference funding enabled me to attend education research conferences and expand my professional network beyond Penn State. Engaging with this community solidified for me the value of a collaborative and interdisciplinary approach to understanding children’s learning and development in context.

My work is more rigorous and more relevant to education practice and policy because of the IES predoctoral fellowship, and I’m so grateful for the experiences, mentors, and other fellows who are critical to the success of the program at Penn State.

Callie Little

First and foremost, the support and training I received through the IES pre-doctoral fellowship at FSU provided me with an intense and philosophical appreciation of construct validity: whether an investigation can accurately measure what it was designeCallie Littled to measure. This appreciation will continue to guide how I develop and implement research studies.

The rigorous statistical courses included in FSU’s core curriculum provided a solid foundation for building my quantitative skills. Additionally, the combined focus on study-design and methodological training supplied me with a comprehensive knowledge base and the skills to investigate the complex associations among reading skills, and between reading skills and behavioral outcomes. The exposure to multiple advanced statistical methods coupled with the opportunity to directly apply these methods to relevant data so early in my career prepared me for my current projects which use large-scale twin data to conduct high-quality research on individual differences in the development of cognitive and academic skills.

The multidisciplinary environment at FSU, with its rich and diverse range of research programs and faculty, exposed me to a series of analytic techniques and content-area expertise that helped to shape an open-minded and creative approach to formulating research questions. This unique environment was one of the greatest advantages to the IES fellowship, providing the opportunity for strong mentorship, collaboration, and feedback. Most importantly, I used this opportunity to develop ongoing projects with colleagues where we innovatively combine evidence-based methods from several fields.

Fellowship funding enabled me to attend conferences and workshops with other IES fellowship teams, and provided me with access to research resources. I gained new insights into science communication, learned new techniques, and broadened my network of collaborators. I was able to recruit participants and purchase standardized assessment materials, and design and implement several of my own studies during my Ph.D. The resulting rich and unique data sets form the foundation of my current independent research.  From my experiences through the IES fellowship at FSU, I stand well-prepared to continue to conduct innovative and high-quality research into the complex mechanisms underlying achievement.

Katina Stapleton is the program officer for the Predoctoral Interdisciplinary Research Training Programs in the Education Sciences.

Supporting Military-Connected Students

Through the Systemic Approaches to Educating Highly Mobile Students program, IES supports research to improve the education outcomes of students who face social/behavioral and academic challenges because they frequently move from school to school due to changes in residence and/or unstable living arrangements. This category of students, typically referred to as highly-mobile students, includes students who are homeless, in foster care, from migrant backgrounds, or military-connected. In this guest blog, Timothy Cavell, PhD, University of Arkansas and Renée Spencer, EdD, Boston University discuss their IES-funded research on military-connected students.

Why study military-connected students? Photo of Renée SpencerPhoto of Timothy Cavell

Virtually every school district in the United States educates a child whose parent or guardian is serving in the Armed Forces. Supported by two separate IES awards, our team of researchers is working to understand how schools can better serve military students and their families. Our work focuses specifically on students who have at least one parent/guardian on active (full-time) duty in the U.S. military. We refer to these students as military-connected. Their lives are typified by transition and often entail tremendous sacrifice. For some, the challenges involve a parent deployed into combat or a parent returning from combat. For many others, the challenges are tied to the frequent transitions (e.g., permanent changes of station, temporary duty assignments) required of military families. Our IES-funded research specifically works with military-connected students within the North Thurston Public Schools (NTPS), a school district in Lacey, Washington, about 15 miles southwest of Joint (Army/Air Force) Base Lewis-McChord.

How does your research address the needs of military-connected students?

The Military Student Mentoring (MSM) project which began 4 years ago, is an effort to develop and test the benefits of school-based mentoring for military students. We reasoned that school-based mentoring was a measured response to the needs of students who are often quite resilient but who, at times, might need extra support. A key component of the intervention was developing a mentoring-delivery system anchored by a district-level MSM Coordinator who forged home-school-community (HSC) Action Teams comprised of school staff (e.g., school counselor), military parents, and community leaders. Together, the MSM Coordinator and HSC Action Teams engaged military families, identified military students who might benefit from school-based mentoring, and recruited adult volunteers to serve as mentors. These volunteers were then screened, trained, and supported by a local Big Brothers Big Sisters agency. Preliminary findings from our initial launch and subsequent pilot study support the feasibility and usability of the MSM model and point to expected gains in students’ perceptions of support.  Future steps involve efforts to making MSM more portable and self-sustaining and testing its efficacy more broadly.

Our second project, the Active-Duty Military Families and School Supports (ADMFSS) study, which was funded just this year, explores school supports for highly mobile military students. It is estimated that military students experience 6 to 9 moves during their K-12 years—a mobility rate three times that of non-military children. Most military families and students are resilient and weather these disruptions well, but some are negatively affected by the strain of multiple moves. Growing recognition of these stresses faced by military families has led to calls for schools to offer greater and more targeted support to these students.

We suspect that student mobility is not directly linked to educational outcomes; rather, repeated moves may strain families’ capacity to adjust to new communities and impede students’ ability to connect with yet another learning environment. Therefore, we will be exploring the role that school supports play in fostering military students’ sense of school connectedness. Broadly, the term school connectedness refers to students’ relationship with their school and the extent to which they feel accepted, respected, and supported by others in the school environment. Our basic premise is that high mobility can be harmful to military students’ educational outcomes when it undermines the degree to which they feel connected to school and to students and staff in their school. Supports provided by schools have the potential to buffer military students from the negative effects of high mobility on school connectedness, thereby reducing their risk for poor educational outcomes. Importantly, connectedness is an arena in which schools can take clear and effective action.

Through both of these projects, our ultimate goal is to learn enough to equip and guide other school districts that wish to serve those families who have served our country with courage and distinction.

Katina Stapleton is the program officer for the Systemic Approaches to Educating Highly Mobile Students research program.

Evaluating Oregon’s Adult Basic Skills Transition Planning Process: An Interview with Judith Alamprese

In her 2017 IES grant, Judith Alamprese (Abt Associates) is collaborating with the state of Oregon’s Office Community College and Workforce Development to evaluate a program that aims to help adults earn a GED® and transition into postsecondary education. This project is funded under the Low-Cost, Short-Duration Evaluation of Education Interventions competition, which supports research that aims to produce meaningful results for local and/or state education agencies quickly. Program Officer, Meredith Larson, interviewed Ms. Alamprese about this current work, how it came into being, and what it might mean for Oregon and adult education more broadly.

Tell us about your area of research and why it’s important to Oregon.

My current research is focused on determining effective interventions for assisting low-skilled adults establish and succeed in a career pathway. Oregon was one of the first states to implement a statewide initiative for transitioning adult basic skills learners (henceforth adult learners) to further education and work, and this project expands Oregon’s activities to support adult learners’ success.  

What is your current project studying?

The Transition Planning Process (TPP) project is a collaboration between Oregon’s Office of Community College and Workforce Development (CCWD) and Abt Associates (Abt). We are using a randomized controlled trial (RCT) to test whether text messaging helps adult learners earn a GED® and transition to postsecondary education and training.

What is TPP, and why is this approach innovative?

TPP is a text messaging intervention in which transition facilitators who work with the adult learners send text messages to the learners to help keep them on track to complete their GED® and enroll in postsecondary courses. The intervention is a supplement to the facilitators’ other transition activities to prepare learners for next steps in education and work.

TPP has a standardized list of text messages to prompt learners to take the GED® tests, set college goals, access information on college planning and other college preparation activities. Facilitators can send texts customized to programs’ specific transition activities.

CCWD chose text messaging because it appeared to be a low-cost approach that could support existing transition activities and provide a boost to ABS learners. The TPP project is an exciting opportunity to determine whether texting can be effective with ABS learners, and may be a promising approach for encouraging specific behaviors in learners preparing to go to college.

How did this project come into being?

The TPP project grew out of Abt’s and CCWD’s work together on an IES Researcher-Practitioner Partnership grant. This grant was a longitudinal study of Oregon’s Pathways for Adult Basic Skills Transition to Postsecondary Education and Work initiative. The findings from Abt’s analyses of adult learners’ GED® attainment and postsecondary participation prompted Oregon to want to try some additional strategies to encourage ABS learners to earn a secondary credential and enroll in postsecondary courses.

What is the current status of the project?

The study is underway, and transition facilitators are providing text messages to encourage adult learners to initiate and complete GED® testing, determine next steps, and begin the postsecondary planning process. The facilitators have found that while many treatment group learners respond to the texts, some learners have chosen to increase their face-to-face interaction with their facilitators. The facilitators report that texting is an efficient way to reinforce learners and check on their progress.

Why is this work important?

This research is particularly important because it is a rigorous test of an intervention that could be beneficial to adult basic skill learners nationwide and could leverage such programs’ existing activities in transitioning learners from basic skills programs to further education and training. We will learn more about the types of information and support that are most persuasive in helping learners succeed.