IES Blog

Institute of Education Sciences

Partnering with Practitioners to Address Mental Health in Rural Communities

IES values and encourage collaborations between researchers and practitioners to ensure that research findings are relevant, accessible, feasible, and useful. In 2017, Dr. Wendy Reinke, University of Missouri, received IES funding to formalize the Boone County School’s Mental Health Coalition by strengthening their partnership and validating the Early Identification System (EIS) to screen for social, emotional, behavioral, and academic risk among K-12 students in rural schools. Building on these successes, Dr. Reinke now leads the National Center for Rural School Mental Health (NCRSMH), a consortium of researchers leading efforts to advance mental health screening and support in rural communities.

Bennett Lunn, a Truman-Albright Fellow at IES, asked Dr. Reinke about the work of the original partnership and how it has informed her efforts to build new partnerships with other rural schools around the country. Below are her responses.

 

What was the purpose of the Boone County Schools Mental Health Coalition and what inspired you to do this work?

In 2015, our county passed an ordinance in which a small percent of our sales tax is set aside to support youth mental health in our community. As a result, the schools had visits from many of the local mental health agencies to set up services in school buildings. The superintendents quickly realized that it would be wise to have a more coordinated effort across school districts. They formed a coalition and partnered with researchers at the University of Missouri to develop a comprehensive model to prevent and intervene in youth mental health problems. The enthusiasm of our school partners and their willingness to consider research evidence to inform the model was so energizing! We were able to build a multi-tiered prevention and intervention framework that uses universal screening data to inform supports. In addition, we were awarded an IES partnership grant to help validate the screener, conduct focus groups and surveys of stakeholders to understand the feasibility and social validity of the model, and determine how fidelity to the model is related to student outcomes. The EIS is now being used in 54 school buildings across six school districts as part of their daily practice. 

 

Were there advantages to operating in a partnership to validate the screener?  

The main benefit of working in partnership with school personnel is that you learn what works under what circumstances from those directly involved in supporting students. We meet every month with the superintendents and other school personnel to ensure that if things are not working, we can find solutions before the problems become too big. We vote on any processes or procedure that were seen as needing to change. The meeting includes school personnel sharing the types of activities they are doing in their buildings so that others can replicate those best practices, and we meet with students to get their perspectives on what is working. In addition, the university faculty bring calls for external funding of research to the group to get ideas for what types of research would be appropriate and beneficial to the group. Schools are constantly changing and encountering new challenges. Being close to those who are working in the buildings allows for us to work together in forming and implementing feasible solutions over time.

 

What advice do you have for researchers trying to make research useful and accessible to practitioners? 

Be collaborative and authentic. Demonstrate that you are truly there to create meaningful and important changes that will benefit students. Show that your priority is improving outcomes for schools and students and not simply collecting data for a study. These actions are vital to building trust in a partnership. By sharing the process of reviewing data, researchers can show how the research is directly impacting schools, and practitioners have an opportunity to share how their experience relates to the data. A good way to do this is by presenting with practitioners at conferences or collaboratively writing manuscripts for peer reviewed journals. For example, we wrote a manuscript (currently under review) with one of our school counselor partners describing how he used EIS data in practice. Through collaboration like this, we find that the purpose and process of research becomes less mysterious, and schools can more easily identify and use practices that are shown to work. In this way, long-term collaboration between partners can ultimately benefit students!

 

How does the work of the original partnership inform your current work with the National Center for Rural School Mental Health? 

We are bringing what we have learned both in how to be effective partners and to improve the model to the National Center for Rural School Mental Health. For instance, we are developing an intervention hub on our Rural Center website that will allow schools to directly link evidence-based interventions to the data. We learned that having readily available ideas for intervening using the data is an important aspect of success. We have also learned that schools with problem solving teams can implement the model with higher fidelity, so we are developing training modules for schools to learn how to use the data in problem solving teams. We will be taking the comprehensive model to prevent and intervene with youth mental health and using it in rural schools. We will continue to partner with our rural schools to continuously improve the work so that it is feasible, socially valid, and important to rural schools and youth in those schools.


 

Dr. Wendy Reinke is an Associate Vice Chancellor for Research at the University of Missouri College of Education. Her research focuses on school-based prevention interventions for children and youth with social emotional and behavioral challenges.

Written by Bennett Lunn (Bennett.lunn@ed.gov), Truman-Albright Fellow, National Center for Education Research and National Center for Special Education Research

On Being Brief: Skills and Supports for Translating Research to Practice via Brief Reports

Have you ever found yourself at a gathering fumbling to find the words to describe your academic work to family and friends? Do you find it difficult to communicate your scholarship to, and build partnerships with, non-researcher audiences? Are you an early career or seasoned researcher interested in disseminating research to practitioners, policymakers, or community members but struggling to find the best way to do so? Or are you a senior researcher mentoring a trainee through this process?

If your answer to any of these questions is “YES!”, then read on! Writing research briefs is an instrumental part of professional development but, for many researchers, not a formal aspect of training. Drawing on our experience writing research briefs, here are some tips for the challenging, but rewarding, process of translating your research into a brief.

 

Why Write a Brief?

Research briefs deliver the essence of research findings in a relatable manner to a non-researcher audience. Briefs can

  • Broaden your research’s impact by disseminating findings to non-researcher audiences, including communities historically marginalized in research
  • Strengthen university-community partnerships and relationships by transparently communicating with partners
  • Facilitate future partnerships and employment through increased visibility

 

What Exactly IS a Research Brief?

A research brief is a concise, non-technical summary of the key takeaways from a research study. Briefs communicate research insights to the public, thereby translating research and evidence-based practices into real-world settings.  

The focus of a brief varies depending on the intended audience., Provide explicit recommendations for practice if you want to reach a practitioner audience. Explore policy and infrastructure needs when writing for a policymaker audience.

Plan to share briefs in diverse settings. Share briefs with research partners (participating districts, schools, teachers), professional networks (at conference presentations), and broader audiences (on personal websites).

 

Lead researchers on our research team are part of a statewide partnership to support the dissemination of the Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports framework. This partnership involves researchers and representatives from the Maryland Department of Education, a large behavioral health organization, and all school districts within the state. Researchers regularly write and share briefs with the statewide group, taking into account evolving needs and interests. Check out some of the briefs here.

 

Briefs Should Be…

 

  • Brief. Condensing a full-length manuscript into a two-page document is challenging. But doing so helps distill the study’s real-world implications and identify steps for future work. Two pages is optimal as it can be easily shared as a one-pager when printed.

 

  • Accessible. Graduate-level coursework in statistics should not be required to understand a brief. The usual audience for briefs will not have the time or energy to absorb methodological details or nuanced theory. Write as if you were presenting to a family member or your favorite high school teacher.

 

  • Visually appealing. A visual representation of an idea will capture attention better than text and help with brevity. Your paper likely already has some type of visual (for example, a logic model) that you can tweak. If not, pull from your visual-making skills you have already honed when creating posters and conference presentations! This process may have you re-thinking how you visually present your research, even in peer-reviewed publications.

 

  • A team effort. Individuals bring diverse skills and strengths to the research team. The study’s lead author may be able to articulate results, but a co-author may have the vision to creatively illustrate these findings in a figure. Make use of each member’s skills by making brief-writing an iterative, team effort.

 

  • Tailored to your audience. If you are developing a brief for a specific audience, ensure that key takeaways and recommendations are relevant and actionable. In some cases, you may have a more technical audience to whom you may present the data more formally. In our own experience, district partners have sometimes asked for more numbers and statistics.

 

Building Expertise with Brief Writing

Training in doctoral programs, which often encourages lengthy, detail-oriented writing, runs counter to the skills inherent in writing research briefs. While certain programs offer training for writing for non-academic audiences, we advocate for a greater focus on this skill during graduate training. All of the post-doctoral authors of this blog got their first exposure to writing research briefs on this research team. Inspired by our own on-the-job training, we provide the following recommendations for mentors:  

 

  • Frame writing the brief as an opportunity. Briefs may feel tangential to the graduate student research mission and challenging to existing skillsets. Thus, the process should be framed as an opportunity to develop an integral set of skills to advance professional development. This will help with motivation as well as execution.

 

  • Provide a template for the brief that can be easily tweaked and tailored, so that graduate students have a model for the finished product, minimizing formatting issues. Publisher and Word have visually appealing templates for flyers that can be easily populated and organizations that publish briefs may provide templates and layouts. 

 

  • Know your audience and their interest in the work. The audience should be well-defined (for practitioners, policy makers, or other researchers) and their perspective and interests well-understood. Although knowledge of the audience could come from prior work experience, direct communication with the audience is desirable to gain a firm grasp on their lived experience. If direct interaction is not feasible, mentors should “think aloud” to mentees about which details, words, and images would be most effective and appealing for this audience.  

 

  • Early scaffolding should be followed by continued support. After being a co-author on a brief, a graduate student can transition to writing their own brief. They may still need support to complete this task autonomously, with continued feedback from mentors and co-authors.

 

  • Provide graduate students with targeted experiences and formal training opportunities to facilitate proficiency and efficacy in brief-writing. This might include:
    • University-based or paid workshops for students and early career faculty focused on writing for non-academic audiences
    • Opportunities to interface directly with practitioners

 

Concluding Thoughts

Writing research briefs is a key translational activity for educational researchers, but for many, requires skills not cultivated in formal training. Our research team has embarked on the journey of developing and sharing research briefs regularly over the past few years. This is an evolving and rewarding process for all of us. We hope this post has provided some helpful information as you continue your journey to be brief!

 


Summer S. Braun is a postdoctoral research associate at YouthNex at the University of Virginia’s School of Education and Human Development. She will be joining the Psychology Department at the University of Alabama as an Assistant Professor.

Daniel A. Camacho is a Licensed Clinical Psychologist and a postdoctoral research associate at the University of Virginia School of Education and Human Development.

Chelsea A.K. Duran is a postdoctoral research associate at the University of Virginia School of Education and Human Development in Youth-Nex: The UVA Center to Promote Effective Youth Development. She will be starting a position with the University of Minnesota in the summer of 2021.

Lora J. Henderson is a Licensed Clinical Psychologist and postdoctoral research associate at the University of Virginia who will soon be starting as an assistant professor in the Department of Graduate Psychology at James Madison University.

Elise T. Pas is an Associate Scientist (research faculty) at the Johns Hopkins University, Bloomberg School of Public Health.

*Note: Authors are listed alphabetically and contributed equally to the preparation of this post.

 

IES Supported Intervention “INSIGHTS Into Children’s Temperament” is Featured at the 2021 ED Games Expo

The ED Games Expo is an annual showcase of game-changing innovations in education technology developed through programs at ED and across the federal government. Since 2013, the Expo has been an in-person event at venues across Washington, D.C. Because of COVID-19, the 2021 Expo will be an entirely virtual experience from June 1 to 5.

This year, the Expo will showcase more than 160 learning games and technologies and feature 35 different virtual EdTech events of interest to a broad audience of viewers. See the Agenda for the lineup for the Ed Games Expo.

 

ED Games Expo: Featuring INSIGHTS into Children’s Temperament

INSIGHTS into Children’s Temperament, an IES-supported intervention, is being featured at the Expo this year. INSIGHTS supports children’s social-emotional development and academic learning by helping teachers and parents see how differences in children’s behavior might reflect temperament/personality. Children work with the INSIGHTS puppets and learn that other children and adults react differently to the same situation due to their temperaments. IES has supported two randomized controlled trials (RCTs, the “gold standard” for claims of impact) of INSIGHTS – one in New York City and the other (ongoing) in rural Nebraska. Evidence from the NYC RCT and a longitudinal follow up indicate that children who participate in the INSIGHTS program during early elementary school experience better academic and social behavioral outcomes immediately following participation in the program, and these positive impacts persist into middle school. 

 

During the 2020 ED Games Expo, Sandee McClowry and her team performed an INSIGHTS lesson at the Kennedy Center to hundreds of attendees, including children, students, and families. INSIGHTS will be featured in this year’s ED Games Expo in three ways.

  • Tuesday, June 1 at 8PM Eastern: There will be an “ED Games Expo Kick Off Show” hosted by the puppets from the INSIGHTS intervention and the characters from the Between the Lions children’s television program. All of the characters will share information about the ED Games Expo while having a lot of fun and hijinks on a road trip to Washington, DC.  The Show will be introduced by the Secretary of Education, Miguel Cardona, and will also feature cameo appearances by IES, ED, and government team members.
  • Wednesday, June 2 from 9PM to 9:45PM Eastern: Sandee McClowry will be hosting a Master Class for Educators. The event will introduce all of the INSIGHTS friends, including Coretta the Cautious, Gregory the Grumpy, Fredrico the Friendly, and Hilary the Hard Worker. The video will provide practical guidance to educators on how to deliver the intervention in a classroom. The event will conclude with a rich and engaging discussion with expert practitioners about how INSIGHTS addresses the social and emotional learning of children, educators, and parents. Click Here to access the YouTube broadcast of the Master Class and set a reminder to watch on June 1.
  • Materials from INSIGHTS, including puppets that can be printed out and professional development resources for educators, will be available to try out during the Expo and in the month of June.

 

For URL links to watch the ED Games Expo Kick Off Show and Master Class for Educators, See the Agenda. For more information and on how to access the resources INSIGHTS intervention, see the website.


Written by Emily Doolittle (Emily.Doolittle@ed.gov), NCER Team Lead for Social Behavioral Research at IES

 

NASA to Kick Off Its Latest National Student Challenge at the 2021 ED Games Expo on June 1

The 8th Annual ED Games Expo will occur next week from June 1 to 5. The free event is all virtual, open to the public, and will showcase game-changing innovations in education technology developed through more than 40 programs at the Department of Education (ED) and across the federal government.

 

NASA National Student Challenge Event at the Ed Expo

One of many noteworthy Expo events will occur on Tuesday, June 1, from 6 to 8 PM Eastern when NASA’s Flight Opportunities program will introduce a new national student challenge. Educators can register to attend this LIVE event on June 1 here. The NASA TechRise Student Challenge will invite teams of sixth- to 12th-grade students to submit ideas for climate or remote sensing experiments to fly on a high-altitude balloon, and space exploration experiments to fly aboard a suborbital rocket.

 

 

NASA developed the NASA TechRise Student Challenge to enable students to have a deeper understanding of Earth’s atmosphere, space exploration, coding and electronics, and a broader understanding of the value of test data. The challenge will also provide students with the opportunity to engage with NASA and technology communities and expose them to careers in science, technology, and space exploration fields.

The challenge will begin accepting applications in August for student teams affiliated with U.S. public, private, and charter schools, including U.S. territories.  The winning teams each will receive $1,500 to build their payloads, as well as an assigned spot on a NASA-sponsored commercial suborbital flight. Balloon flights will offer more than four hours of flight time, while suborbital rockets will provide around three minutes of test time in microgravity conditions. The Flight Opportunities program, based at NASA’s Armstrong Flight Research Center, a part of Space Technology Mission Directorate, is leading the NASA TechRise Student Challenge. The challenge is being administered by California-based Future Engineers, which developed its platform with awards in 2016 and 2017 from the ED/IES SBIR program. Future Engineers’ platform has also been employed to manage past educational and NASA challenges, including the Name the Mars Rover student challenge. 

During the June 1 event, NASA experts will provide information to educators on the official competition. Teachers are invited to join a NASA TechRise Educator Summer Workshop, which will dive into the basics of electronics, coding, and designing for flight. The first workshop will be on Wednesday, July 28, 2021 and repeated on Wednesday, August 11, 2021. For challenge details and to pre-register for the competition, please visit the contest website.

 

More ED Games Expo Events to Engage Students in Hands-On Projects and Challenges

In addition to the NASA event, five more virtual events featuring government programs that engage students in project-based learning will occur on Monday, June 1 between 12:30PM to 6PM Eastern. Topics include students building and flying satellites, programs for museums, local communities and military facilities to engage students in experiential and real-world learning, and a program to inspire students to be inventors and entrepreneurs. See the Expo Agenda here for lineup of events and the ED Games Expo Playlists Page for video trailers by participating developers. 

 

We look forward to "seeing you" at the virtual ED Games Expo starting on June 1!


Edward Metz (Edward.Metz@ed.gov) is the Program Manager for the Small Business Innovation Research program at the US Department of Education’s Institute of Education Sciences.

 

Highlighting the Science of Learning at the 2021 ED Games Expo

Research on how people learn is critical for informing the design of effective education technology products. To design products that improve student learning, we need to understand how students approach solving problems, the information they need to adopt optimal solution strategies, the skills that underlie success in particular academic domains, the best ways to arrange information on a screen to guide student attention to relevant information, and the best study strategies for optimizing learning and retention. Through its research grants programs, IES has invested in research projects to develop and test education technology products based in the science of learning.

 

The 2021 ED Games Expo, which takes place virtually from June 1-5, features a number of these products, and you can learn more about them through a mix of live and pre-recorded sessions and videos. Most are ready to demo now. Students and educators can send questions about the research, game-play, or ed tech experience directly to the participating researchers. Here are just a few of the many ways you can interact with IES-funded researchers at the Expo:

 

  1. The Virtual Learning Lab (VLL) will be hosting a live, virtual session on Friday, June 4th from 4:00-5:30pm Eastern Time to celebrate their 5-year research collaboration to explore precision education in the context of algebra instruction. The VLL developed an AI-powered video recommendation system that personalizes math instruction within Math Nation. The researchers measured student ability and engagement, detected effects of virtual learning environment usage on achievement, and identified characteristics of effective online tutoring. The session will feature short talks and opportunities for Q&A: 
  • A Video Recommendation System for Algebra (Walter Leite, University of Florida)
  • Reinforcement Learning for Enhancing Collaborative Problem Solving (Guojing Zhou, University of Colorado Boulder)
  • Natural Language Processing for VLE Research (Danielle McNamara, Arizona State University)
  • Identifying Pedagogical Conversational Patterns in Online Algebra Learning (Jinnie Shin, University of Florida)
  • Scaling Items and Persons for Obtaining Ability Estimates in VLEs (A. Corinne Huggins-Manley, University of Florida)
  • Measuring Student Ability from Single- and Multiple-Attempt Practice Assessments in VLEs (Ziying Li, University of Florida)
  • Detecting Careless Responding to Assessment Items in VLEs (Sanaz Nazari, University of Florida)
  • Personalization, Content Exposure, and Fairness in Assessment (Daniel Katz, University of California, Santa Barbara)
  • Fair AI in VLEs (Chenglu Li, University of Florida)

 

  1. The ED Games Expo YouTube Playlist, which will be posted on June 1st on the event page, features 26 products developed with IES grant funding. For ed tech products informed by research on how people learn, check out the products funded through the Cognition and Student Learning topic:
  • Graspable Math allows math teachers to assign interactive algebra tasks and turns equations into tangible objects that middle school and high school students can manipulate to practice and explore. Teachers can follow live, step-by-step, student work.
  • eBravo Boulder Reading Intervention is a self-paced personalized reading comprehension curriculum that teaches secondary students the problem-solving skills good readers use to learn from challenging texts, in this case in the science discipline of ecology. Reading strategies and exercises are guided by well-researched models of reading comprehension, helping students build deep, durable, and reusable knowledge from text. 
  • iSTART and Writing Pal are interventions designed for middle school students, high school students, and young adults improve their reading and writing skills. Within these interventions, students play games to practice reading comprehension and writing strategies.
  • All You Can Eat, Gwakkamole, and CrushStations are part of a suite of Executive Function skill-building games, designed to improve student shifting, inhibitory control, and working memory respectively.

 

We hope you can join us for this exciting event in June to learn more about and try out all the research-based products ready to be used in our nation’s schools. For more information on the featured resources and online events, please see this blog.


Written by Erin Higgins (Erin.Higgins@ed.gov), Program Officer for the Cognition and Student Learning program, National Center for Education Research