IES Blog

Institute of Education Sciences

Making the Most of a Quarantine Year: Meet the IES Virtual Interns!

April is National Internship Awareness Month, and we want to take this opportunity to highlight the Virtual Student Federal Service (VSFS) internship program that IES has been involved in this year and thank our wonderful interns for their contributions to the National Center for Education Research (NCER) and National Center for Special Education Research (NCSER).

The two IES Centers hired four interns to work on communication and two interns to work on data science. We asked each of them to tell us a little about themselves, their future plans, and what interested them or surprised them about the internship with IES. Here’s what they said.

 

Alice Bravo is pursuing a PhD in special education in the College of Education at the University of Washington.

Photo of Alice Bravo

My research interests keep evolving but are rooted in early intervention for young children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) using applied behavior analysis and developmental science. Specifically, I am interested in the teaching of imitation and communication skills. In 5 years, I hope to be working as an applied researcher and practitioner, conducting research related to early intervention and ASD while providing training and coaching to caregivers and early intervention/early childhood special education professionals. During my internship with IES, I was really interested in and excited by the breadth of research supported by IES. Reading project abstracts related to virtual reality to support student learning was fascinating! 

Fun fact: I love road trips – I have driven up and down the West Coast and across the country twice! 

 

Bonnie Chan is pursuing a bachelor’s degree in statistics and machine learning at Carnegie Mellon.

Photo of Bonnie ChanI am interested in data science and modeling of data. I am interested in applying these approaches to research in the field of medicine or psychology because it has the most potential to help people and one of the most applicable uses of these approaches. As part of my virtual internship, I have learned how to use PANDAs Python package when cleaning data to prepare to create a visualization of grants funded by NCSER on a U.S. map. In addition, I learned a lot about how grants are funded by the department and the types of projects that are funded. In the future, I would like to pursue a master’s degree in machine learning or other statistical approaches for data science and modeling of data. I think working in the federal government would be a great experience and more rewarding in terms of outcomes than in the public sector or at an institution.

Fun Fact: I really like to dance. I have been dancing since I was 3, so that is 17 years. Right now, I mostly do contemporary dance, but I have done ballet, tap, jazz and other types of dance including competitive dancing in high school. 

 

Chandra Keerthi is pursuing a bachelor’s degree in data science at the Wilfrid Laurier University.

Photo of Chandra KeerthiI’m interested in applying statistical models of previous credit ratings to future ones in order to help model human behavior in the area of financial data analysis. I am also really interested in sports analytics, specifically basketball, and in understanding how analytics can help make or sometimes, unintentionally, break teams. In 5 years, I hope to use my skills to help create or innovate a product that will have a positive impact on the world.

Fun fact: I enjoy playing and watching basketball and am a huge fan of sci-fi movies and books (I’m currently reading the first book in the Dune series). In addition, I recently made a program that uses a photo taken from your phone and turns it into 'art' using another art piece (like van Gogh’s The Starry Night) as a reference.

 

Thomas Leonard is pursuing a bachelor’s degree in Economics and Business at Georgetown University.

Photo of Thomas Leonard

 

My research interest is in the area of finance. As a virtual intern, I had the opportunity to work on editing and examining abstracts across many different fields of education research, and this has sharpened my technical and analytical skills. In addition, it was interesting to see some of my experiences as a student actually being studied in schools across the country as part of the research that IES funds.

Fun fact: I’m an avid poker player. 

 

 

 

Yuri Lin is pursuing a bachelor’s degree in Microbiology, Immunology, and Molecular Genetics at the University of California, Los Angeles.

Photo of Yuri Lin

I am most interested in cancer genomics, immunology, and psychology. The most surprising detail that I had never thought about before this internship was how government entities like the Department of Education change and are influenced by different presidential administrations. In one of our monthly gatherings, we talked about how each administration has differing visions and values for education, and it struck me that while I saw myself as just a tired college student plinking away at blogs and abstracts in my bedroom, I was actually helping in small ways to fulfill a larger vision for education that sustains across administrations. That was a surprising and rewarding realization to have.

Fun fact: I love music, especially pop music and Russian classical music. There’s so much great music out there, but my favorite would have to be Shostakovich Symphony 5, Movement 4. Nothing feels quite like playing that piece in a huge orchestra with the cymbals crashing, and I hope everyone who hasn’t heard it before can go give it a listen.

 

Shirley Liu is pursuing a bachelor’s degree in English with a double minor in philosophy and data science at Lafayette College.

Photo of Shirley LiuMy research interests are in the areas of communication and data and information science. During this internship, I learned a lot about the human and community aspect of research. I have always viewed research and academia as very solitary fields. They are, but after talking to researchers about the friendships they’ve made in the field, I’ve learned that research is a lot more fruitful (and fun) when you’re doing it with someone whose company you enjoy. I really loved learning about Plain Language Principles! I have already started applying that to my own writing. For example, I am probably the only person in my friend group who knows what nominalization is and why it should be avoided.

Fun fact: My favorite hobby is writing! I have won an undergraduate-level prize for my poetry.

 


In addition to working on abstracts, entering data, creating data visualizations, and helping to update compendia of IES-funded research, our interns have also been busy writing blogs. Here are some recent blogs written by our interns: Autism Awareness & Acceptance Month; What Does This Mean for Me? A Conversation about College and ADHD; and Gender Stereotypes in STEM: Emergence and Prevention.

What Does This Mean for Me? A Conversation about College and ADHD

Ever read an article or research abstract and wish you could ask the author questions? In this new IES series, “What Does This Mean for Me,” we are doing just that. IES researchers are answering questions to help students, educators, and others use their research. In the first round of this series, NCER virtual college interns are reaching out with questions relevant to their interests, goals, and communities. We invite you to learn more about not only what education science means for real people but also what students and other community members care about. This blog was written by Shirley Liu, virtual intern at NCER.

 

As part of my virtual internship with IES, I wanted to learn about research that was applicable to my own experiences. I decided to ask Dr. Art Anastopoulos about the unique challenges for postsecondary students with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), as well as strategies and interventions that can help students with ADHD succeed in college. With funding from IES, Dr. Anastopoulos evaluated an intervention called Accessing Campus Connections and Empowering Student Success (ACCESS) for students with ADHD. ACCESS aims to help college students succeed by increasing student knowledge about and ability to manage their diagnosis and to leverage campus supports.

 

Photo of Dr. Art AnastopoulosWhy are students with ADHD more likely to struggle in college than students without ADHD? What might be particularly challenging for them?

There are many possible reasons for why students with ADHD are more likely to struggle. For one thing, many high school students with ADHD lag behind their peers without ADHD, in terms of grade point average, less well-developed study-skills, etc. And this lag persists as they make the transition into college. Students with ADHD are also at increased risk for experiencing co-occurring mental health difficulties, such as depression and anxiety disorders, which together with ADHD interfere with college functioning.

Another useful way to understand the unique challenges of students with ADHD is through the notion of a “perfect storm.” [In this video (from 2:21 – 4:28), Art describes the “perfect storm” as the interplay between a diminished capacity for self-regulation that students with ADHD may have and the high levels of self-regulation that postsecondary education requires of students.]

In addition to their attentional difficulties and impulsivity, many students with ADHD have co-occurring executive functioning deficits, affecting their organization, planning, and time management. Together, such difficulties may lead to academic problems such as having trouble sitting through a boring class, taking detailed lecture notes, attending classes and other meetings on time, waiting until the last minute to complete papers and other long-term assignments, forgetting to preregister for upcoming courses, and placing greater emphasis on speed versus accuracy when taking tests. For similar reasons, students with ADHD may experience interpersonal problems with their friends, as well as difficulties in employment situations.

 

ACCESS is an institution-supported intervention for students with ADHD, but how exactly does ACCESS work?

ACCESS targets multiple deficit areas that can lead to impairment in multiple domains of daily functioning. More specifically, ACCESS is designed to increase student knowledge and understanding of ADHD, their use of behavioral strategies, and their adaptive thinking skills. To the extent that these goals are achieved, improvements in academic, emotional, social, and personal functioning are expected to occur.

 

In your opinion, how can professors best support college students with ADHD?

The most important thing that college professors can do is to respect a student’s need for formally recommended accommodations and to facilitate their implementation. Listed below are four common accommodations for college students with ADHD:

  • Taking exams in private locations where distractions are minimized
  • Having extended time to take exams
  • Being allowed to audio record lectures via smart pens or phone devices
  • Having another person take notes for them

 

How can students with ADHD prepare to succeed in college?

One of the most important thing students can do is to prepare for the increased demands that college brings while still in high school. This includes, for example, increasing their knowledge of ADHD. The more developmentally appropriate their understanding of ADHD is, the more likely students will accept their diagnosis. This can also help them recognize the importance of continuing and/or seeking out necessary treatments, such as medication management and counseling. The more that a student can wean themselves from dependence on parents and others for managing academic demands while in high school, the better able that student will be to manage the increased demands for self-regulation that college brings. This goes beyond academics and includes managing money, preparing meals, doing laundry, getting to doctors’ appointments, etc.

 

In addition to the written responses to my questions, Dr. Anastopoulos also shared links to videos and resources he and his team created as part of the grant. These are curated below and provide general overviews of ACCESS and the research project. In addition, he and his team have two recent publications that share the findings from the evaluation.

Video Resources:

 

Additional information about ACCESS:

 

Additional Reading:

  • Anastopoulos, A.D., Langberg, J.M., Eddy, L.D., Silvia, P.J., & Labban, J.D. (2021).  A randomized controlled trial examining CBT for college students with ADHD.  Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 89 (1), 21–33.  – Reports significant differences for ACCESS participants, namely of improved ADHD symptoms, executive functioning, clinical change mechanisms, and use of disability accommodations.​
  • Eddy, L.D., Anastopoulos, A.D., Dvorsky, M.R., Silvia, P.J., Labban, J.D., & Langberg, J.M. (2021). An RCT of a CBT intervention for emerging adults with ADHD attending college: Functional outcomesJournal of Clinical Child and Adolescent Psychology. Reports findings that ACCESS may improve students’ self-reported general well-being and functioning as well as improved time management and study skills and strategies but may not show as much impact on students’ interpersonal relationships or GPA.

Dr. Art Anastopoulos is a Professor and the Director of the ADHD Clinic in the Department of Human Development and Family Studies in the School of Health and Human Sciences at UNC Greensboro.

Written by Shirley Liu, virtual intern at NCER and an English major at Lafayette College.

 

Gender Stereotypes in STEM: Emergence and Prevention

In 2018, Dr. Allison Master and co-PI Andrew Meltzoff were awarded a grant, Gender Stereotypes in STEM: Exploring Developmental Patterns for Prevention. This 4-year project explores how and when gender stereotypes about STEM career pathways emerge. The study also seeks to identify ways to mitigate the effects of such stereotypes, such as whether a growth mindset can lead to changes in student attitudes and outcomes toward STEM. As an undergraduate student majoring in microbiology at UCLA, Yuri Lin, virtual intern at NCER, was interested in learning more about gender inequalities and stereotypes in STEM education. She recently had a chance to talk with Dr. Master about her research and its implications for increasing STEM participation among women.

 

How is American culture affecting the STEM gender gap, and how does the US compare to other countries on this issue?

When children grow up in American culture, they see lots of TV shows and books where mathematicians, scientists, and engineers are men. STEM-based toys are also heavily marketed toward boys rather than girls. Some countries have begun changing the portrayal of gender stereotypes in the media. For example, the UK’s Advertising Standards Authority has recently started banning TV commercials that reinforce gender stereotypes. Some cross-national studies have shown that gender-STEM stereotypes favoring men are linked to women’s lower success and participation in STEM. The United States is one of many Western countries in which women have more equality and freedom to choose their careers but are much less likely to choose STEM careers than men. We still have a lot of work to do in the United States to break down barriers for women in STEM, and we need to focus on helping girls and women see the value in choosing pathways into STEM.

 

Why do you think it is important to examine growth mindset as a potential way to reduce the effects of stereotypes and increase STEM interest in students?

Growth mindsets are beliefs that personal characteristics can be changed, through effort or the right strategies. This is contrasted with fixed mindsets, which are beliefs that those characteristics can’t be changed. Growth mindsets are particularly helpful for struggling students. Students who have a growth mindset remain focused on learning rather than looking smart, believe effort is important, and stay resilient even when they experience setbacks. These attitudes translate into putting forth more effort and determination, which lead to greater success. In our project, we want to know if a growth mindset can help girls stay motivated in computer science, a subject that can have a steep learning curve. Girls in particular often get discouraged when they feel that they don’t have what it takes to succeed in STEM. We hope that teaching girls to have a growth mindset will protect them from these negative stereotypes and increase their confidence in themselves and their sense of belonging in computer science.

 

Considering that your project includes students from grades 1 to 12, how do you plan to share your findings with teachers, students, and policymakers? Are there differences in how you might communicate the information for different age groups?

As a developmental psychologist, I think it’s important to communicate the information about different age groups to everyone! It can be very valuable to frame student motivation in the broader context of how students are growing and changing. Students start to endorse stereotypes about computer science and engineering very early—Grades 1-3—so elementary school is a great time to start counteracting stereotypes by showing a broad representation of who enjoys and succeeds in STEM. We start to see big gender gaps in computer science interest during middle school, so this is a great time to have girls participate in fun and engaging coding classes. And we’ve already noted how important it is for girls in high school to have a growth mindset in their STEM classes.

We have different goals for communicating with teachers, parents, and policymakers. We know that teachers are very busy, so we try to condense things into the most important practical tips. We’ve made short videos and infographics about our research for teachers. For policymakers, we write policy briefs, which combines our research with other findings that are relevant to education policy. And when we talk to parents, we try to focus on the importance of the experiences they provide for their kids. We really value spreading the word about our research to make sure it reaches people who can use it to make a difference. For more information and access to the various resources, please visit the I AM Lab website.

 


Allison Master, PhD (@AllisonMaster), a developmental psychologist and an assistant professor at the University of Houston, has conducted extensive research on the development of motivation and identity in STEM education. 

Written by Yuri Lin (ylin010101@g.ucla.edu), intern for the Institute of Education Sciences and a Microbiology, Immunology, and Molecular Genetics major at UCLA.

The Enduring Friendship of the MOCCA Team: How Camaraderie Benefits Research

This blog is a part of our Spotlight on IES Training Programs series and was written by Shirley Liu, a virtual intern for NCER.

One of the important—though sometimes overlooked—benefits of the IES training programs is friendship. When you think of what makes a good research team, friendship is probably not your first answer. However, the researchers behind the Multiple-Choice Online Causal Comprehension Assessment (MOCCA) demonstrate just how crucial strong bonds are. This blog shares how three long-time friends and members of the MOCCA team–Drs. Gina Biancarosa, Sarah Carlson, and Ben Seipel–have benefited from friendship.

 

(From top left: Sarah, Gina; Ben, Sarah; Gina, Ben)

 

How they met

Sarah and Ben first met during their IES predoctoral program at the University of Minnesota. During a grant-writing course, they developed a proposal for what would eventually become MOCCA. When Sarah attended the University of Oregon for her IES postdoctoral program, she met Gina, who ultimately joined in the MOCCA research.

The three scholars shared a passion for reading comprehension and assessment and a love for trading jokes. The team’s love of cute animal stories, especially otters, as another reason they get along well. “Every otter story that was in the news got shared multiple times,” Ben said as others laughed in agreement. Over the years, they have continued to invest in their shared interests and in one another.

How their friendship benefits their work

The three credit their friendship as contributing to their personal and professional growth in three key ways.

Combatting loneliness. According to Gina, “[Socialization] just gets you out of your head. That is not only good for your emotional health and mental health, but also for stimulating new ideas and improving the rigor of old ideas.” Whether it is visiting cool restaurants, taking pictures of each other with funny filters after long conferences, or going on retreats, the MOCCA team makes sure to create time for non-research related activities. Even during the pandemic, MOCCA still prioritizes the socialization aspect of their research by meeting online instead.

Creating a supportive atmosphere that encourages taking risks. The MOCCA team has found that their friendship creates an open-minded and supportive atmosphere for their research. This environment encourages risk taking and helps researchers voice their opinions. In turn, this stimulates innovation and intellectual diversity. “It makes it easier to float ideas that you think might not be all there and not have to risk rejection. They’ll tell you if it’s not all there, but you’re not going to feel crushed,” explained Gina. “It makes you take more risks.”

Fostering growth and personal development. The MOCCA team has also found that friendship leads them to see one another as more than just experts. Instead, they acknowledge their individual strengths while encouraging one another to grow intellectually as complex and constantly learning individuals. As a result, each member of the MOCCA team contributes to the research in unique and equally appreciated ways. “We all have that creative energy, but we have different types of creative energy,” said Ben. “Sarah is really the dreamer: What can this look like? What can it do for teachers? And I really am an innovator: I take things that are different, make them new, and get at things that we have not been able to get at in the past. But Gina really brings that maker aspect: How can we actually make this work? What are the things that function in our toolbox to make it happen?”

The value of friendship

Although the MOCCA team’s bond seems like a uniquely serendipitous union of like-minded people, all of us can reap the benefits of friendship in research and in everyday life. This past year has taught us the value of community and personal relationships in times of isolation. Researchers like the MOCCA team have known this for years.


Dr. Carlson and Dr. Seipel were predoctoral fellows in the Minnesota Interdisciplinary Training in Education Research program, Dr. Biancarosa was a postdoctoral fellow in Stanford University’s Postdoctoral Research Training in the Education Sciences program, and Dr. Carlson was a postdoctoral fellow in the Preparing Education Scientist training program. For more information about MOCCA, please visit the MOCCA webpages (here and here). 

The MOCCA team has been awarded three IES grants to support their measurement work: Multiple-choice Online Cloze Comprehension Assessment (MOCCA) (R305A140185); Multiple-choice Online Causal Comprehension Assessment for Postsecondary Students (MOCCA-College) (R305A180417); Multiple-choice Online Causal Comprehension Assessment Refinement (R305A190393).

By Shirley Liu, virtual intern for NCER and an English/Anthropology & Sociology double major at Lafayette College.

Towards a Better Understanding of Middle-Schoolers’ Argumentation Skills

What is the difference between fact and opinion? How do you find relevant evidence and use it to support a position? Every day, teachers help students practice these skills by fostering critical discussions, a form of argumentation that encourages students to use reasoning to resolve differences of opinion.

In their IES-funded study, Exploring and Assessing the Development of Students' Argumentation Skills, Yi Song and her colleagues are uncovering activities (both teacher led and technology supported) that can improve middle-school students’ ability to generate better oral and written arguments.

This project began in 2019 and is working in classrooms and with teachers and students. The researchers have created a series of videos that describe their work. In this series, Dr. Song and her co-PIs, Dr. Ralph Ferretti and Dr. John Sabatini, discuss why the project is important to education, how they will conduct the research plan, and how educators can apply what they are learning in classrooms.

 

 


For questions and more information, contact Meredith Larson (Meredith.Larson@ed.gov), Program Officer, NCER