Inside IES Research

Notes from NCER & NCSER

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.

From Fellow to Funded: Former IES Postdoctoral Fellows Funded as Principal Investigators

As part of our Spotlight on IES Training Programs series, IES is proud to showcase five former IES postdoctoral fellows who are now principal investigators for grants funded in FY 2020. The goal of the NCER and NCSER postdoctoral training programs is to prepare scholars to conduct rigorous, relevant education and special education research. As the following examples demonstrate, IES fellows are contributing to evidence-based education in a wide range of academic domains and are addressing the needs of students, teachers, and families through their innovative measurement, exploratory, development, and evaluation work.

 

Dr. Crystal Bishop (IES Fellow at the University of Florida until 2016) will lead Tools for Families. This project will develop and pilot test a new component for an existing intervention that aims to improve outcomes for young children with disabilities in preschool programs. The existing program is called Evaluating Embedded Instruction for Early Learning (EIEL) and already includes tools to help teachers. In this new study, Dr. Bishop will create an additional component that helps teachers engage students’ families in implementing EIEL strategies.

 

Dr. Joseph Nese (IES Fellow at the University of Oregon until 2011) will lead A Comprehensive Measure of Reading Fluency: Uniting and Scaling Accuracy, Rate, and Prosody. This project aims to develop and validate an automated scoring system of oral reading fluency for students in grades 2 to 4 to better identify students in need of reading interventions and better evaluate reading interventions and builds off a previous grant Dr. Nese received as PI, Measuring Oral Reading Fluency: Computerized Oral Reading Evaluation (CORE) (R305A140203).

 

Dr. David Purpura (IES Fellow at the University of Illinois until 2012) will lead Reading and Playing With Math: Promoting Preschoolers' Math Language Through Picture Books and Play Activities. This program will develop, refine, and evaluate a new math language intervention, Reading and Playing with Math (RP-Math). RP-Math will leverage the language instruction using storybooks and mathematics instruction.

 

Dr. Rachel Rosen (IES Fellow at the University of Michigan until 2014) will lead Choice and Information: The Impact of Technology-Based Career Advising Tools on High School Students' CTE Choices and Academic Performance. This project will evaluate  two widely used technology-based career advising tools for secondary school students, Naviance and YouScience, to see whether and how these tools influence student thinking about career options, career and technical education (CTE) coursework and work-based learning options, and decisions about CTE pathways and programs of study.

 

Dr. Candace Walkington (IES Fellow at the University of Wisconsin, Madison until 2013) will lead Exploring Collaborative Embodiment for Learning (EXCEL): Understanding Geometry Through Multiple Modalities. This program will explore how different types multisensory experiences and modes of collaboration affect students' geometric reasoning. The researchers will leverage augmented reality (AR) technology to see if different ways of engaging with content (such as holograms, tablet-based, or paper-based images) lead to different learning outcomes.

 


This blog was written by Shirley Liu, virtual intern and an English/Anthropology & Sociology double major at Lafayette College, and Dr. Meredith Larson, program officer for NCER postdoctoral training.

 

Spotlight on IES Training Programs: Introduction to a Blog Series

Since 2004, IES has been preparing researchers to conduct high-quality, rigorous education and special education research through training grant programs. This roughly $281 million investment has helped change universities and departments across the nation and supported the training of over 200 students interested in beginning doctoral programs, nearly 1000 doctoral students, over 280 postdoctoral fellows, and hundreds of practicing researchers at universities, research firms, state and local agencies, and other organizations.

Over the months to come, we will be spotlighting these IES training programs and those who have participated in them. This blog series will include interviews, updates, and program descriptions as we learn more about the research, innovations, and careers of IES training program participants.

 

Join us as we celebrate the possibilities created by the following IES training programs:


For more information about the NCER training programs, contact Dr. Katina Stapleton, and for information about NCSER training programs, contact Dr. Katie Taylor.

This blog was written by Dr. Meredith Larson, program officer for NCER Postdoctoral Research Training grants, and is the first in an ongoing series: Spotlight on IES Training Programs.

 

Why I Want to Become an Education Researcher

In 2015, IES launched the Pathways to the Education Sciences research training program in order to help diversify the pipeline of education researchers. Pathways programs provide year-long training to diverse undergraduate, post-baccalaureate, and masters students. Pathways fellows receive an introduction to education research and scientific methods, meaningful opportunities to participate in education research studies, and professional development and mentoring. Currently, almost 200 students have participated in Pathways and 91 have completed training. Sixty-three percent of completed fellows are currently enrolled in graduate school (26% doctoral, 35% masters). We reached out to 6 Pathways graduates to ask them what inspired them to become education researchers. Here is what they shared with us.

Photograph of Sydnee Garcia

Sydnee Garcia

Pathways Program, University of Texas, San Antonio

Student Affairs masters student, University of Maryland, College Park

I never thought that I would end up in education. Initially, I saw myself helping others through occupational therapy. It was when I reached the University of Texas at San Antonio, my undergraduate institution, that I gained an understanding of the doors that open when someone receives a formal education. My experiences as a UTSA IES Educational Pathways Fellow also strengthened my belief that co-curricular learning is imperative for modern-day students and that all students should have access to this learning. As a current graduate student at the University of Maryland, my hope for the future is to research inequities in higher education and find effective practices to provide opportunities for students from marginalized backgrounds to find space and growth in a system that wasn't built for them. 

Photograph of James A. Hernández

James A. Hernández

PURPOSE Program, Florida State University/Florida Agricultural and Mechanical University

Education Psychology doctoral student, Florida State University

As a 5th grade teacher, I was inspired to learn more about educational research. I was constantly analyzing my students’ learning, and I knew there was a way that I could leverage their data to more effectively educate them. However, I was also aware that I did not have the proper research training to do so nor the confidence to apply to graduate school. So I did the next best thing and became a college advisor. Little did I know my passion for educational research would be further ignited as I employed theories like developmental advising models to support my students. During this experience, I eventually garnered enough courage to apply to an educational research graduate program. Through the support of the IES PURPOSE research training program, I received a research conference poster presentation award and 2nd place in presenting my research in under four minutes. Furthermore, with the IES PURPOSE resources, especially the proseminars and mentorship, I was admitted into a PhD program fully funded by the FEF McKnight fellowship. Upon graduating with my PhD, I intend to bring the educational research skills I have gained from PURPOSE and my doctoral program to the classroom by building a community laboratory school.

Photograph of Troy Kearse

Troy Kearse

RISE Program, University of Maryland, College Park/Bowie State University

Psychology doctoral student, Howard University

In my career, I am determined to become a psychologist and professor, focused on cognitive-behavioral studies, particularly for underrepresented minorities. My interest began after taking an introductory course in psychology at Prince George’s Community College. After transferring to Bowie State University my interest in the diverse field of Psychology was enhanced. My ongoing study on cognitive functioning in student success allows me to appreciate the importance of education as it relates to research. With a minor in tutoring and mentoring, I had the opportunity to work directly with students in introductory psychology courses in order to expand my experience in teaching. As the vice-president of the psychological society at BSU, I began to develop tutoring sessions for students in the form of interactive “jeopardy” games like Kahoot!, or more recently, an on-campus version of Escape Room Live to tackle this problem. Students participating in these programs have enjoyed the extra help. I believe that Project RISE was beneficial to my career goals as it continued to enhance my interest in research, as well as make a difference in academia.

Photograph of Natalie Larez

Natalie Larez

AWARDSS Program, University of Arizona

School Psychology doctoral student, University of California, Santa Barbara

Children spend most of their time within schools, allowing for much of their development to be shaped by this environment. Working with students is something that has always intrigued me. When I started my undergraduate career at the University of Arizona, I searched for opportunities that allowed me to work with students, from kindergarten to college age, especially from underrepresented backgrounds. Through these varied experiences, I quickly realized that many of these students were brilliant but were constrained by the systemic barriers that affect minority communities. Additionally, many had experienced significant trauma that was inhibiting them from moving forward. When I was presented with the opportunity to join a Pathways program, it seemed like the perfect stepping stone to a future that I could only dream of. With the support of my mentor, I was able to investigate the associations between traumatic stress symptoms, resiliency, and school outcomes and identify possible solutions to addressing the educational impact. As a result, I was admitted into a top program that will allow me to build skills to better support students in their academics, mental health, and future aspirations. The AWARDSS program was monumental for my career in research education. The AWARDSS program supported my growth in confidence, research skills, access to knowledge on how to pursue graduate school, and mentors that I will continue to work with throughout my career.

Photograph of India Simone Lenear

India Simone Lenear

RISE Training Program, North Carolina Central University/University of North Carolina Wilmington

Political Science doctoral student, Purdue University

As a child, I always thought I wanted to be a lawyer and then ultimately become the first Black woman U.S. Supreme Court Justice. I shadowed lawyers and judges, and I participated in mentoring training for future lawyers. I even took debate classes because I thought that was my passion. It was not until I took my first political science class that I realized that I really wanted to be a researcher and professor and that my passion lies in higher education. I wanted to be a professor because I loved the relationship and bond that I developed with some of my professors. I wanted to be a researcher because I wanted to be able to conduct research that would broaden and deepen the scope of research within political science. As I began to understand what my passion really was, I was offered an opportunity to participate in the RISE training program, by way of my extracurricular activities on campus. I immediately knew that I needed to take this opportunity. Over the next year, the RISE program helped to train and mold the way I think critically about issues and topics I want to address, while also being able to navigate the requirements and expectations of being a researcher. The skills that RISE taught me have allowed me to become a great student researcher. I am now happy to say that I am enrolled full-time in a political science doctoral program at Purdue University, where I plan to study American politics in education with a focus on race and ethnic politics, identity politics, and Black feminist theory as it impacts students in college.

Tseng Meng Vang

Pathways Program, California State University, Sacramento

Human Development doctoral student, University of California, Davis

My experience as a Hmong American in the United States inspired me to become an education researcher. I still recall the moment my high school teacher telling our class about the college attainment rate of different ethnic groups and being told that Hmong American’s college attainment rate was one of the lowest of all the ethnic groups. This finding made me question why Hmong Americans were performing poorly compared to the general Asian American classification. Since this issue is so close to home for me, I was inspired to understand protective and risk factors of college attainment.

Compiled by Katina Rae Stapleton, National Center for Education Research. This post is the second in an ongoing series of blog posts on issues of diversity, inclusion, and equity within education research.

Diversify Education Sciences? Yes, We Can!

In this blog post, Stephen Raudenbush discusses the University of Chicago’s successful efforts to diversify its IES-funded predoctoral training program. This post is the first in a series exploring issues of diversity, inclusion, and equity in the education sciences.

In 2015, the Committee on Education at the University of Chicago launched a national campaign to recruit a talented and diverse group of pre-doctoral fellows. With funding from the Institute of Education Sciences, we sought to train a new generation of social scientists from across the disciplines to bring rigorous methods of social science to bear on questions related to the improvement of education.

We’d had previous success in pre-doctoral training with IES support. Our fellows had a great track record conducting research and getting good jobs, but we were deeply unsatisfied that only 3 of 35 of those fellows were members of under-represented minority groups. This didn’t make sense, particularly in Chicago—a city where 90% of the public-school students are African American and Hispanic—and where our aim was to build a strong research-practice partnership.

Our campaign was quite successful. We now have a terrific team of 23 PhD fellows, including 9 who are African American or Hispanic. All are making excellent progress toward degrees in disciplines as varied as Comparative Human Development, Economics, Political Science, Psychology, Public Policy, Social Services Administration, and Sociology. We’re writing to share our five key strategies that underscored our approach to improving student diversity in the education sciences.

Create a compelling intellectual argument for choosing education sciences. We invited prospective students to join us in an interdisciplinary research project focused on overcoming educational inequality. We organized the training around one question: “How can we improve the contribution of schooling to skills required for the labor market success of urban youth?” We reasoned that many of the most talented minority and non-minority scholars are deeply committed to answering this broad question, and we reasoned that many would be motivated to come to Chicago to study these questions. A plus for us is the University’s longstanding engagement with public schools in Chicago.

Hire a coordinator dedicated to recruitment. Faculty were totally committed to the recruitment goal, but they were too busy teaching, mentoring, doing research, and serving on departmental committees to oversee a major student recruitment campaign. So we hired a dedicated recruitment director to coordinate with prospective students and faculty and carry out many of the administrative tasks associated with recruitment. The recruitment director assigned every prospective student to a faculty member with kindred interests and followed up to see that faculty colleagues made connected with these students.

Reach out to social networks that include diverse students. Within the university, we worked closely with officers at the University of Chicago who are focused on recruiting diverse students. Our faculty made use of personal connections, and we pooled information about people we know at Historically Black Colleges and Universities, Minority-Serving Institutions, and liberal arts colleges. We made it easy for interested students to express interest and connect with faculty and staff through our website. We also found that organizations such as the American Educational Research Association and the National Equity Project were happy to spread the word about our campaign.

Maximize faculty contact with prospective fellows – well before applications are due. Our faculty were heroes in following up with every promising prospective fellow. We think it’s key to make a phone call before admissions decisions are made and to encourage potentially interested and promising persons to apply. In this way, every person who is admitted will already have a history of communication with a faculty member. Continued communication builds trust and the sense of belonging that encourages young people to join the project. Having a diverse faculty helps; however every faculty member, regardless of race, ethnicity, or gender, pitched in, and this united effort clearly paid off.

Build a welcoming culture. We encouraged all admitted students to visit before deciding what university to attend. We mobilized University funds to support travel and lodging. We encouraged the prospective fellows to meet each other and to meet our current doctoral students during these visits. The key is to convey to each student a true sense of belonging. We created lots of opportunity for small group discussions and social engagement to foster colleagueship and promote respect for the diversity of perspective. Our fellows run our weekly Education Workshop, which often showcases the work of minority scholars. Making this happen for our first cohort helped recruit our second cohort.