2005 NAEd/Spencer Postdoctoral Fellows

Dor Abrahamson, Northwestern University

Seeing Chance: Fostering Student Implicit Knowledge Towards Fluency in the Domain of Probability and Statistics

Leading mathematics education authorities have identified student understanding of probability and statistics as “essential [for being] an informed citizen, employee, and consumer.” Yet, national reports currently paint a bleak picture of students’ understanding of this subject. Student performance is especially disconcerting given that very young students already have rich everyday experiences with chance. If students can generally make sense of addition and subtraction on the basis of understanding simple situations, why can they not leverage their implicit understanding of probability towards formalizing this understanding mathematically? Perhaps prevalent classroom learning supports do not engage these implicit understandings. I propose to identify, typify, and tap students’ early notions for this domain and explore potential learning paths towards mastery of the central ideas of probability and statistics. To do so, I will work closely with elementary and middle-school students to observe their strengths and challenges in negotiating between their unarticulated intuitions and a set of objects and computer-based activities I have been creating. The proposed methodology is ‘design research’: through cycles of implementation, analysis, and modification, I will home in on concrete and virtual forms that enable students to express their knowledge and link it to formal mathematical notations. The learning-and-facilitation tools are designed for students to ground, within a coordination of combinatorial analysis and simulations of probability experiments, an appreciation and understanding of the ineluctable determinism of emergent distributions of stochastic events. One direction of the planned research is to explore the temporal–spatial and additive–multiplicative relations inherent in various visual representations of stochasm. That is, I will investigate: (a) learners’ resources that enable them to understand outcomes of probability experiments that are experienced dynamically yet represented statically; (b) learning issues of students’ additive vs. multiplicative reasoning; and (c) design issues, e.g., how implicit visual cues enable or constrain spatial–temporal and additive–multiplicative coordination.

Corinne Alfeld, University of Minnesota

Trajectories of the School-to-Work Transition in the U.S. and Germany: Effects of Different Educational Systems on the “Forgotten Half”

What happens to U.S. youth who don’t enroll in a 4-year college? Evidence shows that many drift in and out of jobs and community/technical colleges, often without receiving credentials or other resources that would put them on a career path. What happens to these individuals in young adulthood? If they do get training, a degree, or a certification, where do they do so and is it sufficient? Developmental researchers such as Arnett (2000b) have identified a new, normative period of time called “emerging adulthood” where young people may still be exploring their options. Is this really developmentally beneficial? Or would young people who don’t pursue a 4-year college degree be better served by a more structured training system such as that of Germany? There may be developmental costs and benefits of each system. U.S. educators and policymakers have neglected the important question of the overall influences of educational experiences (or lack thereof) on the lives of young people. This research project will compare similar longitudinal datasets from the U.S. and Germany to better understand the trajectories of different kinds of students during the transition to young adulthood in two industrialized countries with very different secondary and post-secondary educational systems.

Bryan A. Brown, Stanford University

Discursive Identity and Science Learning: Teaching Science As a Discourse

This research project proposes the empirical investigation of a pedagogical approach designed to promote science literacy development for ethnically and linguistically diverse students. The Directed Discourse Approach to Science Instruction builds upon the notion that science language has the potential to serve as a gatekeeper for minority students, and uses an approach that teaches science as a discourse. The instructional method proposes teaching the primary ideas associated with a subject of study free from detailed science language. This study proposes a two-year mixed methodological study of an urban science class in Oakland, CA. The investigation will assess the performance of an experimental and control classroom by examining their academic performance and use of science discourse in the classroom. The academic performance of both classes will be examined through the administration and analysis of pre and post-test examinations of student performance over the course of 6 academic units. Students use of science discourse will be examine through collection and analysis of video data and student written work [exams, journals, and classroom notes]. The analysis of discourse will be of two sorts: (1) Video will be coded for emerging themes and patterned linguistic behavior. (2) The written samples will be coded for patterns of common practice, re-coded based on the initial coding system, and contrasted across both classrooms.

Jennifer Henderlong Corpus, Reed College

Predictors and Consequences of Children’s Intrinsic and Extrinsic Motivational Orientations: A Developmental Perspective

In ancient times scholars worked for their own improvement; nowadays they seek only to win the approval of others.
–Confucius, Analects 14.24 (551-479 BCE)
Work can be done, as Confucius suggests, as a means to an end (an extrinsically motivated pursuit) or as an end in itself (an intrinsically motivated pursuit). In the academic domain, intrinsic motivation, relative to extrinsic motivation, is associated with a host of adaptive behaviors, such as challenge seeking and involvement in school. However, research consistently reveals that children’s levels of intrinsic – but not extrinsic – motivation dissipate as they progress through the elementary- and middle-school years. The current project seeks to identify the constellation of beliefs and goals that enable some children to maintain an intrinsic orientation while their peers are showing substantial declines in intrinsic motivation. Using a cross-sequential design with two time points, I am investigating the relationship between children’s intrinsic and extrinsic motivational orientations and their beliefs about the malleability of intelligence, personal achievement goals, perceived goal emphasis of their teachers, and performance outcomes. Establishing a framework of inter-related motivational concepts will point to potential precursors, consequences, and correlates of intrinsic and extrinsic motivations, which could then be tested via experimentation.

Elizabeth DeBray, University of Georgia

Education Interest Groups and Congress: Using an Advocacy Coalition Framework to Investigate Policy Change

The proposed project examines recent changes in the education interest group sector in Washington, D.C. that attempts to influence federal education legislation for elementary and secondary schools. How well are educators, and education researchers, represented in the legislative process for elementary and secondary education? Which organizations drive the content of policies considered in Congress? These questions are central to understanding the content and direction of federal education policy, yet there have been no recent systematic investigations of them.

During the reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act between 1998 and 2001, the groups representing professional educators and researchers saw their influence diminished as newer, more conservative coalitions formed. With a Republican-controlled Congress and President in 2005, the hypothesis is that more conservative coalitions and think tanks will increasingly gain access to the legislative process. The study utilizes an advocacy coalition framework from political science to investigate the composition and beliefs of education interest groups during the 109th Congress. Questions to be investigated include what constitute the core beliefs of education interest group coalitions and how they pursue their policy objectives. The methodology employs interviews with leaders across interest group coalitions, as well as with selected staff to congressional education committees.

Regina Deil-Amen, Pennsylvania State University

Awakening to a Dream Deferred: When Aspirations Meet Reality for Low-income Minority Students in Their Transition to College

This study uses in-depth, open-ended qualitative interviews to explore the sense-making activities of graduates of five high-poverty, racial minority high schools with regard to their college knowledge and plans and their actual implementation of these plans. More specifically, I examine how and why the college degree goals and aspirations of a group of low-income, Black and Latino, high school students change over time.

The students were interviewed and surveyed in their senior year in high school regarding their college and career plans, aspirations, knowledge about college and admissions and financial aid procedures, attitudes toward school, and the level and type of support, encouragement, and information from their family, school, and peers. These students are being re-interviewed at the end of what, according to their plans, should be their first year of college and again after what should be their second year of college.

Prior theory and research suggest that community college students experience a “cooling-out,” or lowering of their aspirations, but researchers have not directly examined the thoughts and decision-making experiences of students over time as they enter and exit different post-secondary contexts. Analyses compare the differences between students who enroll in community colleges and students who enroll in other types of colleges with regard to a) the content and certainty of their the initial aspirations, b) whether or not their aspirations become stronger, weaker, altered, or reformulated and c) the reasons for changes in their aspirations, with particular attention paid to institutional influences.

This study may highlight the potential ramifications of a paradox that exists within our ‘open access’ educational structure. I explore the possibility that these students are deceived by a ‘college-for-all’ ideology that encourages the pursuit of a college degree in a postsecondary context in which such an attainment is highly unlikely, particularly for the population of students in the study. Are these students’ hopes and plans unrealistically high? Is their knowledge of college so limited as to inhibit their ability to construct realistic strategies regarding their future?

Stefanie DeLuca, Johns Hopkins University

Coming and Going: The Neighborhood and Educational Contexts of Mobile Students

Despite the frequency of residential and school mobility in the US, little research has examined the destinations of mobile families, and even less research has examined the school destinations of mobile students. Given the demonstrated importance of both neighborhood and school context, it is critical to determine where families and children “end up” when they make a move. On the one hand, many researchers suggest that the disruptions often accompanying neighborhood moves negatively impact behavioral outcomes and school performance. By contrast, residential mobility experiments, where poor families are placed into better neighborhoods via legislative mandate, demonstrate that moving from disadvantaged neighborhoods to more affluent, safer areas can significantly improve children’s educational outcomes and family life. If the quality of new schools and neighborhoods can make up for the disruption caused by moving, then some moves may be worth it. Further, many current policies, such as HOPE VI and No Child Left Behind, might increase the chances that a family will move neighborhoods and that a child will change schools. Therefore, we need to get a comprehensive sense of the consequences of these policies for youth educational development via their impact on mobility.

Begoña Echeverria, University of California, Riverside

Revitalizing Basque: Does Gender Make a Difference?

Hundreds of languages are in danger of extinction; with each language that is lost, we lose an important part of our cultural heritage. Many endangered language communities try to revitalize the use of their language by teaching it in schools and requiring proficiency in it for certain occupations. Scholars who study movements to revitalize languages often assume that there will be an automatic fit between the movements’ goals and those of their target audience—that individuals will use or pass on the language if it becomes more instrumentally advantageous to do so. However, in order to fully understand the outcomes of language revitalization efforts, we must go beyond discussion of “instrumental value.” Rather “to the extent that speakers conceptualize language as socially purposive action, we must look at their ideas about the meaning, function and value of language[s]” (Woolard & Schieffelin 1994: 70). Focusing on the Basque case, this research uses a language ideology approach to examine how gender affects the linguistic, educational and occupational choices of young people in their post-secondary school years. As such, it will potentially inform revitalization efforts in hundreds of other endangered language communities—including indigenous and immigrant language communities in the United States.

Noel Enyedy, University of California, Los Angeles

At the Intersection of Classroom Culture and Culturally Relevant Pedagogy

The proposed project aims to investigate the ways classroom cultures (e.g., who gets to talk, when, and what counts as legitimate knowledge) mediate and navigate the tensions between the goals of culturally relevant pedagogy and the content goals of mathematics classrooms—in this case statistics. I propose to investigate this topic in the context of investigating issues of social and educational justice. Culturally relevant pedagogy promises to provide contexts where urban, and non-majority students are more engaged, develop a sense of agency and socio-political consciousness, and develop academic identities. However, when students engage with socially relevant topics they do not (nor should they) segment off the world in terms of traditional disciplinary boundaries. Students often bring with them assumptions and ways of talking that have been developed outside of school. These styles of discussion and debate can be an excellent resource for students to better understand the topics at hand, but sometimes they are not well aligned with the norms for academic discourse. In the project I will first study the informal ways students try and convince other people of some course of action outside of school. Second, I will study the academic discourse within schools. Finally, I will collaborate with teachers to create classroom cultures that are productive bridges between the two discourses and honor the goals of culturally relevant pedagogy and mathematics.

Amanda Godley, University of Pittsburgh

Implementing Problem-Posing Grammar Instruction in Urban High Schools

In many discipline-specific areas of education – such as math, science and social studies – the focus has shifted from teaching students the content of the discipline to teaching disciplinary practices and engaging students in discipline-based debates and dilemmas. My proposed project will study this disciplinary, problem-posing approach as it is applied to grammar instruction in urban high school English classes. Because grammar is the description of language, problem-posing grammar instruction must be grounded in the disciplinary practices of linguistics – the study of languages. Research suggests that students would be better prepared for our increasingly global, multicultural, and multilingual economy if they were taught to think about language change, variety, and use as linguists do (New London Group, 1996; Wolfram, Adger & Christian, 1999). Researchers currently know less, however, about how such an approach could be implemented within the structure of US schools and how it would shape students’ academic writing and understandings of language.

Using design-based research techniques, I will co-design problem-posing grammar instruction with English teachers from one, primarily African American urban school; describe the enactment of the instruction in various classrooms; and analyze its effect on student writing and understandings of language use. The approach to grammar instruction that will be implemented is based on four design principles distilled from my current ethnographic investigation of grammar instruction and from research in literacy studies: (1) Grammar instruction must build upon students’ linguistic resources, (2) Grammar instruction should teach students a linguistically accurate metalanguage for analyzing language beyond the sentence level, (3) Grammar instruction needs to provide students with access to Standard English and the tools needed to critique it, (4) Grammar instruction needs to be problem-posing rather than rule-driven.

The study will generate a more refined theoretical understanding of the kinds of linguistics-based grammar instruction that can give marginalized students access to academic dialects and foster a critical stance towards language. It will also generate grounded theoretical understandings of the interplay between public policy, urban school ecologies, and student achievement surrounding grammar instruction. Furthermore, by studying this kind of grammar instruction in a predominantly African American urban school, the study can potentially offer a solution for narrowing the academic achievement gap between African American and Caucasian students.

Eric Grodsky, University of California, Davis

Perverse Openness or Virtuous Cycle? The Future and Racial and Ethnic Educational Stratification

Some recent work in sociology suggests that the effects of race/ethnicity on educational attainment are largely attributable to socioeconomic status and will therefore continue to wane as the minority middle class increases in size. This forecast implicitly assumes that youth benefit uniformly from their parents’ socioeconomic achievements. In the proposed research, I empirically test this assumption by exploring the high school achievements, college enrollments and degree attainments of youth from the high school classes of 1972, 1982 and 1992. I hypothesize that Latino and African American students are less adversely affected than white students by poor or working class origins, but also less advantaged that white students by middle or upper class origins, and that race/ethnic difference in educational attainment remain relatively constant over this period. I discuss the implications of these hypotheses for our understanding of social stratification and for affirmative action policies. By looking at the interaction between race/ethnicity and socioeconomic status in the educational attainment process, this project will inform our understanding of the likely future of racial and ethnic educational stratification and the implications of substituting class-based for race-based affirmative action programs.

Carolyn Hill, Georgetown University

Longer-Term Effects of a Universal Pre-Kindergarten Program

This project will estimate the longer-term effects of a universal pre-kindergarten (pre-k) program. It will analyze a number of outcomes through the third grade (longer if data become available) for a group of children who attended pre-k in the Tulsa, Oklahoma, public schools (TPS), a large urban school district with a diverse student population. While policy interest in universal pre-k programs is increasing, relatively little is known about the longer-term effectiveness of these programs, and whether, how, and why effects may differ for subgroups of students. Using a number of nonexperimental statistical methods (ordinary least squares with controls, propensity score methods, difference-in-differences, and comparative interrupted time series), my proposed study will address this gap in knowledge. If feasible, the study will further explore the determinants of effectiveness across pre-k programs in an effort to get inside the “black box” of program effectiveness.

Benjamin Justice, Rutgers University

Mightier Than the Sword: Americans’ Use of Education in Nation-Building at Home and Abroad, 1785-Present

This study examines the history of Americans’ use of education in nation-building. Using a wide array of secondary works and archival sources from the federal agencies and volunteer organizations, the book will examine eight case studies of Americans’ educational nation-building at home and abroad over the last two centuries. The project organizes these case studies into three thematic sections: the use of education to create future “American” republics, the use of education as a means to pacifying and rehabilitating enemy states, and the use of education in contemporary nation building projects in the Middle East. The word “nation-building” conjures images of imperial government and neo-colonialism, but instead this study hopes to offer a more nuanced understanding of the educational ideas and motivations of Americans by exploring the connection between their own cherished political ideals and the educational systems that they impose on others. This study can make a major contribution to our historical understanding Americans’ ideas about the role of education in a democratic society, and also offer an important perspective to scholars and policy makers concerned with American nation-building efforts today.

Ellen Kester, University of Texas, Austin

Cross-linguistic Transfer in Spanish-English Bilingual Development

The proposed study will systematically examine cross-linguistic transfer (L1 to L2 and L2 to L1) in the narratives of one thousand typically developing Spanish-English bilingual children ages 5 to 10 years. Spanish is the first language and English is the second language of the study participants. Using a quasi-longitudinal model, transfer of morphological, semantic, and syntactic aspects of language will be explored at different stages in bilingual development. Normal patterns of transfer and the relative use of transfer of the different aspects of language at different stages of bilingual development will provide insight into the universality or language specificity of language learning mechanisms. This information will inform theory in the area of bilingual development as well as inform practice. From a practical standpoint, an understanding of typical patterns that occur at different stages in bilingual development will help practitioners differentiate between typical and idiosyncratic errors, thereby reducing educational misplacement.

Nonie K. Lesaux, Harvard University

I Read It, But I Don’t Understand It: The Etiology of Reading Comprehension of English Language Learners

Despite low academic achievement among English language learners (ELLs) in the US, particularly with increased years of schooling, few studies have investigated the nature of reading comprehension development of this population. The purpose of this study is to examine, both concurrently and longitudinally, the relationship between oral language and literacy skills as they relate to reading comprehension performance for a group of native Spanish-speakers developing literacy skills in English. The proposed study will examine the degree to which Spanish and English oral language and word reading skills predict specific aspects of English reading comprehension performance in the middle elementary years. The participants of the study are Spanish-speaking fourth graders enrolled in an urban, public school district in the southwest U.S., and who have completed a transitional bilingual education program. The children will be assessed using a battery of language and literacy measures in Spanish and English in the spring of third and fourth grades. The analyses conducted will examine the relationships among, and relative influence of, English and Spanish language and literacy skills to English reading comprehension. Findings will inform intervention efforts for ELLs who are beyond the primary grades, and for whom reading comprehension is central to academic achievement.

Vivian Louie, Harvard University

Developing Social Identities and Business Skills in a Globalized World: The Case of Chinese MBA Students

This study examines the processes of social identity formation and business skills acquisition in a globalized world among MBA students from the People’s Republic of China. I focus on Chinese students studying in elite Master’s of Business Administration programs in the United States for the following reasons. The MBA provides the professional knowledge sought by developing nations like China, with an emphasis on global markets, and a premium on global skill sets such as flexible and creative thinking skills and cross-cultural teamwork. Chinese students are consequently engaged with learning processes that differ from the educational system in China. Additionally, Chinese students are involved in identity processes related to migration as they navigate elements of new and old cultural contexts. This study will draw on longitudinal interviews and case studies to chart how Chinese adults experience and are transformed by the learning and cultural identity processes of global postgraduate exchange.

By focusing on the Chinese case, this study addresses a key gap in the literatures: namely, the ways in which students, who come to the United States through postgraduate exchanges, interact with the American social context, and how this maps onto immigration paradigms; how Chinese students educated in an examination-based system experience the learning of global skill sets; and lastly, how their identities are transformed by migration, and relatedly, how they make choices about returning to China. A MBA program is an ideal venue in which to explore such matters, as Chinese international students will be engaged in acquiring the content that can facilitate participation in the global marketplace through the learning processes necessitated by globalization. The findings will shed light on the types of policies that would facilitate the learning processes in global postgraduate exchanges, and will provide a point of departure for future research on returning graduate students, who have been trained in elite institutions of business management, and their role in shaping China.

Christopher Lubienski, University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign

The Social Geography of School Choice in Segregated Urban Areas

School choice is often advanced as a new civil right, where competition generated by open-enrollment, charter schools, or vouchers is thought to create more equitable educational opportunities for disadvantaged students. Yet we know very little about how competition actually impacts the behavior of different types of schools, or whole populations of public and private schools, particularly in how they engage different students — and thereby distribute options — across segregated urban landscapes. And yet the physical distribution of educational opportunities is critical because parents report geographic proximity as a central consideration in choosing schools. As with other choice-driven goods and services, competition between schools may cause some organizations to “cherry-pick” by offering services in some areas, while not in others, exacerbating overall inequalities in proximity to preferred options.

This project will examine the role of competition in generating and arranging educational options, as different types of schools respond to market competition in the most racially segregated urban area in the nation. Specifically, it will identify strategies schools use in “positioning” themselves and/or their services within this highly competitive environment, and measure the overall impact of these strategies on alternatives for disadvantaged students.

The analysis draws on industrial organization and location theories, outlining possible strategic responses for different organization types in competitive environments. An organization’s essence as either a mission-oriented (non-profit) or profit-oriented entity shapes its priorities in engaging competitors and clients. Profit-driven competition introduced into a traditionally non-profit sector gives non-profit organizations incentives to adopt profit-seeking behaviors. Consequent “positional warfare” in sectors such as education can take two forms: literal positioning—where schools (especially new ones) locate relative to particular student types; and figurative positioning—how schools position their services in the market, through image and enrollment management, to enhance their relative status. Both strategies have implications for disadvantaged students’ access to quality educational options.

The project uses geo-spatial mapping and content analysis to delineate positioning strategies of schools, focusing on educational options for neighborhoods across metropolitan Detroit, the largest urban area in one of the leading states for school choice. Charter and open-enrollment options are putting pressure on Michigan’s public and private schools — several Detroit Catholic schools have recently closed, merged, and/or moved to more affluent suburbs, and as urban public and parochial schools are closing, charter schools have opened. These, along with open-enrollment plans, have created a competitive education market across public and private sectors in which an over-supply of seats forces public and private schools to compete for students and funding. This geographical approach allows us to see aggregate school responses to competition, and, therefore, the potential of competition across school sectors in providing equitable educational opportunities for disadvantaged students.

Emily Mann, HarvardUniversity

Vouchers and Private School Entry: Evidence from Chile

The purpose of this research is to evaluate the effects of early remedial and special education services on academic achievement and social development using data from the first three phases of the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD) Study of Early Child Care and Youth Development (SECCYD). Children placed in remedial services and special education early in elementary school (K-2) will be studied to determine if placement in remedial services or special education influences their social and academic trajectories through elementary school (grade 5) and serves as a natural intervention. Specifically, comparisons on child outcomes will be evaluated between children who receive low levels of educational remediation (i.e. reading assistance, tutoring), high levels of special education (i.e. full or part time resource room), and children who receive no special educational services. The purpose of the present research is twofold. First, I will examine whether social and academic outcomes vary for children with different initial identification criteria (i.e. between children placed in high or low levels of special educational services). Second, I will explore whether and how this relation is influenced by other child, family, and school factors over time.

Miguel Urquiola, Columbia University

Lexical-Semantic Knowledge in Mandarin-English and Spanish-English Bilingual Children: A Comparative Study

In 1981, Chile began funding public and private schools with equivalent per-student subsidies or “vouchers.” This created a dynamic educational market: more than a thousand new private, often for-profit schools opened, and the private enrollment rate increased from about 20 to 40 percent within a decade. This project addresses three questions regarding Chile’s educational market: 1) Why do private schools choose to locate in some local markets, but not in others? 2) What effect does private school entry have on the sorting of students across public and private schools within local markets? 3) What effect does private school entry have on the net outcomes of students within local markets?

Stephanie Waterman, Syracuse University

The Haudenosaunee College Experience: A Different Kind of Engagement

This qualitative study will extend to a larger group of participants the author’s Ph.D. dissertation research on how Haudenosaunee (Iroquois) college graduates constructed pathways to their degree completion. No analysis of this kind about Haudenosaunee college graduates existed before. Findings from the original study of twelve participants were that the pathways were complex because of the participants’ dedication to their culture and family. The participants in the study did not “break away” from communities of their past; all found their greatest support from their family. Participants embarked on a double curriculum; that of their academic program and a Haudenosaunee language class or involvement in their traditional culture. The participants resembled adult returning students even when they were college aged and living on campus. The men students received more mentoring than the women, and reported richer, more intense experiences than the women. All participants negotiated their college experience with agency and resistance, maintaining their cultural integrity as defined by Deyhle (1995). The study now planned, will extend the number of participants to provide greater knowledge about this population. The participants will relate their experiences on the path to degree completion through open-ended interviews starting with their K-12 experiences, including the role of family, community, high school guidance, and access issues such as GED attainment and community college experiences.

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