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MCPER’s Sharon Vaughn among experts interviewed for new publication on learning science and literacy
April 8, 2015

MCPER Executive Director Sharon Vaughn was among a panel of researchers who lent their expertise to a new publication by Intentional Futures and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation that explores learning science and its application to literacy education. Learning Science & Literacy: Useful Background for Learning Designers summarizes some core principles of learning science and serves as a precursor to a larger conversation on "improving student outcomes in literacy, particularly when it comes to older students who have already mastered the basics of phonics and decoding" set for a later date. For more information, download Learning Science & Literacy.

MCPER researchers serve as guest editors, contributors to journal’s special issue on math interventions
April 8, 2015

MCPER is well represented in the latest edition of the journal Intervention in School and Clinic—the special issue "Mathematics Interventions: Translating Research Into Practice." 

Mathematics Institute for Learning Disabilities and Difficulties Director Diane Bryant, Fellow Brian R. Bryant, and former Project Manager Kathleen Hughes Pfannenstiel were the guest editors for the special issue. The three also penned the Introduction, in which they write that the purpose of the special issue is to "provide content knowledge about specific mathematics skills and concepts, and evidence-based practices for teaching this content to students who have [a mathematics learning disability] or are struggling with mathematics but may not have an identified mathematics disability." They also offer brief synopses of the five articles in the issue.

Institute Fellow Sarah Powell wrote the article "The Influence of Symbols and Equations on Understanding Mathematical Equivalence," in which she examines the misunderstanding of mathematics symbols, particularly the equal sign, as a "potential contributing factor to lower mathematics performance."

Institute Fellow Barb Dougherty, Diane Bryant, Brian R. Bryant, Pfannenstiel, and two colleagues in Project AIM wrote "Developing Concepts and Generalizations to Build Algebraic Thinking: The Reversibility, Flexibility, and Generalization Approach." This article explores "three types of questions—reversibility, flexibility, and generalizations—[that] support the acquisition of broader concepts leading to algebraic thinking" and provides examples of the question types in relation to rational numbers and integers to help teachers of students with learning disabilities.

Finally, Pfannenstiel, Diane Bryant, Brian R. Bryant, and former Project Coordinator Jennifer Porterfield contributed the article "Cognitive Strategy Instruction for Teaching Word Problems to Primary-Level Struggling Students." In this article, the authors describe Math Scene Investigator, an example of a cognitive strategy suitable for teaching word problem solving to primary-level students with mathematics difficulties and learning disabilities. 

For more information, visit the Intervention in School and Clinic website.

Tags: Mathematics Institute for Learning Disabilities and Difficulties  The Validation of Early Mathematics Interventions Algebra-Readiness Mathematics Intervention for Middle School Students: Project AIM 

Documentary, articles spotlight MCPER researchers’ support of children with autism and their families
April 7, 2015

Several recent features demonstrate the work—and success—of faculty members and students affiliated with the MCPER Autism Spectrum Disorders Institute as they support children with autism and their families, translating research into effective practices that have a direct positive impact on this population.

"Game Changers: Autism and Developmental Disabilities," produced by the Longhorn Network, features the innovative work of Institute Fellows Greg Allen, Terry Falcomata, and Amanda Little. In addition to insights from the researchers, the video features baseline and postintervention footage of a child with autism and his mother.

"A Symbiotic Partnership"—a feature in .edu, the online magazine of the UT Austin College of Education—chronicles the success of the partnership between members of the Autism Spectrum Disorders Institute and Austin Travis County Integral Care. A narrated video documents the journey of a participant in the study, his mother, and the researchers who work with him. The accompanying article features input from Institute Director Mark O'Reilly and doctoral students including MCPER's Cindy Gevarter and Laura Rojeski who receive in-the-field training while providing a vital service for children and families and supporting Austin Travis County Integral Care.

"The Cerebellum Question," an article in .edu, examines Allen's use of magnetic resonance imaging to study the cerebellum's potential role in autism.

"Changing Challenging Behavior: Q&A With Terry Falcomata," another feature in .edu, profiles Falcomata's work in assessing and treating challenging behaviors of children with autism. The article also describes the partnership between Falcomata and his colleagues and the Bluebonnet Trails Autism Program to provide both clinical work with families and research activities. 

For more information, visit the Autism Spectrum Disorders Institute on the MCPER website.

Tags: Autism Spectrum Disorders Institute 

MCPER alums Solis, El Zein find promising results for embedding perseverative interest in reading instruction of children with ASD
February 19, 2015

Early research by former MCPER staffers Michael Solis, now an assistant professor of education at the University of Virginia, and Farah El Zein, an assistant professor at Cleveland State University, indicates that embedding the perseverative interest—or an "unwavering focus on a specific interest"—of a child with autism spectrum disorder in reading instruction can improve engagement and reading comprehension. Solis and El Zein developed an intervention that embeds a child's interests into a story. To read the full story on this work, visit the University of Virginia website.

Presentation to explore control systems engineering’s application to behavioral interventions
February 4, 2015

In an upcoming talk, Arizona State University's Daniel Rivera will explain how control systems engineering concepts developed in the chemical processes industry can be applied to adaptive behavioral interventions. Rivera will present "Optimized Behavioral Interventions: What Does Control Systems Engineering Have to Offer?" from 1 to 2 p.m. on February 11 in the Dean's Conference Room (SZB 238). Rivera is a professor of chemical engineering and program director of the Control Systems Engineering Laboratory at Arizona State.

Sharon Vaughn and colleagues to lead SXSWedu panel “Equal Opportunity for Deeper Learning”
January 20, 2015

MCPER Executive Director Sharon Vaughn and three other national experts have been selected to lead the panel discussion "Equal Opportunity for Deeper Learning" at the 2015 edition of the SXSWedu Conference and Festival. The session is scheduled for 1:30 to 2:30 p.m. on Monday, March 9, in Room 16AB of the Austin Convention Center. Joining Vaughn will be Guadalupe Valdes of Stanford University, Louis Danielson of the American Institutes for Research, and Pedro Noguera of New York University. The session summary on the SXSWedu online schedule states that "After a dozen years of NCLB, teachers are clamoring for a new policy agenda, one that rewards efforts to engage students in truly high-level intellectual work. But is that realistic in every school? What does 'deeper learning' look like for students growing up in poverty, or those who are new to the English language, or who cope with learning disabilities? This session will address such questions head on, asking what schools can do to provide all students with genuine opportunities to learn."

SXSWedu 2015 is scheduled for March 9 through 12. More information about the event, which "fosters innovation in learning by hosting a diverse and energetic community of stakeholders from a variety of backgrounds in education," is available on the SXSWedu website.

Sharon Vaughn honors achievements, legacy of late friend and colleague Janette Klingner
December 19, 2014

In the latest installment of the Equity Alliance Advancing the Conversation Video Commentary Series, MCPER Executive Director Sharon Vaughn pays tribute to her longtime friend and colleague Janette Klingner, who passed away in March 2014. The video is available online: "English Language Learners With Special Needs: In Honor of Janette Klingner."

Former first lady Laura Bush visits Wilkinson, a Middle School Matters Tier III school
October 28, 2014

Former first lady Laura Bush recently visited Walter L. Wilkinson Middle School, sitting in and leading a class discussion at the Mesquite, Texas, school.

Wilkinson is one of three "Tier III" schools that receive on-site support from the Middle School Matters Institute. The Middle School Matters program is an initiative of the George W. Bush Institute in partnership with The Meadows Center for Preventing Educational Risk. Also, Wilkinson recently received a $7,000 library grant from the Laura Bush Foundation for America's Libraries, which awards grants to school libraries nationwide.

For a full story on Bush's visit to Wilkinson, visit the Dallas Morning News website.

Tags: Middle School Matters Institute 

International scholar Emmelien Merchie successfully defends dissertation back home in Belgium
October 3, 2014

Congratulations to Emmelien Merchie, who successfully defended her dissertation at Ghent University in Belgium.

"I realized again how important the work was to me and I really had an opinion about it and could defend it as an educational researcher," Merchie wrote in a recent e-mail about her defense. "I hope I can continue working in this research area."

Merchie had traveled to Austin for a 5-week visit this summer at the invitation of MCPER Executive Director Sharon Vaughn, who served as an international member of Merchie's dissertation committee. During her visit, Merchie presented findings from a 4-year intervention study on using mind maps to foster graphical summarization and text-learning strategies for middle grade students. For more information on her visit, read the MCPER news feature.

Second cohort of schools selected to receive on-site support from Middle School Matters Institute
September 5, 2014

Three schools have been selected as the second cohort of Tier III sites to receive expert support from the Middle School Matters Institute. Advanced Studies Magnet–Haut Gap Middle School in Johns Island, South Carolina; Robert E. Lee Middle School in San Angelo, Texas; and Walter L. Wilkinson Middle School in Mesquite, Texas, will receive in-person, intensive support during the 2014–2015 school year from some of the nation's leading researchers in implementing research-based strategies for school improvement. The schools were selected from the eight schools invited to attend the 2014 Middle School Matters Institute Summer Conference, which in turn were selected from a large nationwide pool of applicants.

The Middle School Matters program is an initiative of the George W. Bush Institute in partnership with The Meadows Center for Preventing Educational Risk. For more information, read the press release from the George W. Bush Institute.

Tags: Middle School Matters Institute