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Innovation for 21st Century Learning
Celebrated educator John Dewey once said, “If we teach today’s students as we taught yesterday’s, we rob them of tomorrow.” At SRI, we strive to foster 21st century learning practices using rigorous research and collaborations with cutting-edge practitioners. In this month’s SRI Education Notes, we’re highlighting examples of our contributions to innovative education research and practices. Find out about our work on developing inclusive STEM schools, supporting mathematics learning for preschoolers, ensuring career readiness, identifying factors that lead to postsecondary success for students with disabilities, and more.
Denise Glyn Borders
President, SRI Education
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Can Inclusive STEM High Schools Narrow the STEM Gap for Underrepresented Students?
Previous research has shown that many students, especially those from groups underrepresented in STEM, don’t complete the right courses in high school to be prepared for a STEM major in college. If we truly want to increase the participation of underrepresented groups in STEM, we need transformational changes in high school educational opportunities.
Two states, North Carolina and Texas, have taken strides toward meeting this challenge by supporting the creation of inclusive STEM-focused high schools at scale. What sets these high schools apart from traditional high schools is that they admit students on the basis of their interest in STEM, either through open admissions or lottery, rather than on the basis of test scores. Inclusive STEM high schools target underrepresented groups and provide all their students with a four-year experience designed to prepare them for STEM courses in college.
To determine how effective inclusive STEM high schools are at contributing to improved academic outcomes for underrepresented groups, SRI Education and George Washington University have been conducting the iSTEM research project, funded by the National Science Foundation (NSF). We are investigating the extent to which inclusive STEM high schools contribute to improved academic outcomes and their impacts on students’ interest in STEM careers and expectations for postsecondary study. Our research is ongoing, but preliminary results are encouraging. We found that attending an inclusive STEM high school enhances a student’s identity as someone who practices science, aspirations for postsecondary education, and interest in one or more STEM careers.
Beyond Screen Time: Insights on Using Digital Media With Young Children
From family rooms to policy papers, the conversation about young children and media is changing. Along with the ubiquity of media and technology comes the awareness that keeping children away from screens might not be possible or even desirable. So a key question is how to use digital media and technology with young children to support their learning and development. Researchers from the Education Development Center (EDC) and SRI Education recently released findings from a joint study that illustrated how public media resources—specifically the PBS KIDS show Peg+Cat—could support productive media experiences for children and their parents. Parents and children in the PBS KIDS treatment group engaged with a set of Peg+Cat videos, online games, a tablet-based app, and print activities over a 12-week period while comparison group families continued with their media use.
Study findings indicated positive outcomes. Children in the PBS KIDS group showed stronger improvement than the comparison group in key math skills, including ordinal numbers, spatial relationships, and identifying 3-D shapes. Parents in the PBS KIDS group reported more joint parent-child technology use and more conversation connecting media, mathematics, and daily life than parents in the comparison group. PBS KIDS group parents also reported increased confidence in helping their children learn math and agreed that technology was a valuable tool for doing so.
The study findings coincide with profound shifts in the conversation about the use of digital media with young children. Acknowledging that “screen time” is becoming simply “time,” the American Association of Pediatrics is preparing to release new recommendations for children’s screen time. In this context, the findings from the PBS KIDS study are especially pertinent. For more on the study, see the full blog postby Savitha Moorthy.
SRI Researcher Lynn Newman Featured on Inside IES Research
A December 18, 2015, post on the Inside IES Research blog featured an interview with SRI’s Lynn Newman, along with Joseph Madaus from the University of Connecticut. The conversation focused on their study of factors associated with postsecondary success for students with disabilities. They found that students with disabilities who received universally available supports (e.g., tutoring, writing centers) were more likely to persist in and complete postsecondary programs but that fewer than half of students with disabilities used those supports.
See the full blog post to find out what factors led to increased use of learning supports in postsecondary school and what lessons were learned from the study for students and families, secondary educators, postsecondary educators, and researchers.
Education Perspectives From Researcher Miya Warner
Miya Warner, Ph.D. is the co-principal investigator of the evaluation of the California Linked Learning District Initiative, a major systemic effort in nine school districts to transform high schools through industry-themed programs that connect classroom study to real-world experiences. This is the seventh year of SRI’s evaluation.
1. What makes Linked Learning a unique and promising approach to high school reform?
In the last century, high school was a place where students were placed into an academic or career (vocational) track. In contrast, Linked Learning takes seriously the need to prepare students for collegeand career by striving to integrate rigorous academics with career technical education and work-based learning experiences. Specifically, Linked Learning pathways provide comprehensive programs of study that connect learning in the classroom with real-world applications outside school to better engage all students, particularly low-income and disadvantaged youth. Importantly, the goal of the California Linked Learning District Initiative was to build district systems to support Linked Learning pathways rather than implement the approach at individual schools or a network of isolated pathways across different districts. School reform efforts tend to come and go without making much lasting change because teachers and administrators know that when the funding ends, they will be asked to move on to the next program. The focus on the district systems was a strategic decision by the Irvine Foundation to make Linked Learning part of the fabric of these districts so it would persist beyond the funding for the initiative.
2. What was the most significant finding from the latest Linked Learning report? What are the implications?
At a time when Linked Learning is expanding rapidly in California, we found evidence that pathway quality plays a key role in these positive findings for students. In addition to certified pathways, we looked at outcomes for students in career pathways that had not been certified in the Linked Learning approach, and we didn’t find the same positive outcomes. Certification indicates that pathways have implemented certain structures such as integration of career technical education course sequences and work-based learning experiences into students’ overall program of study. The lack of positive findings for noncertified pathways suggests that a career theme is not enough to produce positive effects on student outcomes. As more and more schools and school districts adopt the Linked Learning approach, it will be critical that they attend to high-quality teaching that integrates academics with career technical education courses and work-based learning experiences. Without this focus, Linked Learning is unlikely to impact student learning in a meaningful way. Read more about California’s Linked Learning Initiative.
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