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Across America, many students in K-12 classrooms struggle with learning materials and instruction that do not fit their needs. Researchers at UD are working to alleviate that mismatch. 

Boosted by competitive grants totaling $4.3 million, the faculty of UD’s College of Education and Human Development are developing curricula that are more mindful of cultural differences in an increasingly diverse country. Ultimately, their efforts could improve educational opportunities for hundreds of thousands of K-12 students who have been marginalized over the years by traditional classroom material.

Using grants from the Institute of Education Sciences, the National Science Foundation, the Spencer Foundation, and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, our faculty are poised to tackle these important questions:
How can educators collaborate to make a difference for these marginalized populations?  
Laura Desimone  is putting together a team of thought-leaders in English Language Arts, mathematics, science, and other key areas with the goal of serving as an expert resource for schools already working to align their approaches with students’ cultures and identities. With the help of a $1.5 million   Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation  grant, Desimone and her team will work with 12 professional learning partnerships across the country as they design instruction that’s better suited to student bodies that are mostly black or Latinx. Her team includes research affiliate  Kirsten Hill , UD’s Center for Research in Education and Social Policy researcher  Horatio Blackman , and CEHD faculty members  Mellissa Gordon, Joshua Wilson , and  Erica Litke , as well as graduate students Hillary May and Justine Yego. Learn More  
How can we encourage young girls and other underrepresented students to pursue computer science and STEM education? 
Introducing computational thinking in elementary schools could be a big part of the solution to these disparities. With a $1 million  National Science Foundation  grant,  Chrystalla Mouza, Rosalie Rolon-Dow,  and colleague Lori Pollock in UD’s College of Engineering will support a partnership with the Delaware Department of Education to  help teachers develop and implement culturally-responsive lessons that use computational thinking in literacy and math. The team will work collaboratively with  60 teachers who will, in turn, reach approximately elementary 1,500 students. With an early introduction to these concepts, the partnership hopes to encourage more students to pursue computer science pathways in middle and high school.   Learn More  
Do we know what motivates students in math class? And how can we improve that motivation?
Those are the big questions for  Teomara (Teya) Rutherford , a new assistant professor in the School of Education, who is aiming to strengthen students’ math skills by pinpointing just what motivates them. There’s already a strong sense that motivated students are more likely to stick with math lessons, but Rutherford wants to dig deeper: She’ll use her $978,000 National Science Foundation  CAREER grant to study data from 30,000 third- through fifth-grade students each year for five years, looking to uncover the secrets to keeping them engaged and persisting. Learn More
Can students in urban classrooms positively impact social issues in their community?
Elizabeth Soslau  believes they can. To show just how it can work, she and  Kathleen Riley of West Chester University are using a  Spencer Foundation  grant to study urban elementary and middle schools that are using “critical service-learning,” an approach that connects the classroom with the community and helps students see themselves as agents of change. Ultimately, the researchers aim to document examples of student-led activism so that other schools can emulate their success . Learn More
Could critical conversations about controversial topics help strengthen middle schoolers' argumentative writing skills?
Ralph Ferretti  suspects they might. He will be working to find out more in a project he’s conducting with colleagues Yi Song at Educational Testing Service and John Sabatini at University of Memphis. The team is using a $1.4 million  Institute of Education Sciences   grant to explore whether middle schoolers’ critical writing skills improve when they have conversations about controversial issues—especially when those conversations are mediated by peers .   Learn More
Can we improve student learning of geometry by moving away from traditional practice problems?
Using a new intervention called “GeometryByExample,”  Christina Barbieri  seeks to improve high school students’ skills by moving away from traditional “practice problems,” and towards studying solutions to computational geometry problems and proofs. By having them explain why certain examples are correct or incorrect, Barbieri and her colleagues believe students may gain an even greater understanding. A $1.4 million grant by the Institute of Education Sciences   will support development and testing of the approach by Barbieri, who will be working with Temple University colleagues Julie Booth, Kelly M. McGinn and Joel W. Scheider as well as Suzanne Donovan from the  Strategic Education Research Partnership Institute . Learn More
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