Archive for August, 2012

ASPIRE Students Succeed As Undergraduate Researchers

ASPIRE students participated at all levels of undergraduate research, working with faculty and community partners to examine issues that include race and the environment, international comparisons of mathematics teaching strategies, poetry and spoken word as important formats for social justice protest, as well as the importance of scaffolding self-regulated learning to improve student achievement.

The following features highlight the range of the work and allow us to renew our pride in the achievements of ASPIRE students:

Ellenie Cruz, a senior English Education major, conducted her first summer research project. Professor Shuaib Meacham is her research mentor.

This research project examines the role of spoken word, specifically spoken word poetry, and its abilities to conjure social change amongst communities and individuals in our current time. A portion of this research focuses spoken word poetry in the African American and Latino Freedom and equal rights movements, in the United States, to decipher the role of spoken word in historical movements.  The observation of historical events has contributed to the construction of theoretical framework that explains how spoken word poetry played a role in social change movements, and how it continues to play a role in contemporary efforts to foster social change. Based upon the factors delineated in the theoretical framework, data analysis of secondary data, observation, interviewing and fieldwork, was conducted to examine the extent to which those factors are present in contemporary practices of spoken word poetry and culture. 

My findings show that though the origin of spoken word is rooted in story telling and African culture, it has grown to not only tell stories but also create change and awareness amongst many communities of various backgrounds.  So much so that people now gather to hear spoken word poetry performed at events that are marketed for specific causes that will help uplift and strengthen communities. As a prospective educator this study will be used to aid in future research that will allow the incorporation of spoken word into Language Arts curriculums to not only enhance student engagement, but to change school culture and improve retention rates for urban students.

Anh Nguyen continued her work with Dr. Carol Wong, in a study that she has been working on for at least two years, entitled: What motivates adolescents’ use of self-regulatory processes to learn effective note-taking skills?

Effective note-taking is an important lifelong learning skill but many individuals complete high school without developing effective note-taking skills. This study will examine the influence of motivation and self-regulatory processes on the development of note-taking skills. Students who will be participating in a high-school college readiness program (Advancement Via Individual Determination or AVID) will be invited to participate in the study. Students from the AVID program will be selected because AVID explicitly teaches students note-taking skills. Data will be collected through questionnaires, face-to-face interviews, and analysis of students’ notes. The results will look at the relation between (a) self-motivation beliefs, such as self-efficacy, and (b) note-taking behaviors and note-taking quality. The results will also describe the association between (a) self-regulatory processes, such as metacognition, and (b) note-taking behaviors and note-taking quality. This study is important because it will provide possible explanations for why some students do not develop effective note-taking skills. These findings may be helpful for improving instruction of note-taking skills.  

The Practices of Mathematics Educators: A Comparative Study of Teaching Across Countries

Students in the U.S. are being outperformed in mathematics by students from all across the world. Does this mean that the students from other countries will also build better economic skills than the students here, and will their students eventually be able to obtain better jobs involving mathematics than the students learning math in America? We do not want to sit around and find out, so studies are currently being conducted to see how we can increase the mathematics scores of our students as well. The purpose of this study is to determine what practices can be adopted by U.S. mathematics educators to improve the effectiveness of their teaching. Based on the TIMSS 1999 video study, the United States and two higher achieving countries; Hong Kong and Czech Republic were chosen for analysis. Qualitative descriptions of 4 representative lessons from each country were created, focusing on how teachers in each country introduce new topics, the things that they require students to practice, and the material reviewed during lessons. Based on the observations from this study, I concluded that teachers in the United States should provide their students with more opportunities to work challenging problems and to think through mathematics content on their own.

 Amber Beaman, Senior Elementary Education major, worked on this provocative study with Professor Jim Hiebert, a reknowned mathematics education scholar.  This was Amber’s third summer of research, and by her account, this was the best summer ever; the work has really progressed.  Amber is well on the way to success as a classroom teacher and teacher leader.  Her research positions her to effectively support instructional reform efforts, and she will be an asset to any elementary or middle school faculty.  Congratulations Amber!!!

According to Quindara…

African Americans have endured the hardships of racial injustice and discrimination.  Racial segregation and discriminatory practices against African Americans has damaged the black community and limited expansion from urban neighborhoods to suburban areas. In turn, the resulting residential discrimination has made it possible to expose African American and other communities to conditions of environmental degradation. The phenomenon of environmental racism or the social and environmental policies that enable the inhumane dumping of hazardous and toxic materials in communities is explored in this paper. This social injustice is all encompassing and includes, but is not limited to the placement of hazardous waste facilities, nuclear waste, and presence of toxins in the air, incinerators, and unregulated sewer deposits into drinking water supplies. Another goal is to understand the efforts of the federal government to combat this problem through the activities of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

Quindara Lazenbury, 2011 ASPIRE President, presented her second McNair research project this summer.  Working with Dr. Benigno Aguirre in Sociology, Quindara is continuing her exploration of social justice issues.  We look forward to learning more about her current work which might help to inspire younger students to consider careers in science and science education. 

Feminist Arabic Literature

I explored the definition of feminism in Arabic Literature by 2 feminist authors and I explored how both authors worked differently in depicting women’s issues and how each portrayed female genital mutilation in their novels. I also explored and explained the different ways of depicting FGM and the author’s purpose in doing so.

  Arpita Mandal is a junior English Education major, completing her first summer research project.  Arpita started her career at UD, as a nursing major, but decided that she is very interested in education and our responses to the cultural differences among our students.

Congratulations Arpita!!!  The ASPIRE community celebrates your achievement and we look forward to learning more about this very provocative topic.

Good Better Best

Never Give It A Rest*Until Your Good is Your Better*And Your Better is Your Best

  Congratulations ASPIRE Summer Research Fellows:  Katie Kull, Sai Gajjala and Kevin Nai.  Their presentation on August 9th concluded the first phase of the launch of the new ASA program for high school student academic leaders at Newark High School.

All Students Aspire: Peer Learning Strategies to Improve Efficacy

 The Newark HS students will share their work with their peers through three workshops: 1)Time Management, 2) Note-taking, 3)Study Strategies.  These sessions were developed with support from the ASPIRE research team and will be conducted at the high school as gatherings of students who are approved as peer tutors to meet students who want to improve their academic profiles in various courses. 

The undergraduates’ summer research focused on strategies for improving self-regulated learning, and their work with the high school students students challenged them to shape practices consistent with the ideas of theorists who advocate the importance of the development of personal confidence and efficacy.