Archive for the ‘Undergraduate Research’ Category

Summer 2013 Research, Service Learning, Leadership Development and More…

Tatiana Burgess (English Education C’ 2014), Camille Fontenelle (Elementary Education C’2016), SaiSri Gajjala (Biomedical Engineering and Leadership C’2015), Megan Hallett (English Education C’2014), and Kevin Nai (English Education C’2014) are investigating the national urgency to increase college access and completion rates by focusing on federal, state, and district policies and practices.  After “ingesting” background reading on the nature of the federal and state relationship in education, federal theories of change and action, and policy briefs on college degree access as a global economic issue as well as a civil rights issue, these students had an opportunity to meet  face to face with important stakeholders to discuss views on practices as they relate to intended local behavior by state and federal policy makers.  The undergraderate research team conducted a lively discussion with key stakeholders on Wednesday June 12.

(left to right facing out) Malik Stewart, State and Federal Programs Director in the Redclay School District, Cimone Philpotts, Legislative intern DE Senate Finance Committee, Leo Dohan, Naramco Manager and Sponsor of the Bridge to Employment program, Curtis Bedford, Principal at Newark High School, Shannon Griffin, Parent Advocate and Executive Director of Learning Link of Delaware, and Latisha Bracey, Legislative Assistant to Senator Chis Coons Discuss Education and Practices that Support School Success and College Access

(left to right facing out) Malik Stewart, State and Federal Programs Director in the Redclay School District, Cimone Philpotts, Legislative intern DE Senate Finance Committee, Leo Dohan, Naramco Manager and Sponsor of the Bridge to Employment program, Curtis Bedford, Principal at Newark High School, Shannon Griffin, Parent Advocate and Executive Director of Learning Link of Delaware, and Latisha Bracey, Legislative Assistant to U.S. Senator Chis Coons Discuss Education Policy and Practices that Support School Success and College Access

Beginning on Monday June 17, the undergraduates continued collecting data by convening sessions that support a group of Newark High School seniors.  The high school students  will complete college and scholarship applications during a 10 day campus experience:  On Track for Success is funded by Bridge to Employment (BTE),  a Johnson and Johnson–Naramco program.  ASPIRE has partnered with this effort for the past six years.

The summer 2013 work continues the College Awareness Reaching Everyone (CARE) agenda introduced in 2009 as a central activity of the ASPIRE community.  The outreach, service learning, and community-based research activities build leadership skills for the undergraduate students, and the activities provide additional opportunities for pre-service teachers to develop culturally responsive interaction styles and practices. The high school students benefit from interactions on the campus and by building relationships with undergraduates who are successful students and near peer role models.   Taria Pritchett, English Education Class of 2012, who initiated Operation CARE when she was president of ASPIRE,  returned to campus on July 19th to conduct sessions on writing competitive college essays.  Taria is now a member of  the English faculty at Mt. Pleasant High School. Her teaching load next year will include developmental and IB courses.Teacher Taria

The work this summer continues with support from the Office of Undergraduate Research and Experiential learning, with added support from the School of Public Policy and Administration.  Several of the undergraduates are conducting research to fulfill credit requirements in a new Public Policy, Education, and Leadership course.

Seven of the high school students are continuing work that they began last summer when ASPIRE supported their efforts to become better self-regulated learners.  In addition to this summer’s study, ASPIRE members are tracking the changes in the high school students’ academic profiles that appear associated with the work done in summer 2012 to help the high school students improve their time management and study skills.  Undergraduates Kevin Nai and Sai Gajjala returned for the second summer to work with the Newark High students and continue research on college preparation and access.

summer20135summer20134Megan and Group Camille and Genovieve Tatiana Burgess, Megan Hallett, and Camille Fontenelle met the Newark students during sessions held at the high school and here on campus during the  2012-13 school year.  The undergrads will complete this phase of their research when the first summer session concludes on May 5, and they will work through July to finalize their paper and poster presentations for the August undergraduate research symposium.  The work this summer investigates two major course questions:


1)      Examination of the On Track for Success Program as an Agentive Process –What pre/post experience changes are evident in students’ reports of their personal confidence that they will pursue post-secondary degrees and in their reports they will achieve post-secondary degrees? What are the pre/post experience changes in students’ reports of barriers that might prevent success and in the students’ reports of resources that will ensure their success? How does On Track for Success (as a component of BTE) address national concerns for improving college completion rates in the U.S.?  What are the merits and limitations of this kind of intervention?  How is this kind of intervention viewed by key stakeholders who shape policy and practice?

 2) How does the On Track for Success program reflect national priorities related to the emerging Knowledge Economy and theories of change and action?  Who is participating and to what effect in post-secondary education?  What factors seem most influential in the college/career choices of the high school students?  Are they most concerned about location, environment, type of school, admissions requirements, quality of the academic programs, expenses, financial aid, housing, campus life, other?  What institutional options are the students considering and how are these influenced by market dynamics and public policy?   



Summer 2013 Research Fellowships

Several Research Fellowships are available to work with the On Track for Success: Making Progress Summit.  Undergraduates accepted as fellows will work in teams to support completion of college and scholarship applications with selected rising high school seniors.

 Project Schedule

2013 Summer Program:  June 3 – July 12 (Dates TBC)


  On Track for Success continues work in support of a community of students who face challenges in succeeding in high school and gaining access to post-secondary opportunities.  We will work with a maximum of 20 high school seniors (rising seniors).

Contact:  Melva Ware to receive the fellowship application.  Completed applications must be returned by March 11. 

ASPIRE Service Event: On Track for Success

On Saturday December 1 2012, the ASPIRE community joined forces with McNair, SSSP, and NSBE to host a college and career planning event for high school families.  Undergraduates stepped up, by taking responsibility to coach individual students in writing their college essays and developing personal resumes.  The students will interact again by email in mid-January when the high school students will mail drafts of their essays to their undergraduate coaches.  There will be opportunities for additional face-t0-face interactions in June 2013 when the campus student community will support this group of students in a week-long college application and scholarship application completion “boot camp.”  Undergraduates who enroll for the first summer session in Public Policy and Leadership in Education UAPP 467 will have opportunities to engage with the On Track for Success students in a course that focuses on policies and practices guiding national concerns for increasing college access and completion rates in the U.S.

  The On Track for Success students are 11th graders at Newark High School.  Several of them participated in summer 2012 in an academic leadership camp led by ASPIRE officers.  The high school students developed workshops that they are now sharing with their peers at Newark HS.  On Saturday, ASPIRE leaders beamed as their mentees gave an impromptu presentation on their summer 2012 work.   The group ended their presentation by sharing their mantra :  Good Better Best, Never Let It Rest, Until Your Good is Your Better and Your Better is Your Best!!!!!!!         

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.