You are on page 1of 8


Vol. 19, No. 4


Learning Communities Nurture Graduate
Jen Schoepke is a graduate student in Industrial a learning community called the Delta Program
and Systems Engineering, focusing on human in Research, Teaching, and Learning.

factors. She’s recently worked at NASA’s Jet The name is no accident. As you may
remember from high school chemistry, the
Propulsion Laboratory on the Cassini-Huygens
Delta symbol $ indicates a difference or a
mission, which sent an unmanned craft to change. The graduate students participating
Saturn and one of its moons. Jen has already in Delta undergo change in the way they think
developed credibility as a researcher and about research and teaching—in particular,
that those activities are not separate.
knows that she will teach as part of her career.
She wants her teaching to be as effective as For the past 5 years, the Delta Program at
UW-Madison has brought together more than
her research.
4 CPRE's School
Finance Research:
1400 graduate students, post-docs, and faculty
for teaching-related professional development.
15 Years of Findings In many cases, unfortunately, doctoral educa-
Three pillars anchor the program: Learning
tion and postdoctoral training programs fail to
Communities, Teaching-as-Research, and
prepare future faculty to be effective teachers.
6 Training
Tomorrow's The programs just have traditionally not been
Learning-through-Diversity (see text box, p2).
Delta models the interactions that comprise a
Researchers set up to do that. comprehensive and rewarding faculty life, says
But a good researcher can be a good teacher. Associate Director Chris Carlson-Dakes.
Indeed, good teaching requires good research, Learning communities bring people together in
for at the heart of excellent teaching is finding intentional ways to accomplish shared learning
out what students have learned. This is a objectives. Learning communities like Delta
research problem, something that scientists support the development of teaching ability
and engineers have a natural inclination to do! that coexists with, builds upon, and integrates
And it will happen a lot more often because of with research.
(continued on next page...)

experts help novices succeed. and research. and ways *Teaching as Research and Learning through Diversity will be explored in a subsequent issue of Research Highlights. the primary learning goals. Adam Gamoran Teaching as Research is the deliberate. mathematics who implement and advance effective feelings that can be so strong that members report teaching practices for diverse student audiences as changes in identity as a result of membership. Mathieu says. and skills among for Policy Research in Education. there’s a need for researchers implementing and advancing effective teaching to be able to conduct rigorous quantitatively sound practices for diverse student audiences as part of their research. engineering. and Learning.WCER The Pillars of Delta Three ideas underlie all Delta activities.” says Co-Faculty Director Bob Mathieu. activity. Teaching. In forming Delta. discovery. It recognizes that excellence and accomplishments. the focus of this article.* in a series of articles summarizing 15 years of Learning through Diversity capitalizes on the rich research findings from WCER’s Consortium array of experiences. www.* for identifying all of a district’s and school’s investments in professional development. CPRE has developed a procedure diversity are necessarily intertwined. “we specifically applied learning community principles to professional develop- ment in graduate education. national faculty in the sciences. builds upon and integrates with When we say a learning community is an intentional environment we mean that each program. We wanted a conceptually driven and intentionally designed community working together to develop their teaching skills. technology. UW-Madison’s Delta project is part of the interaction within the community is intended to further NSF-funded Center on the Integration of Research. and also sophisticated statistical techniques. Among other undergraduates and graduates-through-faculty to enhance the learning of all. Learning Communities. backgrounds. The goal is develop a In learning communities. With the Learning (CIRTL. bring FROM THE DIRECTOR together groups of people for shared learning. and Learning communities engender feelings of belonging. support the development of teaching ability in a “It encourages a diversity of viewpoints and opinions. and reflective use of research methods by STEM instructors to develop and implement teaching practices that advance the learning experiences and outcomes of both students This issue presents the fourth and final installment and teachers. Researchers-in-training like Alyn Turner professional careers. way that coexists. “A learning community supports its members as they collectively strive towards common learning goals and Learning communities in higher education can objectives.” Teaching. Sociology and Educational Policy Studies UW-Madison shows that teaching and research can 2 . CIRTL aims to develop a national faculty in science. NCLB emphasis on being able to pinpoint “what and mathematics (STEM) who are committed to works” in systematic. engineering. and generation of knowledge. Graduate students training to be researchers Delta is part of the National Science Foundation-funded master not only the content of their disciplines but Center for the Integration of Research. to redeploy those dollars to maximize their effect. and Richard Prather are gaining those skills in Why learning communities? WCER’s Interdisciplinary Training Program.” Adam Gamoran That the Delta teaching and learning community was WCER Director established at a research-intensive institution like Professor. part of their professional careers.

delegation of thrived beyond the term of the original National Science responsibilities. from engineering. that groups produce higher quality output when diverse sustaining the community. The “teacher” important to the running of programs and activities or take becomes a facilitator who structures experiences that responsibility for the “care and feeding” of the community. Connections to other learning experiences.) Across disciplines. their learning goals. and faculty participants have everyone being competitive and doing it on their own. offering internships at learning community. more than 11% are from underrepresented groups. enable students to learn from and with one another. rather than monthly roundtable dinners. RESEARCH highlights indeed go hand in hand. of membership manifest themselves as participants Inclusive learning environment. the program should enhance the learning experiences of future undergraduates across Participants have observed that Delta gives them the vocab- the nation. http://www. 43% of Delta participants are from the biological sciences. A including helping new members acclimate and accomplish graduate student who participated in several Delta offer. Learning community leaders monitor activities to ensure a sufficient variety and quantity of opportunities to attract a diverse participant base. Members continue to interact because from a shared identity. They belong to a community for their interactions produce something of value to them and which they feel ownership and commitment.wisc. include Asian Americans. by the university.” become a second generation of course and program Functional relationships. ings reflected on the role of shared learning and discovery: Members share responsibility for Delta’s operations in many “The atmosphere in the classroom or wherever we are still ways. These connections help situate and embed learning in a larger context.cirtl. Delta’s 54% participation rate for women exceeds For more information. which These programs are funded by the National Science is above the institutional and help create a campus-wide momentum Chris Jen Schoepke Carlson-Dakes Bob Mathieu for educational and curricular reform. connections that extend throughout the learning Successful implementation of learning communities such community and not limit themselves to specific cohorts or as Delta ultimately results in cohorts of peers who benefit role-related peers. They reduce isolation. increase diversity in people and programming.Delta. For Of the Delta participants whose race/ethnicity is known. Veteran student members have developed ways comes out to be more of a community atmosphere with to “buddy up” with new members in classes and through people working together for a common cause. a skill that proved immensely valuable at Four core elements of a learning community an interview for a position at a community college. Interactions should lead to meaningful her institution to Delta participants. but common to all is the decentering of the products of the community. Research demonstrates collectively contribute to. teaching position at a local liberal arts college now serves functional. in which 38% of doctoral http://www. participant said that the language she learned from Delta engineering. and contribute to. one change the landscape of higher education in the sciences. and 22%. The successful program has is a vehicle for the sharing of resources. perspectives are represented. Connectivity 3 . 19%. who are not under-represented in STEM fields. Learning communities flourish when participants can make implicit and explicit connections to experiences and activities outside the course or program. A Delta participant who graduated and found a when the interactions among learners are meaningful. Feelings to the learning community itself. Current and future faculty are learning how to ulary to talk about teaching and learning. Shared learning and discovery. (This figure does not Foundation and the University of Wisconsin-Madison. and reduced redundancy of opportunities Foundation grant and is now supported almost entirely across campus. and math. Learning communities develop instructors. Shared learning can take Members share responsibility for. and take responsibility for. see the Delta site: that in UW-Madison STEM fields. and necessary to accomplish the work of the on the Delta Internship Committee. the many forms. They assume roles that are teacher as the sole source of knowledge. enables her to articulate what she knows about teaching in an intelligent way. from the physical sciences.html and the CIRTL site: students and 30% of postdoctoral researchers are women. Learning community outcomes Over the long term.

WCER PHOTO: JEFF MILLER CPRE's School Finance Research: 15 Years of Findings PART IV: Synthesis with Policy and Practice Implications With the ever-increasing emphasis on rigorous performance Reallocating professional development resources. 4 . This kind of director Allan Odden. CPRE has developed a procedure for identifying all of a district’s standards in education. can reallocate substantial professional development resources (CPRE) has worked to better align allocation and use of re- to more intensive programs that focus on improving sources to school-based strategies to boost student learning. particularly larger districts. most districts.5) for levels of student achievement. the Consortium for Policy Research in Education information. This installment concludes Gaining insight into “what works” in education. as after adjusting for inflation.. The percentage of the dollar spent on data enables policy makers and practitioners to engage instruction has remained the same. per-pupil spending in the U. districts and typical elementary. reading. says UW-Madison education professor and CPRE gain insight into “what works” in education. about 60%-61%. The the series by offering a synthesis of findings and implications CPRE fiscal reporting structure shows expenditures for policy and practice. this emphasis devising ways to redeploy those dollars to more effective has induced a shift from equity to adequacy in policy strategies. about the way resources are currently being used within the instructional category.S. communication. middle. schools face more demands for and school’s investments in professional development and accountability. CPRE also knowledge would represent a first step toward knowing has developed an evidence-based method of identifying how better to use these resources to produce higher an “adequate” level of resources (see gray box p. In the world of school finance. By collecting these school-level data. has increased about 3.5% well as teacher. With this For 15 years. writing. Odden says. states can annually. Gaining that Identifying an adequate level of resources. science. in evidence-based policy making and practice and to Policy makers and researchers still need to know more reallocate resources to more effective uses. teachers’ instructional practice in core academic subjects like mathematics. This framework is used to conduct periodic fiscal and litigation. The previous installment in this series discussed uses of and history. dollars after a school finance reform. and high schools. audits of professional development to identify the level of investment and the foci of those investments. by key educational strategies at the school and district levels.and classroom-level data. development. including details of all investments in professional Over the past 100 years.

CPRE researchers teachers in those subjects and in those communities. Allan Odden more directly to student learning. the level of pay to the level of effectiveness in producing and the school level. Odden suggests that states sponsor states can gain insight into “what works” studies of schools that have doubled performance and incorporate these findings into training programs to help in education. 5 . One is a three-tiered Implementing new forms of teacher compensation. and job practice and to reallocate resources responsibilities are similar to those of teachers. Identifying an adequate teacher salary level. This kind of data enables share that knowledge among all districts and schools. Measuring student learning at three levels. CPRE in evidence-based policy making and recommends that states analyze federal data to identify the salaries of workers whose knowledge. as teacher. but rather on factors linked to student learning and instruction as well as the various cost elements in gains. as well that should enable most schools to dramatically increase student academic achievement. mathematics and science—and in urban schools and low. and then set the average teacher salary at about the same level. the classroom/teacher level. to more effective uses. The various pieces of the HR system should send consistent and reinforcing messages. Doubling student performance and closing the achievement gap. the goal is to verify the degrees and units. or years of experience (except for the positive impacts of various efforts to improve curriculum first 3 years). States and districts can restructure their financial reporting systems in ways that incorporate CPRE’s expenditure Devising a more strategic human resource (HR) system. CPRE research suggests that states and at these three levels. Investigating these issues the elements of the HR system—recruiting. Although there are multiple ways to design to verify whether. the term adequacy may seem to narrowly focus on the amount of money needed to produce a desired level of student achievement. inside schools provides a key to understanding—from both socializing. such as scores on a performance-based evaluation school-level adequacy models. evaluating. CPRE researchers use this framework student learning. specific variables such structures. New compensation strategies encourage teachers to learn and use more effective instructional strategies. States then should recalibrate their school finance policy makers and practitioners to engage structures to provide the resources they need. Odden also encourages states to provide salary premiums for teachers in subject area shortages—for example. Over time.and classroom-level data. 33-page PDF: http://www.wisc. selecting. CPRE research performing schools.wcer. actually link to districts base increases in compensation not on education student learning As mentioned in previous installments of this report. and paying programmatic and fiscal perspectives—how to improve teachers—adhere to the district’s instructional improvement student achievement dramatically. in specific contexts. But the more general intent underlying the focus on adequacy is to redesign the education finance system to link resource levels. deploying. and to what extent. training. skills. framework and its broader recommendations for use of A district audit of HR alignment would determine how well classroom and teacher data. and resource use. Salary premiums would help ensure aims to determine “what works” in education. all geared to improving student The complete CPRE report is available online as a academic performance. educational framework that measures student learning Teacher compensation structures can more closely link factors at the student level. system. RESEARCH highlights This method yields data on the level and types of resources By collecting school-level data. strategies and to its vision of good instruction. are identifying effective programs and strategies through sophisticated statistical techniques. using a that states can compete in the labor market for quality variety of methodological approaches.

research. ITP Fellows come from several disciplines. entered ITP as dissertators and will and Cognitive Sciences to his current studies of the complete their dissertations within two years after entry. Entry-level students are in their first or second year of gradu- and financial supports and field research opportunities. Department of Education’s Institute advanced statistics. and/or welfare. and problem-solving strategies. ate study and receive up to five years of funding. the ITP program of Education Sciences (IES). they receive specialized academic. Working with more than 25 scholars from across rigorous statistical adjustments to non-experimental data. including sociol. This allows me to present my relatively few educational researchers have been trained in research to education researchers and to form collaborations for future work. con- cepts. like Prather.” Education Sciences is preparing a new generation of ITP students fulfill the requirements of their disciplinary scholars who can provide solid evidence of “what works” departments and are firmly grounded in the theoretical and in education. and statistical analysis of quantitative data Fellows’ doctoral dissertations emphasize questions that are (from surveys. with special attention to questions of causal inference. Typically their recent study. Richard Prather 6 . methodological tools of their respective disciplines. “They have very generously provided funding for attending the goal of providing scientific evidence of “what works. to choose education policies and programs that work work. world settings. the ITP focuses on two allows students and their mentors to craft individualized related themes: designing and implementing field-based experiences that meet the students’ interests and their randomized studies in schools and other complex. independent researchers. campus. real. these sorts of collaborations are very beneficial to WCER’s Interdisciplinary Training Program (ITP) in the producing innovative education research.” and several research conferences. Their work attends to issues of causal inference." Prather says. the internship number were more likely to set up equations that involved supports their development as negative numbers. observations. In education (see sidebar). tion. says ITC Director and WCER Director Adam Gamoran.S. quasi-experimental studies. Given the very broad nature of education how to do that kind of rigorous quantitatively sound research. disciplinary requirements. mechanisms of learning in human cognition. They investigated the links between randomized controlled trial in knowledge of principles and problem representation. including Supported by the U. including arithmetic principles.WCER Training Tomorrow's Researchers The No Child Left Behind Act provides strong incentives Th st The study tudy d ffound ound d th that att parti participants’ ticipa i ntts’’ kkno knowledge wlledge d or arithmetic principles was related to their problem representation. He focuses on They receive up to two years of funding. economics. and social randomized field trials. participants who displayed greater occurring in the students’ 3rd year knowledge of principles of arithmetic with a negative in the program. Prather published a All entry-level students serve study of adults’ knowledge of principles of arithmetic with an internship on a large-scale negative numbers. political science. and assessments) on educa- theoretically informed and stimulated by practical concerns. With UW-Madison Internships education professor Martha Alibali. through ogy. psychology. Within this framework. arithmetic learning. Advanced ITP Fellow Richard Prather brings training in Brain students. Yet “The ITP program has very much enhanced my ability traditional educational research has rarely been designed with to conduct education related research. professional.

These teams assessment. RESEARCH highlights Two kinds of internships are available. Fellows may choose to American Pediatrics Association and made assessments both about the intern with UW-Madison faculty researcher on process that each organization went through to gather evidence to a WCER project. children. Specifically. professional development and change with each project. This intervention aims to improve the well-being of orphans and parents who are more engaged in the other vulnerable children ages 8-19 and to increase the percentage of community are also more politically active. Exposure to the To date Alyn has worked on three projects. selecting from projects Science Foundation.There was also a focus on working with in context. she analyzed data on how programs were using the their home departments related to their IM/IL initiative. Research suggests that Zambia. They get a sense of the Alyn Turner cycles projects go through. such as policy issues in educational teams of researchers who bring distinct expertise to the project. Her research The student participates in a variety of is supported in part by funds from the National randomized trials. students work with a done in non-academic settings is equally exciting and rigorous. seminar in the with many people from different disciplines over the course of a year. education and other social science disciplines. for example. Alyn analyzed Milwaukee with WCER’s value-added research qualitative interviews with Head Start program directors. teachers. UW-Madison and a third year ITP fellow. “That clarified for me that students may want to expand their career considerations to include policy research Through the minor courses and an inter- firms in addition to the option of working in the academy. The corporate culture at a place like Mathematica first explored 2005 DHHS Dietary Guidelines to provides an insight into a non academic identify and analyze the scientific basis for dietary recommendations for working environment. which builds social capacity center program designed to target orphaned and vulnerable children in among parents. Another is studying the political of Head Start children to develop logic models to describe variations among participation of parents whose children attend program implementation of IM/IL within classrooms.” she says. some are in the coding phase. in her work with the IM/ Sciences.“Research disciplinary seminar. being evaluated by faculty members Adam The second project was an evaluation of Head Start Region III’s implementation Gamoran and Geoffrey Borman. One student. This information will be used to design a randomized trail of the impact of IM/IL participation on reducing obesity rates among Head scholarship on education. such address the client’s concern and the quick turn-around of projects that have as test theory. At least two members of the training program faculty sit on each student’s Alyn’s internship experience gave her exposure to the option of working dissertation committee. how research is done in a non-academic setting. One ITP Fellow Profile involves spending a semester at a research Alyn Turner is a fourth-year sociology student at institute like Mathematica Policy 7 .” politics of education. giving each researcher the opportunity to work organizational learning. Alyn systematically reviewed scientific statements made by organizations such as the American Heart Association and the As an alternative. in the analysis phase. Another of “I am Moving. I am Learning. LLC initiative that aims to student will work on a randomized trial in prevent childhood obesity and promote active learning. some research projects. the focus on pleasing the client with rigorous and well-designed studies that at least one course in measurement.wcer.” departments. children attending school. settings in which research can be done. albeit done variety of faculty from outside their home with less autonomy. Alyn’s internship experience included in-depth discussions about program They pursue a distributed minor in Education evaluation in a randomized trial setting. http://www. is support dietary recommendations for children and about the extent to doing data analysis for a Los Angeles-based which the recommendations were based on evidence on children or elementary science research project that’s on adults. For most students.wisc. that best align with their personal research interests.” a Choosy Kids. and parents project. Start participants.The main differences included such as design of educational experiments. which so far has involved three phase. an after school program called Families and The third project Alyn was involved with was an impact study a community Schools Together.“I was able to see least one course in experimental design. Students see many projects in many Alyn recently interned at Mathematica Policy Research Institute. For this project. and introduction to Alyn says she also benefited by gaining a better understanding of the different the learning sciences. for a company like Mathematica in the future and experience with the potential trade-offs that are made choosing one type of career For more information see the ITP web site: over another. At a recent noontime brown bag meeting she different phases: some are at the design discussed her internship. consisting of four courses outside IL implementation study. and two courses in education strict deadlines and budget constraints. the minor includes at Alyn says her experience at Mathematica was eye-opening. Alyn’s role on the project was to develop a detailed Coursework codebook for researchers analyzing quantitative data from two surveys ITP students take courses and advising in previously administered in the community.

and UW– Madison. policy. ISSN 1073-1822 Vol. Fourth-class.wisc. Wisconsin PAID U. Include the address label from this issue. 658 Madison. 19.wcer. than 700 organizations. bulk-rate postage is paid at UW–Madison. 4 SUMMER 2008 Permit No. content as a Podcast. A sample issue and No copyright is claimed on the contents of WCER Research Highlights.wisc. WI 53706 Organization School of Education • University of Wisconsin–Madison Nonprofit Wisconsin Center for Education Research 8 .S. In reproducing articles. published by the Wisconsin Center for Education Research.WCER WCER RESEARCH highlights Director Adam Gamoran Editor Paul Baker Editorial Consultants Rebecca Holmes & Cathy Loeb Production Instructional Media Development Center WCER Research Highlights is published by the Wisconsin Center for Education Research. and private sources. please send a copy to Research Highlights. credit: "Reprinted with permission from WCER Research http://www. Highlights. WI 53706 or reaching more than 1900 readers at more call (608) 263-4200." If you php.wcer. UW–Madison School of Education. or endorsement of the funding agencies. The opinions expressed in this publication do not necessarily reflect the position. School of Education. please use following subscription information are availalbe here. WI. 1025 West Johnson Street. Madison.wcer. POSTAGE 1025 West Johnson Street • Madison.S. Depart- ment of Education. WCER is funded through a variety of PDF form on WCER's website: federal. University This Newsletter is archived in of Wisconsin–Madison. the National Science Foundation.wisc. WCER Research Highlights is available on the Web at http://www. where you can also subscribe to this reprint. No. state. Send changes of address to WCER Today is a monthly email newsletter WCER. including the U.