Helping Farmers in East Africa- Michigan State University Researchers

Michigan State University Research

It is so exciting when researchers are able to take concepts and ideas from the classroom and apply them in a real world setting.

It is especially exciting when it means that this can make a difference in people’s lives.

That is exactly what a team of researchers from Michigan State University did when they travelled to Tanzania and Kenya to help improve agricultural practices.

MSU doctoral candidate in media and information studies, Tian Cai, and a research team, created a research project-creating low-budget videos of videos that communicated farmers perspectives for not using drought resistant maize.

Then, they  showed a group of villagers the videos followed by a discussion. The control group did not receive the videos. An additional treatment group received the videos and a text message.

This group indicated they were most likely to use drought resistant maize, which would benefit their likelihood of success, and help the environment.

This is a great example of applied research and the significant impact that researchers can have in helping those that might not have access to the necessary information and support to make lasting changes. Teachers of media studies, environmental science will especially want to share this research with their students.

For a link to the MSU news article by Nicole O’Meara, please click here. 

Questions for Discussion

  1. Who was involved in providing input at the initial one day workshop?
  2. What government agency provided funding?
  3. What is the local language of the region studied?
  4. Which condition had the most impact?
  5. What additional data would you want to review to determine the efficacy of this research?
  6. What changes might you make to this research to potentially improve its outcomes?
  7. Why did professor Steinfield say this research was aligned to the philosophy of the media and information department at Michigan State University?

Visual Communication of Science Concepts-Felice Frankel

One of the many challenges educators face daily is how to communicate ideas to learners with a wide range of background knowledge, learning style, interest/motivation and aptitude.

How many of us have told fascinating stories, presented compelling information, or sketched out ideas on the board-only to have a certain segment of the class stare at us blankly?

I think this is especially true in an area like science, where the real world connections are a bit harder for students, especially younger secondary students to make.

So, for an appreciation of the true challenge and artistry necessary to make compelling visual representations of scientific concepts, you may want to read the MIT News article about Felice Frankel’s work. 

Felice is an award winning, MIT research scientist and photographer has spent decades perfecting this craft and has created free tutorials in MIT’s Open Courseware.

I think any secondary science teacher would enjoy reading about her process and may enjoy using principles from the course to enhance their own pedagogy. It’s also a reminder for all of us non-science teachers to think about how we are communicating our lessons and to examine whether we might benefit from a creative re-examination-possibly utilizing some of Felice Frankel’s work as inspiration. I also think students may benefit from reading about her career as it is a blend of the artistic and the analytical and utilizes the best of each to help individuals develop a deeper understanding of their world.

Questions for Discussion

  1. How often do you use visual representations to enhance your lessons?
  2. Why does Felice Frankel encourage researchers to develop “metaphors” to help explain their work?
  3. Is there a concept that you think your students would benefit from seeing a visual image?
  4. What are some creative methods you have used to help “illustrate” a concept?
  5. What is Felice Frankel’s background-how might this have impacted her work?

 

Creating a Song-VoiceGrooveSong at University of Chicago

voicegroovesong

One of the most exciting examples of the intersection between creativity and analysis is the “VoiceGrooveSong” project at the University of Chicago.

Steven Rings, associate professor in the Richard and Mary Gray Center for Arts and Inquiry developed the course to understand song structure in composition.

While this may seem like a reasonably straightforward endeavor, it is the process by which Rings and the “VoiceGrooveSong” students embark on this journey which is inspiring.

For them, it is a journey.

Ring has invited a variety of musicians, from  Radiohead’s Ed O’Brien, to Wilco drummer Glenn Kotche. With Kotche, also an acclaimed avant garde percussionist and composer, the class took on an interesting endeavor.

Kotche played his drum kit, while students improvised with a variety of digital clips serving as the vocals. So, students were able to delve into the details of the composition process to allow the  rhythmic and melodic structure of the words to serve as a catalyst for percussion experimentations and understanding the intricacies of composition.

Professor Steven Rings describes the intersection of analysis and creativity in the class, “In the class we don’t know where we’re going to end up,” Rings said. “Everyone is excited to just go along for the ride.”

I can’t imagine a better inspiration to challenge us to continually learn, grow, and develop our curiosity as educators and people. It also helps helps students understand that while creativity of course requires a mysterious element of inspiration, there are certain structures and processes that can facilitate this process-there are concrete steps a creator can take to manifest creativity.

For the excellent source article, written by Andrew Baud, which includes a brief  video sample, please click here.

Questions for Discussion

  1. According to the article, what is the focus of the University of Chicago, Gray Center?
  2. Why was Glenn Kotche chosen to participate in this project?
  3. What does Steven Rings hope to accomplish in this class?
  4. What were the details of how Kotche and the students “collaborated”? What was their process of creation?
  5. Starting with the same set of lyrics, the students developed widely varying musical compositions- what does this say about the creative composition process?
  6. How could you use this process in your own classroom to help create sparks at the intersection of creativity and inquiry?

 

Improving Test Scores

Improving Test Scores

Have you ever felt like you were spinning your wheels when it comes to studying for exams?

Do you notice your students studying, but still not getting results?

If so, you definitely want to check out Milenko Martinovich’s new article in the Stanford News. This article features the work of Stanford University psychology professor, Patricia Chen’s new work on how to help students study more effectively.

In the study, the intervention group was encouraged to utilize their meta-cognitive abilities- quite simply to “think about their thinking.”

Specifically, students were given an online survey prior to their exams in a statistics course and asked to “think about what might be on the exam and then strategize what resources they would use most effectively”  according to Martinovich’s article.

Importantly, students were then asked to self-reflect, recalling why they chose the resources they chose and how they believed it would be effective in their learning.

This intervention lead to an increase in grades in the course by almost a third of a letter grade.

Please click here to read the article.

Questions for Discussion

  1. What was professor Chen’s research hypothesis?
  2. What is meta-cognition?
  3. Describe their intervention- “Strategic Resource Use.”
  4. In what circumstances does professor Chen say this would likely be most effective?
  5. What might educators need to do to support students in a “resource-scarce” environment?
  6. Besides studying for tests, how else does Chen suggest this might be used?
  7. How would you develop further research to learn more about this topic?

Benefits of Peer Support in Learning from Michigan State University

Benefits

As an educator, I find this new study from Michigan State University a bit troubling. Quite simply, peer feedback was more beneficial than teacher feedback in an online psychology course.

The research study, co-authored by Michigan State University associate professor of education, Carey Roseth, published recently in the International Journal of Educational Research, found that when students were given feedback to the question, “Why do I have to learn this” from a peer (a confederate posing as a peer) the student averaged a 92 percent for the entire semester long course.

The students who received the feedback from the teacher earned an 86 percent for the course.

Quite surprisingly, the control group, those that did not receive any feedback, earned a 90 percent for the course-still better than those that earned feedback from a teacher.

Professor Roseth explains,”… As a student, I can identify with my peers and imagine myself using the course material in the same way they do. This gives the material meaning and a sense of purpose that goes beyond memorization. When I hear a peer’s story, it connects to the story I am telling myself about who I want to be in the future.”

Questions for Discussion

  1. How many students were in each of the groups? (Why is it important to know the sample size?)
  2. If there was only one course instructor, what other possible explanations for this outcome could there be?
  3. Do you predict the outcomes would be the same in a face to face course?
  4. What did the script say? Why is it important to know what the script was-how could the wording of the script impact the outcome? Would the response be different with a different script?
  5. These were all introductory education students-could that have an impact on the results?
  6. How else could you extend this research-replicate, different subjects different design?
  7. How could you use this information in your own classroom?

For more information, please read Andy Henion’s article on the Michigan State University website, MSU Today.