White House Recognizes Walkington with Early Career Award for Scientists and Engineers

Candace Walkington, associate professor in Teaching and Learning, is a recipient of the Presidential Early Career Award for Scientists and Engineers (PECASE). Announced by the White House, the award is the highest honor bestowed by the U.S. government to outstanding scientists and engineers who are beginning their independent research careers and who show exceptional promise for leadership in science and technology.

Walkington is among 11 selected from Texas to receive the award. She was nominated by the U.S. Department of Education.

Her research focuses on how abstract mathematical ideas can become connected to students’ concrete, everyday experiences so concepts are more understandable. By examining students’ out-of-school areas of interest and their intended careers, her research looks at “personalizing” mathematics instruction.

For more on her research, see the following:

Walkington, C., Clinton, V., & Shivraj, P. (2018). How Readability Factors Are Differentially Associated with Performance for Students of Different Backgrounds When Solving Math Word Problems. American Educational Research Journal, 55(2), 362-414. DOI: 10.3102/0002831217737028

Walkington, C. & Bernacki, M. (2018). Personalization of Instruction: Design Dimensions and Implications for Cognition. Journal of Experimental Education, 86(1), 50-68.

Walkington, C. (2013). Using learning technologies to personalize instruction to student interests: The impact of relevant contexts on performance and learning outcomes. Journal of Educational Psychology, 105(4), 932-945.





AERA Awards Four in Simmons with Distinctions

Annie Wilhelm, Ph.D.
Doris Baker, Ph.D.



Three Simmons faculty members and one doctoral candidate were recognized at the 2019 American Educational Research Association (AERA) conference with awards for their contributions to their fields.

Teaching and Learning  faculty members Annie Wilhelm and Doris Luft Baker received AERA Special Interest Group (SIG) awards.

Luft Baker was recognized for the AERA Technology, Instruction, Cognition & Learning SIG with the International Collaboration Award, and Wilhelm for the Research in Mathematics Education SIG’s Early Career Publication Award.

Dominique Baker, an assistant professor in Education Policy and Leadership, was chosen as an AERA Oustanding Reviewer 2018, and additionally was named to the Educational Evaluation and Policy Analysis (EEPA) editorial board.

Dominque Baker, Ph.D.

Also receiving recognition was graduate student Sumei Wu, whose poster proposal, Using Virtual Reality Simulations to Improve Three Novice Mainstream Teachers’ Enactment of Questioning Strategies with English Learners was rated one of the top proposals. As a finalist, Wu will present next year in AERA Division D’s In-Progress Research Gala.



Sumei Wu, doctoral candidate, pictured at right.


















Gándara receives AERA Grant to Examine Promise Programs

Assistant Professor Denisa Gándara, Department of Education Policy and Leadership, has received one of three American Educational Research Association (AERA) research grants to study free college or “Promise” programs with co-PI Amy Li (University of Northern Colorado).

Promise programs, which cover college tuition (and sometimes other costs) for all eligible students in a geographic region, have proliferated across the United States, with recent adoptions in New York, California, and Dallas County.

Gándara and Li’s study is the first to examine, at a national scale, which groups of students benefit most from these programs. Specifically, the study examines how enrollments change at community colleges that are subject to Promise programs, and how effects vary by Promise program design features. The study ends October 2019.

Kamata Heads IES Research Partnership to Improve Pre-K Quality

Akihito Kamata, executive director of the Center on Research and Evaluation (CORE) in Simmons, is leading a research partnership between his team and the Dallas Independent School District (Dallas ISD) to improve the quality of pre-K classrooms.

A $400,000 grant from the Institute of Education Sciences will allow researchers to examine pre-K classroom practices in all of the district’s programs.

The purpose of the research partnership is to systematically improve overall pre-K quality through the professional development Dallas ISD provides to instructional coaches and pre-K classroom teachers.

The partnership will focus on differentiating professional development for teachers based on teacher need, focusing on high-quality teacher–child interactions aligned with the CLASS observation instrument and the associated professional development system.

Luft Baker Publishes Book on Second Language Acquisition

Associate Professor Doris Luft Baker serves as editor of Second Language Acquisition: Methods, Perspectives and Challenges, an up-to-date review of the complexities of languages found in teaching mathematics, science and social studies.

According to the introduction, each chapter provides a synthesis of the research on one of the topics and offers implications for practice and research.

Baker also included work by another Simmons faculty member, Candace Walkington, and former faculty member, Karla del Rosal. Additionally, Baker co-wrote a chapter with two of her Ph.D. students, Paul Polanco and Anthony Sparks.

Hernandez Examines Adolescent Perceptions of Student-Teacher Sexual Relationships

In his study of how adolescents perceive  sexual relationships between students and teachers, Professor Frank Hernandez  sees that ages in a relationship influence judgments of impropriety.

Data reflects that relationships between older students (18 vs. 14 or 16) and younger teachers (21 vs 30 or 40) are less likely to be perceived as wrong and less likely to be reported. But when the power differential between students and teachers was greater, the situations were discerned as more wrong.

Results were published recently in the Journal of Child Sexual Abuse. Hernandez and co-authors, Jonathon McPheters and Jamie Hughes, received funding for the study from the Maguire Center for Ethics & Public Responsibility at SMU.


NSF Grant to Walkington Supports Helping Students Entering STEM

Simmons Teaching and Learning Faculty, Candace Walkington, teaches a class in Harold Clark Simmons Hall on the SMU Campus.

Associate Professor Candace Walkington received a 3-year, $1 million National Science Foundation (NSF) grant in partnership with Assistments and North Central Texas College to research ways to support students in foundational mathematics classes, with the goal to increase and diversify the STEM pipeline.

“Algebra is the relationship between quantities,” says Walkington. “Students use algebra all the time – when they calculate sports statistics, when they compare their social media accounts. They just don’t realize it.”

Walkington will compare approaches to determine which problems help students understand algebra, increase their interest in algebra and deepen their interest in STEM careers. This grant builds on her prior research showing that students learn algebra better when it is connected to their everyday interests.

She is partnering with collaborators Matthew Bernacki at University of North Carolina,  Neil Heffernan at Worchester Polytechnic Institute, Harsha Perera at University of Nevada and Elizabeth Howell at North Central Texas College.

To learn about her research, read this Forbes article.


With NSF Grant, Wilhelm and Norris Collaborate To Broaden Math Teacher Pipeline

SMU Simmons, Dr. Annie Wilhelm


Simmons Assistant Professor Annie Wilhelm and Dedman College’s Associate Professor Scott Norris received a $100,273 Noyce Capacity Building grant from the National Science Foundation to increase the math teacher pipeline. The focus will be on secondary math teachers for placement in the Dallas Independent School District.

Dedman College, Dr. Scott Norris

Wilhelm and Norris will be working in partnership with the Dallas County Community College District to create a dual-enrollment recruitment program that prepares student scholars for dual degrees in Mathematics and Educational Studies at SMU.

The project includes collaboration with staff from the Budd Center, a unit in Simmons that brings West Dallas nonprofits and schools together. This collaboration will help immerse students in West Dallas throughout the program.

To hear Wilhelm speak about the project, click here.

Project ELVA Video Highlighted on 2018 STEM For All Website

Doris Baker, associate professor in Teaching and Learning, has one of her research projects featured in STEM for All, a National Science Foundation supported website. A video of her Project ELVA (English Language Vocabulary Acquisition) explains the benefits of using an intelligent design tutoring system to guide the instruction and provide prompts to support student language development in science.

Project ELVA was awarded $1,499,586 from the Institute of Education Science, 8/1/2014 to 7/31/2017. Baker’s co-principal investigators were Simmons Professor Stephanie Al Otaiba; Ron Cole and Wayne Ward (Boulder Language Technologies). Doctoral students Jillian Conry and Paul Polanco also assisted.

Publication Features Collaboration by Wilhelm, Rouse, and Jones

Three Simmons faculty members, Annie Garrison Wilhelm, Amy Gillespie Rouse, and Francesca Jones examine how classroom obervations are conducted and rated in Exploring Differences in Measurement and Reporting of Classroom Observation Inter-Rater Reliability.  

Their article was published in Practical Assessment, Research and Evaluation, an online peer-reviewed electornic journal.