Kiersten Ferguson Receives Provost’s Teaching Recognition Award

Clinical Associate Professor Kiersten Ferguson, Department of Education Policy & Leadership, was honored with the Provost’s Teaching Recognition Award during the University’s spring faculty meeting. She was one of two recipients of the award.

The Provost’s Recognition Award is given to full-time non-tenure-track faculty who demonstrate a commitment to excellence and a consummate dedication to teaching and learning. The non-tenure-track candidate must have taught credited courses full time for a minimum of 5 continuous years prior to the year of nomination. This award provides an opportunity to honor the contributions to teaching at SMU. The award also carries a $1,000 stipend.

In describing Ferguson’s teaching, Provost Elizabeth Loboa said, ” Her pedagogy stands out with a clear, research-oriented approach, a willingness to change and listen to students to foster a greater community of learners.”

Ferguson also directs the M.Ed. in the department’s Higher Education program and is a Provost Faculty Fellow for Equity and Inclusion.

 

Allor Presents Expertise in Dallas Morning News Article on Language Development

The Dallas Morning News called on University Distinguished Professor Jill Allor to comment on Dallas ISD plans to help parents prepare their prekindergarteners for school. Allor, a top researcher in literacy acquisition for students with and without disabilities, explained that oral language development for infants through three-year-olds is a crucial pre-reading skill.  Read more.

NSF Awards Candace Walkington and Dallas STEM Walk Partner $2.5 M to Take Math to the Streets with Gamified App

Koshi Dhingra, founder and CEO of talkSTEM, and Candace Walkington, associate professor, SMU’s Simmons School of Education and Human Development

DALLAS (SMU) – To SMU math curriculum researcher Candace Walkington, the best way for students to understand math is to make it part of their lives. She’ll use her recent $2.5 million grant from the National Science Foundation to help students see that math is in the angle of a giraffe’s neck at the Dallas Zoo and in the flutter of the leaves of the cottonwood trees at Twelve Hills Nature Center in Oak Cliff.

These are just two of the stops on Dallas STEM walks, guided walks that illustrate how mathematical principles can be found in one’s surroundings. During the five-year grant, Walkington will partner with Dallas STEM walk nonprofit, talkSTEM, to better understand how educators can support math education outside of school and the role out-of-school experiences like these play in enhancing math education. First up: developing an app that turns a cell phone into an interpretive math tool.

“In this research, rather than having kids see math as symbols that exist on a worksheet or on a computer screen, we want them to see it as something that exists in the world all around them – the trees, the buildings, the artwork and the things they use every day,” says Walkington, associate professor of teaching and learning at SMU’s Simmons School of Education and Human Development. “We want to help them to look at the world through the lens of math.”

Researchers will spend the first year of this grant developing a gamified app called Mathfinder, which is targeted to students in grades four through eight. The app will use augmented reality (AR) to create overlays enabling learners to hold up the camera of their cell phones to see mathematical expressions layered over the real-world objects in their camera feeds, such as the angles and shapes within the architecture of a building. It also will include short videos and directions for STEM walks, Walkington says.

Students also will be able to use Mathfinder to create and share STEM walks in their own neighborhoods, says Elizabeth Stringer, director of academics for SMU’s Guildhall video game design program and a co-investigator on the grant.

“Mathfinder will give feedback to students on the walks they create and provide data to community partners on how much time students spend at each stop,” she says.

STEM walks at nine Dallas learning sites will be featured in the app, including the Dallas Arboretum, Dallas Museum of Art, Dallas Zoo, Frontiers of Flight Museum, the GEMS Camp, the Girl Scouts STEM Center of Excellence, St. Phillips School and Community Center, Twelve Hills Nature Center and Voice of Hope Ministries.

At the Dallas Arboretum, Dustin Miller, director of experience and innovation, says the four-stop Arboretum STEM walk is already popular with visitors.

“At the Arboretum’s Children’s Adventure Garden, the educational intent is very straightforward,” he says. “The main garden’s STEM walk, however, gives people a way to engage with the garden in a way they don’t expect.”

Participating in the research will give the Arboretum an opportunity to collect quantitative data on site, he says. “This research will help us create ways for visitors to experience the gardens in a new and different way.”

For Koshi Dhingra, founder and CEO of talkSTEM, a nonprofit dedicated to the development of future STEM leaders, participating in the research will help her nonprofit understand best practices for creating STEM walks and correcting roadblocks to learning. The creation of the Mathfinder app promises to make STEM walks more engaging and convenient, she says.

Dhingra earned her doctorate in science education and has dedicated her career to STEM education, but has new appreciation for the importance of understanding mathematical concepts as a building block for all sciences.

“When students begin to see that math is all around them, not just in an algebra or calculus textbook, they begin to see themselves as math people,” she says. “They need this competency and confidence to open doors to other STEM fields.”

The NSF grant builds on Walkington’s previous research on math education. An associate professor of teaching and learning at SMU’s Simmons School of Education and Human Development, Walkington has earned more than $11 million in math education research grants, and in 2019 received the Presidential Early Career Award for Scientists and Engineers from the U.S. Department of Education. Co-principal investigators for the grant include Dhingra; Anthony Petrosino, Simmons associate dean for research and outreach; Cathy Ringstaff, senior research associate, WestEd; and Elizabeth Stringer, director of academics, Guildhall.

 

About SMU

SMU (Southern Methodist University) is the nationally ranked global research university in the dynamic city of Dallas. SMU’s alumni, faculty and over 12,000 students in eight degree-granting schools demonstrate an entrepreneurial spirit as they lead change in their professions, communities and the world.

About Simmons School of Education & Human Development

The Annette Caldwell Simmons School of Education and Human Development at SMU (Southern Methodist University) reflects the University’s vision of serving the most important educational needs of our city, region and nation, graduating students for successful careers in a variety of fields and providing educational opportunities beyond traditional degree programs. Recognized as a unique and transformative leader in education research, practice and policy, the School is committed to rigorous, research-driven programs that promote evidence-based, effective practices in education and human development. 

Associated Press Includes SMU Simmons in List of Teacher Prep Programs Managing Changes Due to COVID-19

In a survey of teacher preparation programs around the country, the Associated Press asked how COVID-19 is impacting the way new teachers are being trained. SMU Simmons responded by saying professors are training students to use Google Classroom and also to evaluate education technology. Read the article here.

 

KRLD Radio Interviews Les Black on Impact of COVID in Holding Back Students

On KRLD Radio, Clinical Professor Les Black, Department of Education Policy and Leadership, talked about COVID’s impact on parents and taking steps to hold children back. Professor Black’s specialty is education policy and law.

He said holding back students would not be advisable, but ultimately it would be up to the parents. In most cases, parents and school administrators work together to determine what would be best for the student. The new Texas law, HB4545, which allows for accelerated instruction, would be important to consider. To hear his interview, click here.

Upcoming West Dallas STEM School Uses Virtual Space to Break Ground

As classes in the Dallas Independent School District conclude June 18, a new school in West Dallas gets ready to start. The Pre-K to 8 STEM School breaks ground virtually to celebrate its opening in mid-August.

In this video, the convener is Principal Marion Jackson, who highlights what students and their families can expect. The first group of students to study at the school will be seventh and eighth-graders.

The West Dallas STEM School, a Dallas ISD Transformation and Innovation School, is the result of more than three years of collaboration between the District, the Toyota USA Foundation, SMU’s Simmons School of Education and Human Development, and the West Dallas community.

 

 

Bridging the COVID Learning Gaps: DMN Shows How Quick Testing Methods Used by Simmons Can Help

 

Kindergarten teacher Michelle Davis gives a fist bump to Angelique Luciano, 6, after administering a quick literacy diagnostic test to her at F.P. Caillet Elementary in Dallas on Wednesday, May 5, 2021. These bimonthly, quick diagnostic assessments give her the info she needs to plot out how to get her students on track amid the pandemic. (Lynda M. González/The Dallas Morning News)(Lynda M. González / Staff Photographer)

The Dallas Morning News gives a thorough look at how a teacher can administer quick literacy tests to assess how students are progressing, as they build up their knowledge after staying at home during the pandemic.

Featured is Kindergarten teacher Michelle Davis, who is getting a graduate degree in education from the Simmons School. One of her professors, Diane Gifford, Ph.D., explains why this approach is effective in getting students up to speed. For a full version of the story, read more.

Dallas Innovates Offers Insights from Five Simmons Professors on Closing Learning Gaps Caused by Pandemic

To combat classroom learning losses stemming from the pandemic, five SMU Simmons professors reflect on their own research to advise Pre-K-12 school leaders on how to build up students’ knowledge.

Drs. Jill Allor, Diane Gifford, Leanne Ketterlin Geller, Candace Walkington, and Annie Wilhelm jump in with ideas published in Dallas Innovate. 

Reading experts Allor and Gifford emphasize basic skills. As Gifford says, “Students should learn the foundational skills necessary to read by the end of second grade. When students have gaps in their learning, they are likely to struggle until those gaps are filled. Even before COVID-19, 65 percent of fourth-graders in 2019 were reading below grade level.”

Allor says phonics is essential for reading comprehension. “Children who have difficulty reading most often have trouble with the ability to understand how letters relate to sounds,” she says.  “Research shows that students who struggle most often need more systematic and explicit phonics instruction. Some very popular reading programs are not consistent with research. If schools use these programs for intervention, many students will continue to struggle.”

Math researcher Leanne Ketterlin Geller believes math requires more dedicated time. “If students miss a concept—addition, for example—it will hinder them from understanding concepts they’ll learn later, like multiplication,”  she says. “Students will need more math instruction than the standard time allotment if they are to catch up.”

Annie Wilhelm adds that it is time to teach math in a new way, “The current model of teaching math as a series of disjointed topics limits students’ development of conceptual understanding. Instead of being taught a new set of procedures to master, students need to wrestle with how new ideas might fit with things they already understand.”

Using technology helps appeal to students’ personal interests, and that is important, says Candace Walkington. “Research shows that the most effective math instruction is relevant to students’ lives and interests and based in real-world problems.”In-person teaching can use technology to re-ignite students’ interest by using augmented reality, virtual reality, artificial intelligence, and game-based learning to simulate real life in math problems”

Sherril English Provides Expertise on Pandemic’s Impact on Students Academic and Mental Well-Being

 

Sherril English, SMU, Simmons, Faculty, Dept. of Teaching and Learning.

As school administrations discuss and media cover how the pandemic affects students academically and emotionally, educators are discerning what can help students the most.

Teaching & Learning’s Assistant Clinical Professor Sherril English provided her insights from over thirty years of educational experience as she joined a panel discussion framed by equity and inclusion. Sponsored by Building Solutions, the virtual panel advised parents to help their students find new learning opportunities outside of class and the home.

English counsels students to volunteer, shadow a professional or get jobs. Learn more at KERA and at NBC5.

Four Faculty Members Nominated for 2021 HOPE Award

Three Applied Physiology and Wellness faculty members, Caitlin Anderson, David Bertrand, and Brian Fennig, and Teaching and Learning Department Chair, Tim Jacobbe, were among a distinguished group of faculty nominated by students for the 2021 HOPE (Honoring Our Professor’s Excellence) award.

The sponsor, Residence Life & Student Housing, believes that it is important to highlight those professors who have gone above and beyond their role. Congratulations to these Simmons faculty members for receiving high recognition from students.