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Vanderbilt experts available to discuss math and science education and research

Feb. 27, 2006, 1:18 PM

(Broadcast media note: Vanderbilt has a campus broadcast facility with a dedicated fiber optic line for live TV interviews and a radio ISDN line. Call (615) 322-2706, a 24/7 number, to schedule all interviews).

Educators and researchers have reacted with both enthusiasm and skepticism to President Bush’s State of the Union call to improve America’s competitiveness in math and science. Vanderbilt education and science experts are available to discuss what it will take to stop the United States’ slide towards scientific and mathematic irrelevancy on the global stage.

Targeting different learning strategies—Camilla Benbow
Are we leaving some of our brightest learners behind? Camilla Benbow and her colleague and husband David Lubinksi are in the midst of a 50-year longitudinal study of gifted students, begun in 1971 by their mentor Julian Stanley, of middle school students achieving above college-level entrance exams as well as graduate students in top math, science and engineering programs. Their study has found these students fall into two distinct type of learning groups—those who learn better using spatial relationships and those who learn more effectively using mathematical and numerical concepts, and that the spatial learners tend to not pursue science and engineering careers. Benbow and Lubinski argue that teaching methods must be adapted to build on these students’ strengths if the United States is to foster its next generation of scientists and engineers. Benbow is the Patricia and Rodes Hart Dean of Education and Human Development, Vanderbilt University Peabody College. She is also a professor of psychology and Vanderbilt Kennedy Center for Research on Human Development investigator.

Helping students reach for the stars–Rick Chappell
Children tend to lose interest in science in middle school, which is why it is so important to engage and target these students in hands-on activities, says Rick Chappell, director of science and research communications at Vanderbilt University and executive director of Vanderbilt Dyer Observatory. Chappell has found engaging students in astronomy using telescopes and Web-based strategies is an effective way to pique their interest in science and technology. Prior to joining Vanderbilt in 1997, Chappell was associate director for science at NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Ala. He worked with former Vice President Al Gore to create an innovative K-12 science education program known as GLOBE (Global Learning and Observations to Benefit the Environment). From 1976 to 1985, he was mission scientist for Spacelab 1.

Barriers to education reform in the U.S.: Laura Desimone
The policy effects on teaching and learning in the core academic subjects are the focus of research by Laura Desimone, assistant professor of public policy and education at Vanderbilt Peabody College. Desimone studies the impact of standards-based reform, comprehensive school reform and teachers’ professional development on improving instruction and student achievement in mathematics, science and reading. She is the author of a number of articles on education reform including “Assessing barriers to the reform of United States mathematics instruction from an international perspective” and “‘Highly qualified’ to do what? The relationship between NCLB teacher quality mandates and the use of reform-oriented instruction in middle school math.”

Investing in research: Kenneth F. Galloway
While investment in education is critical, it must be joined by increased investment in research, argues Kenneth Galloway, dean of the Vanderbilt University School of Engineering. “It is vitally important that our government understand that innovative breakthroughs come largely from science and engineering research, and that this research is well worth the investment of federal dollars,” Galloway wrote in a recent op-ed.

Improving mathematics education: Rogers Hall
Improving students’ mathematical reasoning both in and out of the classroom is one of the research areas of Rogers Hall, professor of mathematics education at Vanderbilt Peabody College. Hall also examines how algebra is taught and learned with diverse student populations in U.S. schools. Hall can discuss how to develop students’ math skills both in and out of school and more effective ways of teaching mathematics to K-12 students.

Global education policy and trends: Stephen Heyneman
As an expert and consultant on education in over 50 countries, Stephen Heyneman can discuss global trends and challenges in K-12 and higher education and the implications for U.S. education policy. Heyneman served in the World Bank for 22 years, where he helped research education quality, designed policies to support educational effectiveness and trained senior officials in education policy worldwide. He is known for his worldwide study that found in the majority of countries poor children performed as well as rich children on tests of math and science, a result referred to as the “Heyneman-Loxley Effect.” Heyneman is currently a Fulbright New Century Scholar and professor of international education policy at Vanderbilt Peabody College.

Using students’ own experiences to teach math and science: Richard Lehrer
Bringing students’ worlds into the classroom is critical to communicating complex mathematical and scientific models to them. Using this approach, Richard Lehrer, a professor of science education at Vanderbilt Peabody College, and his colleague Leona Schauble, professor of education, have helped elementary-aged children in urban schools previously labeled as “unteachable” improve to perform at and above grade level in math in the same school year.

Improving math and science education across the board: Andrew Porter
Effecting nationwide improvement in math and science education is the aim of Andrew Porter, director of the Vanderbilt Learning Sciences Institute and Patricia and Rodes Hart Professor of Educational Leadership and Policy. Porter is the co-director of System-Wide Change for All Learners and Educators Math and Science Partnership (SCALE), a five-year study funded at $35 million by the National Science Foundation through 2007. He is an elected member and former officer of the National Academy of Education, Lifetime National Associate of the National Academies, and past-president of the American Educational Research Association.

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Media contact: Melanie Moran, (615) 322-NEWS