July 31, 2018

Education faculty receive grants for new research projects

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. — Creating a program to train educators to better teach students with developmental disabilities, including autism, is the goal of new grant-funded research by faculty in the Purdue University’s College of Education.

Rose Mason, an assistant professor of educational studies in the College of Education and a member of the Purdue Autism Cluster, is principal investigator for the three-year project which recently received $1.39 million from the Institute of Education Sciences.

The purpose of the project is to develop Para-Impact. The program works to train special education teachers in the practice of coaching. Those teachers subsequently train teacher’s aides, also called paraeducators, to implement high-quality instruction for elementary students with moderate to severe developmental disabilities.

“Schools are in need of an efficient and effective method to train paraeducators,” Mason said. “It is our hope that the development of Para-Impact will help fill this need.”

Mason said paraeducators make up more than half of the special education workforce while the majority of teachers indicate they do not have the skills necessary to effectively supervise those paraeducators.

“As a result, students with developmental disabilities face minimized learning opportunities and may not be exposed to rigorous, high-quality instruction,” Mason said.

Rose will work with colleagues Mandy Rispoli, associate professor of special education; Jennifer Richardson, professor of learning design and technology, and Yukiko Maeda, associate professor of educational psychology, as well as colleagues at Juniper Gardens Children’s Project at the University of Kansas.

College of Education faculty also received a $1.4 million grant by the Institute of Education Sciences through the U.S. Department of Education to design and develop the CourseMIRROR mobile learning system.

The system combines mobile learning technologies with natural language processing to
create a continuous cycle of student reflection and then instructor feedback. The cycle aims to enhance student engagement and learning outcomes in large lecture courses.

Muhsin Menekse, an assistant professor in engineering and science education, is the principal investigator of the project.

He said most introductory STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) classes are taught in large lecture-based scenarios that result in a passive response by students.

Menekse said the research will examine and address the passive response problem by exploring the reflection and feedback cycle on students’ learning outcomes and the use of different learning strategies in large lecture STEM courses.

The grant is for four years. Menekse, also an assistant professor in the School of Engineering Education, is joined by Ala Samarapungavan, professor of educational psychology, and Diane Litman, a professor of computer science at the University of Pittsburgh. 

Writer: Brian L. Huchel, 765-494-2084, bhuchel@purdue.edu  

Sources: Rose Mason, 765-494-7238, rmason3@purdue.edu

Muhsin Menekse, 765-494-7512, mmenekse@purdue.edu

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