Terry Baggs and Denise Barnett publish research on cognitive variables and graduate program success

The Adams Center would like to recognize faculty who have exhibited extraordinary teaching, scholarship and service. We want to congratulate faculty members for their hard work, achievements and advancements in their field. This month we are spotlighting Terry Baggs and Denise Barnett, who were nominated for their research on predicting success in graduate programs when looking at cognitive variables.

terry-baggs Denise_BarnettWhat are you doing? 

We partnered with Kim McCullough of Appalachian State University to embark on a multi-year and multi-university research project to assess the relationship between the cognitive variables commonly used in graduate admissions with a student’s success in graduate speech-language pathology. This project became the largest known project of its kind. For the independent variables, we considered overall GPA, GPA in the major, GRE scores, and science courses required by the American-Speech-Language-Hearing Association. (These courses include biological science, physical science, and speech-hearing science.) Because our secondary accreditation body gauges program success based on student’s credentialing examination, the Praxis, it was decided to utilize the Praxis score as the dependent variable. More than 200 graduate students at four universities in the mid-south and southwestern United States participated with a response rate of 97%. We found that course grades in physical science and speech-hearing science and scores on the GRE were able to predict success on the Praxis examination with a high degree of accuracy. Being part of a clinical rehabilitation profession, we were also interested in knowing if any of these independent variables were related to clinical success. We discovered a significant correlation between the quantitative score of the GRE and clinical performance. These findings were published recently in the Journal of Allied Health (JAH, 2015, 44[1], 10-16).

Why are you doing it? JAH

All rehabilitation therapies (PT, OT, and Speech) are experiencing record demand for therapists and subsequent record numbers of applications for graduate school. Admission committees talk about numbers of applicants typically in the hundreds per program for only a few openings. (We have personally experienced this at ACU. This year, our program received 227 applications for 24 openings.) Can we improve the admission process by assessing typical variables? Is it possible to make the process more efficient by assessing the predictive value of these variables? Our findings have helped us solidify our admissions process here at ACU.

Why do you think it is important to incorporate this practice into the classroom? 

University graduate admissions committees have an ethical responsibility to students, potential future patients, and other constituents to admit only qualified applicants for their graduate programs. It is important to accept students who can meet the demands of academic and clinical work and pass their credentialing examination without the need for remediation. We believe that graduate admissions should not be relegated to guesswork but be grounded in an evidence base.

Who is being impacted the most? 

We believe this research assists graduate programs in finding the students who will succeed academically and become an exceptional therapist. This research impacts potential students, graduate programs, and future patients who will benefit from the services of our graduates.

What hopes do you have for the future when this work is done? 

Our first research project was recently published in the Journal of Allied Health. We are hopeful that many university admissions committees will benefit from our findings and will be able to advocate for modifying the process. Because of the aforementioned findings, we are embarking on a new study to assess the relationship between the SAT/ACT scores and the GRE in speech-language pathology students. We believe that early identification may assist undergraduate programs in recognizing good students who need some assistance in developing skills that will lead to acceptance into a graduate program.

Lynette Austin designs Language Assessment Tool with Pearson Education, Inc.

What are you doing?

I am working with Pearson Education, Inc. to design a special language assessment tool to be utilized with children who are English language learners (ELLS) and who are suspected of having a language/learning disability. The type of assessment is called a “dynamic assessment”; it is intended to measure a child’s capacity to learn a new language-based skill during a brief, interactive (dynamic) teaching session.

Whereas a traditional language test checks what a child knows and does not know in different language areas, and then computes a score, this type of assessment tool will look at a quality called “modifiability,” (how easily can the child change and learn). It will also measure the amount of effort and time it takes to teach the skill to a particular child. Once completed, the measure should be able to compare the data collected on a specific client to a database of results from children who are typical English language learners. Current literature indicates that this type of measure can help identify those who are struggling with learning the new language due to a disability rather than a language difference stemming from having a diverse language background.

Dynamic assessment research teamMy graduate student researchers and I have developed two of the three projected tasks for the assessment, and designed an assessment protocol and procedural guide. We also have created a “mock-up” of the interactive teaching activities to be used (all the materials will eventually be available on a digital platform; likely a web-based application). We have collected research data on whether or not the dynamic assessment tool is effective at facilitating and measuring change in some English skills for these children–and the data so far indicates that it is! The tasks are now being sent out to speech-language pathologists in the field for their feedback.

 

Why are you doing it?

One of my primary teaching and research interests, and an area in which I continue to practice as a speech-language pathology consultant, is in the area of service delivery to individuals who have diverse cultural and language backgrounds (CLD). We have a history in Texas and in the US of over-identifying language disabilities in the CLD population, and that is a discriminatory practice (although accidental!).

It is very difficult for speech and language pathologists to test children in this country who are learning to speak English, and do so in a way that is language–and culture–fair. Obviously, English language learners do not yet speak English fluently, so our typical speech and language tests don’t work for them. Furthermore, it is often impossible to find assessment tool in these children’s home languages (L1). For this reason, we need reasonable ways to look at what they are able to do with the English they have learned, and decide if they are showing adequate language-learing skills.

English language learners are often referred by physicians, teachers and others for speech and language assessment; we must have assessment strategies that are supported by research to effectively assess speakers with limited English skills. I’m excited about developing an assessment tool that can hopefully be used with speakers from a variety of language backgrounds to provide more accurate speech and language diagnoses for them!

 

Why do you think its important to incorporate this practice into the classroom? 

Undergraduate and graduate students who are studying speech and language pathology need to understand the scope of this problem–that of over-identifying English language learners as having language disabilities when actually they don’t. Our population in Texas and in the US is growing ever more diverse, and all speech-language pathologists in the future will need to know how to appropriately work with these populations. I think that participating in this research has helped my graduate students be much more thoughtful in how they approach language assessment–I know that those on my team are very well equipped to assess ELLS!

In the undergraduate classroom, I introduce students to the topic of dynamic assessment for ELLS as an example of an appropriate alternative assessment strategy, so that as they move through the rest of their professional preparation they are alerted to and aware of the idea of culture-fair assessment (which is an area that is not away thoroughly addressed in graduate speech pathology programs).

 

Who is being impacted the most?

Right now I believe that graduate students in our program are those who are most impacted, as they learn how to design and conduct alternative assessments for ELLS. However, I think ultimately the children for whom this measure is designed will be the most impacted, as this should increase diagnosis accuracy for young ELLS begin tested for language disabilities.

 

What hopes do you have for the future when this work is done?

Our hope is that this assessment tool will be made available to SLPS throughout the country as a web-based application. The current project addresses ELLS who are between 6-8 years of age; we are in the process of considering dynamic assessment tasks for older children as well.

 

Geoff Broderick invited to participate in exhibit at the Tokyo Museum of Art

unnamed-2What are you doing?

I was invited to participate in a sculpture show titled US-Japan Art Exhibition at the Tokyo Museum of Art in Tokyo, Japan. The dates for the exhibition are March 20-28 of 2015. It is my understanding that there was an intention to invite 15 American artists and a similar number of Japanese artists to participate with their work. There will be events such as gallery talks by artists, receptions, and tours for those not familiar with the area. Each artist will submit one sculpture to the show and are expected to remain in Japan for the duration.

Why are you doing it?

I believe that this idea came about because of relationships formed at The Texas Sculpture Symposium at Midwestern State University in November of 2013. I am a member along with several other cast iron artists of a groupCore Float-Geoffrey Broderick called the Texas Atomic Iron Commission. We put on a casting demonstration and sculpture exhibition at the symposium and there was also a visiting artist from Japan named Hironari Kubota exhibiting as well. The sculpture professor at Midwestern State is Suguru Hiraide, also from Japan. Relationships were formed at this successful event that led to later discussions between Suguru and Hironari about co-curating a sculpture exhibition in a high profile venue in Tokyo. They submitted a proposal for a show that would combine Japanese and American artists to the Tokyo Museum of Art and it was accepted. It was after this that the American artists were given invitations to participate.

I strongly believe that the relationships formed at the symposium between certain artists with Hironari and his impression of the sculpture being shown led him to the idea of reciprocating with an even higher profile venue overseas. I do not know all of the artists participating from the United States but several were from the show at the symposium. All of us I am sure will be anxious to form new relationships and experience another culture in a context that highlights our talents as well.

Why do you think it is important to incorporate this practice into the classroom? Who is being impacted the most?

There are always implications of enrichment in teaching with new experiences. There are the international students who have differing cultural backgrounds that can be related to through common experiences and the discussions of universal or specific symbolic objects used in art pieces that have cultural context.

What hopes do you have for the future through your work? 

As a member of the Texas Atomic Iron Commission I am required to stay up to date with casting technology and be willing to carry a share of the responsibilities relating to demonstrations that we offer. I built a portable iron melting cupolette for travel that resides in the sculpture area of ACU Art and Design. This equipment has led to some important relationship building at national events, other universities, as well as the Narrowgate Foundation in unnamedTennessee that is a highly spiritual venue for which I was recognized last year with the Faith and Teaching award. I never underestimate the power of relationships that develop and where that can lead. I have former students that reside in Japan and have come back to visit bearing gifts and news of their achievements in life. Our university has had many connections overseas having to do with various disciplines and now Art and Design is making its mark. The members of the Texas Atomic Iron Commission have been putting on demonstrations and exhibitions since 2005 knowing that each event would enlarge our sphere of influence and build new relationships that continue to lead to more opportunities. This will be one of those opportunities.

Flipping the Classroom with Mark & Laura Phillips

mark-phillips-thumb

What are you doing?
We have partially or completely flipped classes that we teach so that students receive course content before they come to class through readings, videos, podcasts, powerpoints, etc. Class time can then be spent answering questions, working problems, or doing activities that reinforce the concepts.

 
Why are you doing it?
Pushing some of the basic content delivery out of the classroom accomplishes several objectives. Students arrive at class better prepared to move past basic terms and concepts. They have the opportunity to engage with each other as they wrestle with challenging ideas together. We also have the opportunity to interact with the students individually, which gives us the chance to address the questions actually being asked—instead of general questions that student might have.

laura-phillips265a

 
Why do you think it’s important to incorporate this practice into the classroom?
A lecture-style class is really a “one-size-fits-all” approach to learning, but our students do not all learn at the same pace. They also differ in which concepts they find difficult and which come easily to them. A flipped class allows for more individualized learning. An added benefit is that flipped classrooms help our students transition to self-directed learning, a skill that is valuable in the workplace.

 
Who is being impacted the most?
In a typical class some students struggle to keep up, while others are hardly challenged. A flipped classroom allows students to engage with the material at their own pace.

 
What hopes do you have for the future when this work is done?
As we become better at applying the flipped model our students should be able to move further into specific topics. We should also be able to customize instruction across the class population—allowing us to challenge the thinking of the stronger students while simultaneously allowing us to focus on foundational building blocks with struggling students.