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.

Sam Stewart and the Mastery Approach to Teaching

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 Sam Stewart who was nominated by his department chair for his excellent example in project-based approaches, facilitating effective peer feedback, and mastery approaches to assessment.

Stewart_Sam108x153What are you doing?

In order to assure student competence as a potential teacher educator, I am requiring mastery on all assignments in my classes. Simply stated, if a student fails to score at or above a 74% level on the assignment, the student must redo the assignment to a level that is at a minimum score of 74%. In addition, not turning in an assignment is not an option if the student wants to satisfactorily complete the course.

Why are you doing it?

My first reason for requiring mastery is that I want to model for my students, who are aspiring teachers, that good teaching is not about students obtaining good grades but is about what students learn. I make it a point to not assign what might be thought of as busy work and make sure that my students know why the assignment is of value. If the assignment is not important enough to be required to be done correctly, then it is not an assignment worth doing.

My second reason for requiring mastery is that I teach in a professional licensure program. Just as I would not want a physician or attorney who are not competent treating or representing me, I do not want to license teachers who have not demonstrated competence in skills and knowledge necessary to be a successful teacher.

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

For too long it has been possible for students to play the grade game and not learn the content and skills being taught. This has been true at the K-12 level and at the college level. For example, a high school student might go to class every day, be on time, do all the homework, and receive a good grade even though the student failed to master or even comprehend some of the concepts being taught. Another example is that a really good student with many good grades might just opt to not do an assignment because as they calculate their grade they find they can take a zero and still maintain a grade that is acceptable to them.

Who is being impacted the most?

Ironically, the students in my classes are being impacted most as their grades are improved by the fact they are held to a mastery standard. It is really difficult to fail a class where you have completed all work competently. It also removes a significant amount of stress from the classroom as the students and I are all focused on the learning and not on the grade.

A second group that I hope are impacted greatly are the future students of my teacher education students. When my students become teachers, I am hopeful they will change the classroom culture to focus on learning and not on grades. This allows the classroom to be a place where everyone has hope; a place where teaching and learning are not punitive in nature.

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

When my students become teachers I am hopeful they will change their classroom culture and hopefully that of the schools where they work to focus on learning and not on grades. This allows the classroom to be a place where everyone has hope and teaching and learning are not punitive in nature. It is time that K-12 education becomes a places where it is the student and the teacher against the material, and students are evaluated by demonstrating competence on standards.

Jill Scott partners with Reagan Elementary to train teacher candidates

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 Jill Scott, who was nominated by her department chair for her work with Reagan Elementary to provide hands-on training for teacher candidates and academic support for Reagan’s teachers and students.

What are you doing?

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAI have created a unique learning experience for ACU teacher candidates called Reading Rangers, an after-school tutoring program at Reagan Elementary. I started this program as part of the course READ 480 Problems in Reading. This senior level field-based course serves as the culminating literacy course for elementary teacher candidates. Developed in the style of project-based learning, students in this course are challenged to combine theory, best practices, knowledge of assessment and interpersonal skills to create a learning environment and instructional sessions for a first or second grade struggling reader.

After several weeks of front loading information, the teacher candidates work in groups to take an empty room at Reagan Elementary and create their own model classroom. Simulating their first year of teaching, candidates use the furniture and materials on hand to create the learning environments. They design the floor plan, create literacy stations and develop materials. Each teacher candidate is then assigned a struggling reader. The teacher candidate will assess the student, develop an instructional plan and deliver at least 12 lessons, while continually monitoring student progress.

Interaction with parents and other school personnel is a unique feature of this program. Parents are invited to an open house before tutoring starts and a Readers’ Theater presentation is at the end. At the end of each session, the teacher candidates have an additional opportunity to interact with the students’ families. They hold a conference with their student’s teacher to share their student’s work and make suggestions for further learning. Often times, in this authentic setting, the teacher candidates have additional opportunities to work with principals, nurses and custodians to resolve problems or create learning opportunities. These types of opportunities are unique to the setting.

Why are you doing it?

New teachers have many challenges their first few years of teaching. I feel strongly that it is my responsibility to prepare our teacher candidates to meet these challenges. The best way I have found to do that is to provide real life situations where I am in the situation with them, providing modeling and support but not all the answers. I tell my students that they will not like me very much at the beginning of this project, because I will not give them the answers. In a very Socratic teaching manner, I ask more questions than I give answers. When they ask me how they should set up the classroom, or where they can get materials, or what they need to do next, I respond with “What do you think?” Allowing them to synthesize all their knowledge and tools to create their own answers not only forces them to work at a higher level, it creates confidence and experiences for them to fall back on. I do promise them that I will not let them fail.

My work at Reagan Elementary began as a response to a request from the Abilene Independent School District’s administration. This was a great opportunity to develop a professional partnership that extended beyond Reading Rangers. Reagan Elementary has a high at-risk population, much like the schools where I spent my 36 years of teaching. Providing extra support for the students and teachers through the tutoring sessions is one way to help. Over the four years that I have been working with Reagan, their students’ achievement have risen in all academic areas. In addition to Reading Rangers, I mentor teachers and administrators, volunteer in classrooms and provide in-service training. I serve on several of their campus committees. Other courses and professors have worked at Reagan providing similar activities. Many of their teachers serve as cooperating teachers for our teacher candidates. This partnership continues to grow with their involvement with our Master’s in Teaching and Learning.

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

Giving the students opportunities to use their knowledge and skills in real IMG_1502life settings is what learning to be a teacher is all about. I can talk about the importance of classroom environment and explain theory, but when a teacher candidate finds herself facing a blackboard with the students behind her and not knowing what is going on, it becomes a reality. When a teacher candidate asks her student why he is taking home canned food in a backpack and learns that the child is homeless and the school is helping to feed the family, the reality of teaching is evident. Modeling respectful interactions with parents cannot be done in the typical university classroom. Teaching problem solving and on the spot decision making cannot be replicated in a traditional classroom. This lab setting provides those types of opportunities. ACU graduates return after their first year or two of teaching and point to specific situations that occurred in Reading Rangers that helped them deal with situations in their teaching.

Who is being impacted the most?

Although all stakeholders (me, ACU students, AISD teachers, AISD students) are being impacted, I believe it is the ACU teacher candidates that are most impacted. These new teachers then go forward and impact their students. One of my former students shared with another professor that every time she faces a difficult parent “she sees and hears Dr. Scott and the way she treated parents.” I cannot create these experiences; they just happen during Reading Rangers. Our graduates are becoming the teacher leaders on their campuses because in part from some of the experiences they have in Reading Rangers. As AISD has moved to using the Fountas and Pinnell Benchmark testing which we teach in READ 480, our students have become the experts even as student teachers.

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

headerI hope to continue working in situations that provide real life opportunities for teacher candidates to work with students where more knowledgeable others, including myself, can serve as models. I would love to work more in partner schools or develop a lab school where all our teaching is done in a cooperative manner. Following Vygotsky’s apprenticeship model in a lab school will always be my dream.

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


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.


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.

Dr. Cynthia Powell uses iPads as a teaching platform in Chemisty

174228964_640What are you doing?
I have written a Physical Sciences textbook using iBook Author that is used in the Chemistry 203 course….this is a course for pre-service elementary school teachers. iPads are used as the teaching platform and all homework, laboratory work and classwork is completed using the iPads. They allow me to deliver podcasts that teach laboratory techniques and other digital resources that students use to support their learning. They allow students to easily collaborate on group reports. We have also used several science APPs for the iPad that are useful in learning about various topics and in practicing skills needed in processing scientific data. We use iPads to take photographs included in student lab reports that are essentially the “data” collected for an experiment. We augment these photos and can measure distances and angles more accurately on the photographs, than we can in the live laboratory setting. This augmented reality application is changing the way we plan laboratory experiments. We have also begun using iPads to collect all data, process the data and write and submit laboratory reports in our General Chemistry laboratories. This is a team effort led by Dr. Greg Powell and Dr. Eric Hardegree, along with our laboratory coordinator Mrs. Amber Brokaw. While our laboratories have been almost paperless for several years, the move to iPads has simplified the process. Podcasts prepared to teach techniques and skills for this course have been available for the past 3-4 years and students benefit from the ability to review new information in laboratory when they need extra support and at home.

Why are you doing it?
Technology can provide opportunities to see the world and understand science in ways we cannot in a regular classroom. We can tap into live data displayed by NASA, or record our laboratory data so that we can refer to it later. Students can review materials using podcasts and don’t have to be dependent on me to demonstrate a technique several times, as they become comfortable with new skills. iPads provide the opportunity for easy student collaboration and when used with an Apple TV allow students to share their work or online discoveries with the class in a seamless way. Simply put, technology is a teaching tool that broadens the opportunities for students to learn.

Why do you think it’s important to incorporate this technology into the classroom?
(1) When our students go out into the work world they will be expected to he facile technology users…we need to be training them for that situation.
(2) Technology is just one more tool in the arsenal of tools that a teacher can use to connect with their students and move students toward deeper learning. Using technology doesn’t make you a great teacher….listening to students, providing opportunities for students to learn in ways that helps them connect new knowledge with previous experience…these things can be accomplished with or without technology. I think it’s important to use the tools we have when they are helpful and know when they aren’t!

Who is being impacted the most?
It’s hard to know….I hope the faculty and students are both impacted by the collaborative learning environment that we’re trying to create.

What hopes do you have for the future when this work is done?
I doubt this work will ever be done…because I anticipate always reaching to improve the ways I teach and I suspect that this will involve technology for the forseeable future.

Dr. Rachel Team engages the community with a social skills training project

“It is important for the community to view ACU as a helping community,” says Dr. Rachel Team, Assistant Professor and Director of School Psychology Program. ACU’s School Psychology graduate program is partnering with the Pre-K classrooms in Abilene ISD to provide Social Skills training to the children. Graduate students meet every Monday morning with their assigned Pre-K classes and teach them a social skills lesson (e.g., listening, waiting your turn, asking for help, etc.). They have a lesson and activities planned for each class and they review the previous weeks’ skills. The teachers are present while the graduate students teach the skills and they reiterate the skill throughout the week.

Dr. Team has set this up to provide her students with a chance to experience the school system and classroom management in their first semester of graduate school and to serve the local children. She spoke with several administrators who stated much of their kindergarten students’ first semester was spent learning social skills in order to navigate public school. This took away the teachers’ time to teach academics, so Rachel thought providing the services prior to kindergarten would help them be more successful academically during their kindergarten year.

When asked about the importance of connecting with the community, Rachel said she felt that ACU has so many students and resources to offer Abilene that often go un-utilized because we miss the opportunities. This project is a mutually beneficial partnership for the ACU and AISD students and staff. “This social skills program has full potential to greatly impact our community because we are using these skills to equip these children into becoming the best leaders they can be. When you begin to teach children such valuable lessons at an early age, they will be able to carry these lessons with them for the rest of their lives,” says Shannon Webb, a graduate student participating in the program.

So who does she think is being impacted the most through this social skills project? Her students. “They are learning so many things by being a part of two classrooms a week. They better understand child development, classroom management, teaching styles, and the impact of the home environment on students’ skills, to name a few,” she says. Her students frequently comment on how much they enjoy their time with the Pre-K students and how much they are learning from this interaction. Matthew Taylor, another graduate student working on this project, says that he loves going in each week and working with the children. “They are so eager to learn and it is getting me ready for my future profession. I definitely think that it gives me a sense of accomplishment and fuels my passion even more to get out and work with children in a few years.”

Dr. Team says her hope for the future of this project is that they are able to continue to provide these services to the pre-k programs in AISD. “I hope more schools are able to benefit from this partnership and the children we work with will have an easier time adjusting to Kindergarten.”