Main Menu Summer 2013

Research and Scholarship


Dr. Arthur Baroody has three grants, totaling almost $250 million, related to helping young children learn mathematics.

One project involves the development of three different computer-aided programs to help pre-kindergarten to first grade children who are at risk for difficulties in learning mathematics to memorize basic addition and related subtraction facts. A second project seeks to develop the Early Mathematics Assessment System (EMAS), a tool to measure a broad range of mathematical content knowledge and proficiency skills of children. The third project investigates two types of transitions in preschoolers' development of number and arithmetic knowledge: (1) Changes in how children represent number; and, (2) Changes in what children represent. This knowledge can serve as the basis for a powerful instructional framework for early childhood mathematics education.

Dr. Fouad Abd El Khalick received an $866,000 grant from the National Science Foundation to develop an experimental alternative science and mathematics teacher certification program, RECRUIT, that aims to increase the number of secondary science and mathematics teachers from under-represented populations.

The program emphasizes quality and innovation in science and mathematics teacher preparation through both program design and intensive research. The research investigates teacher cognition and content knowledge, teacher support communities and effective models for collaboration between education faculty, STEM faculty, and school personnel.

Dr. Barbara Hug is working with several universities on National Science Foundation grants totaling about $587,000 to improve science instruction in middle school and elementary classrooms.

One project is developing middle school curricula, situated in project based investigations, that support students in learning science content based on national standards. The project will investigate whether students in diverse settings (urban, suburban, and rural) develop deeper understanding of key learning goals using these materials than do students who use conventional materials. The second project involves collecting teacher and student data in elementary classrooms regarding research questions focused on use of scientific models and modeling practices across disciplines and the relationship between scientific modeling and content learning, as well as to assist in development of surveys, and/or interviews for 4th-7th grade students and teachers.

A third project brings together development efforts of science and technology curricula of five universities: the University of Michigan, Northwestern University, Georgia Institute of Technology, University of Toledo, and the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. The goal is to identify common theoretical principles that can be used to articulate curriculum features and then to develop units based on natural selection and ecology. Research questions focus on how to support teachers and students in extended inquiry projects using technology.

Dr. Sarah Lubienski and Barbara Hug are collaborating on a $200,000 grant from the Illinois State Board of Education to develop a masters degree program designed to deepen elementary school teachers’ knowledge, integrating science, mathematics, and pedagogy with an inquiry-oriented approach.

Emphasizing “sense-making” while learning, it brings together faculty and teacher interests from many areas, including geometry, astronomy, probability, and entomology. Principal partners include the Department of Curriculum and Instruction; Decatur Public Schools; and the departments of Educational Organization and Leadership; Educational Psychology; Office of Mathematics, Science and Technology Education; Mathematics; Entomology; Atmospheric Sciences; Illinois Natural History Survey; School of Earth Systems, Environment and Society; College of Engineering.


Mark Dressman and Sarah McCarthey with Paul Prior (English) are co-editors of the journal Research in the Teaching of English. The premier research journal for the National Council of Teachers of English (NCTE), RTE publishes cutting-edge research in all aspects of literacy from pre-school through college.

Liora Bresler is the editor of the International Journal of Education & the Arts that currently serves as an open access platform for scholarly dialogue. The journal is committed to the highest forms of scholarship invested in the significances of the arts in education and the education within the arts.

IJEA publishes articles pertaining to issues in any of the various fields of aesthetics and arts education. These fields include, among others, aesthetics, art theory, music education, visual arts education, drama education, dance education, education in literature and narrative. Holistic, integrated studies that cross or transcend these fields are also welcomed. A Book Review section contains thoughtful essays on current, recent, and classic works in arts education. Because IJEA is published electronically, a wider array of representational forms and formats are possible than in print journals. These include musical, pictorial, and videographic, as well as verbal/print. Multi-media formats are especially welcome. Whatever the mode employed, articles (as examples of good art) should provide important insights into, or suggest provocative questions about, the phenomena of arts education. The originality, educational significance, and technical quality of submissions are important criteria in the review and selection processes. Manuscripts employing a verbal/print format may use interpretive, narrative, arts-based, contextualized quantitative, and critical approaches to studying education in the arts.

Ian Westbury is general editor of the Journal of Curriculum Studies. First published in 1968 and with regional editors in the US, Canada, Austria, Switzerland and Hong Kong, JCS is the leading international journal in curriculum studies broadly defined -- covering historical, comparative and policy-related studies of the curriculum, pedagogic theory, teacher education and development, assessment and evaluation, and the present state of schooling.

New Books

Marilyn Johnston-Parsons, Melissa Wilson, and the teachers at Park Street Elementary have published a book that tells insider success stories of life in a "failing" school, stories of the daily lives of children and educators in an urban school during a time when accountability weighs heavy on both teachers and students.

These stories speak of the children in this school, of their struggles with the often difficult conditions of urban life, and of their successes and uniqueness. They also tell of the lives of teachers determined to respond to the children's individual needs and cultural selves while confronted with the demands of frequent standardized testing and eternally imposed curriculum. These narratives demonstrate how current policies can be counterproductive to leaving no child behind. The book is entitled, “Success Stories from a Failing School: Teaching Living Under the Shadow of NCLB.” Charlotte, NC: Information Age Publishing, Inc. (2007)

Mark Dressman will be publishing a book in March 2008 entitled Using Social Theory in Educational Research that explores the challenges and implications of social theories within educational research.

Although concepts from social theories have become commonplace within educational research over the last several decades, little attention has been paid to the challenges and opportunities these present and the problems beginning educational researchers may encounter when using such concepts in their work. This breakthrough book is organized to help practicing educators and novice researchers who have little familiarity with social theory through:

  • introducing the major schools of social theory, their basic concepts and applicability to educational concepts;
  • developing the researcher’s understanding of the potential of social theory to improve their own practice;
  • explaining how to analyse findings in the light of social theories, using practical examples and a fictional researcher;
  • discussing how their work might contribute to the refinement of theories and knowledge about educational phenomena.

Accessible and illustrated with examples, Using Social Theory in Educational Research, published by Routledge, is essential reading for gradate students of education and educational researchers with a limited background in social theories. Experienced researchers will also find the discussion on the changes in the nature of educational research and practice over the last two decades and arguments about the usefulness of social theory within educational research provocative.

Arlette Willis recently published a book entitled “Reading Comprehension Research and Testing in the U.S.: Undercurrents of Race, Class, and Power in the Struggle for Meaning.”

This book challenges traditional, sanctioned, and official histories of reading comprehension by examining how ideological and cultural hegemony work to reproduce dominant ideologies through education in general and reading comprehension research and testing specifically. Willis analyzes the ideological and cultural foundations that underpin concepts, theories, research, tests, and interpretations, and connects these to the broader social and political contexts within U.S. history in which reading comprehension research and testing have evolved. The reconstruction of a history of reading comprehension research and testing in this way demystifies past and current assumptions about the interconnections among researchers, reading comprehension research, and standardized reading comprehension tests. A promising vision of the future of reading comprehension research and testing emerges–one that is more complex, multidimensional, inclusive, and socially just.

Reading Comprehension Research and Testing in the U.S.(2007) aims to revolutionize how reading comprehension is conceived, theorized, tested, and interpreted for all children. This is a critically relevant volume for educational researchers, teacher educators, school administrators, teachers, policy makers, and all those concerned with school literacy and educational equity.

Klaus Witz has published a book entitled "Spiritual Aspirations Connected with Mathematics: The Experience of American University Students".

This book uses portraits of 6 students' deeper experience and inspiration to show a phenomenon in the final high school and undergraduate years that is fundamental both from a philosophical and a broad human development and educational point of view. In the four students who went on for a PH. D. in mathematics, there arose something like a tacit "inner understanding" of mathematics, almost like an "inner vision", which involved beauty, metaphysical elements and values, led them to go to graduate school and pursue a career in mathematics, and from then on became part of their basic orientation to mathematics. The author shows in detail how this inner understanding or inner vision represented a powerful aspect of their spirituality, and suggests that the fact that deeper experience of higher mathematics often includes spiritual aspects must be intrinsic to mathematics. The portraits also suggest that getting such an inner understanding is one way in which some students in their late high school and college years develop a deeper self understanding and find a direction in life.

Liora Bresler has edited the Handbook of Research in Arts Education published by Springer (February 2007). The two volumes (1600 plus pages) of the Handbook include chapters and interludes written by 113 authors, and additional fifty five international scholars discussing research in arts education in thirty five countries across the globe.

Providing a distillation of knowledge in the various disciplines of arts education (visual arts, music, dance, drama, literature and poetry), the Handbook synthesizes existing research literature, help define the past, and contribute to shaping the substantive and methodological future of the respective and integrated disciplines of arts education. After a couple of months, The Handbook "sold out" its paperback copies.

Noteworthy Research

In a widely publicized study, Dr. Sarah Lubienski and husband Christopher Lubienski (Department of Educational Organization and Leadership) concluded that contrary to common wisdom, public schools score higher in math than private ones, when differences in student backgrounds are taken into account.

In their first study, they drew on data from the 2000 National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP). A follow-up study of the 2003 assessment, drawn from a much larger national data sample of 13,577 schools and 343,000 students, produced similar findings. The results, the researchers said, raise doubts about the assumed academic benefits of private and charter schools, as well as the role of parental choice in influencing school quality.