Spring 2021 Awards

 

Latinx Transnational Family Contributions to Students' Academic Well-Being

Idalia Nunez Cortez, Curriculum & Instruction, PI

With rapid school closures due to the COVID-19 global pandemic, Latinx transnational families have relied on the support of family members across national borders to ensure the educational well-being of their transnational children. Learning from the educational contributions of families and family members across national borders can help us better understand how to best serve students of transnational backgrounds in our schools. This study explores the complex systems of interdependent relations and practices that transnational families embody to collectively support the educational trajectories of their children. Findings will inform curricular and instructional development for teachers working with and for transnational families and students.

COVID-19 Risk Mitigation: Interactive Automatic Counselor

Dan Morrow, Educational Psychology, PI; Mark Hasegawa-Johnson, The Grainger College of Engineering, Co-PI; Suma Bhat, The Grainger College of Engineering, Co-PI; H. Chad Lane, Educational Psychology, Co-PI; Eugene Cox, Informatics Program, Graduate Student

We have made good progress toward our goal of developing an interactive risk mitigation counselor/agent to educate people and help them evaluate risk-related implications of participating in daily situations. Progress includes conducting a review of the literature on automated COVID-19 risk assessment tools that established the need for this kind of tool, conducting a survey that provides preliminary risk situation descriptions that are valuable for training the agent, and an investigation of tools for building a prototype, including Google DialogFlow.  Additional support now allows us to: (1) leverage survey data to begin training the agent to recognize types of daily situations with known risk attributes related to the pandemic, to support interactive counseling strategies; (2) conduct a follow-up survey to validate the training materials; and (3) develop a working prototype of the counselor by implementing the trained conversational strategies using Google Dialogflow.

Do Social, Emotional and Behavioral Skills Predict Students’ Sustained Community Volunteering? A Longitudinal Evaluation of We CU

Christopher Napolitano, Educational Psychology, PI; Brent Roberts, Center for Social and  Behavioral Science; Emily Stone, Bureau of Educational Research; Madison Sewell, Educational Psychology, Graduate Student; Erin Budesheim, Educational Psychology, Graduate Student

The COVID-19 pandemic has adversely impacted university students and our local community. One way that students have shown resilience and supported local community-based organizations is through the We CU Community Engaged Scholars Program (We CU), which honors students for their community-based work and provides them with training and access to service opportunities with partner organizations. More than 800 students have participated in We CU, completing over 15,000 service hours across 163 projects. For this study, We CU provides a testbed for examining how social, emotional, and behavioral (SEB) skills relate to volunteering. Earlier, we found that students with higher perspective taking, abstract thinking, and consistency were more likely to complete service hours in We CU, compared to those who enrolled but did not volunteer. We also found that students who completed their targeted 40 hours of service reported higher levels of stress resistance than students who completed only some hours. This extended investigation of We CU asks whether new reflection activities improve retention of students in We CU. We also aim to replicate initial findings that particular SEB skills are associated with higher levels of student volunteering. Finally, we are collecting longitudinal data from a comparison group of Illinois students not engaged with We CU to learn whether We CU volunteers report higher level of SEB skills at the outset, and whether participating in We CU promotes the positive development of SEB skills.

Transition Planning for Technology-Enhanced Learning Research in K12 Classrooms

Robb Lindgren, Curriculum & Instruction, PI; Barbara Hug, Curriculum & Instruction, Co-PI; Cynthia D'Angelo, Curriculum & Instruction, Co-PI; Grace Yun, Curriculum & Instruction, Graduate Student

In-person research in K-12 schools was halted during the 2020-21 academic year due to the COVID-19 pandemic. While there is great optimism for a return to this practice in Fall 2021, we anticipate long-lasting changes in how researchers engage with students and teachers. This is especially true in the context of technology-based research, where the aim is for students to work collaboratively with shared artifacts and face-to-face communication. It is critical that we as researchers do not leap hastily into these activities and place burdensome expectations on teachers who will be transitioning themselves back into classroom practices. It is important to allocate time and resources to working with teachers and planning with them around how to conduct research activities safely, while still attaining the shared goal of enhancing learning for students with innovative technology designs. This project initiates planning activities in Summer 2021 with 3 middle school science teachers from districts around Central Illinois, leading into in-person research in the 2021-22 academic year with small groups of students, using gesture-augmented simulations. Our findings will pave the way for further research on other topics in the future, especially with rural districts.

The HigherEd COVID response (HECR) Study Evaluation of Higher Education Institutional Responses During COVID-19 on Student Sociocultural Factors—Wave 2

Nidia Ruedas-Gracia, Educational Psychology, PI; Rodney Hopson, Educational Psychology, Co-PI; Ananya Tiwari, Educational Psychology, Graduate Student; Shiyu Sun, Educational Psychology, Graduate Student

In light of COVID-19, universities around the world exhibited rapid shift in the way college courses are delivered, including changes in the mode of delivery, assignments and content. Although steps to address the evolving pandemic at the higher education level continue to be taken, we still do not know how this shift has impacted students’ well-being, motivation, sense of belonging to the institution, or other sociocultural factors. Student evaluations of the supportiveness of these responses can inform universal understanding of effectiveness and can help higher education programs and policies design future courses to maintain student enrollment and also preserve the educational quality of the institution. This study is working to evaluate the impact of university course changes during COVID-19 on student-level factors (including sense of belonging to the university, psychological well-being, academic motivation in general, academic motivation to remain in their institution, and growth mindset), and includes four key stakeholder roles at a large university system: students, teaching assistants, faculty and leadership. We began this study in Summer 2020 across 15 colleges on the Illinois campus and across all disciplines. In Summer 2021, we are extending the study across multiple higher education institutions in the state of Illinois, including Minority Serving Institutions, to unpack the effects of the pandemic on their students.