Data-Intensive Research to Optimize STEM Learning (2014-17)

Landmark College, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), and Technical Education Research Centers (TERC) were awarded a $1.16 million National Science Foundation (NSF-DIR) grant titled “Revealing the Invisible: Data-Intensive Research Using Cognitive, Psychological, and Physiological Measures to Optimize STEM Learning.” 

This research project will study ways to measure how and when students learn basic physics concepts while playing an educational digital game called “Impulse” (pictured at right). The research will include students with and without ADHD and/or autism spectrum disorder (ASD). 

Patterns of play and eye-tracking data will be used to assess what students know and when they know it, and to allow the game to adapt in real time to improve student learning. 

Dr. Ibrahim Dahlstrom-Hakki, a research and education specialist with the Landmark College Institute for Research and Training (LCIRT), will lead this two-and-a-half-year research initiative as the principal investigator from Landmark College, together with Dr. Micah Altman of MIT and Dr. Jodi Asbell-Clarke of TERC.

“This project is important because it can help us understand how best to teach those students who struggle the most in mainstream learning environments,” said Dahlstrom-Hakki. “If we can develop more effective ways of helping them learn, then we will improve outcomes for all struggling students.” 

You can find out more about the educational game Impulse on the game maker's website.

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Synchronous Versus Asynchronous On-Line Discussions for Students with Disabilities (2014-17)

LCIRT has received a $486,970 National Science Foundation (NSF-REAL) award for a proposal entitled "Social Presence During Instructor Mediated Synchronous Versus Asynchronous On-Line Discussions: A Study of Undergraduate Students with Disabilities Learning Statistics."

This study will consider how well students with learning disabilities, ADHD, or autism spectrum disorder (ASD) learn concepts in an online statistics course when the instructor participates in real-time (synchronous) online discussions with the students as opposed to asynchronous discussions. 

Since online learning is a vast and growing enterprise around the world, this research has the potential to help colleges and universities design online courses that work better for students who learn differently. 

Dr. Ibrahim Dahlstrom-Hakki, a research and educational specialist with LCIRT, and Dr. Manju Banerjee, vice president and director of LCIRT, will lead this three-year research initiative, along with Kevin Keith, Landmark College mathematics and computer science professor, and the rest of the College’s math department. 

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Innovative Apps Contest for Landmark College Students (2014)

LCIRT was awarded a grant from Learning Disabilities Foundation of America (LDFA) to sponsor a contest fostering collaborations between students and faculty around innovative use of apps for learning. The goal of the Apps Club contest was to identify best practices for mobile device and apps use in the classroom as informed by a unique partnership between students and faculty. 

This contest was open only to Landmark College students. Students initiated the partnership by identifying a receptive faculty member and demonstrating iPad apps that they were currently using in their academic or social life. Faculty offered pedagogical knowledge, while students provided insight on how these technologies help them to learn. Together they explored potential classroom applications that scaffold the learning needs of students who learn differently.

Each student-faculty team submitted a proposal . A Contest Review Committee reviewed the proposals and announced the winners in December 2014:

  • First place, $200 each: Ashlee Charrette and Jeanette Landin. AVID Accounting, to help students understand the purpose and process of using T-accounts in accounting class through the use of sounds, colors, and movement of objects
  • Second place, $150 each: Stanley Roth and Bradford Towle. Study Blast, to help students study for tests using adaptive learning, avatars, and a game format
  • Third place, $100 each: Bailey McGinn and Norma Willingham. Never Alone, a mobile app to let people with LD know when there is someone else with LD in the area, to facilitate connections and community
  • First runner up: Sam Ripper and Rebecca Matte. Efficient Study Tracker, to help students track study time and behaviors to increase efficiency and reduce distractions
  • Honorable mention: Tyler Haarman and Cindy Tolman. Periodic Study Buddy, to help students study for chemistry class through better knowledge of the periodic table of elements

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Using TinkerPlots as a Tool for Teaching Statistics (2011-14)

Landmark College is investigating the effectiveness of TinkerPlots (software developed as part of NSF grant DRL-9818946) as a tool in helping students with a diagnosed LD develop an understanding of key concepts in statistics. The goal of this project is to increase the number of students with an LD who successfully complete introductory statistics courses and who develop a strong enough grasp of the concepts to consider furthering their education in a STEM field. This project is intended as a demonstration project and proof that it is possible to increase the number and diversity of students who can successfully understand and work with statistical data and hence pursue careers in data-driven STEM fields.

The approach was pilot tested in introductory statistics courses at Landmark College in Putney, VT, as well as comparable level courses at Holyoke Community College in Holyoke, MA. The students at Landmark College consisted exclusively of individuals with a diagnosis that affects their learning, whereas the students at Holyoke Community College served as a comparison group reflecting a more typical student profile, one that includes students with disabilities and other conditions that influence learning (e.g. first-generation college status, minority status, primary language other than English).

Project Description:

NSF RDE Grant HRD-1128948: Investigating the Effectiveness of TinkerPlots in Helping Students with Learning Disabilities Understand Statistical Concepts

In many STEM fields, the ability to understand statistics and perform data analysis is an essential component. In fact, today’s scientists are increasingly expected to be expert statisticians. This makes developing an understanding of statistical concepts and being able to truly comprehend and work with a dataset essential to the successful pursuit of many STEM careers. These skills are not merely important in order to pass statistical courses that are often gatekeepers in scientific STEM academic programs, but they are an essential part of the daily work of most scientists, engineers, network administrators, and others in the STEM arena.

Statistics is becoming such a critical component of our daily lives that the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics proposes introducing statistical concepts to students as early as first grade (NCTM, 2000). Unfortunately, most adults tend to form incorrect interpretations of statistical data (Konold, 1995) and often rely or shortcuts or heuristics rather than sound statistical reasoning (Kahneman, Slovic, & Tversky, 1982). Given these findings, one would be correct in deducing that students generally struggle in traditional statistical classrooms and often have trouble reasoning about aggregate data. However, advances in technology have allowed for the development of tools that allow us to quickly produce, manipulate, and represent large amounts of data. One particular tool, TinkerPlots (Konold & Miller, 2005), has shown promise in enhancing the understanding of students ranging from elementary school to graduate school (Paparistodemou & Meletiou-Mavrotheris, 2008; Lesh, Ader, & Bas, 2010).

Dr. Ibrahim Dahlstrom-Hakki and Dr. Michelle Bower presented findings from this research on Tuesday, February 4, 2014, at the EDUCAUSE Learning Initiative Annual Meeting in New Orleans. The presentation was titled Making Data Accessible to Diverse Populations of Students. Dahlstrom-Hakki and Bower are continuing to analyze their data and are in the process of preparing a manuscript for publication.

Dahlstrom-Hakki holds a Ph.D. in Cognitive Psychology from the University of Massachusetts Amherst. He is a Research and Education Specialist in the Landmark College Institute for Research and Training (LCIRT). Bower is the Chair of the Mathematics and Computer Science Department. She received a Ph.D. in Mathematics Education from Illinois State University. Frank Klucken, a member of the Mathematics & Computer Science Department at Landmark College, has also presented on this project at conferences and is a member of the research team. Klucken holds an M.A.T. in Teaching Using Internet Technologies from The Graduate Center of Marlboro College.

Dahlstrom-Hakki notes, “We believe the approach we used tends to work better not only for our students but for the general student population, and the data backs that up.” In the courses that he and Bower tested, students interacted with real-world data as soon as possible. They were encouraged to develop gut feelings and intuitions about the data, then to transition those gut feelings and intuitions into formal statistical understanding. “Students learn better and better understand statistical concepts when they engage in real data collection and analysis,” Bower adds.

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LandMakers 3D Printer Project (2014)

President Obama, the Harvard Business Review, and Forbes have identified 3D printing as the new industrial revolution that will change the world. The purpose of the LandMakers project is to procure a 3D printer and explore its pedagogical applications for students and faculty at Landmark College. 

3D printing technology was featured by several presenters at the EDUCAUSE ELI conference held in New Orleans, La., in February 2014. Several presentations at the conference highlighted 3D printing’s many pedagogical applications in fields beyond engineering, including science, math, art, and business. As invited presenters at the EDUCAUSE conference, Dr. Ibrahim Dahlstrom-Hakki and Dr. Michelle Bower got a firsthand demonstration of the capabilities of this technology.

The MakerBot Replicator Desktop 3D printer that we have selected will offer Landmark College faculty access to an emerging innovative tool that can create custom pedagogical manipulatives for classroom use while at the same time providing students with new ways of expressing their creativity. The cost of 3D printers has dropped dramatically in the last few years, while at the same time, printer quality has improved significantly--making this the right time to explore the use of this technology to support students who learn differently.

See what the MakerBot can do in this video.

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Evaluator Focus Group (2014)

Recently, Landmark College Institute for Research and Training (LCIRT) received an internal grant to host a focus group of expert evaluators and diagnosticians for LD, ADHD, and ASD from around the Northeast region. The goal of this project is to investigate the feasibility and value of evaluations that are more deliberately customized to the setting demands of postsecondary education for which a student needs accommodations or strategic recommendations.

Nationally recognized evaluators representing three states will be sharing their expertise and insight on issues including:

  • Understanding the disability documentation needs of current and emerging populations of postsecondary students with LD, ADHD, and ASD
  • Evaluating the feasibility of an innovative “Learning Profiles Assessment” that expands and adapts traditional neuropsychology/educational testing for better informed decision-making
  • Suggestions for assessment resources and practices at Landmark College, including recommendations for assessment information for prospective and current students and families

The focus group, consisting of seven external evaluators and five internal Landmark College faculty, researchers, and administrators, met on May 23, 2014, in Putney, VT. Results of the focus group will be posted by the end of June.

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For additional information:

Landmark College Institute
for Research and Training