Research of Distinction, 2013-14
The three research briefs described on this page represent examples of the impactful research conducted by faculty in the Graduate School of Education at the University at Buffalo. Grounded in a variety of disciplines, these externally funded studies illustrate how scholarly research can have a profound impact on educational practices.
– Dean Jaekyung Lee
Computer Model-Based Assessment for Learning
Can assessment for high school students be both a learning experience and fun at the same time? The answer to this question is a resounding “yes” from Xiufeng Liu, professor from the Department of Learning and Instruction (LAI). Liu and his colleagues (Noemi Waight, assistant professor from LAI, and Roberto Gregorius, associate professor from Canisius College), with support from a National Science Foundation grant, have been developing and validating a new generation of science assessment: computer model-based formative assessments for high school chemistry. Teachers and students use these tools as part of their ongoing teaching and learning. While interacting with computer models, students respond to carefully designed questions to demonstrate their understanding of key chemistry concepts. Since 2009, the project has developed 10 sets of computer models and 10 sets of formative assessments with established validity and reliability, as well as a user’s manual to help teachers integrate the tools into a high school chemistry course.
Liu’s research team has published five articles in refereed journals in science education, educational technology, and educational measurement. Four doctoral and three master’s students have received financial support and research mentorship from the project. Two visiting scholars from China have also participated in the project. In Western New York, 10 chemistry teachers from 10 high schools with over 500 students experienced the computer model-based assessment during its development stage. Today, students and teachers from across the country and around the world can freely access the materials online to improve teaching and learning in high school chemistry. Liu has presented keynote talks at several universities in the U.S. (e.g., University of Georgia) and abroad (e.g., Nanyang Technological University, Singapore).
Helping Students Navigate the College Choice Process
In 2012, researchers and graduate students partnered with Buffalo Public Schools and the Buffalo Promise Neighborhood to create a College Success Center at Bennett High School—one of the district’s persistently low achieving schools. The center was designed to free school counselors from the administrative burden of the college choice process so that they could spend more time attending to the social, emotional, and academic needs of their students, as well as assist in the college transition process.
The College Success Center is a collaboration led by Nathan Daun-Barnett, associate professor from the Department of Educational Leadership and Policy (ELP). The center is staffed by graduate assistants in the ELP higher education administration program and interns from across the University at Buffalo. During the 2013–2014 academic year, the center logged over 3,200 visits including consultations, classroom discussions, and college tours. The center has worked with more than 80% of grades 9–12 students, and has assisted more than 2/3 of the senior class with at least one college application. Funding was provided by the Buffalo Promise Neighborhood, an initiative of the U.S. Department of Education.
Daun-Barnett has been examining the barriers and potential strategies to help students navigate the transition from high school to college, particularly in high-need schools. In 2013, he co-authored the book College Counseling for Admissions Professionals: Improving Access and Retention, which describes the important collaborations among high school staff, pre-college outreach providers, and independent consultants with students and their families to facilitate transition.
Providing Support for the Riskiest Young Drivers
It is well known that teenage drivers are considered the highest risk driving group on the road. It is also now known that teenagers with attention- deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) are most at risk for every negative outcome (citations, accidents, injury, and death) even when compared to the riskiest group of teenagers without ADHD.
Gregory Fabiano, associate professor from the Department of Counseling, School, and Educational Psychology (CSEP), and his colleagues, including Rebecca Vujnovic, CSEP clinical assistant professor, have developed a treatment approach for new teen drivers with ADHD. The treatment includes teaching effective communication and driving skills, working with families to set up rules and expectations for the roadway, and teaching families to construct driving contracts to help meet these expectations. As part of the treatment, teens practice driving on a simulator in the New York Center for Engineering Design and Industrial Innovation on the UB North Campus, which provides driving practice situations that are not practical on a real road, such as navigating icy conditions or construction zones.
Fabiano and his colleagues’ research has led to a publication in the journal Cognitive and Behavioral Practice, 18, 267-280, and in the journal Behavior Therapy, 45, 168-176, followed by a five-year research grant from the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development. The grant award will compare the new treatment to community driver training approaches for teenagers with ADHD.