Sparking Interest with Multimodal Assignments in Integrated Reading and Writing


Amber Sarker and Carolyn Caudle

Amber Sarker is beginning her third year of doctoral coursework with Texas State University, pursuing a PhD in Developmental Education with a focus on literacy. Amber has worked in a variety of educational settings, including elementary school, undergraduate courses, online environments, museum programming, and teaching adult second language learners. She has been a member of The Education Institute for two years, which has provided opportunities to co-create professional development, revise curriculum standards, and co-author grant proposals. Amber’s research interests are campus climate, postsecondary literacies, solidarity with students, and educational allyship with LGBTQ+ populations.

Carolyn Caudle is pursuing a Master’s degree in Developmental Education with a focus in literacy from Texas State University. Carolyn began her career teaching kindergarten and fell in love with literacy education after watching children swell with pride when reading their first word. After taking a few years off work while her children were young, Carolyn decided to go back to college and shift her focus to literacy at the post secondary level. She has special interest in improving students’ self-efficacy and boosting confidence within reading and writing.

Integrated Reading and Writing (IRW) has become an increasingly popular option for Developmental Education literacy courses. While reading and writing should continuously be the focus of each assignment and text (Holschuh & Paulson, 2013), embracing students’ digital literacies is an additional relevant and needed component of IRW instruction. The need for instructors to acknowledge and build on students’ digital skills is a result of academia’s shift from students being assigned static texts to complex hybrid texts (Lea and Jones, 2011). Moreover, multimodal meaning making, or comprehending a message using a variety of modes, occurs in a variety of cultural practices, and as a result, emphasizing this in the IRW classroom would benefit students greatly (Cope & Kalantzis, 2009). In order to provide context for this aforementioned research, this article briefly describes how an IRW course can use Adobe Spark to showcase connections students make in their personal lives in comparison to a novel read in class.

Cope and Kalantzis (2009) stated that embracing multiliteracies allows students to not simply restate ideas, but become “transformers of meaning” (p. 115). The ability of students to transform meaning using digital literacies is the central focus of the IRW lesson we are proposing. Our suggested assigned novel for an IRW course is Love and First Sight by Josh Sundquist. This novel is about a high school student, Will, who has been attending schools for the visually impaired his entire academic career, but decides to transfer to a mainstream high school. The text details his struggles and triumphs in this new environment. After reading the novel, students would identify a time in their own life when they were challenged with an unfamiliar environment and were required to navigate using a new literacy. They would then be asked to chronicle their own “fish out of water” experience using the free application Adobe Spark. Using this digital program, students could share their story using images, sound, and text to create a professional multimodal presentation.

College students are adept at navigating multimodal texts and resources. Unfortunately, this integration of technology often does not transfer to the classroom. To further prepare our students, embracing multimodal technology and making it the cornerstone of our instruction is paramount (Yu, 2014). Our suggested Adobe Spark storytelling project stresses the importance of New Literacies in an IRW course and suggests a method utilizing visual and auditory modes that can be used to augment instruction.

Cope and Kalantzis (2009) explained, “Experiencing the known involves reflecting on our own experiences, interests, perspectives, familiar forms of expression and ways of representing the world in one’s own understanding” (p. 125). By using Adobe Spark to connect a text to their own lives, students are able to digitally represent their world to their peers. The intersection of students’ experiences and the experiences of characters allows for an opportunity to understand varied perspectives and representations of ideas. Additionally, using Adobe Spark allows students to pre-record their presentation, allowing for a chance to revise the message intended for the viewer.

By creating experiences where students can use digital literacies to convey information, educators provide opportunities for students to “critique, resist, challenge, and change discourses” (Leander & Bolt, 2012, p. 33).  Moreover, by using multimodal presentations, students are able to interact and communicate with peers in an engaging way (Jewitt, 2014). In addition, using a platform such as Adobe Spark allows students to interact with an engaging tool in order to connect the meaning made from the text to a larger audience. Implementing varied uses of technology in an IRW course allows students to better understand the intersection of discourses and digital literacies.


Cope, B., & Kalantzis, M. (2009). “Multiliteracies”: New literacies, new learning. Pedagogies, 4(3), 164-195. doi:10.1080/15544800903076044

Holschuh, J. L., & Paulson, E. J. (2013). The terrain of college reading. College Reading and Learning Association.  Retrieved from

Jewitt, C. (2014). Different approaches to multimodality. In Author (Ed.), The Routledge handbook of multimodal analysis (2nd ed., pp. 31-43). London, GBR: Routledge.

Lea, M. R., & Jones, S. (2011). Digital literacies in higher education: Exploring textual and technological practice. Studies in Higher Education, 36(4), 377-393.

Leander, K., & Boldt, G. (2013). Rereading “A pedagogy of multiliteracies”: Bodies, texts, and emergence. Journal of Literacy Research, 45(1), 22-46.

Yu, E. (2014). Let developmental students shine: Digital writing. RTDE 3(2), 99-110.



Implementing Contextualization into the IRW classroom: Making IRW Worth It


Jessica Slentz Reynolds

Jessica Slentz Reynolds is a second-year doctoral student in developmental education with a focus on developmental literacy at Texas State University. She earned a M.A. in English from Texas A&M University—Corpus Christi, where she also taught Composition and Developmental Writing as an adjunct instructor. She has been a Writing Consultant for the CASA Writing Center since 2011 and continues to tutor students online. Her research interests involve postsecondary literacies, integrated reading and writing, diversity in developmental education classrooms, and writing centers.

Last fall I was inspired by The Education Institute’s Self-Change Power Project to integrate contextualization into my IRW course. Contextualization, in short, is the teaching of basic skills within a disciplinary topic (Perin, 2011). According to Perin, contextualization can increase students’ intrinsic motivation and level of engagement in the classroom because it allows the subject to be deemed useful and interesting to learners. After reading Perin, I was reminded of the seminal work on IRW by Bartholomae and Petrosky (1986) where they argued that IRW courses should not be a study skills course consisting of workbooks and diagraming sentences, but IRW should help students acquire the necessary literacies to be successful in both academic and workplace discourses.

After making the connection between Perin’s work on contextualization and Bartholomae and Petrosky’s theory on IRW, I decided to modify the Self-Change Power Project to help students achieve the learning objectives for the expository unit of the semester: the Discourse Community Analysis (DCA). It is common for IRW instructors to assign an expository unit centered around the students’ future careers; however, I like to provide an opportunity for students to familiarize themselves with their future careers in a way that transcends a basic description of their potential professions. Since IRW is a reading and writing course, I use the expository unit to help students understand the various literacies in their chosen fields of study. The students complete a 6-week DCA project where they not only research the many facets of communication within their potential careers, but they also observe and participate within these communities. The students must present—through either traditional essay format or by a formal presentation to the class—the goals, types of communication, language, membership, and the significance of literacy within their selected communities (Wardle and Downs, 2011).

These questions guided the expository unit to make IRW “worth it”:

  • Does assigning a DCA on students’ future careers lead to students having a stronger understanding of academic and workplace literacies?
  • Does implementing a comprehensive project that focuses on students’ individual goals increase motivation for students to complete the IRW course?
  • Could an alternative version of the Self-Change Power Project accomplish these goals?

The following is a brief timeline of activities leading up to the final product for the DCA project. These components are a direct reflection of the Self-Change Power Project guidelines.

  • Students brainstorm and research types of communication, language, behaviors, and various literacies of their future careers.
  • Students decide what types of communication, language, behaviors, and various literacies of their future careers they want to observe, participate in, and monitor for 4-5 weeks.
  • Students participate in their selected communities and keep a journal about their experiences. They are prompted to write about what they observed, how they participated within the community, and how literacy is an integral aspect of their community.
  • In the last week of the unit, students showcase through writing, class discussion, and photographic evidence their processes and experiences participating in their chosen discourse communities.
  • Students submit their completed DCA project for a grade via essay or in-class presentation.

This DCA project aligns with what Goen & Gillotte-Tropp (2003) referred to as the six principles of an IRW program: integration, time, development, academic membership, sophistication, and purposeful communication. Based on feedback from two sections of IRW, I received an overwhelming amount of positive responses from students who completed this project. Students stated that the project helped them decide if their selected major was the right path for them; the act of observing, understanding, and researching their communities forced students to use a variety of skills and resources they had not yet used in college; and, finally, students reported that it made them see the benefits to taking an IRW course.


Bartholomae, D., & Petrosky, A.R. (1986). Facts, artifacts and counterfacts: Theory and method for a reading and writing course. Upper Montclair, NJ: Boynton/Cook.

Goen, S., & Gillotte-Tropp, H. (2003). Integrating reading and writing: A response to the basic writing “crisis”. Journal of Basic Writing, (22)2, 90-113.

Perin, D. (2011). Facilitating student learning through contextualization: A review of evidence.  Community College Review, 39(3), 268-295. doi: 10.1177/0091552111416227

The Education Institute. (2016). The Education Institute. Retrieved from

Wardle, E., & Downs, D. (2011). Writing about writing. Boston, MA: Bedford/St. Martin’s.






Self-Regulation and Students with Mental Illness


Ren VanderLind

Ren VanderLind is a doctoral student at Texas State University studying Developmental Literacy. Her research interests are currently focused on the issues facing college students with mental illness, particularly in terms of resilience, stigmatization, and identity development. She currently works as the Graduate Coordinator in the Texas State University Writing Center. Questions or comments can be directed to Ren at

College student mental health has been shown to relate to lack of academic success, persistence, and degree completion (Breslau, Lane, Sampson, & Kessler, 2008; Cranford, Eisenberg, & Serras, 2009; Elion, Wang, Slaney, & French, 2012; Keyes, Eisenberg, Perry, Dube, Kroenke, & Dhingra, 2012; Thompson, Connely, Thomas-Jones, & Eggert, 2013).  Research has also demonstrated how students reporting mental health concerns may benefit from development of self-regulatory skills (Van Nguyen, Laohasiriwong, Saengsuwan, Thinkhamrop, & Wright, 2015).

When working to support the needs of students with mental illness, one might feel pressured to have all the answers; on the contrary, there is no one solution for supporting the needs of college students with mental illness as symptoms and necessary supports are rather diverse.  One promising practice for increasing the success of college students with mental illness is teaching self-regulatory skills alongside explicit instruction in how to apply these skills outside the classroom.

By teaching self-regulatory processes, one can provide support to students with mental illness without requiring that they self-disclose their diagnoses or that you specialize your instruction; development of self-regulatory skills is beneficial for all students.  To accomplish this, ask students to monitor their behaviors and the efficacy of them as well as how they might go back and revise their approach for a better outcome.  Then make explicit how this can apply to their academic pursuits as well as their personal lives.  Show students how using self-regulation can benefit them when they are struggling outside the classroom, such as in instances in which they need to seek help.

Developing metacognitive and self-regulatory skills will benefit this population immensely, as building self-awareness is a large component of managing mental illness symptoms.  If you can help students grow in self-awareness, you can help them become more in tune with their personal and academic needs.  It may seem like a small step, but teaching these skills to your students can help those who have diagnosed mental illnesses persist through the course, semester, and academic career.


Breslau, N., Lane, M., Sampson, N., & Kessler, R. C. (2008). Mental health disorders and subsequent educational attainment in a US national sample. Journal of Psychiatric Research, 42, 708-716.

Cranford, J. A., Eisenberg, D., & Serras, A. M. (2009). Substance use behaviors, mental health problems, and use of mental health services in a probability sample of college students. Addictive Behaviors, 34, 134-145. doi: 10.1016/j.addbeh.2008.09.004

Elion, A. A., Wang, K. T., Slaney, R. B., & French, B. H. (2012). Perfectionism in African American students: Relationship to racial identity, GPA, self-esteem, and depression. Cultural Diversity and Ethnic Minority Psychology, 18(2), 118-127.

Keyes, C. L. M., Eisenberg, D., Perry, G. S., Dube, S. R., Kroenke, K., & Dhingra, S. S. (2012). The relationship of level of positive mental health with current mental disorders in predicting suicidal behavior and academic impairment in college students. Journal of American College Health, 60(2), 126-133.

Thompson, E. A., Connelly, C. D., Thomas-Jones, D., & Eggert, L. L. (2013). School difficulties and co-occurring health risk factors: Substance use, aggression, depression, and suicidal behaviors. Journal of Child and Adolescent Psychiatric Nursing, 26, 74-84.

Van Nguyen, H., Laohasiriwong, W., Saengsuwan, J., Thinkhamrop, B., & Wright, P. (2015). The relationships between the use of self-regulated learning strategies and depression among medical students: An accelerated prospective cohort study. Psychology, Health, & Medicine, 20(1), 59-70.


Students’ Attitudes towards Mathematics at a Historical Black University (HBU)


Jonah Mutua

Jonah Mutua is a Ph.D. Candidate in the Developmental Education program at Texas State University with a specialization in developmental math.  He earned his M.S. from the University of Texas at Dallas. Jonah taught mathematics at Dallas Community College 2011-2012 and Huston-Tillotson University in Austin from 2012 to present. His research interests involve finding better and practical ways to teach fractions and quadratic equations to college algebra students.

This study attempted to examine if there is any relationship between students’ attitudes towards mathematics and their midterm scores in mathematics. Students’ attitude affects how they overcome academic challenges and their ability to adopt to changes (Bramlett and Herron, 2009). For example, students with a negative attitude tend to give up easily. On the contrary, students with a positive attitude are self-motivated and attempt numerous problems to improve on their speed and/or accuracy in solving mathematical problems. A positive attitude is a catalyst, which inspires students to achieve their goals (Ma & Kishor, 1997).

Theoretical Framework

The Operant Conditioning Learning theory guided this study. According to Bramlett and Herron (2009), the Operant Conditioning Learning theory explains that students’ behavior (attitude) is modified by positive or negative reinforcing. Bramlett and Herron found that when students interact with “role models” who are pursuing a major in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) on regular basis (weekly or monthly), they appreciate mathematics more, devote additional efforts in understanding concepts, and tend to complete their homework on time regularly. The interactions can occur in an informal setting, for example, in a mathematics learning center or in a formal setting like a classroom.  Research questions: 1.What is the relationship between students’ attitude towards mathematics and their midterm scores in mathematics. 2. Is there any difference between male and female students’ performance?


Participants were recruited from a Historically Black University in central Texas. A total of 65 students participated in the study, 34 (52.3%) were male and 31 (47.7%) were female. All participants were freshmen enrolled in developmental mathematics courses. The average age of freshmen students at this institution is 18.5 years old. Students’ participation in the study was voluntary.

Discussion and Conclusion

The purpose of the study was to examine if there is any relationship between students’ attitude towards mathematics and their midterm scores in mathematics. The study found that students’ confidence in doing mathematics was a necessary attribute for students’ performance in midterm examinations. This conclusion is in agreement with previous studies on attitude towards mathematics and sciences (Bramlett & Herron, 2009; Tapia & Marsh, 2004; Ma & Kishor, 1997). Students’ ability to value mathematics was the next highest attribute required by a student to excel in midterm mathematics test. However, student’s gender had p > 0.05 implying that gender was not a significant factor in determining students’ score on the midterm test.


Bramlett, D. C. & Herron, S. (2009). A study of African-American College students’ attitude towards mathematics. Journal of Mathematical Sciences & Mathematics Education, 4(2), 43-51.

Ma, X., & Kishor, N. (1997). Assessing the relationship between attitude toward mathematics and achievement in mathematics: A meta-analysis. Journal for Research in Mathematics Education, 28(1), 27-47.

Tapia, M., & Marsh II, G. E. (2004). An instrument to measure mathematics attitudes. Academic Exchange Quarterly, 8(2), 130-143.





The Many Legacies of Dr. Claire Ellen Weinstein, Part 1 Tribute: Learning Frameworks Courses


Dr. Claire Ellen Weinstein

“Much have I learned from my teachers, more from my colleagues, but most from my students.” ~Talmud, Ta’anit 7b

Dr. Claire Ellen Weinstein was Professor Emeritus at the University of Texas at Austin. Dr. Weinstein is renowned for groundbreaking research on learning strategies, her Model of Strategic Learning, and as senior author of the Learning and Study Strategies Inventory. Dr. Weinstein’s research and practice in strategic learning has helped to define strategic learning courses, curriculum, and instruction across the U.S. and abroad, and especially in Texas; her legacy lives on in her many students and her students’ students. Of particular interest for this tribute (Part 1) is her college-level, 3-credit, learning frameworks course, Individual Learning Skills (EDP 310), offered through the Educational Psychology Department at the University of Texas at Austin since 1975.

EDP 310 is designed to help students learn how to learn. The course enrolls students of all levels, but especially those who enter the university under special circumstances or who experience academic difficulty. Course content is driven by Weinstein’s Model of Strategic Learning, inspired by systems theory and Gestalt psychology, which emphasizes that strategic learning emerges from the interactions among elements within four major components: skill, will, self-regulation, and the academic environment.  Weinstein attributes many of her ideas about strategic learning to one of her mentors, Wilbert J. McKeachie, and his research at the University of Michigan on strategic teaching (Weinstein, 1994; Weinstein, Acee, Jung, Krause, Dacy, & Leach, 2012).

In 1999, the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board authorized formula funding of up to three credit hours for courses following a learning frameworks curriculum, which must include, “…1) research and theory in the psychology of learning, cognition, and motivation, 2) factors that impact learning, and 3) application of learning strategies” (Hill, 2000, para. 4). The policy change was a result of two learning framework course studies, one from the University of Texas at Austin (based on EDP 310—Individual Learning Skills) and the other from Texas State University (based on EDP 1350—Effective Learning), which presented statistically significant improved student retention and graduation rates for students successfully completing multiple sections of these learning frameworks courses as compared to other students not enrolled (Hill, 2000).

Learning frameworks courses provide instruction on learning strategy applications and inform students of theoretical frameworks that underpin each strategy drawing from educational neuroscience, metacognition, behaviorism, and constructivism—among many others. Most “study skills” courses teach students specific techniques and methods in isolation, such as content mapping, comprehension monitoring, and textbook annotation, focusing on acquisition of a skill but not comprehensive understanding of why and how learning can be enhanced by using that technique. Learning frameworks courses help students to assess their own learning strengths and weaknesses so that, once introduced to theories and strategies, students can understand the reasons for engaging in specific studying behaviors. Practicing learning strategies with their other course content is essential for the transfer of this knowledge (Hodges & Agee, 2009; Hodges, Sellers, & Dochen, 2012).

While learning frameworks courses are offered throughout U.S. postsecondary institutions, Texas has been at the forefront; approximately 90% of 2-year institutions and 75% of 4-year institutions offer multiple sections of these courses. Many of Texas’s 2-year institutions now require all first-year students to enroll in the course while 4-year institutions more typically offer the course to special populations such as conditionally-admitted students or students on academic probation. High schools are also now beginning to offer learning frameworks courses as dual-credit courses (Acee & Hodges, 2017).

Dr. Weinstein was a pioneer in postsecondary access and success; she knew that every student could learn, and she dedicated her life to that end.  Learning frameworks courses are one of her many legacies. We honor her memory as we continue to expand the reach and effectiveness of these courses and help students to become more strategic and self-regulated lifelong learners.



Russ Hodges, Ed.D.

Dr. Russ Hodges is Associate Professor in the Graduate Program in Developmental Education in the Department of Curriculum and Instruction at Texas State University. He earned his Ed.D. in developmental education from Grambling State University and his M.Ed. from University of Louisiana in Monroe. Dr. Hodges’ research focuses on postsecondary student success, postsecondary student success courses, interventions for students diagnosed with AD/HD, and demographic changes in higher education. The learning framework model that he co-developed serves as a curriculum model for many postsecondary learning framework courses throughout Texas and the nation. Dr. Hodges has held state and national leadership positions including president of the College Reading and Learning Association (CRLA) and chair of the Council of Learning Assistance and Developmental Education Associations (CLADEA). He is an active scholar, having published three books, many journal articles, book chapters, and conference papers along with four research grants totaling just over 1 million dollars. He is also a frequent invited speaker for conferences for postsecondary faculty and staff development.  Dr. Hodges has received many awards, including the Lifetime Achievement Award from the College Academic Support Programs conference, and outstanding service awards from both CRLA and the National Association for Developmental Education (NADE).  In 2009, Dr. Hodges was named National Fellow for CLADEA—his field’s most prestigious honor. 

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Taylor Acee, Ph.D.

Dr. Taylor W. Acee is Associate Professor in the Graduate Program in Developmental Education in the Department of Curriculum and Instruction at Texas State University. He earned his Ph.D. and M.A. in educational psychology at The University of Texas and his B.S. in psychology at the University of Pittsburgh. His program of research is focused on cognitive, metacognitive, motivational, and affective factors that contribute to and detract from student success in postsecondary education. In his research, Dr. Acee targets variables that are causative, account for a meaningful amount of the variation in student success, and are amendable to change through educational intervention. He is internationally known for his collaborative work on personal relevance interventions, academic boredom, and strategic learning assessments and interventions. His research activities have resulted in over 30 refereed publications, 5 funded research grants totaling over $800,000, and various other scholarly activities.


Acee, T. W., & Hodges, R. (2017). [Learning framework courses in Texas]. Unpublished raw data.

Hill, M. A. (2000, March 31). Funding for “Learning Framework” courses [Memorandum to Chief Academic Officers, Public Senior Universities]. Austin, TX: Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board.

Hill, M. A. (2000, March 31). Funding for “Learning Framework” courses [Memorandum to Chief Academic Officers, Public Senior Universities]. Austin, TX: Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board.

Hodges, R., & Agee, K. (2009). Program management. In R. F. Flippo &  D. C. Caverly (Eds.), Handbook of college reading and study strategy research (pp. 351-378). New York: Routledge.

Hodges, R., Sellers, D., & Dochen, C. W. (2012). Implementing a learning framework course. In R. Hodges, M. L. Simpson, & N. A. Stahl (Eds.), Teaching study strategies in developmental education: Readings on theory, research and best practice (pp. 314-325). Boston, MA: Bedford St. Martin’s.

Weinstein, C. E., Acee, T. W., Jung, J., Krause, J. M., Dacy, B. S., & Leach, J. K. (2012). Strategic learning: Helping students become more active participants in their learning. In K. Agee & R. Hodges (Eds.), Handbook for training peer tutors and mentors (pp. 30-34). Mason, OH: Cengage Learning.


Mastery Learning: Policies and Procedures that Help it Work


Denise Lujan

Currently the Director of Developmental Math at the University of Texas at El Paso, she has worked for UTEP for 15 years and has been the director for Developmental Math for 10 years.

Denise received her Bachelor’s from West Texas A&M University in Math in 1988 and her Master’s in Educational Leadership in 2008 with a focus on Developmental Education.  She has been very involved in TADE (Texas Association of Developmental Education) and was a board member from 2008 to 2014.  She is a member of NADE, (National Association of Developmental Education), was the Co-Chair for the NADE 2014 national conference held in Dallas, and Served as the NADE Board Secretary from 2014 to 2016.  She is currently a member of the Emeritus NADE Board.  She is a member of Texas College Reading and Learning Association and was honored with the award for Developmental Educator of the year in 2016. 

She has presented at local, state, and national conferences, including the National Math Summit held at NADE 2016 in Anaheim.  She has presented at many different colleges and universities around the country on the use of ALEKS and developing summer bridge programs, Non-Course Based Options, and successful implementation of individualized programs.  In 2014, The University of Texas at El Paso Developmental Math department won the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board’s Star Award for contribution to the state’s Closing the Gap Plan.

All students at the University of Texas at El Paso advised to take developmental mathematics receive course work that is based on the results of their initial skills assessment, and that is tailored to their individual learning needs and preferences. The Developmental Math Department uses the ALEKS® system, which applies adaptive assessment and principles of mastery learning, for assessment and teaching (McGraw Hill Companies, 2016). The system determines quickly and precisely what students know and what they need to learn. Then an individualized learning path with embedded mastery-level criterion is devised for the student. So students entering with developmental math needs are diagnostically assessed and given a unique starting point for skills development. Because of this individualized path for learning, the department has implemented procedures that help students proceed through their coursework. It is these procedures listed below that are critical to getting UTEP students through their individualized paths.

Clearly Defined Benchmarks and Attendance Policy

  • Benchmarks are given to the student at the beginning of the semester for both hour and topic goals on ALEKS. Students must meet one of these to remain on target. Benchmarks occur every week and are tracked closely by faculty. If a students miss a benchmark in both hour and topic for two weeks in a row, they are dropped from the class.
  • Attendance is required. Students are only allowed to miss two weeks’ worth of class before being dropped. We do, however, offer a “make-up” policy. If students miss class, they can attend at another agreed upon time.
  • Flexible Proctored Finals: A proctored final exam is scheduled for any student who reaches 90% of their topics.
  • Coaching and Mentoring: Instructors coach and mentor students, thereby providing discussion points concerning course progress, university goals, and time management.
  • Special Program Students: At the beginning of every semester, department faculty identify students who are a part of a unique program at UTEP, such as International Students, Athletes, Veterans, and others. We work with the program coordinators by keeping them abreast of the student’s progress.
  • Aleks Student Notebook, ASNB: The Developmental Math faculty created and published an Aleks Student Notebook. This notebook provides structure for note-taking and can be utilized by the student on the final exam.
  • Collaboration with Other Departments: The Developmental Math department has worked with the Provost’s, Registrar’s, Testing and Advising offices to implement programs that are outside of the norm in terms of part-of-term, grading, recruiting, registration, etc. By using the expertise of these departments, we are able to help students move forward in their course.

Mastery Based Instruction has benefited UTEP students in two important ways. First, by allowing students the time needed on content to master it and, second, because the individual nature allows the department to implement programs that help students move through their coursework. One example of this is the UTEP Extender Program. The Extender Program is a two-week program after the semester is over that allows students who meet strict requirements the ability to complete their coursework. The program has been in operation for five years and has helped over 850 students move on to their next math course. This could not have been done had it not been for the Mastery Based Instruction and individual paths.

Using Tableau Theatre in the Integrated Reading and Writing Classroom

PIC of Both Tami and Kristie

Tamara Harper Shetron and Kristie O’Donnell Lussier

Tamara Harper Shetron is a fourth year doctoral student in developmental education with a focus on literacy, learning supports, and postsecondary education for students with intellectual and developmental disabilities. She has a back ground in music and theatre, and brings an interdisciplinary approach to her teaching and research.

Kristie is in her fourth and final year of doctoral study at Texas State. Her teaching and research focus on integrated reading and writing, educational experiences of linguistically diverse students, and sociocultural aspects of teaching and learning. Kristie loves to travel and plans to see every continent someday. 

This article describes the process and results of a research experiment using tableau theatre with an integrated reading and writing class in the Spring of 2016.  Tableau is an instructional technique in which  students physically recreate ‘frozen statues’ of a literary event from their reading.  Our research goal was to find out if this contextualized learning experience would enhance motivation, engagement, and learning through the use of total body engagement (Asher, 1969), which stimulates brain activity, a prerequisite for learning (Hinton, Fischer, & Glennon, 2012; Rinne, Gregory, Yarmonlinskaya, & Hardiman, 2011; Toshalis & Nakkula, 2012), and currently one of the top needs in the Developmental Education (DE) classroom (Saxon, Martirosyan, Wentworth, & Boylan, 2015).

First, we introduced the tableau concept using a scene we thought students would be familiar with, a job interview.  Next, having established the conceptual dynamics and reflective learning postures, the IRW students then transitioned to using tableau techniques with scenes from their reading, “The Lottery” by Shirley Jackson.  We distributed copies of the story with the final paragraphs removed and taped under each student’s desk with the name of a different character from the story assigned to each.  Students were instructed to finish reading the story from the perspective of that character.  Next, using these randomly assigned characters, we created tableaus of the final dramatic stoning scene.  We created additional replications of the scene rotating through character assignments obtained through a mock lottery similar to that in the story.  Having grown accustomed to the task through the initial activity, students became highly engaged, and offered very little resistance to the activity.

The final portion of the experiment was to analyze student’s written responses to the activity.  Overall, student responses demonstrated a deep understanding of the story and an ability to understand the multiple perspectives of characters.  Two students responses in particular showed a depth of personal  engagement with the text far above what we had expected.  They were inventive, creative, and while remaining true to the original story, wove in themes of agency, democratic decision making and power redistribution, and even Christ/substitutionary death.

“Tessie Hutchinson was stoned to death, or so they thought,” “She laid there so life-less…she gained strength and limped away to safety..she has been working out to get stronger and faster,” “ Tessie planned to hurt everyone who was apart [sic] of her stoning,” “She was like a [sic] invincible woman.”

In a second student’s rendition, the town votes to end the lottery, but in an unexpected shift, votes to hold one last lottery, immortalizing Tessie as the final ‘winner.’  This highly descriptive emotional roller coaster ride is then given an unexpected twist when Tessie’s husband offers to die in her place.  This student showed in-depth engagement with the story and its characters, and also added philosophical thoughts about the lottery “For every rock, no matter the shape or size that hits their loved one, a fraction of his or her soul leaves their body.”

This sample of our research demonstrates that, indeed, tableau theatre can be a very engaging and motivating instructional technique for an Integrated Reading and Writing class.


Asher, J. J. (1969). The Total Physical Response Approach to Second Language Learning*. The modern language journal, 53(1), 3-17.

Hinton, C., Fischer, K.W., & Glennon, C. (2012). Mind, brain, and education. Teaching and learning in the era of the common core: An introduction to the project and the nine research papers in the Students at the Center series. Retrieved from

Rinne, L., Gregory, E., Yarmonlinskaya, J., & Hardiman, M. (2011). Why arts integration improves long-term retention of content.  Mind, Brain, and Education, 5(2), 89-96.

Saxon, D.P., Martirosyan, N.M., Wentworth, R.A., & Boylan, H.R. (2015).  NADE members respond: Developmental education research agenda: Survey of field professionals, part 2. Journal of Developmental Education, 38(3), 32-34.

Toshalis, E. & Nakkula, M.J. (2012). Motivation, engagement, and student voice. Teaching and learning in the ear of the common core: An introduction to the project and the nine research papers in the Students at the Center series.  Retrieved from

Technology + Pedagogy Guide: Bringing Method to the Madness


Shaunna Smith, Ed.D.

Dr. Smith is an Assistant Professor of Educational Technology in the Department of Curriculum and Instruction at Texas State University. Her research interests focus on technology integration strategies within K–12 and post-secondary learning environments. As a former secondary art teacher, she is particularly interested in exploring how the hands-on use of design-based technologies (e.g., digital fabrication, 3D modeling and printing, computer programming, and robotics) can impact multidisciplinary learning that transcends traditional content contexts. At her mobile makerspace, The MAKE Lab, she is currently researching how recurring experiences with these design-based technologies impact self-efficacy and positive attitudes toward failure (e.g., grit and persistence in the face of obstacles; reconceptualization of failure as a paradigm for creative learning) with teachers and K–12 students.

It is easy for educators to get lost in the madness of the overwhelming number of instructional options and technology tools available today. If we aren’t careful, we can easily become the Alice who falls down the rabbit hole into a technology wonderland, quickly becoming enamored and sidetracked with every tool as they get “curiouser and curiouser,” discouraged by the Mad Hatter who suggests a new approach to everything we’ve been doing, or frightened by the Queen of Hearts who suggests that change is unwelcome. As educators, our time is precious, and we need to be mindful of our productivity; however, we also need to learn how to leverage our own individualized knowledge and easily accessible technology in order to enhance our instruction and student learning potential.

Although published before digital technology was commonplace in education, Shulman’s (1987) theories of “pedagogical reasoning” and “pedagogical content knowledge” remind us that a teacher must remain focused on their instructional intent and interconnectedness to subject matter. Mishra and Koehler’s (2006) Technological Pedagogical Content Knowledge (TPACK) draws upon Shulman’s theories by adding considerations of technological knowledge and its connections to pedagogical knowledge and content knowledge, thus creating a context for discussing the new complexities of considerations that teachers must contend with. Content connections are found relatively easily with textbook companion websites and the like; however, making a meaningful connection between technology and pedagogy can be a little bit more complicated.

Designed as a helpful decision-making tool, the Technology + Pedagogy Guide can aid educators in instructional planning of activities that integrate instructionally appropriate technology tools to support a variety of learning contexts (the complete Technology + Pedagogy guide is available at: Table 1 shows how it organizes commonly accessible and free technology tools into categories related to their essential characteristics (tool affordances) and ability to align with Bloom’s Revised Taxonomy (Krathwohl, 2002) to support student-centered learning objectives:


(Tool Affordances and Instructional Purpose)


(Learning Objectives)

Acquisition & Investigation Tools Technology tools that allow users to capture and collect information. Remembering
Presentation & Remixing Tools Technology tools that allow users to demonstrate understanding of concepts through original expression or through remixing (editing existing content by putting a new ‘spin’ on it). Understanding


Discussion & Reflection Tools Technology tools that allow users to communicate ideas and experiences with self and/or others. Analyzing


Creation & Editing Tools Technology tools that allow users to generate original artifacts to demonstrate personally meaningful knowledge. Creating

Acquisition and Investigation tools
assist learners in capturing and collecting information, which is appropriate for instructional goals that align with the lower-level Bloom’s Revised Taxonomy levels of Remembering. This category of tool is perfect for the beginning stages of research projects when you want students to capture and collect information related to a topic. Leveraging digital functionality, students can use these technology tools to complete individual assignments or to co-construct as a collaborative group, with the added benefit of even being able to communicate across time and space — beyond the four walls of your classroom.

Presentation and Remixing tools assist learners in demonstrating their understanding of concepts through altering existing content and application of concepts through presenting information to others. This category is appropriate for instructional goals that align with the Bloom’s Revised Taxonomy levels of Understanding and Applying. This category of tool is perfect for brainstorming ideas and organizing concepts or presenting proposals to the class. Leveraging digital functionality, these tools can easily be worked on outside of class and can be shared with others through using URL links.

Discussion and Reflection tools assist learners in communicating ideas and experiences to themselves and/or others. This category is appropriate for instructional goals that align with the middle levels of Bloom’s Revised Taxonomy levels for Analyzing and Evaluating. This category of tool can be used to inspire diverse perspectives throughout an on-going learning module or project, as well as a culminating reflection to examine personal learning at the end of the semester. Leveraging digital functionality, these tools can easily take advantage of the ability to “comment” and “reply” to student posts as well as share URL links of creations to spark further dialogue.

Creation and Editing tools assist learners in generating original artifacts to demonstrate their own personally meaningful knowledge. This category is appropriate for instructional goals that align with the highest levels of Bloom’s Revised Taxonomy levels for Creating. This category of tool can be used to support smaller scale creative activities throughout a module or can be expanded to allow students to explore open-ended original artifact creation. Leveraging digital functionality, these tools can easily take advantage of the wide variety of free tools that can allow students to create a wide variety of media (i.e. photo editing, videography, 3D modeling, computer programming) but also easily share online with others.


Given the right level of support, even technology novices who are overwhelmed by the initial madness of this technology wonderland can transition into becoming confident and effective technology integrators who can select tools to amplify and transform their teaching. Through using the Technology + Pedagogy Guide, educators can focus on student-centered pedagogies by recognizing the categorical affordances and characteristics of the tools. In doing so, educators can develop a more richly constructed transference of knowledge by having an essential understanding of what qualities to look for in the ever-changing palette of technology tools in order to match pedagogical goals that will remain relevant as the technologies continue to evolve.


Krathwohl, D. R. (2002). A revision of bloom’s taxonomy: An overview. Theory into Practice, 41(4), 212.

Mishra, P., & Koehler, M. (2006). Technological pedagogical content knowledge: A framework for integrating technology in teacher knowledge. Teachers College Record, 108(6), 1017-1054.

Shulman, L. S. (1987). Knowledge and teaching: Foundations of the new reform. Harvard Educational Review, 57, 1-22.

Overcoming Mathematics and Testing Anxiety with Research-Based Strategies

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Theresa Hoang and Darolyn Flaggs

Theresa Hoang is a Ph.D. student in the Developmental Education program at Texas State University with a specialization in developmental math.  Previously, she earned her M.A. from the same program with a concentration in literacy.  She has taught learning frameworks at the college level and mathematics at the high school, and she has assisted in teaching developmental reading and developmental mathematics at Texas State University.  Her research interests include motivation of underprepared students in higher education and social psychological interventions.

Darolyn Flaggs is a Ph.D. student in the Developmental Education Program at Texas State University with a specialization in Developmental Mathematics. She received her B.S. in Mathematics at Texas Southern University and her M.Ed. in Mathematics Education at Texas State University. Her research interests include studying historically underrepresented student populations within the mathematics setting and exploring variables affecting student’s persistence to degree completion. Ms. Flaggs has taught undergraduate mathematics courses, been involved in the revision of the developmental mathematics scope and sequence, and lesson plans, and worked with FOCUS and SLAC at Texas State University. She is currently working under the research mentorship of Dr. Taylor Acee in the Department of Curriculum and Instruction.

How does mathematics and testing anxiety affect your students?  As doctoral students teaching developmental mathematics for the first time, we quickly realized the extent to which mathematics and testing anxiety was hurting our students’ academic outcomes.  During office hours, students often self-proclaimed to having anxiety about test-taking and about mathematics in general.  While not all students explicitly told us about their worries, it was sometimes intuitively clear that they struggled with mathematics and testing anxiety.  These common occurrences led us to explore deeper into what was causing students to have feelings of anxiety and what could we do as mathematics educators to help our students in these situations.

While searching through the literature, we found an incredible useful journal article that we would like to share with you entitled “Anxiety and Cognition” and written by Maloney, Sattizahn, and Beilock (2004).  In this article, Maloney et al. (2014) described how mathematics and testing anxiety affected the brain; anxiety can cause maladaptive physical responses and negative thoughts, which can take up prefrontal cortical resources and working memory that could otherwise be used for mathematics.  To combat these effects in the brain, Maloney et al. (2014) identified key strategies across a plethora of anxiety research.  These primary strategies included expressive writing (Park, Ramirez, & Beilock, 2014), arousal reappraisal (Jamieson, Mendes, Blackstock, & Schmader, 2010), stereotype threat reappraisal (Johns, Schmader, & Martens, 2005), and breathing exercises (Brunye, Mahoney, Giles, Rapp, Taylor, & Kanarek, 2013).  While in-depth information about each strategy can be found in Maloney et al.’s (2014) article, the following list will provide brief descriptions of how to implement each strategy:

  • Expressive Writing: Immediately before students take an exam, ask students to write about their feelings about the upcoming exam for 10 minutes. The goal of this activity is for students to express their negative thoughts and worries before the exam so that during the exam, students can use their working memory to think about their math problems instead of their anxieties.
  • Arousal Reappraisal: Students who perform well on tests regardless of their anxiety tend to look at stress-inducing situations as a challenge instead of a threat. So, when students begin to feel their heart rate increasing or their body sweating because of a stress-inducing situation, encourage students to interpret those signs of arousal as normal physiological responses to a challenge and that these signs can actually help with performance rather than hurt it.
  • Stereotype Threat Reappraisal: This strategy is useful for groups of people, such as women or students of color, who may experience stereotype threat, which is “the fear of acting in such a way that confirms a negative stereotype about a group to which one belongs” (Maloney et al., 2014, p. 408). Informing these students about the existence of stereotype threat and the possibility of anxiety arising from stereotype threat can help students assess why they feel anxious and perform better on exams.
  • Breathing Exercises: Encouraging students to engage in focused breathing exercises before exams, similar to the one found here, can increase student performance. By completing the breathing exercises before exams, students may be able to focus their attention better and free up cognitive resources to use during exams.

Over the past few decades, the role of developmental mathematics instructors have evolved; not only do instructors play a key role in facilitating the growth of student knowledge in mathematics, but effective instructors also address non-academic factors, such as motivation and anxiety, to further increase their students’ success.  By learning and practicing these research-based strategies proven to help students with mathematics and testing anxiety, instructors have the golden opportunity to positively impact student success.


Maloney, E. A., Sattizahn, J. R., & Beilock, S. L. (2014). Anxiety and cognition. WIREs Cognitive Science, 5(4), 403-411.



Transforming Instruction with Technology


Nathalie Vega-Rhodes

Nathalie Vega-Rhodes is currently a professor of mathematics and the mathematics technology coordinator at Lone Star College – Kingwood. She specializes developmental education redesign and focuses on researching and create valuable resources for students and instructors. Prior to her time at Lone Star, Vega-Rhodes taught mathematics and college student success courses at other institutions around the Houston area. Vega-Rhodes earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in mathematics with a minor in geology from the University of Houston and a Master of Science degree in mathematics from the University of Houston-Clear Lake. In her spare time, she enjoys reading, traveling, and scuba diving.

Technology is advancing exponentially in our world; its use is growing in our classrooms whether we want it to or not.  Beetham and McGill (2012) observed that technology is “transforming what it means to work, study, research, express oneself, perhaps even to think.”   Bowen (2014) agrees and would further add that this growth has made course design and pedagogy more important than ever.  Given this current and irreversible trend, we must harness the benefits of this tool to enhance learning in the classroom.

As instructors, it’s incumbent upon us to leverage technology to engage students as well as organize our courses in a clear and concise manner.  Learning management systems (e.g. Moodle, Desire2Learn, Blackboard, etc.) at most institutions are a means by which instructors can manage learning and connect with students.  Clearly-named modules, checklists and release restrictions ensure access to relevant information and keep students on track.  Additional features such as Intelligent Agents allow instructors to define criteria for automated and personalized communication at critical points throughout the semester.

Other options for creating dynamic courses are college-supported software programs such as Softchalk or Webex.   For example, Softchalk can be used to create interactive lessons, while Webex can be used to meet with students virtually, thereby eliminating the age-old problem of providing timely feedback for students who are not present in a traditional face-to-face classroom.  Instructors and students can share screens to discuss concepts or work out examples, either one-on-one or in a group.  An added benefit of these software programs is that they can be integrated with most learning management systems, making for a seamless student experience.

While proper organization is unquestionably important, by itself it is insufficient.  One of the problems that instructors have traditionally faced is lack of available information, which means that instructors may not always know when to intervene or what interventions are necessary.  A valuable tool to solve these problems is the analysis capabilities in online homework systems. Easily accessible reports can be used to track progress and determine challenging concepts for individual students or the entire class.  This data can be used for evaluating current assignments or improving future courses.

In addition to online homework systems, an easy and convenient way to engage students is by harnessing the capabilities of pervasive smartphone or tablet apps.  A few favorites include Attendance (easy recording/reporting of student attendance), Show Me (easy video creation), Notability (note-taking), and Google Voice (texting/phone calls without sharing a personal phone number). Each of these apps have the potential to increase efficiency with everyday tasks.

In summary, these tools, when coupled with thoughtful implementation, can truly impact teaching and learning.  McLoughlin and Lee (2008) stated that “technological resources provide opportunities for a range of interactions, communicative exchanges, and sharing, but it is not possible to base an entire sequence of learning episodes based on tools.”  Indeed, I am able to do more and better for my students since the immediate feedback allows me to tailor specific solutions based on each student’s needs.  I look forward to increased productive interactions with my students using innovations, both present and future.


Bowen, J. A. (2014). The teaching naked cycle. Liberal Education100(2), 18-25.

Littlejohn, A., Beetham, H., & McGill, L. (2012).  Learning at the digital frontier: a review of digital literacies in theory and practice. Journal of Computer Assisted Learning, 28(6), 547-556. doi:10.1111/j.1365-2729.2011.00474.x

McLoughlin, C. & Lee, M. J. W. (2008). The three p’s of pedagogy for the networked society: Personalization, participation, and productivity. International Journal of Teaching and Learning in Higher Education, 20(1), 10-27.