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

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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.

Authors

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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.

References

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

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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

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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.

References

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 www.studentsatthecenter.org.

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 www.studentsatthecenter.org