Dr. David Hessl, project PI at the University of California at Davis, and site PI’s Dr. Karen Riley, Dean and Professor at the Morgridge College of Education, University of Denver, Dr. Elisabeth Berry-Kravis at Rush University, Drs. Richard Gershon and Aaron Kaat at Northwestern University, and Dr. Craig Erickson from Cincinnati Children’s Hospital were awarded the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute Of Child Health & Human Development of the National Institutes of Health grant of $3,921,088. Dr. Jeanine Coleman Associate Clinical Professor in the Teaching and Learning Sciences department at the Morgridge College of Education, is co-principal investigator. Drs. Korrie Allen, Douglas Clements and Julie Sarama will also be engaged in the project at the DU site. The grant will span five years, October 2020 – September 2025.

A multi-university team has been evaluating the utility and sensitivity of the National Institutes of Health Toolbox – Cognitive Battery (NIHTB-CB). Standardized cognitive and educational assessments of individuals with intellectual disability (ID) provide crucial information for parents, researchers, and educators. Understanding the unique developmental strengths and challenges of an individual with ID is imperative to determining appropriate educational placements, developing intervention plans, and measuring growth. Unfortunately, there is a paucity of research regarding administrative procedures that yield valid standardized assessment results with this population, which this project serves to rectify.

In addition to evaluating the NIHTB-CB as an appropriate assessment for ID in general, the results demonstrate the sensitivity of the battery to known syndrome-specific cognitive phenotypes. A critical remaining question is the degree to which the battery is sensitive to change, especially to effects of intervention as such the team is currently collecting longitudinal data on all participants so that they can create typical trajectories and so that change can accurately be measured. Studies of the performance of the battery in older adults with ID are needed, especially focusing on those experiencing cognitive decline or dementia. Overall, the present validation study represents an important step toward providing an objective, scalable, and standardized method for successfully measuring cognition and tracking cognitive changes in ID. This award is the second for this team of researchers and extends the initial study.

Dr. Riley said “The importance of this type of research cannot be overstated. We need to have effective tools to measure the groundbreaking interventions that are currently being developed and implemented. The individuals with ID deserve our best work in this area, as it could literally be life changing for them and their families.”

Pictured above: Dr. Karen Riley (top left), Dr. Jeanine Coleman (top right), Dr. Doug Clements (bottom left), Dr. Julie Sarama (bottom right).

Dr. Norma Hafenstein, Daniel L. Ritchie Endowed Chair for Gifted Education and Full Clinical Professor of Curriculum and Instruction at the Morgridge College of Education, University of Denver, was awarded the United States Department of Education’s Jacob K. Javits Gifted and Talented Students Education 2020 Grant Program grant of $2,845,155. Dr. Kristina Hesbol, Assistant Professor in the Educational Leadership and Policy Studies program at the Morgridge College of Education, is co-principal investigator. Dr. Robert Reichardt, Senior Associate at APA Consulting, serves as project evaluator. The grant will span over five years, October 2020 – September 2025, to implement I-REECCH: Impacting Rural Education through Expanding Culturally responsive curriculum, Computer science training, and Higher order thinking skills.

The goal of I-REECCH is to significantly increase identification of and services to underrepresented gifted and talented student populations in rural Colorado. This includes students eligible for free and reduced lunch, English language learners and students who identify as Hispanic or Native American. Classroom practices will be improved through increasing rural faculty ability and implementation of culturally responsive pedagogy, computational thinking, higher order thinking skill development, and talent and giftedness recognition. All students in I-REECCH elementary schools will participate in a computer science/computational thinking module by the end of fifth grade.

Dr. Hafenstein stated, “Consider the Spanish speaking little boy who has taught himself to read in English…clearly a demonstration of ability! How do we recognize his giftedness and talent? How do we serve his strengths so that he may reach his potential? As educators, our purpose is to improve the lives of children and families. We recognize the disproportionality of gifted and talented student identification and service. This Javits award supports collaboration with rural partners for cooperative tangible action in identification of and service to rural Colorado gifted and talented students learning English, who are Hispanic or Native American, or who are under-resourced. We look forward to partnering with rural educators in implementing this important work.”

I-REECCH will partner with Fort Morgan School District, Santa Fe Trails Board of Cooperative Educational Services and schools in rural southwest Colorado. Advisory Board members include Dr. Rebecca McKinney, Director of Gifted Education at the Colorado Department of Education; Dr. Terrence Blackman, Associate Professor, Department of Mathematics at the Medgar Evers College in the City University of New York; Dr. Joy Esquierdo, Associate Professor, Department of Bilingual and Literacy Studies and Director of the Center for Bilingual Studies at The University of Texas, Rio Grande Valley, and Dr. Muhammad Khalifa, Professor of Educational Administration and Executive Director of Urban Education Initiatives at The Ohio State University. Dr. Kimberly Schmidt and Dr. Brette Garner, both professors at the Morgridge College of Education, will serve as faculty consultants and content advisors.

What in the mind of a professional stage or screen actor sets them apart from a typical, non-acting person? A new study published by professors Dr. Denis Dumas and Dr. Peter Organisciak in the Morgridge College of Education at the University of Denver — in collaboration with Michael Doherty, a professional actor affiliated with Actor’s Equity Association — set out to answer that question.

In this study, more than 20 psychological tests focused on creative thinking, personality, and motivations were administered to three different groups of participants: professional actors, undergraduate student acting majors, and adults who were not actors. The participants’ responses to these measures were entered into a machine learning model, the goal of which was to identify the actors just on their psychological characteristics. As it turned out, the model was able to identify actors with a 92% accuracy solely on their psychological data, a stronger finding than the researchers ever expected.

Key psychological characteristics identified the actors from the non-actors in this study. In particular, both professional and student actors were identified based on their higher levels of openness to new experiences, extraverted assertiveness, and their elaborative capacity to expand on a creative idea. At a finer grain level, the professional actors were further distinguished from the undergraduate students based on their higher levels of original thinking, neurotic volatility, and their more regular engagement in literary activities such as writing and reading scripts.

“In the future, the findings from this study may be useful for individuals who are considering a career in acting to determine whether or not their psychological characteristics match with the demands of the profession,” Dumas says. “Within university education, this study may help acting coaches and directors to tailor their instruction and feedback to the specific attributes their students may yet need to develop.”

This study also shows how much can be accomplished when research is produced through interdisciplinary collaborations where a member of the community being studied (a professional actor in this case) is deeply involved in the research.

Pictured above: A scene from “Something Wicked: Shakespeare’s Macbeth” a production of DU’s Newman Center for the Performing Arts, which ran from Oct. 31 through Nov. 10 last year.

Drs. Mike Hoa Nguyen, Assistant Professor of Higher Education, and Denis Dumas, Assistant Professor of Research Methods and Statistics, recently saw their work published in Educational Researcher. The pair teamed with Drs. Connie Y. Chang, Victoria Kim, Rose Ann E. Gutierrez, Annie Le, and Robert T. Teranishi at the University of California Los Angeles to test claims in legal complaints to the U.S. Department of Justice arguing that Asian American students face negative consequences while in college as a result of not being admitted to and not attending their first-choice institution. These complaints led to the Trump administration launching formal investigations into the race-conscious admissions practices of Harvard and Yale universities.

Their published research contradicts claims that Asian American students are harmed when they cannot attend their first-choice university.

“Overall, our findings countered the claims made by the two groups that served as the impetus of the Justice Department’s investigation,” said Nguyen. “We found that only small differences, if any, exist between the self-reported outcomes of Asian American students who were admitted to and attending their first-choice university and those students who were not.”

On Sept. 1, 2020, the Morgridge College of Education received the 2020 Higher Education Excellence in Diversity (HEED) Award from INSIGHT Into Diversity magazine, the oldest and largest diversity-focused publication in higher education. As a recipient of the annual HEED Award — a national honor recognizing U.S. colleges and universities that demonstrate an outstanding commitment to diversity and inclusion — Morgridge College will be featured, along with 89 other recipients, in the November 2020 issue of INSIGHT Into Diversity magazine.

“We are appreciative of this recognition as it affirms our commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion, and are humbled to be honored with the other HEED recipients,” said Dean Karen Riley. “We know however, that we still have a lot of work to do in advancing DEI, and are committed to an active approach to working for social justice.”

This is the second year Morgridge College has been selected by INSIGHT Into Diversity magazine. The college first received the award in the 2018-19 academic year.

“The HEED Award process consists of a comprehensive and rigorous application that includes questions relating to the recruitment and retention of students and employees — and best practices for both — continued leadership support for diversity, and other aspects of campus diversity and inclusion,” said Lenore Pearlstein, publisher of INSIGHT Into Diversity magazine. “We take a detailed approach to reviewing each application in deciding who will be named a HEED Award recipient. Our standards are high, and we look for institutions where diversity and inclusion are woven into the work being done every day across their campus.”

Other recipients of the 2020 HEED Award are:

Adelphi University
Arkansas State University
Augustana College (IL)
Ball State University
Brown University
California State University, Fresno
California State University, Fullerton
California State University, Northridge
California State University San Marcos
Case Western Reserve University
Central Washington University
Clemson University
Columbia University in the City of New York
Cuyahoga Community College
Davenport University
East Carolina University
El Paso County Community College District
Florida State University
Framingham State University
Georgia Institute of Technology
Georgia State University
Grand Valley State University
Greenville Technical College
Hillsborough Community College
Indiana University Bloomington
Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis
Kansas State University
Kent State University
Lawrence University
Lehigh University
Louisiana State University
Metropolitan State University of Denver
Miami University
Millersville University
Ohio University
Oklahoma State University
Oregon State University
Pikes Peak Community College
Regis College
Rochester Institute of Technology
Santa Rosa Junior College
Seminole State College of Florida
Southern Illinois University Edwardsville
Stetson University College of Law
SUNY Buffalo State College
SUNY Old Westbury
Swarthmore College
Texas A&M University
Texas Christian University
Texas Tech University
The University of Alabama at Birmingham
The University of Missouri-Saint Louis
The University of Texas at Austin
The University of Tulsa
Towson University
Union College, NY
University at Albany, State University of New York
University of Central Florida
University of Cincinnati
University of Colorado Boulder
University of Dayton
University of Georgia
University of Houston
University of Houston Law Center
University of Houston-Downtown
University of Illinois at Chicago
University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
University of Kentucky
University of Louisiana at Lafayette
University of Louisville
University of Michigan – Ann Arbor
University of North Carolina at Greensboro
University of North Florida
University of North Texas
University of Oregon
University of Pittsburgh of the Commonwealth System of Higher Education
University of Rochester
University of South Florida
University of West Florida
Virginia Commonwealth University
Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University
West Chester University of Pennsylvania
West Virginia University
Western Michigan University
Whitworth University
William & Mary
William Marsh Rice University
Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI)
Xavier University

For more information about the 2020 HEED Award, visit insightintodiversity.com.

Dr. Doug Clements, co-director of Marsico Institute (Marsico), has been named principal investigator on a new Institute of Education Sciences (IES) grant to more extensively study children’s learning using video and data from Marsico’s previous IES grant, Evaluating the Efficacy of Learning Trajectories in Early Mathematics. Co-principal investigators on this project are Drs. Julie Sarama, also co-director of Marsico, and Dr. Traci Kutaka, research associate for Marsico.

The earlier grant was a series of eight studies evaluating the efficacy of using a learning trajectories approach to mathematics instruction. These experiments showed that a learning trajectories approach fostered the development of early mathematics skills that are predictive of later school achievement.

This time around, Kutaka and her colleague Dr. Pavel Chernyavskiy from the University of Wyoming, have developed new questions and research designs. The team will dig deeper into one of these studies to determine precisely how kindergarten children’s problem-solving strategies vary across different types of arithmetic story problems and how they evolve over the course of successful teaching. The team also will use these analyses to construct two novel indicators of instructional efficacy: modal strategy sophistication and strategy breadth. These indicators will account for patterns of strategy use over time, application of strategies to increasingly complex arithmetic problem types, and instructor feedback.

According to Sarama, “New IES funding allows us to leverage hundreds of hours of video collected within a randomized design to better understand both children’s thinking and learning from scientifically-designed instruction and to benefit the field with new tools for future studies.”

The Marsico team will carry out the study in two phases. In the initial phase, the team will watch and code videos of instructional sessions captured during the previously completed efficacy trial of a learning-trajectories approach. During phase two, the researchers will estimate hierarchical ordered logit models to produce patterns of strategy use over time – within and between instructional sessions – for particular story problem structures. These models will then inform the construction of two novel indicators of instructional efficacy.

“At the core of learning trajectories is research on children’s thinking. This study will extend this research, providing both researchers and practitioners with a new lens for noticing, understanding, and supporting this thinking and its development,” said Clements.

The project has been funded, in whole, by the Institute of Educational Sciences, U.S. Department of Education.

This year, we held the Summer 2020 MCE Day of Celebration to celebrate our graduate students on Friday, Aug. 21 at 1 p.m. (Mountain Standard Time). While we couldn’t celebrate in person this year, we recorded a very special video to honor our students. Watch the video on our MCE Day of Celebration page.

Cecilia Orphan, PhD, assistant professor in the Morgridge College of Education’s Higher Education Department, was recently quoted in an article by Chalkbeat Colorado. The article, “Colorado hopes a new higher ed funding formula will make a difference for students. It might not be easy,” dives deep into the latest update to Colorado’s education funding formula, which uses seven criteria to judge community and state colleges and universities. Dr. Orphan and colleague Dr. Denisa Gándara, a Southern Methodist University assistant professor of higher education, both shared their worries about how competition created by the funding model affects students.

“Orphan said funding by outcomes in some states reduced coordination among schools because they were competing to attract certain groups of students. But she applauded Colorado higher education leaders for showing that they are willing to work together with state policymakers to rally around shared goals.

‘With the recent change to focus more explicitly on racial equity and first-generation students and students from Colorado, that is really exciting,’ she said.

University of Denver Morgridge College of Education professors Drs. Denis Dumas and Peter Organisciak have been named co-Principal Investigators on a three-year, $964,081 grant from the U.S. Department of Education’s Institute of Education Sciences (IES). This project, in partnership with Dr. Selcuk Acar at the University of North Texas, will develop a new test for Original Thinking, or creativity, in elementary school students.

The research team is highly interdisciplinary, consisting of specialists in gifted education, measurement and assessment, and information science. Building from this rich collaboration, the team will develop a new test instrument for creativity to administer to children, as well as algorithmic tools to automatically scores that test. They call their new system the Measure of Original Thinking in Elementary Students (MOTES), and it will adopt text mining methods, mining language from millions of child-oriented books, TV shows, and movies in order to identify which elementary students are capable of generating the most original ideas.

Measuring Original Thinking in children has a long history. However, the manual scoring of existing tests limits their accessibility—because many schools cannot afford the costs and logistics of such tests—and introduces measurement error into the scores. Therefore, fewer children are measured for Original Thinking, leading directly to the under-representation of minoritized students and low-socioeconomic status learners in gifted and talented programs. There is a need for screening tools that allow the measurement of Original Thinking in a large number of students quickly and at lower cost.

“This will truly be a first in the history of educational research,” said Dumas, “to be able to be able to provide a cutting-edge measure like this—totally free to educators and school leaders–
will lead to a turning point in how schools think about highly creative kids, and how to identify and nurture them.”

Organisciak says of the approach, “The past few years have seen a great deal of innovation in natural language processing, which can benefit education measurement through better understand of responses that can only be collected in open-ended ways. I’m excited to translate those methods to practice, and hopefully make an impact on how schools serve children.”

At project completion, the MOTES will be available to education practitioners and researchers who can obtain instant scores, for free. The team will also present findings from the research in conference presentations and in peer-reviewed publications, as well as in class with their students at Morgridge.

At Morgridge College, social justice is at the core of our community, academics and student life. Our commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion goes beyond theory. It is woven into the fabric of the College with a commitment to underserved populations in tangible, real-world ways. Whether it’s opening doors of opportunity, students blazing new trails of inclusive research, or faculty leading the nation-wide diversity conversation, Morgridge’s commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion makes an impact.

Cecilia Orphan, PhD, assistant professor in the Morgridge College of Education’s Higher Education Department, is co-leading a Joyce Foundation grant-funded study totaling $101,000 with the newly-launched Alliance for Research on Regional Colleges to identify how rural public higher education institutions are being impacted in real-time by COVID-19 budget shocks due to state funding cuts and rising costs associated with virus mitigation.

“Many rural public higher education institutions were vulnerable before COVID-19 due to enrollment declines and chronic underfunding from their states,” said Orphan. “These institutions are vital to their regions, because they serve students who would be unlikely to leave their regions to pursue education and educating public health workers and teachers to fill shortages in rural communities.”

The study will showcase the contributions of rural public higher education institutions, focusing on access, attainment, equity, public health, and regional wellbeing, and then shift to explore how such contributions are at risk due to COVID-19. By studying rural postsecondary institutions in real-time, the findings will inform policy recommendations for federal and state policymakers so that they can ensure these institutions survive and continue to fulfill their vital missions in rural regions. At the close of the project, the research team will also create an interactive website with data about rural public colleges that will be available to policymakers and the public.

To conduct the study, Orphan will work with collaborators Kevin McClure, associate professor in the Department of Educational Leadership at University of North Carolina Wilmington’s Watson College of Education, Andrew Koricich, associate professor at Appalachian State University and Alisa Hicklin Fryar, associate professor at The University of Oklahoma.

The study is currently underway. Findings will be described in a policy brief and website set to be released in November, 2020. For more information, visit the Open Campus Weekly Dispatch.

Measuring creativity has historically been a difficult and expensive endeavor, one which psychologists and educators believe is important, but is often out of reach. Since the 1970’s, many in the industry have used The Torrance Test of Creative Thinking (TTCT), a fantastic resource but a significant cost for a budget-limited school district. Enter University of Denver (DU) Morgridge College of Education professors Drs. Denis Dumas and Peter Organisciak, who are launching a free website to score creativity assessments.

Drs. Dumas and Organisciak

Drs. Denis Dumas and Peter Organisciak, Assistant Professors of Research Methods and Information Science and developers of the free Open Creativity Scoring website.

Dumas and Organisciak, both Assistant Professors of Research Methods and Information Science, have found a powerful synergy for the scientific study of creativity. Dumas’ previous research has focused on educational and psychological measurement, and Organisciak focuses on large-scale text analysis rooted in information science. Dumas’ office in Morgridge College is adjacent to Organisciak’s, and the two realized that they could collaborate on something big.

In the past year, Dumas and Organisciak have focused on automatically and reliably scoring creativity assessments such as the Alternate Uses Task (AUT). The AUT is an activity where participants are given an object—a boring, everyday object, such as a book or a cup—and have a time limit to list as many ideas as possible to use that object in an atypical, ‘alternate’ way.

Their collaboration works like this: Dumas administers the AUT to participants, and Organisciak developed code for an online algorithm, where Dumas can upload the responses he collects. The algorithm scores the alternate uses task – something previously only done by a handful of other institutions, typically at significant cost. The two realized their creation could change how psychologists approach creativity testing. No longer limited by cost, this could open doors for universal testing in vulnerable school districts or psychological clinics with little resources.

With funding from a Morgridge College flowback grant, Dumas and Organisciak built a free and open website where individuals using the AUT can upload their responses and have them scored. This week their website, Open Creativity Scoring, is set to launch, and they could not be more excited.

Dumas and Organisciak see this work as one step in a larger trend of using computing to break free of the restraints of close-ended responses in psychological testing.

“One of the biggest limitations in educational and psychological testing is our reliance on multiple choice items,” said Dumas, explaining that often psychologists or educators use multiple-choice tests because open-ended scoring is too expensive to be within reach.

“We’ve spent the past few years focused on improving what we know about measuring creativity. With the website, we can make that work accessible to practitioners and other researchers,” said Organisciak. “Both testing and studying creativity has been difficult in the past, and we’re eager to see what others can do with access to a reliable, consistent way to measure it.”

“Our work, when you put it together, opens a really important door,” Dumas continued. “We are greater than the sum of our parts and I think it has to do with Morgridge. At most universities, we might have been herded into our own disciplinary silos and never met each other, but here we are really encouraged to work in an interdisciplinary way. Had our offices not been close, we would not have realized our potential.”

So far, everything from their research has been made free, something they prioritize in order to make an impact. According to Organisciak, this is a way to make state of the art research assessible to everyone. He stresses that many people don’t have access to an academic journal to read a paper about writing an algorithm, but with this website, they don’t have to.

The graduating president of the College of Education Student Association is ready for his next chapter.

When Sajjid Budhwani arrived at Morgridge College of Education in 2016 to get his PhD in Educational Leadership and Policy Studies, he never wanted to be a teacher. He never wanted to work in a school system. He came to Morgridge from Mumbai with an MBA in Marketing, an undergraduate degree in finance and auditing, and years of experience in the business world. What was Sajjid doing at Morgridge, exactly?

Sajjid’s research interests led him to the Educational Leadership and Policy Studies program. His dream is to be an educational researcher, focused on improving educational equity and close the opportunity gap through leveraging geospatial research methods, tools, and statistics.

“I want to focus on leveraging Geographic Information System (GIS) to be able to visibly show my research to educators,” Budhwani said. “This is a powerful tool. Social science research can make the most out of GIS. Through asking space and place-based questions, educational researchers, policymakers, and leaders need to continue to grow their capacity in this domain.”

When it came time to decide on his dissertation research, Budhwani wanted to take a transdisciplinary approach.

“I presented my case to my advisor, department chair, and to the Associate Dean, Dr. Mark Engberg,” he said. “They were truly very kind and supportive. Of course, there were hiccups on the way. Challenges are inevitable, especially if you choose to walk the road that is less travelled by others. You need to be persistent and goal-oriented if you need something that badly!”

His dream got one step closer to reality when he was selected by the University Council for Educational Administration (UCEA) as part of the 2018-2020 Jackson Scholars Network (JSN). The JSN develops future faculty of color for the field of educational leadership and policy. UCEA facilitates the development of a robust pipeline of faculty and graduate students of color in the field of educational leadership. As a result, Barbara Jackson Scholars and Alumni enhance the field of educational leadership and UCEA with their scholarship and expertise.

“This has been sort of a dream for me,” he said, referring to the scholarship. “Through the JSN network I am connected to my mentor, Dr. Jayson Richardson [University of Kentucky]. He has been incredibly supportive of my goals. His research interests includes Educational Leadership, School Technology Leadership, and Comparative Education to name a few.”

Besides his mentor, Sajjid also has very high regards and appreciation for his advisor-cum-dissertation director, Dr. Erin Anderson.

“She walks along with you and makes effort to ensure we cross the finishing line,” he said.

His mentor and dissertation director provided several opportunities for Sajjid to leverage his GIS expertise through publication, several paper presentations, and inter-university research collaborations.

Sajjid is graduating this Spring, 2020. “I have just a few days left before I graduate. As I reflect on my journey here at the University of Denver (DU), I think that it was incredible and the most stupendous one. I feel extremely privileged and blessed to have such a wonderful family here at Morgridge College. Our deans are fantastic! Department chairs are truly amazing. Faculty, staff and the Ricks Center for Gifted Children – all have been extremely supportive of my goals, interests, and aspirations! It didn’t feel like I was alone in this journey. Morgridge College was my village, my true asset!”

After graduation, Sajjid’s new and permanent home will be in Toronto, Canada, the dream city of his childhood. He will be working remotely for a company in the United States and feels fortunate to be able to do so. According to Budhwani, he was able to secure his job because of the opportunities presented to him through his time at Morgridge College.

“Although I will be moving to a neighboring country,” he said, “I’m indebted to Morgridge College and University of Denver at large.”

This year, we held the MCE Day of Celebration to celebrate our graduating students on Thursday, June 11 at 3 p.m. (Mountain Standard Time). While we couldn’t celebrate in person this year, we have recorded a very special video to honor our students. Watch the video on our MCE Day of Celebration page.
This year’s MCE Student Awards Ceremony took place virtually on Friday, June 5 at 4 p.m. While we coudn’t celebrate in person this year, we recorded a very special online ceremony to honor our student awardees. Watch the video on our 2020 Student Awards Ceremony page.

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