Tag Archives: education

Republished from Human Ecology Magazine, Spring 2016

Annie Erickson & Eve De Rosa

Human Ecology Faculty-Led Undergraduate Research. Eve DeRosa / Annie Erickson

Human Ecology Faculty-Led Undergraduate Research. Eve DeRosa / Annie Erickson

What does your lab study?

Annie Erickson ’16: Our lab is interested in studying the neural basis of cognitive processes such as attention, learning, and memory. To investigate these complex neural mechanisms, we use a cross-species approach studying both human and animals. We are interested in the neurochemicals that modulate cognition— specifically, a neurotransmitter called acetylcholine. My project focuses on the effect of acute and chronic caffeine intake on cognition in rats, testing whether caffeine can rescue cognitive deficits that have been induced by blocking acetylcholine.

Why study caffeine?

Eve De Rosa, Associate Professor of Human Development and Rebecca Q. and James C. Morgan Sesquicentennial Fellow: We all drink coffee, but we don’t always give deep thought to how it affects attention, learning, and memory. That’s why I love the real-world importance of Annie’s honors thesis question. She’s finding cognitive tasks that both rats and humans can perform so that we can translate the basic science experiments in the lab to our understanding of human cognition.

What do you like about this work?

Erickson: After following this project from conception to experimental setup to final execution, it’ll be incredibly exciting to see the results. It’s been inspiring to work with Eve, and to see the way she’s able to balance research, teaching, and family. She’s so enthusiastic and positive, and I really enjoy discussing my ideas with her, because she’s always so encouraging.

De Rosa: I love mentoring students like Annie! After participating in the lab as an undergrad research assistant, she approached me with this wonderful question about looking at caffeine’s ability to boost cognition, and whether it was caffeine’s interaction with acetylcholine that underlies this ability.

The fact that caffeine is a cognitive enhancer is something I was already aware of, but not that it might be important in slowing the decline of pathological cognitive aging, like in Alzheimer’s disease. When Annie brought that idea to me, I could see why it might be worth taking a chance to pursue the question.

What’s the risk?

De Rosa: Rat neuroscience is expensive, and it’s not my primary research focus. I’m very interested in acetylcholine, which declines during normal aging, and in using functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging to assess brain activity. But Annie’s research is something I would never have pursued on my own. And now I’m having so much fun reading the literature, thinking about how it relates to my larger research vision.

Erickson: Through the process of developing my independent project, Eve has provided crucial advice while also being incredibly flexible in letting me explore different ideas. She’s shown how important collaboration is for successful research and I’ve learned so much about thinking and writing scientifically—skills that are fundamental to a future in research.

In 2015, Annie Erickson received the Human Ecology Undergraduate Summer Research Stipend, and is currently working toward an honors thesis funded by the Human Ecology Alumni Association

Felix Thoemmes

Felix Thoemmes

Felix Thoemmes, an assistant professor in the Department of Human Development was part of team of researchers that examined the effect of taking a gap year before college on student retention in college.

Reprinted from the Academy of Finland Communications, May 12, 2015

A gap year between high school and the start of university studies does not weaken young people’s enthusiasm to study or their overall performance once the studies have commenced. On the other hand, adolescents who continue to university studies directly after upper secondary school are more resilient in their studies and more committed to the study goals. However, young people who transfer directly to university are more stressed than those who start their studies after a gap year. These research results have been achieved in the Academy of Finland’s research programme The Future of Learning, Knowledge and Skills (TULOS).

“For young people, the transition from upper secondary school to further studies is a demanding phase in life, and many adolescents are tired at the end of upper secondary school. The demanding university admission tests take place close to the matriculation examination in Finland and require diligent studying from students. For many, a gap year offers an opportunity to take a break and think about future choices while developing a positive view of the future,” says Professor Katariina Salmela-Aro, the principal investigator of the study.

The transition period from secondary education to further studies is a key phase for the development of young people. It is a phase in which adolescents ponder over important future choices regarding educational directions and career goals.

The impact of a gap year on young people’s motivation to study and their future educational path was studied for the first time in the Academy of Finland’s research programme The Future of Learning, Knowledge and Skills. The research was conducted in Finland with the help of the FinEdu longitudinal study, which followed young people for several years after upper secondary school. A corresponding study was conducted concurrently in cooperation with Australian researchers among local youth in Australia.

“In the light of our research findings, a gap year between secondary education and further studies is not harmful, especially if the young person only takes one year off. When these adolescents are compared with those who continue their studies directly after upper secondary school, those who take a gap year quickly catch up with the others in terms of study motivation and the effort they put into their studies,” says Salmela-Aro.

If young people take more than one gap year, however, they may have more difficulties coping with the studies and with study motivation. “In the transition phase, many young people are left quite alone, which may make the transition to a new study phase quite challenging.”

According to the research results, those young people who begin their further studies directly after upper secondary school are more resilient in their studies and more committed to their goals than those who take a gap year. In addition, adolescents who continue their studies immediately after upper secondary school believe in their ability to achieve their goals more than those who start their studies after a gap year. On the other hand, they find studying and aiming for study goals more stressful than the students who take a gap year.

“The research results also suggest that students who take a gap year are slightly more susceptible to dropping out of university later on than those who transfer to university directly after upper secondary school,” says Salmela-Aro.

The study has been published in Developmental Psychology:

I wish I had (not) taken a gap-year? The psychological and attainment outcomes of different post-school pathways. Parker, Philip D.; Thoemmes, Felix; Duinevald, Jasper J.; Salmela-Aro, Katariina. Developmental Psychology, Vol 51(3), Mar 2015, 323–333. http://dx.doi.org/10.1037/a0038667

More information:

  • Professor Katariina Salmela-Aro, Cicero Learning, University of Helsinki and University of Jyväskylä, tel. +358 50 415 5283, katariina.salmela-aro(at)helsinki.fi

Academy of Finland Communications
Riitta Tirronen, Communications Manager
tel. +358 295 335 118
firstname.lastname(at)aka.fi

Last modified 12 May 2015

great minds 3.400

Zoe Katz HD, '15

Nineteen Human Development undergraduates presented their findings at the 30th annual Cornell Undergraduate Research Board spring forum April 22.

Project topics, supported by faculty members, ranged from language acquisition in Korean infants to mother and child health in Kenya to understanding how young adults assess risk. The forum allows students to present research projects that they have designed and led during the academic year.

Read more about the event in the Cornell Chronicle.

View a slideshow of Human Ecology presenters, listed below, on Facebook.

Yeo Jin Ahn ’15, HD

Chelsea Brite ’15, HD

Ashton Conner ’15, HD

Rachel Cooper ’17, HD, and Kate Goldberg ’17, HD (presenting together)

Olivia Ellers ’15, HD

Zoe Katz ’15, HD

Aaron Lee ’16, HD, Olivia Dieni ’16, HD, Xi Richard Chen ’18, HD (presenting together)

Devin Massaro ’15, HD

Brian Meagher ’15, HD

Grace Monks ’15, HD

Catherine Liang ’15, HBHS and Kimberly Batcha ’15, HD (presenting together)

Julie Barbera ’17, HD, Jeanie Gribben ’15, HD, Masrai Williams ’15, HD (presenting together)

Colleen Sullivan ’16, HD, Azraa Janmohamed ’16, HD (presenting together)

 

By Ted Boscia
Reprinted from Cornell Chronicle, April 13, 2015

For decades, sexism in higher education has been blamed for blocking women from landing academic positions in STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) fields.

But a new study by Cornell psychologists suggests that era has ended, finding in experiments with professors from 371 colleges and universities across the United States that science and engineering faculty preferred women two-to-one over identically qualified male candidates for assistant professor positions.

Published online April 13 in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, the paper, “National Hiring Experiments Reveal 2:1 Faculty Preference For Women on STEM Tenure Track,” by Wendy M. Williams, professor of human development, and Stephen J. Ceci, the Helen L. Carr Professor of Developmental Psychology, both in Cornell’s College of Human Ecology, argues that the academic job market has never been better for women Ph.D.s in math-intensive fields.

Williams and Ceci conducted five randomized controlled experiments with 873 tenure-track faculty in all 50 U.S. states to assess gender bias. In three studies, faculty evaluated narrative summaries describing hypothetical male and female applicants for tenure-track assistant professorships in biology, economics, engineering and psychology. In a fourth experiment, engineering faculty evaluated full CVs instead of narratives, and in a fifth study, faculty evaluated one candidate (either a man or identically qualified woman) without comparison to an opposite-gender candidate. Candidates’ personalities were systematically varied to disguise the hypotheses.

The only evidence of bias the authors discovered was in favor of women; faculty in all four disciplines preferred female applicants to male candidates, with the exception of male economists, who showed no gender preference.

In some conditions, Williams and Ceci also matched applicants on job qualifications and lifestyle characteristics such as marital and parental status and used contrasting lifestyles in others. They examined attributes such as being a single mother, having a stay-at-home partner and past choices about taking parental leave. These experiments revealed that female faculty preferred divorced mothers over married fathers and male faculty preferred mothers who took leaves over mothers who did not.

“Efforts to combat formerly widespread sexism in hiring appear to have succeeded,” Williams and Ceci write. “Our data suggest it is an auspicious time to be a talented woman launching a STEM tenure-track academic career, contrary to findings from earlier investigations alleging bias, none of which examined faculty hiring bias against female applicants in the disciplines in which women are underrepresented. Our research suggests that the mechanism resulting in women’s underrepresentation today may lie more on the supply side, in women’s decisions not to apply, than on the demand side, in anti-female bias in hiring.”

“Women struggling with the quandary of how to remain in the academy but still have extended leave time with new children, and debating having children in graduate school versus waiting until tenure, may be heartened to learn that female candidates depicted as taking one-year parental leaves in our study were ranked higher by predominantly male voting faculties than identically qualified mothers who did not take leaves,” the authors continue.

Real-world academic hiring data validate the findings, too. The paper notes recent national census-type studies showing that female Ph.D.s are disproportionately less likely to apply for tenure-track positions, yet when they do they are more likely to be hired, in some science fields approaching the two-to-one ratio revealed by Williams and Ceci.

The authors note that greater gender awareness in the academy and the retirement of older, more sexist faculty may have gradually led to a more welcoming environment for women in academic science.

Despite these successes, Williams and Ceci acknowledge that women face other barriers to entry during adolescence and young adulthood, in graduate school and later in their careers as academic scientists, particularly when balancing motherhood and careers. They are currently analyzing national data on mentorship, authorship decisions and tenure advice, all as a function of gender, to better understand women and men’s decisions to apply to, and persist in, academic science.

Ted Boscia is director of communications and media for the College of Human Ecology.

Lindsay France/University Photography Robert Sternberg, professor of human development, speaks about his new book "The Modern Land-Grant University" during a Feb. 10 Sesquicentennial Lecture in Mann Library.

Lindsay France/University Photography
Robert Sternberg, professor of human development, speaks about his new book "The Modern Land-Grant University" during a Feb. 10 Sesquicentennial Lecture in Mann Library.

 

By Abigail Warren
Reprinted from Cornell Chronicle, Feb. 12, 2015

By Karene Booker
Reprinted from Cornell Chronicle, Jan. 8, 2015

Years in graduate school, teaching and research do little to prepare professors for administrative posts. Now, a compendium of advice for new faculty administrators, written by experienced academic leaders across the country, aims to fill the void.51CH6HgCPmL__SX331_BO1,204,203,200_

Academic Leadership in Higher Education: From the Top Down and the Bottom Up” offers readers a view of leadership from many different perspectives and levels within the university.

“Faculty often go into leadership roles feeling fairly clueless,” said Robert Sternberg, professor of human development in Cornell’s College of Human Ecology and senior co-editor of the book published by Rowman & Littlefield. “The chairs, deans, provosts, university presidents and chancellors who so generously contributed chapters did so because they realize that people new to academic leadership desperately need advice.”

Despite the many perspectives presented, common themes emerge in the book. The vital importance of strategic planning, for example, is highlighted by Alan Mathios, dean of the College of Human Ecology. His chapter discusses developing the college’s mission statement and creating a culture of community. Emphasizing educational and scientific leadership rather than administration, Charles Brainerd, chair of the Department of Human Development, demonstrates another theme – staying connected to your academic discipline. Sternberg concludes the volume with a distillation of the top 10 pieces of advice, starting with “don’t compromise on ethical principles.”

While the book is written for faculty members who are in, or are thinking of entering, academic-leadership roles, it offers insights into leadership and academia that may appeal to many other readers.

Sternberg co-edited the volume with Elizabeth Davis, president of Furman University; April C. Mason, provost and senior vice president of Kansas State University; Robert V. Smith, vice president of Collaborative Brain Trust University Consulting; Jeffrey S. Vitter, provost and executive vice chancellor at the University of Kansas; and Michele Wheatly, former provost and vice president for academic affairs at West Virginia University.

Karene Booker is an extension support specialist in the Department of Human Development.

By Karene Booker
Reprinted from Cornell Chronicle, December 8, 2014

Ethics book cover

Equipping social scientists for ethical challenges is the aim of a new book, “Ethical Challenges in the Brain and Behavioral Sciences: Case Studies and Commentaries” (Cambridge University Press), edited by Cornell psychologist Robert Sternberg and Susan Fiske of Princeton University. The volume’s eye-opening and cautionary tales about real-world ethical dilemmas are intended not to provide “correct” answers, but to prompt readers to reflect on how to resolve ethics problems before encountering them.

“Students learn a lot of content knowledge in graduate school, but not necessarily much about the ethical expectations of the field,” said Sternberg, professor of human development in the College of Human Ecology.

The advantage of case studies is that the lessons are more concrete and easy to apply than abstract ethical “principles,” he said. “This book provides ethical case studies in the whole range of situations that a behavioral or brain scientist might confront – in teaching, research and service.”

The volume is notable for its breadth – covering topics such as testing and grading, authorship and credit, confidentiality, data fabrication, human subjects research, personnel decisions, reviewing and editing, and conflicts of interest – and for the nearly 60 prominent scientists who took time out to share their wisdom by contributing a chapter. Each chapter includes a first-hand account of an ethical problem, how it was resolved and what the scientist would have done differently. Commentary on the greater ethical dilemmas follows each section, and the book wraps up with a model by Sternberg for thinking about ethical reasoning.

“Ethical Challenges” is intended for students, teachers and researchers in the behavioral and brain sciences. Although it is oriented toward those early in their career, senior faculty will also have a lot to learn from the case studies.

“After almost 40 years in the field, I thought I’d seen it all in terms of ethical challenges - I had no idea just how many different ones there were, and how many I have been fortunate enough not to have encountered … yet,” Sternberg concluded.

Next fall, Sternberg plans to teach a graduate-level course, Ethical Challenges in the Behavioral and Brain Sciences, based on the book.

Karene Booker is an extension support specialist in the Department of Human Development.

By Karene Booker
Reprinted from Cornell Chronicle, July 23, 2014

Land-grantbookcover7-23The land-grant university, 150 years after its inception, remains an extraordinary and compelling model for higher education, with ideas and ideals relevant to even the most elite academies, contends Professor Robert Sternberg in his edited volume, “The Modern Land-Grant University” (Purdue University Press).

“Land-grant institutions perhaps best represent the very core of what greatness means in American society – namely, equal opportunity for all and, through it, the chance to make our society and the world a better place,” says Sternberg, professor of human development in Cornell’s College of Human Ecology.

“Land-grant universities are about educating students, not just to be knowledgeable and smart, but also to be wise and ethical … to become future leaders, who will change the world in positive, meaningful and enduring ways,” he says.

The book provides a current and comprehensive review of the role and function of land-grant institutions, with four sections exploring the core mission, environment, public value and accountability of the modern land-grant university. The volume’s 20 chapters feature perspectives on teaching, research and outreach; undergraduate and graduate academic experience; economic development and entrepreneurship; diversity; promotion and tenure; and more. Sternberg’s epilogue concludes the volume with a summary of the values underlying the activities of land-grant institutions.

“The Modern Land-Grant University” offers university administrators, trustees, educational policymakers, faculty and staff not only a vision for higher education founded on the commitment to public service, but also practical insights for navigating today’s challenges.

Karene Booker is an extension support specialist in the Department of Human Development.

Related Links:
College of Human Ecology
Robert Sternberg
"The Modern Land-Grant University"

 

By Bill Steele
Reprinted from Cornell Chronicle, May 1, 2014

 To find food and evade predators you have to evolve. Learning how to do that is the key to the computer game "Cellvival," set in a world of single-celled organisms.

To find food and evade predators you have to evolve. Learning how to do that is the key to the computer game "Cellvival," set in a world of single-celled organisms.

As in many computer games, the goal of “Cellvival” is to survive in a hostile environment. Unlike most others, though, this game teaches some basic science. And unlike a lot of educational games, it’s fun to play.

You play as Tetrahymena thermophila, a single-celled organism that lives in fresh water, trying to catch food and avoid being eaten, and ultimately to reproduce and survive as a species. When you get enough food, you can reproduce, and when you reproduce you can adapt. The trick is to choose traits that will make you better equipped to survive. There are trade-offs: Speed makes your organism less maneuverable, and vice versa. Instead of levels, the game puts you in different environments, and the traits that make you best fitted to survive will be different in each one.

Ithaca-area high school students have been playing – and enjoying – the game, and whether they realize it or not, learning how evolution works, how the characteristics an organism inherits interact with its environment. “In order to play a game, you have to learn how to play the game, so kids are used to getting information from games,” explained Andrew Jefferson, a graduate student in the field of human development, who spearheaded development of the game. “One reason we went with evolution is that it involves abstract things that are hard to visualize. In a game you can take something abstract and make it concrete and play with it and experiment. Even if they die [lose the game], that’s still teaching them something about how it works.”

The project grew out of Jefferson’s conversations with Walker White, director of the Game Design Initiative at Cornell (GDIAC). Coincidentally, White had just been approached by members of the College of Veterinary Medicine’s ASSET (Advancing Secondary Science Education with Tetrahymena) program, who were interested in creating educational games to go with laboratory modules they provide to biology teachers. Jefferson works with Steven Ceci, the Helen L. Carr Professor of Human Development, and human development professor Wendy Williams, and has recruited a team of computer science students as programmers. He will describe the project at the Games, Learning and Society conference in Madison, Wisconsin, June 11-14. You can try out the game yourself at the GDIAC showcase, May 16 in Carpenter Hall.

After some polishing, the game will be distributed free to teachers through the ASSET program, along with lab modules that let students work in the classroom with the real Tetrahymena organism. Several teachers around New York state have already expressed interest, Jefferson said. The game is available in PC and Mac versions, with an accompanying lesson plan to guide classroom discussion.

The challenge, Jefferson said, is to satisfy both kids and teachers. “Educational games get a bad rap,” he noted. “Kids compare it with the games they paid for. Often in educational games you’re just answering quiz questions. … But if you don’t have those questions, teachers ask if kids are learning the game but not learning the content. It’s a balancing act.” But so far, he said, reception has been favorable. When he demos the game to adults the response is often, “That looks a lot better than I was expecting from an educational game.”

Testing will soon move to Ithaca middle schools, and Jefferson plans to create more games, in particular one that teaches critical thinking skills. The work so far has been funded by the National Institutes of Health.